PAROWAN – A sea of cyclists could be seen Saturday morning at Lions Park as they lined up for the third annual Ride the Gap cycling event.
The event, organized by Spin Geeks and sponsored by Parowan City, is an annual ride with three distances to choose from: 30 miles, 55 miles and 100 miles, commonly known as a century.
The ride attracted nearly 250 participants from Utah, California, Nevada and Washington state, increasing the number of riders from years past.
“We didn’t even have 200 last year, so we are up over 50 riders – probably 75 riders more than last year,” Margaret Gibson, event director with Spin Geeks, said. “That’s wonderful.”
Troy Houston, Parowan City councilman, said he enjoys the ride because it’s low-traffic and a great course for first timers.
“We just want everyone to come and enjoy Parowan, what we have here to offer,” he said.
The ride, which travels through Parowan Gap, offers cooler Southern Utah temperatures and a relatively flat course.
Dave Ritch, of St. George, returned to the ride this year and said his favorite part is “going to the gap, taking a little time walking out looking at it.”
Shane Williamson, born and raised in Parowan, participated in the event for the first time in an effort to support the community and what they do. He also spoke of the gap and its cultural significance.
“It’s kind of a local treasure as far as local history and the Native Americans that were here,” he said.
Parowan Gap has a rich history in the area, dating back thousands of years.
“Parowan Gap was founded well over 5,000 years ago,” Dottie Stade, with the Parowan Visitors Center, said. “That’s when the Indians started using it as a calendar to document when the sun set, as to when they should be planting crops or moving further south to get out of the winters.”
The gap was used as a calendar or clock in reference to changing seasons, Stade said.
This use for the gap is still recognized every summer during the Summer Solstice Sunset Observation Program, held this year on June 21. The program instructs both kids and adults alike on the uses of the gap as a solar calendar.
The Gap features two distinctive elements: man-made and natural.
The man-made portion refers to the rock writing in the area, put there by early Native American settlers. The natural feature refers to the Gap itself, as the V-shaped ravine is a natural formation.
“They think it was originally put there by water erosion,” Stade said, “but there’s nothing to document that specifically.”
As the earth has changed and moved, further secrets have been revealed about the gap.
“About a year-and-a-half ago, we had a small rock slide on the left-hand side as you’re going through the gap, and we found another little chamber that had some very cute drawings that nobody actually knew were there,” Stade said. “So every time the earth moves we get the opportunity to find something new that just explains what happened here before we ever got here.”
The Parowan Gap can be accessed from both Cedar City and Parowan. The entire route is paved for vehicles, and driving the full loop is recommended. The area does not feature a hiking opportunity but offers great views and historical culture of the area. For more information about the Gap, visit the Bureau of Land Management.
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- Cycling commuters on the rise, Bike to Work Day
- BLM seeks public input on Parowan Gap Site Improvement Project
- Study the sun like ancient cultures did; Parowan Gap summer solstice observation
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