Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bye-Bye Bryce Canyon

We had one more day to spend in the wonderland that is Bryce Canyon, and we made the most of it.  We packed another picnic and began a driving tour of the viewpoints along the canyon rim past the Main Ampitheater.  The day was clear, crisp and windy, so we weren’t encouraged to tarry, but we did take time to visit, and appreciate, all the viewpoints.

The park is long and narrow, encompassing the canyon’s rim and a short distance on either side.  From some of the viewpoints I am told you can see 200 miles on a clear day.  I don’t know what 200 miles looks like, but the vistas were magnificent.

Here are several images taken at Paria View.  This is the area where Stetson said the park’s Giant Condors are sometimes seen.  We got a glimpse of one on our first visit to the park, but none were flying today. 


The area below is Swamp Canyon.  

The views from Fairview Point are beautiful early in the morning. 

The Natural Bridge Viewpoint shows you not only the bridge, but a very impressive hoodoo. 

Agua Canyon Viewpoint, elevation 8800 feet, was our next stop.  It has an impressive hoodoo of its own.

Ponderosa Canyon’s viewpoint is even higher, a chilly 8904 feet.  Views from here include some of the area's "fin" formations. 

The Black Birch Canyon overlook has some lovely views as well.  But I was intrigued by the two hoodoos in the second and third images.  Don’t you think they look like a little old man and a little old woman in their rocking chairs?

Rainbow Point, elevation 9113 feet is, I believe, the highest viewpoint in the park.  You can see almost all the colors of the rainbow, and they seem to stretch forever.

After visiting the Bryce Canyon viewpoints, we drove some 30 miles east through the small town of Tropic to Kodachrome Basin State Park.  Its rock formations are beautiful as well, and the park has an impressive collection of hoodoos of its own...

including the most famous, The Chimney.

We had tried to make reservations there, but they have only a few sites that would accommodate us, and they were full. 

Just before leaving on Thursday morning, October 20, I made one last trip into the national park to catch the sunrise.  The formation glowed in the early morning light; it was a sunrise I won’t forget. 

The entire experience was a feast for the senses, and we loved every minute of our time here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cowboys and Canyons

But there was still a lot more of Bryce Canyon to see.  On Tuesday, we got an up-close-and-personal view of some of the rock formations…and of a couple of the horses and mules that take visitors down into the canyon’s Main Ampitheater.

We arrived at the corrals shortly after lunch to find the cowboys and cowgirl who work for Canyon Trail Rides waiting for us.  

John was assigned to a nice paint gelding called Laredo. 

They put me on this handsome black fellow named Soiree.  I felt right at home because, in both size and color he looked a lot like Bonnie, the quarter horse mare who helped me survive my teenage years.  His personality was similar, too.  He kept trying to get away with things he wasn’t supposed to do, like snatching a bite of grass from beside the trail or taking a nip out of the back end of Walt, the mule in front of him.

I think there were 19 riders who signed up for the three-hour, eight-mile trail ride.  We were divided into groups.  Our group of eight was led by a cowboy who told us to call him Stetson.  (He also said he would answer to “Help.”) 

You’ll see a lot of him in these images, because Soiree and I were right behind him.  (The boss cowboy explained that the horses and mules were lined up based on how well they get along and that we were not to change places during the ride.  No problem there!  After seeing the trails we would be riding, none of us had any inclination to pass another horse and rider.)

Our trail began at the corral near Sunrise Point and dropped quickly into the canyon by of a series of switchbacks.  Then snaked its way up and down and around the canyon floor.

The trail is a large figure 8.  All along the way we were treated to views of Bryce's amazing rock formations, but up close and often from the bottom up.  

The first loop ends near the formation known as Fairy Castle, then goes into “Peek-A-Boo Loop,” which is even steeper and more narrow.

The half-way point is a rest stop below Bryce Point where we and our mounts got a water break.  The riders were happy to see that the stop also included a potty break.  The horses and mules, however, didn’t wait for a pit stop.  (And if you’ve never ridden uphill behind a flatulent mule, you’ve missed an eye-watering experience.)

After a short break, we mounted up and started working our way home.  This view of the canyon was just as spectacular as the view from the rim.  (Please forgive me here…I’m running out of adjectives.)  Looking up at some of these formations takes your breath away. The one below is called the Wall of Windows.

We went through slots and tunnels through the rock, too.  This one looked like it would drop us straight down.  Fortunately there was room to turn to the right along the cliff face.

When we came out of the one below, I gasped at the view.  Stetson remarked, “I’ll bet God had fun making all this!”  I’m sure He did, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see it.  Thank You, God! 

We continued down, up and out of the canyon.  With every change in direction, we had another view of this amazing place, and the colors changed with the light.

It was magical.

Bryce Canyon, Day 1

Our next planned stop on our National Park Odyssey was Bryce Canyon NP.  The map says it’s only a short drive (72 miles) through Zion NP and up the road to Bryce Canyon, but the map assumed we would go through Zion’s tunnels (mentioned in my previous post) to get there.  However, use of the tunnels is restricted as to size of vehicles.  We pass the test for width and height (less than 13’1”), but “combined vehicles over 50’” are prohibited.  So, we couldn’t take the rig through the park on the shorter route.

We pulled in the slides and hooked up the fifth wheel.  In going through our pre-trip checklist, we found that we had no brake lights on Tracker.  Hmmmmm.  Upon examination, John determined that the electrical connection on the front of Tracker had failed.  Fortunately, our next-door-neighbor in the RV park, a very nice guy named Ernie, was an RV mechanic.  Between him and John, in an hour we were repaired and ready to go.

Mr. Rogers, the voice of our CoPilot Truck software, analyzed our options and sent us the long way around…up I-15, then east on Hwy 20, and in on Hwy 12, a total of 128 miles.  It was Sunday, the traffic was light, and the trip was uneventful.  

Up ahead were the lovely red rocks of Red Canyon and in the distance, the cliffs of Grand Staircase Escalante NP.  We knew we were close.  We pulled into Ruby’s RV Park in Bryce Canyon City, Utah, by mid-afternoon and were soon set up and ready for adventure.  The RV sites are only a mile from the National Park entrance, so we didn’t have far to go.

That evening, the still-almost-full moon rose over the campground and gave us a good reason to bundle up and sit outside for a few minutes.

The RV park adjoins the Dixie National Forest on two sides, so all we had to do was exit the park and we had miles and miles of roads and trails to get our exercise.

Monday morning, after a nice walk through the forest, we packed a picnic lunch and began our tour of the Bryce Canyon Main Ampitheater region.  The national parks we have seen have all been beautiful, each in its own way.  Though I haven’t seen them all, I must say that so far Bryce Canyon has been my favorite, followed closely by Yellowstone, and by Arches and Canyonlands, which we visited several years ago.  Bryce Canyon is small compared to some of the others, only 35,835 acres.  It is named for a Scottish emigrant, Ebenezer Bryce, who was one of the area’s first settlers.  When asked about the canyon, he reportedly said, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”  You can tell that John agrees with him.

Of course, I was busy trying to capture it all on camera.

The canyon was set aside as a national monument in 1923, and established as a national park in 1928.  It is famous for its hoodoos, spires, fins, mazes and spires.  

The various formations include the Queen’s Garden, Silent City, Wall Street, Fairyland Canyon, Sinking Ship and others.  Viewpoints around the Main Ampitheater include Sunrise and Sunset Points, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point.  Since many of the formations can be seen from several viewpoints, I won’t attempt to distinguish among them (except to tell you that the first image below is Sinking Ship).  Just enjoy them as we did.  

A couple of notes.  We enjoyed another of our “table with a view” picnics from this bench on Monday.

A short time before, John had noticed a couple of other visitors who had been sitting on a bench for some time looking into the canyon.  John made a remark about the majesty of the area and one of the men agreed with him, saying, “We don’t have anything like this in Holland; it’s all very flat!”  As we continued our walk along the rim trail, they were still sitting there, mesmerized.