Utah--Bryce Canyon NP--HooDoneIt!

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Sunday, May 31, 2009

DAY 42, Wednesday, May 27--Leaving Best Friends in Angel Canyon, we headed for Bryce Canyon NP, stopping at Thunderbird Restaurant in Mt. Carmel for a great lunch and homemade pie (chocolate, strawberry rhubarb). We arrived in time to take a brief tour of Bryce's road to Rainbow Point. This is Hoodoo land. Hoodoos are pillars of rock, usually of fantastic shape, left by erosion. Surrounded by the beauty of southern Utah, at Bryce Canyon NP, hoodoos appear to cast a spell on all who visit. Ten million years ago, forces within the earth created and moved the massive blocks called the Table Cliffs and Paunsaugunt plateaus. Erosion first by ancient rivers, then by rains, and freezing and thawing created the pinnacles and spires. Stopping at viewpoints such as Swamp Point, Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, and Rainbow Point, we shot an incredible number of photos like all the other tourists. Wildflowers, particularly the yellow Arrowleaf balsamroot are abundant; they look like yellow daisies. We spotted several mule deer and several times another animal we later learned was the pronghorn antelope, which has been reintroduced into the area. Each was feeding alone in grassy meadows. An unusual shrub called Manzanita was everywhere in the higher elevations.

DAY 43, Thursday, May 28-Our second day in Bryce we arrived at the park by 9:00 a.m. prepared for the moderate 3-mile Queens/Navajo Combination Loop down into the canyon floor to get up close and personal with the hoodoos. The Park calls this hike "the world's best 3-mile hike", and it was an amazing experience. The paved trail drops steeply in a series of switchbacks before entering a narrow, steep-walled gorge called Wall Street. Between the towering cliffs, several Douglas Firs are growing, two of them over 500 years old. The Queen's Garden Trail portion flattened out, winding along the bottom of the Bryce amphitheater to Queen's Garden when you can look up at a hoodoo of the queen with her crown (erosion is taking its toll). The climb back up to the rim at Sunrise Point, passing weird rock formations and colors, was strenuous, causing our hearts to pump and requiring frequent "breathers", but not as tough as Angel's Landing Trail in Zion. We followed the Rim Trail back to our car, and after lunch at a very expensive Subway ($6 for a 6", $9 for a 12"), we took the afternoon off. That evening we went to the Bryce Canyon Rodeo, quite an amateurish but entertaining event. Several rodeo events were for older children and young teens; barrel racing was one. One horse stubbornly refused to run the barrels correctly, so a father ran pulling the horse by the reins through the routine (can't let the horse get away with that behavior). One funny thing: they were teaching the children to do "bull riding", by having them ride big sheep while wearing helmets.
DAY 44, Friday, May 29-Sunrise at Bryce Point comes early; we got up at 5:15 a.m. to get there by 6:10. It was 37 degrees. Arriving before dawn, there were about 20 people there, quieting waiting for the magical moment when the sun rises and colors begin to glow just as the sun breaks over the Aquarius Plateau. First light catches the rim of the amphitheater, and then drops into the basin, igniting the crowded pillars of rock and casting shadows on the hoodoos, making them stand in relief as if they are awaking. The light slowly differentiates the caves on the rim, called grottoes, from the cliffsides. Suddenly, all the hushed anticipation was assaulted by loud talking and laughing from behind, as a busload of Japanese tourists arrived, carrying the finest photo equipment to shoot the sight. They crowded in toward the rail to see the sunrise, and we found it necessary to plant our feet and hold on to the rail to protect our personal space. Another busload of American middle-scholars then arrived, and we found it interesting that they seemed to sense that they should be quiet, so their only talking was in whispers as they watched the sight.

After many photos, we headed to breakfast at Bryce Canyon Lodge, the only original lodge surviving in the western parks. Time for a nap--and it rained all afternoon; our timing was good that day. Late afternoon we headed out to ride on Rt. 22, a scenic drive, where we saw pronghorn antelope, but the prairie dogs were hiding. Then riding back on Rt. 12, we were awed by the red rock formations in Butch Cassidy and "the wild bunch" country, Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest. There is so much to see here and so many recreational opportunities available. All we can do is ride through to look.

Several of you have said that you would love to see this area, but can't take a long trip. We have found that you can fly into Cedar City, Utah, rent a car or RV (very popular out here), and in a week easily see the "three musketeers" (Grand Canyon North Rim, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park). We haven't met many easterners here; there are, however, lots of bus tours of French and Japanese. Isn't that peculiar?
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