Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 2016 part 2
The Miller clan is up early anxious to begin our Utah adventure at Bryce Canyon. After I went to bed the foursome made plans to drive to Bryce where we would peruse the visitor center for information about the park and hiking trails. If the weather is cooperating we will walk along the amphitheaters rim and enjoy the over view of the Canyon. Since today’s weather forecast is predicting chilly, cloudy weather and possible rain to be unsettled and tomorrow’s weather report calls for a warmer, sunny day the siblings decided that it made sense to return to Bryce tomorrow to hike. Once we have scoped Bryce out we will have a late lunch featuring Rock Hill grilled steaks.
After breakfast we load up in our Hyundai where the three of us in the backseat find out due to space constrictions that we must take turns and help one another in order to get our seatbelts fastened. O.k. it is a bit cozy back here but we won’t be driving any excessive distances and we will manage. In fact Bryce is only an hour’s drive from our rental house. Paul asks if everyone is ready and getting a unanimous “yes” the Miller clan is off.
After thirty minutes we suddenly drive into some incredible rock formations right next to the highway and Paul pulls the car into the turnout so we can gaze at the vibrant red cliffs. We cross the road to read the informative sign and discover that this area is called Red Canyon which is very aptly named I must say. Piling back into the car we continue a little ways down the road where a building, that is obviously a visitor’s center, sits on the other side of the highway. Surely this can’t be the Bryce Canyon visitor center this far from the park but Paul turns the car into the parking lot just in case. Nope, it is the Red Canyon visitor’s center and we briefly contemplate going inside but decide to wait and check the center out tomorrow.
Half an hour later we arrive at the Bryce Canyon visitor center and step out into the crisp air. We discover that a film on Bryce is shown on the hour and the half hour so we decide to look at the exhibits in the center for fifteen minutes while waiting for the next showing. We wander through the exhibit looking at the multitude of info from explaining the rock layers in Bryce, the various types of wildlife that are present in the canyon, the Native American presence and how the Canyon got its name.
When it is time for the film to begin we all find seats and prepare for more information to be crammed into our brains. Oops, the film is running but there is no sound. This silent film continues for a few minutes and we all assume someone will fix things. When it is apparent that the staff must be unaware of the glitch, some people go to find help, (I think Joy was one of them). Eventually, the problem is fixed and we get to watch most of the film although they have to cut off the ending so they can stay on schedule. Oh well, I am ready to see the Canyon for real anyway!
When we walk outside again I am very happy that I have my fleece and jacket on as it is just cold out here. Paul chauffer’s us down the highway to the parking lot of what is known as the Bryce amphitheater and we make our way to the rim of the Canyon.
Oh My Gosh! Sure I have seen photos of the Canyon that is so famous for its hoodoos but the photos are nothing compared to seeing this fantastic place in person. I can’t describe this special place in words, although thinking you have landed on another planet might give one an idea of how alien the Canyon landscape appears. Perhaps a fairytale land is an apt description due to how the colors of the rocks are constantly changing as the sun peeks in and out of the clouds. The shutters on our cameras are clicking furiously but even as I shoot photo after photo I know in my heart the pictures won’t convey the beauty and the incredulous feeling I have as I stand awestruck by the beauty and uniqueness of Bryce Canyon.
The five of us stroll towards Sunrise point but soon our group is spread out as some of us seem to be stopping every few feet to take photos from the different vantage points along the way :). Doris and I straggle up to the viewing tower last and enjoy the bird’s eye view of the limestone hoodoos.
Once the group reunites a decision is made to hike a trail in Bryce today after all. The weather is chilly but no rain is falling so we decide to hike the relatively short (1.3 miles) Navajo Loop Trail. We return to the car to retrieve our walking sticks and to eat a snack before we venture out on the trail. As we are gathering our sticks and standing around eating our power bars a group of four people come to a halt next to us. One of the men in the group calls out Kansas in a very foreign accent and somebody figures out that they want a photo of our license plate. We move to the side of the car so the man can add Kansas to his photo license tag collection. Paul then beckons for the Frenchman to follow him to the front of our car. The man dutifully does so and seems delighted to see the “Eat Beef” vanity plate that we have on display there. The group waves their thanks to us and we watch as they move on down the line of parked vehicles in search of plates they haven’t photographed yet. Lois exclaims that she has noticed people taking photos behind the parked cars and wondered what they were doing so this encounter with the license plate photographers solved the mystery for her. Very observant Lois!
Now that we have gathered all of our necessities, the Miller quintet walks to Sunset Point where the Navajo loop trail begins. There are quite a few hikers on the trail but it isn’t inundated with humans. As we move down the trail, being next to and looking up at the colorful hoodoos, gives one a whole different perspective of this fascinating landscape. The Miller siblings line up for a photo with what is known as “Thors’ hammer” in the background. I apologize to a fit young woman who is hiking back up the trail for blocking her way as I prepare to take the photo. The cute woman leans against the cliff face, and gasps, “take all the time you want, I need to rest.” I laugh thinking she is just kidding me, and then take the photo of the Miller sibs and we continue on our hike.
When we walk around a curve we begin to meet many hikers pulling for breath as they climb towards Sunset Point. Maybe that youngster wasn’t kidding about her need to take a break. We can see the bottom of the canyon from here and the trail appears to be a myriad of switchbacks plus it looks really deep and steep. As we continue our trek to the bottom we stop to enjoy “gargoyles”, what appears to be a Victorian couple gazing into each other’s eyes, among other imagined figures. We also see dead trees whose trunks look like twisted pieces of licorice. We see these interesting tree trunks throughout our hikes in Utah and I never get tired of looking at the fascinating coiled trunks. What made the trees like that and why?? I also watch incredulously as a young woman intently texts on her phone as she walks the switchbacks. First of all why is she even hiking if she is just going to stare at her phone? Secondly, she comes within a couple of inches of the edge of the trail several times and even though the fall down to the next switch back wouldn’t be more than a few feet it is still dangerous. Good grief!
When we reach the bottom of the canyon and prepare to continue up the loop trail we find a barrier across the path. For some reason this part of the trail is closed and we have to climb out of Bryce Canyon the same way we came down. No wonder we were meeting so many hikers coming towards us. We just assumed that these hikers had gone counter-clockwise on the loop trail instead of clockwise like we did. Well pooh, now we won’t be able to see the landscape of the rest of the trail. It would have been nice if there had been a notice posted at the start of the trailhead telling tourists that the loop was closed.
We rest briefly before starting back up the trail. The sun has come out and before long we are all shedding our warm clothing. It doesn’t take long before I am one of those hikers gasping for breath as I struggle back up the switchbacks. Soon I set a goal of walking the length of one switchback then briefly resting before continuing on to the next one. Oddly enough about three-quarters of the way up, I seem to catch a second wind and when we reach Sunset Point I’m rather surprised that I feel pretty good! Everyone makes it back to the top in good shape, not bad for a group in their 60’s and 70’s. Of course, Doris, Lois, and Joy are avid hikers so no surprise there.
We decide to continue to the end of the road and take a look at the view at Rainbow Point (I think). The clear sunny sky turns cloudy the farther in altitude we climb and we even drive through some snow flurries. When we step out of the car at the dead-end road there is a cold wind blowing and all of us have to pull our coats back on. We make our way to the viewing area and look out on the cloud covered vista. We don’t stay long, it is cold and truthfully a bit gloomy up here, plus we are getting hungry. That late lunch we had anticipated is going to turn into an early dinner.
Upon return to the ranch, we indulge in cocktails along with some snacks and just relax for a bit. We all pitch in to put dinner on the table, but the most important part is grilling the steaks which is Paul’s duty. Everyone but me likes their steaks rare so they are really pleased with the results. I have to zap my steak in the microwave for a bit but it still is very tasty.
After dinner Joy intends to show us a slide show of the last Miller reunion in England and her travels in Cuba. Paul, Joy and Lois work hard trying to figure out how to get Joy’s slide show to transmit from the computer to the TV but they finally give up. Doris has her travels on a flash drive so they plug the drive into the back of the TV. After a lot of trial and error the four siblings manage to figure out how to make Doris’ slide show play on the large screen TV. We enjoy seeing the terrific photos and hearing stories about Doris’ time in Spain, Israel/Jordan and Costa Rica. Have I ever mentioned that I married into a family of avid travelers :)? Once Doris’ interesting show is over I am ready to hit the sack. I leave the four Millers to plan tomorrow’s adventure.
Blog 3 will be sent although it may be awhile as we are beginning to hay! Hurray. Nancy