Bryce Canyon National Park
So, the above picture shows the Bryce Canyon amphitheater, or as we call it, HOODOOS in the snow! After leaving Capitol Reef Park National Park where we encountered the brief snow, we awoke to bright blue skies and the snow was gone. This should be a great day to get to Bryce Canyon! We weren't taking into consideration that Capitol Reef is at 6000 feet while Bryce is at 8000. The result? When we arrived at Bryce, the heavy snow was still on the trees, buildings and everywhere but the roads. We were thinking that our much anticipated visit to Bryce may not work out so well. But, oh, how we were surprised!
We almost always start at the visitors center to pick up maps, get advice, and get a feel for the park, but we didn't want to stay long because the sun was already melting the snow on the trees so that it was falling off in large globs. The closest overlook of the canyon was at Sunrise Point where we quickly parked the car, dodged the snow falling from the trees (or tried to) and made our way toward the point where we soon realized that our footwear was not appropriate for inclined partially frozen, partially muddy slick trails. Being very lucky to make it up the trail without falling in the mud, we were rewarded with the amazing view of the Hoodoos in the snow. The following are the pre-snowmelt photos.
We wish we knew about the proper footwear part before we packed for the trip.
This is the extremely muddy horse trail. For horseback riding no less.
To the left of this photo is a great example of a fin. More on this later.
Since the hiking trails were so muddy, we spent the first day at the major overlooks and driving as far as we could on the main road through the park. Bryce is a long thin park with one major road from the visitor center south to Yovimpa Point except on days like this when, due to snow on the road, 2/3 of the road is closed. The second day the road was open and some of the hiking trails were open even though still muddy and slick in places. Above, Kaye begins down the Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point. Our plan, or at least mine, was to go as far as we could safely go and then turn around when the going got too scary. She never stopped!
The trail began a series of switchbacks with a serious downward grade. By now, without something to stop you, the best possible outcome is falling spat in the mud. I thought Kaye would abandon the attempt to go all the way down there. But No! By holding on to the wall, and using strategically placed rocks to stop our slide, we made it down.
It felt very good to reach the bottom and have dry level ground beneath our feet. Now to get back up!!!!! Uh oh!! After we reached the bottom, we discovered that the return leg of the .8 mile Navajo Trail was closed. Our only options other than "Just living there" were to attempt to go back up the slippery slope we just managed to live over, or connect to the 1.8 mile Queens Garden Trail which gradually rises back up to Sunrise Point where we could walk the rim trail back to Sunset point to our car. We chose the longer safe way.
Bonus!!! They don't call it the Queens Garden trail for nothing. Tell me, does the above photo look like Queen Victoria or what?
On our way back up is another view of the Horse Trail above, and below, the canyon floor from where we just came.
Another large formation is "The Sinking Ship"
Now about those Hoodoos. Hoo do, I mean, how do they form? If you go back to the photo of the fin and look closely, you can see an opening along the top of the fin. That's a "window". With time, a window grows in size due to freeze/thaw action and eventually the top part of the window will collapse leaving separate spires called hoodoos. There is a constant process by which new hoodoos are formed while the old ones are eventually eroded down to the valley floor. If I just had a time lapse video for a few thousand years!
Here is better view of windows and new hoodoos forming on a fin.
The second day after the road to Yovimpa point was opened, we made several stops at Inspiration Point, Farview Point, Ponderosa Canyon and Rainbow Point at 9115 feet. What makes geologists so giddy about this part of Utah? The photo above of Yovimpa Point shows different colors in the layers of sediment that have been eroded away. They know that at 9000 ft the top layer of sediment represents the youngest layer of geologic sediment in southern Utah and the different layers or colors, take you back in time to older layers. They also compare the layers here to the layers at lower elevation in Zion National Park. They have found that the lower layers visable at Bryce are the top layers at Zion. Continuing on to the south at Arizona's Grand Canyon, at even lower elevation, the bottom layers of Zion are the top layers of Grand Canyon. So starting at Bryce and going down through the layers of Zion and down through the layers of Grand Canyon gives you a Grand Staircase of geologic history. Whew! So much for the science lesson!
It's BOGO day at letslivethere.com. On highway 12 from Bryce toward the town of Panguitch is Red Canyon Visitor Center. The road goes right through the mountain. The visionaries at the time didn't want to damage the aesthetics of the terrain, so they went through instead of blasting away the mountain. Here we found a trail that goes right up to hoodoos and formations that rivals Bryce, without all the people. The following are a couple of photos of the trail.
This is a side trip off the trail. We couldn't resist the small doorway which lead into a large opening, much like a very large room cut off from the world. Inside were fantastic rock formations set ablaze by the setting sun and a quiet peacefulness where the only sounds were birds chirping and a gentle trickle of a tiny waterfall. So long Bryce Canyon....we will be back. Up next...Zion!