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May 28, 2010

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Dr. Seuss’ Bryce Canyon

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Following my routine I was off early to Bryce Canyon National Park.  I’ve found that this is the best way to get a campsite plus it leaves plenty of time to tour the park afterwards.  Turns out there were plenty of sites this time and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Ultimately that was just another of the coincidences that morning that affected the next week of my trip.

I could have skipped the visitor center, or found the general store when looking for ice, or not made so many trips back to the motorcycle as I was getting ready to see the park.  At first those all appeared to conspire against me as I missed the shuttle bus by 30 seconds up to Bryce Point.  I sat down with my park map to wait for the next shuttle.  10 seconds later a grey Ford Ranger with Florida plates pulled over and there was Joe from the Grand Canyon.  I hopped in and it was soon settled that we would tour the park together and split the campsite I had.

Joe and I knew we were taking similar routes through Utah except that he went to Zion the day before which I had been to previously.  Turns out he had left me a message 30 minutes before he saw me, but I didn’t have cell coverage.  It was another 2 days before I actually got the voicemail.  Ironically, the third lucky camper from the Grand Canyon was also in the same campground at Bryce that night as well.

We headed to the far end of the park at Rainbow Point.  In addition the fabulous view we found snow flurries and cold wind at 9,100 feet.  At least we were able to refill our coolers with snow.  Good thing I didn’t buy ice earlier.  The wind stayed around all day long while the clouds came and went constantly.

We worked our way slowly down hill hitting all the viewpoints along the way.  This is definitely the way to tour the park as all the stops kept getting better.  If we’d started at the bottom (or with my original shuttle plan) some of the top views would have been a bit less exciting.

By the time you get to Bryce Point you still aren’t prepared for the view that awaits.

I don’t know what there is to compare it to.  The whole park is known for the hoodoos that formed around the canyon.  A hoodoo is simply a pinnacle or other odd rock formation created by erosion.  This is taken to a whole new level at Bryce Canyon though.  The number of hoodoos, their shapes, proximities, and colors all create scenes you’d only expect to find in a Dr. Seuss book.

Looking across from Bryce Point your eye can’t get away from Bryce Amphitheater despite it being a mile away.  Thousands of hoodoos are lined up standing at attention.  You want to sit there and stare at each of them, but as you look at each one you can’t help but think about what you’ll see next.

After an extended viewing session here Joe and I made our way to Sunset Point bringing us close enough to see details of the individual hoodoos.  They are fantastic to see up close as well.  Still, when you do that it makes you lose the overall picture you had before, you really can’t have it all.

We hiked down into the canyon the following day which provided even more detail as the spires towered above us.  One of those landscapes that make you wonder what planet you’re on.  I felt like I was carrying the ring back to Mordor and was waiting for an orc to pop out anytime.

Hiking down into the canyon was just as integral part of the visit here as it was the Grand Canyon.  Your feel for the park is completely different at eye level.  It’s easy to see why the area would have been settled from above.  Once you’re down below you wonder how anyone ever made a life from it?

Starting at Bryce Point we walked to the eastern edge of the park and came up at Sunrise Point.  We covered 8 miles and finished 500 feet lower than we started.  The paths near the trailheads are busy, but it clears out quickly.  Thankfully the paths are wide and easy to follow.  No telling how many turned around hikers there would be in that landscape otherwise.

Definitely a park that requires an overnight visit so that you can see how the formations change throughout the day and to allow time to explore all that there is to offer.  A must visit place if you are anywhere nearby.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Sep 11 2010

    I’ve been to the park twice. Loved it even in the cold weather when snow blanketed the hodos. The trails are deceptively steep.

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