Friday, April 7, 2017

Part the Fourth: Bryce Canyon

The day of our arrival, we took the auto road around the canyon and took in the view from all the scenic overlooks.   The rock formations (hoodoos) are spectacular, and full of color.

If you could look over the near scenery, the Henry mountains in the distance were handsome as well.

Aside from driving over the Continental Divide later in the trip, Bryce was the highest point where we spent any time.  There was still a lot of snow, and I could feel the altitude, especially the first day.   We pulled out a snack at one of the lookouts and were the immediate subject of considerable interest.
The signs were quite clear that feeding the wildlife was verboten, but the wildlife did its best to convince us that this was more of a mild suggestion than an actual rule.  (We didn't buy it.)   This raven followed us around until the food was gone, gliding ahead of us, stopping, watching us expectantly as we walked toward him--and then passed him without sharing.  Then repeating as if surely it was some kind of mistake that we hadn't succumbed.   However we have been mooched from by real pros (yes, Jake, it's almost bedtime snacktime) so we stayed strong.

It was quite early in the season for Bryce- some trails were closed, and we were somewhat disappointed to find that the prairie dog viewing area was still under a foot or more of snow.  Fortunately we found that there was a family of prairie dogs living in front of our motel, so we got to see some scampering and playing anyway.
That night we went into the nearby town of Panguitch (which means "Big Fish") to get dinner and found that although the number of (mostly closed) motels showed that tourism was what keeps the place afloat, there wasn't a particularly concerted effort to exploit the vast number of visitors to Bryce.  Most of the town was closed for the season and it appeared to be a pretty sleepy place even when it was open.

The next day we went hiking down into the canyon.  The signs had all advised wearing hiking boots, which we had unfortunately not brought (on account of weight).  The trails were variously muddy and icy, and we were quite sorry we did not have boots, but we managed, though we were rather covered in Bryce Canyon mud by the end of the trek.   The scenery was absolutely worth it however.   Every time we moved a few feet along the trail, the angle of view would change.   I remarked that it was hypnotic in the same way that watching ocean waves is- you can stand there picking shapes out of the scenery and keep finding new details to admire.

Like Zion, the fantastic shapes of dead wood caught the eye.
The trails wind around the rock formations, through pine groves and back up the canyon walls.
The skinny ledge crossing the slope on the right is the trail.
At the end of the day, we stayed to watch the sun set from Sunset Point.

We left after the sun went down, and went to dinner, then came back to see the stars come out.  There were some high hazy clouds, so the seeing wasn't as good as we hoped, but my husband (who's first degree was in astronomy) was able to pick out Venus, several constellations and the Pleiades.

We went back to the hotel for the night, and got up very early the next morning to see sunrise at Sunrise Point.

It was breathtaking.  As the sun crept across the hoodoos, we set off for the next leg of the journey- scenic byway route 12, headed east to Moab.

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