Two National Parks down - one to go!
|National Park number three!|
Despite the damp weather, so far our Southwestern US trip had been a success. My hubby and I had spent time at both Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Now it was time to head north again to visit the final National Park on our agenda - Bryce Canyon.
Leaving Jacob Lake, Arizona, we headed back into Utah. And for once it wasn't raining! Although a few low clouds still hung in the sky, at least they weren't dropping moisture. It was a dry, uneventful three hour drive to Bryce Canyon.
|Interesting rock formations|
After the requisite park sign photos (hey, it's a tradition!) we headed to the visitor center. Not only needing to use the little girl's room, I also wanted to get some hiking recommendations.
|Super muddy trail!|
Turned out it was a good thing we stopped by the visitor center. I learned: 1.) The park shuttle system was done for the season and 2.) 5 inches of rain that fell over the past week had rendered most of the hiking trails impassible, either by rockfall or thick gooey mud. The only ones still open were the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loops.
|These hoodoos looked like ship masts|
Darn! Foiled by rain once again! And on a non-stormy day....
|Looking down on Queen's Garden|
But we'd traveled all the way for Oregon to see this National park, and see it we would, despite the trail closures.
|Trees growing on narrow ridge|
So Roger and I headed to the Queen's Garden Trailhead. A short walk from one of the many parking lots led us to Bryce Canyon's edge. Looking out over the rim, I gasped at the multitudes of colorful rock spires stretching out in all directions, as far as the eye could see.
These tall, slender spires, known as hoodoos, were formed by water and ice erosion. Bryce Canyon is composed of limestone, siltstone and dolomite layers. An uplift of the Colorado Plateau created cracks in these layers, enabling water to flow into the rock. Over time, the water's action widened these cracks into deep slot canyons. Variations in rock layers created the interesting shapes of these strange features.
|The trail down into Queen's Garden|
A Paiute Indian legend tells of a people who lived in a beautiful city built by Coyote. When these people began behaving badly towards Coyote, he transformed them all into stone. (The endless rows of hoodoos do kind of resemble a crowd of people...)
|Narrow rock gap|
A sign pointed towards a nearby viewpoint. Of course I wanted to see it! Following the rim trail, Roger and I had our first encounter with Bryce Canyon's famous sticky mud. The consistency of peanut butter, it clung to our shoes like glue. Luckily it wasn't very deep, or our boots would have stayed behind. Now I understood the reason for so many trail closures.
|Heading towards a tunnel|
After oohing and aahhing at the viewpoint (and trying in vain to scrape mud off our boot soles!) we turned around and headed back through the mud to the Queen's Garden trailhead. The trail dived down into the canyon itself, passing by lots of tall, impressive hoodoos.
|View through the tunnel|
Oh there was so much to see! Every bend in the path brought another group of spectacular rock carvings. They rose from the canyon's bottom, like colorful church steeples. The bright earthtones of pink, orange, and cream made for lovely photo subjects (despite the cloudy gray skies).
|Tall spires above|
Since this was one of the few trails still open, it was extremely busy. We definitely were not alone. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes streamed up and down the path. Sometimes I had to wait my turn to get a photo. I was surprised to see so many people still here in mid-October.
|Taking in the scenery|
So...many....cool....photo subjects! There was always something catching my eye, and I lagged far behind my hubby. Poor Roger was forced to wait for me many times.
|We added the Navajo Loop to our hike|
After a mile and a half, we came upon a junction with the Navajo Loop. It advertised a short half mile jaunt to Sunset Point, so of course we decided to check it out.
|The steep climb out|
This trail took visitors back up the canyon. A steep path that wound through a narrow canyon, we traversed sets of never-ending switchbacks until finally reaching the rim.
|The rewards of our climb|
Although this climb got our hearts thumping, I didn't mind at all - the views were fantastic!
We passed by a tall hoodoo with a square rock perched upon a slender column. Named "Thor's Hammer" it was one of the park's more well-known attractions.
|Windy trail to the rim|
Once again back on the rim, Roger and I followed another path, hugging the very edge. Oh was the scenery spectacular!
|Admiring the view at the canyon's rim|
I couldn't get enough of these colorful hoodoos. Even Roger got in on the action, taking shots with his little camera.
|The hoodoos go forever!|
The rock pillar shapes changed depending upon location. In some places the rock spires were smooth with pointy tops. Other places, the hoodoos were more uniform in thickness, with lots of cracks circling their sides.
To me, the rock formation shapes and colors reminded me of prehistoric times. They looked like something you'd see on a "Flintstones" cartoon (Yabba, Dabba, Doo!)
|No place like Bryce Canyon!|
Although short and crowded, I totally enjoyed our trip through the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loops. But once we'd explored these trails, it was still early afternoon. With most of the other trails closed, what else could we see? Happily my hubby and I did find another cool place. I'll share that, and more of Bryce Canyon's wondrous scenery in my next post.