Kevin's Utah and Arizona trip, 2011
Saturday - Bryce Canyon
previous: Friday
next: Sunday

I drove north from Mt. Carmel Junction through Orderville and up to where the road cuts east to Bryce. The whole way was picturesque. From canyons and creeks, to run-down western poverty, to cattle and cowboys. Just before Panguitch you head east across a wide valley and up into Red Canyon.

That's an area of the Dixie National Forest with eroded red sandstone towers and cliffs. Beautiful. I stopped for a couple of pictures, but I kept moving on. Soon, I made it to Bryce Canyon National Park.

I think that's Thor's Hammer, just below Sunset Point.

It was chilly. Very windy, and the temp was in the upper fifties. And rain was on the way. I thought I'd be able to get some "clearing storm" shots over the canyon, but it turned out not to be that kind of storm. Anyway, I parked at Sunset Point, checking out the view before heading down Navajo Loop to the bottom.

The switchbacks of Navajo Loop. This is about a third of the way down, I think.

This is the bottom of the canyon where the switchbacks of Navajo Loop end.

I had lunch at the bottom, and then I wandered around a dry stream bed for a bit.

About the time I headed back to the trail, it started to rain a bit. There was a bit of thunder too. I decided I'd rather be down in the bottom of the canyon than up on the overlooks, so I was in no hurry. I wandered along with the other people.

Then I got to the part where it goes back upwards. It wasn't steep like the other end,
which means it was a longer walk. This prolonged the agony, because the rain picked up.

It get wetter, windier and colder the higher I got. I kept hoping
the top was just around the next bend, but it took forever. Nasty.

About the time I got to the top, the rain mostly quit, and the wind wasn't quite as bad. I made the half mile walk back to my car, took off my wet coat and shoes, and had some food. The temperature was, by then, down to the low forties. I was cold, wet and exhausted. The road in the park, and most of the trails, are above eight thousand feet. That's why I was so exhausted. Not because of the strenuous climb. No sir.

Then I drove around the northern end of the park, and had a looksee. I saw a pronghorn antelope. And more vistas. Bryce is every bit as spectacular as pictures make it out to be. I'm sure I could have gotten some great ones if the weather had been good. It was pretty cloudy. I had seen the pictures often enough that nothing looked really weird to me, but sometimes I'd stop and think about it, and realize how odd and awesome it all was. When I was walking down the Navajo Loop, a little girl pointed up at a spire and said, "see? I knew it was really a castle!"

A long row of buttresses.


I'm amazed by the regularity of it.

I had parked a little way away from the rest of the cars in the lot, to eat my lunch in peace. I was joined by this Steller's Jay, who was probably hoping for some leftovers. I occasionally snapped a shot when he was in a good position. Then I was joined by two other photographers, who were trying really hard for a shot. I'm sure they got better shots than this, but they were working harder at it than I was.

A few minutes later, at the overlook, I was lining up a shot and heard some kids come up behind.
"Oh my god! Look at that!" "Can you believe this place?!" the girls cried.
One of the guys said, "And you didn't want to pay the twenty-five bucks to get in!"

After seeing pretty much everything, I drove out the gate and around to the eastern end of the park, where I walked up to Mossy Cave, and a waterfall. There were also some really cool rock formations, much like in the rest of the park. Then I drove eastward, toward Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The "cave" wasn't too exciting. The waterfall only marginally so, but it was
interesting to learn that canals were dug and a river was diverted to keep
the canyon in water year-round for irrigation of the valley below.

The drive east along Highway 12 was beautiful as usual. It was nearing sunset, so the light was great. A lot of it was along wide cliff-lined valleys. I stopped off in Tropic for groceries, and had pizza for supper. A little farther down the road, I saw a sign for a cemetery, so I took a little detour.

There were a lot of Willises.

James Edward Smith
Born June 15, 1851
Died April 3, 1908
Husband of Mary Susan Stephans
And Elizabeth Jeanette Smithson
And father of 27 children

Interesting little figures.

The light was fading pretty fast, and I still had a way to go before Escalante.

This is just driving-around scenery, not even stop-and-gawk scenery.

At one point, I came over a hill, heading down into a wide green valley, when I saw a sign that warned of elk crossing. I thought that was pretty cool, but also thought it would be unlikely that I'd see any. About half a mile later, I saw a pair standing near the road. They both had not-fully-grown racks in velvet. I got a couple fuzzy shots of the first one as I rolled slowly along. The second was standing between the fence and the road, and when I stopped it decided I may have been a threat, so it hopped the fence and ran.

My directions to the motel in Escalante noted thattheir website didn't give an address,
and that you apparently couldn't miss it. I was right - you can't miss it.
I settled in to the "motel barely adequate" and checked my plans for the next day.

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