Bryce Canyon had been one of the expected highlights of our trip and it did not disappoint. As I stated in an earlier post, it is neither my intention, nor in my gift in the time available, to attempt to describe the wondrous sights we have been witnessing. I hope the photographs, with a modicum of accompanying comment, will convey something of the splendour of each place.
The day began unpromisingly when we turned right out of the motel and started to drive down the US-89N, only to discover, thankfully after just a couple of miles, that we should have taken the US-89S. So less than ten minutes after we first left the motel we were passing it again on the road to Bryce.
Our impromptu guide from the Bear’s Paw Fishing Resort on the previous day had advised us not to ignore the modest delights of Red Canyon en route. In fact, we spent nearly two hours there, hiking among the relatively gentle rock formations.
Having avoided the roadside deer, that were infinitely better behaved than the sheep had been the day before, we arrived at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center in time for lunch. We collected our park guide and trail maps and drove to Bryce Canyon Lodge. Although we would have been content with a sandwich (honestly), our only option was to eat in the formal dining room (where they sold wine!).
With some strenuous walking ahead of us, we probably ate more than was good for us – although, in retrospect, the large lunch may have given us exactly the energy we needed for the work ahead. My tasty bison burger did lay heavy for a time but dealt no lasting damage.
After a short detour to Sheep Point we moved onto Bryce Point, the furthest viewing spot in the park. From there we drove back to Inspiration Point, where we took in the astonishing views from three different elevations, the highest being a short but crippling hike (but worth it).
We decided to take the Rim Trail from here to Sunset Point, the most popular viewing spot in the park, and the one that adorns millions of postcards and posters worldwide, a two and a half mile round trip on foot. This stretch of the rim was scheduled to take around thirty minutes, but could have taken many hours as, every few yards, we stopped to discuss the resemblance of single and groups of rocks to other, more familiar, objects – “there’s a castle and that one looks like a monkey, and that series over there looks like a row of houses”.
On arriving at Sunset Point we looked longingly at those people walking along the floor of the canyon amongst the weird, wonderful 200 million year old rock formations, called hoodoos, and resolved that, despite having hiked around four miles already, and still suffering slightly from a heavy lunch, we could not leave the park without doing it also.
The Navajo Loop Trail” was only 1.3 miles long, and although half of that was descending into the bottom of the canyon, the other half was climbing back up again! A little over half a mile is a trifle, you might think, but given the steepness and the extreme heat, it was a monumental (no pun intended) challenge.
The route also enabled us to encounter some of the park’s most famous sights, notably “Wall Street”, “Two Bridges” and “Thor’s Hammer”.
We had taken the clockwise route as recommended at the top of the trail, and although it may not have felt like it as we struggled up the last gruelling incline, we had made the right choice.
As we “high-fived” at the top of the trail, I pondered whether I had ever done anything else for which I had been more thankful, or of which I had been more proud of myself. It was a deeply rewarding experience. And Bryce Canyon had eclipsed Zion National Park from the top of my favourite places.
But of course we still had the return leg of the Rim Trail to do to get back to the car parked at Inspiration Point, around 1.2 miles with some tough uphill sections. At the risk of cramping up, we wasted no time, other than to refill our water bottles, in setting off on our last hike of a long, arduous but enjoyable day. Before leaving the park we rewarded ourselves by buying the largest ice creams we had ever eaten.
Even the annoyance of having to go down to reception twice to collect the cups and coffee that the maid had omitted to replace in the morning, could not detract from our satisfaction.