Bryce Canyon National Park
Do you even level bro?
After Capitol Reef, we continued southwest to spend a week in Bryce Canyon National Park. We found dispersed camping in Dixie National Forest and took the first spot we came across. We scouted out the site, figured out how we wanted to be situated, and started the leveling process. We have Anderson leveling blocks and had never had an issue getting level side to side, but we failed miserably here over and over again. To make things even more embarrassing, the people at the site next to us came out to watch the free entertainment. After taking entirely too much time when it clearly wasn't going to work, trying to save face with our nosey neighbors saying, “I swear this has never happened before,” we called it quits. It felt like hours had passed and the sun had started to set, but we were worried that we wouldn't be able to find an available site further down on this busy Memorial Day weekend. In an effort not to lose this site, I stayed with the truck and trailer and Bryan took one for the team and jogged down the main road to scout it out. A very hot and sweaty Bryan came back out of breath, but victorious. There was a better spot a little further down tucked in between the Ponderosa pine trees and it appeared to be much more level. Within 30 minutes we were unhooked, unpacked, and most importantly, level.
wanderlump on Wall Street
After a full day of work, we headed into Bryce to hike Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop trail and end at Sunset point just in time for this point's namesake. I was not prepared for Bryce Amphitheater. We had already spent over two weeks in Utah and seen three of its national parks, but this was, yet again, vastly different and took our breath away. This view actually brought me to tears, overwhelmed with the reality that this was our life now. We have both worked incredibly hard to get to this point and overcome many challenges in our lives and are beyond grateful for this opportunity. It is a truly humbling experience to get to travel the country with my best friend, living every day to the fullest.
After getting over the initial shock that Bryce causes, we started hiking down Wall Street. You have the option to loop around the other way and end with Wall Street, but watching exhausted people ending their three mile hike trying to climb the painfully steep incline, switchback after switchback, I felt pretty good about our decision to walk DOWN Wall Street, rather than up.
Once we descended the switchbacks and walked through a narrow canyon, we left the crowds behind and were able to explore this magical world by ourselves. Have I mentioned what a good sport Bryan is, yet? He put up with me saying “hoodoo” like Hodor pronounces his name in Game of Thrones every time I saw one, which was at least a thousand times. I had never heard of hoodoos, so seeing such a multitude of this geologic formation was amazing. Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world! They are formed by the same process as fins, which I discussed in Arches, but are the product of fins eroding even further. Fins eventually get thin enough that a hole forms, creating a window and when the surface above the window breaks off, a hoodoo is left behind.
After getting a small taste of Bryce, we eagerly went back early the next morning to hike Fairyland loop trail. This is a very popular trail with little shade, so we wanted to beat the crowds and the peak sun hours. The trail starts at Fairyland Point and has a spectacular view of hoodoos. We were in good shape and had lived in Colorado for three years, so we were well acclimated to hiking at higher elevations. Real talk - this trail kicked our butts. The distance wasn't the brutal part; it was the 1,550-foot elevation gain over those 8 miles that left our legs burning. Don't get me wrong. We loved every minute of this hike, but we knew we would be feeling it the next day. There were unbelievable views the entire loop and the colors changed as the sun rose higher into the sky. It was neat to see hoodoos of all shapes and sizes, carved by water and ice at different rates depending on their chemical composition.
For those who haven't been to Bryce, there is one main 20-mile road running north-south through the park. Most of the popular overlooks and hikes are at the front of the park, which is where we had spent the past few days. The next day we decided to let our legs have a break and take a leisurely Sunday scenic drive. All the overlooks had views of hoodoos, but there were also dense areas of pine trees, the dark green shades making the pink, orange, and white tones in the hoodoos really stand out. At one overlook we realized we needed to hurry up or we weren't going to make it to all the overlooks before the sun set. This led to a comical descent down the road, stopping at each point, running out, taking a quick photo, and running back to the car. It was close, but we did end up making it to every point before dark.
Peekaboo, I see hoodoo
The Peekaboo trailhead starts at Bryce Point, which offers a stunning view, but very limited parking. We couldn't find a spot and the rangers were even more ruthless than airport traffic controllers. No readily available spot and they quickly send you back down the one-way road. Luckily, we found a spot on our second loop around. This trail has almost as much elevation gain as Fairyland, 1,450 feet, even though it is 3 miles shorter, so we knew we were in for another leg day. The trail descends quickly into the canyon, so we knew we would be ending this five mile loop with a very steep incline. Even though it was hard, this was an unbelievable hike and definitely our favorite at Bryce. We got to walk through giant windows, run down switchbacks, say hi to some horses enjoying the trail, explore vastly different landscapes around each turn, and see even more hoodoos.
On the way back to our site, we stopped in Bryce Canyon City. We bought some delicious huckleberry ice cream in Old Bryce Town and took a silly photo in a Western cut out. We also stopped by Ruby’s Inn and got some pepper jelly, salsa, souvenirs, and Utah beer. We have been trying local beer in each state and Utah has some fantastic beer! Kiitos Brewing is our favorite and tastes even better after hiking the hoodoos.
We hiked the hoodoos
Bryce has a challenge called “Hike the hoodoos,” which encourages visitors to stay healthy while having fun. You can make rubbings of three benchmarks or take pictures with the benchmarks, which are scattered along various trails throughout the park. We found many more than three with all the hikes we did and happily accepted our sticker from the visitor center for all our hard work.
After all the hiking at Bryce, my hiking boots needed a good rinse!
Did the cats like Bryce
The cats enjoyed spending their Memorial Day weekend in Bryce Canyon. The weather was great, so they got plenty of screen time. Lumpy claimed the little scratching pad as her throne and could usually be seen bread loafing on it. They were just glad we were gone hiking so much, so they could live their best lives lounging around on the couch or bed, and then pretending they missed us when we got back.
When we were packing up to move on, we saw some crazy bugs on our tires. We learned much more about those later. To be continued…