Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos and arches are an amazing natural spectacle that has been exquisitely carved over the millennia by the power of natural forces.
Another day, another National Park! Today, we headed north 50 miles to the other great park of Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon. As we found out later Bryce is not actually a canyon as these, strictly speaking, have to be carved by the cutting action of a running river. Bryce is a set of very special and delicate rock structures carved by the action of wind, rain and ice. The park is set at a high altitude, the top end is at 9,100 feet. There is a road that runs from the Visitor Centre 18 miles to the end of the park – this is the highest point and is a promontory, that gives a 270-degree view down on the valleys below. Bryce Canyon’s distance from any major conurbation provides some of the clearest visibility in the United States and today we are able to clearly see Mount Navajo, some 82 miles away. From this point we head back down the road towards the entrance of the park, stopping every mile or two at viewpoints. The main features of the park are the delicate structures known as “Hoodoos”. These hoodoos have been formed over thousands of years by the erosive forces of water, ice and gravity. Ice is the most efficient form of erosion for breaking the rock into smaller pieces. The Park gets approximately 100 inches of snowfall a year and also experiences about 200 days of freeze/thaw. These three erosive forces coupled with the differential erosion of the four rock types found in the Park’s formation create the wonderful sculptured structures we see today.
We get talking to a nice couple, the Rucker’s from Seattle, who are down here on holiday. As usual, Emily, who can be very engaging (except when it comes to her parents) is the catalyst for us getting chatting. We turn out to have a great connection…they own a series of Soccer shops in Seattle and Emily ADORES soccer! All Brits are born with a predisposed gene!
We will see them again…despite having 16 of their own grandchildren we are invited to their place to play when we reach Seattle!
The most spectacular formations are in the canyon known as Bryce Canyon – the park is actually made up of several “canyons”. The late afternoon sun’s mellow colours bring out the best of the hoodoos and arches that can be seen from the viewpoints. One of the most irritating things about visiting places like this the behaviour of other visitors. Even when signs are clearly placed saying “stay on the paths” people flagrantly ignore these. Today it is some French tourists who are stepping off the paths and going dangerously near the edge – they could be excused because of language but they have guides and bus drivers with them who should be more effectively chaperoning them (also it is often not foreign tourists breaking the rules). Jack is very indignant about the destruction of the cryptobiotic organisms in the soils around the pathways. He does his best to live up to his Junior Ranger promises and asks them to get off the soil. As soon as he does so a Park Ranger comes and shoos away the indignant tourists; we imagine more because of the danger of them disappearing several hundred feet down a cliff than the sanctity of life of micro-organisms!! Jack is thanked profusely by the Ranger who heard every word … and Jack feels life is worth living again.
Bryce is a truly beautiful place and we would have liked more time to explore the trails, some of which take you down to the floor of the canyon and among the hoodoos and slot canyons below. Alas, time is once again our enemy and we have to shoot back to the Visitors Centre so Jack and Emily can complete their Junior Park Ranger books and get a badge. We also get a chance to see the 20-minute video on the history, biology and geology of the Park, which is on a par with the Zion National Park video and significantly better than the Yosemite Park video.
On the journey back to Glendale along Highway 12, we passed through the Red Canyon, part of the Dixie Nation. As we hadn’t managed to get down to the bottom of Bryce Canyon, we decided to get out here and take a short walk among the hoodoos and mesas of Red Canyon. The sun was setting, it’s late-day rays supplementing the red coloured rocks and creating wonderful shadows. The red coloured rock was wonderfully juxtaposed by the blue sky and dark green vegetation. A splendid end to the day.