Day 17 - Monday 1 August 2016

Bryce Canyon

The Amphitheatre from Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon

What is it with me and waking up before the set alarm time? This morning I was up about 20 minutes before the set time and would you believe it was 5.15 in the morning. What is going on with me? I never get up this early, earlier and earlier, ping; wide awake! Whatever, I thought to myself, so I had a shower, ate some breakfast and packed some stuff for todays adventure. I was on the road at 6, which was really 7 Utah time (I will use Utah time from now on).

An hour and a half later, after a very average and bland drive north deeper into Utah, I was pulling into the Bryce Canyon National Park. I had heard of this park thanks to a friend in Hobart (thanks Emma) who, one day over coffee in Fullers Bookshop, handed me a two-page spread that she had ripped out of a magazine that had a big image of this vast vista of strange upright standing orange/red rock formations. The formations were like little (or rather big) soldiers all standing in row, one after the other many deep in what appeared to be a natural amphitheatre.

Bryce Canyon Tree and canyon Bryce Canyon Bryce Canyon

I arrived at the park gate, purchased a parks pass (I’ll be visiting three national parks in the next three days so it was cheaper for me to purchase an annual pass (anyone coming to America in the next year and would like a parks pass then let me know) rather than day entry). My first stop was Sunset Point and there out in front of me was pretty much the same view that I had remembered from the magazine spread given to me by Emma, but laid out in front of me in all its vastness. What a sight! (Here we go again with superlatives). I made the half-mile walk up to the much higher elevation of Inspiration Point. The views were just as impressive, if not more so. It had been an overcast morning but the sun was just starting to emerge setting the rocks off into much more luminous colours of soft yellows, orange with hints of red.

There were quite a lot of tourists out at this early hour, however when I made the 1-mile return walk, on the Rim Trail it was called, up to Inspiration and back there was hardly anyone else on it. People would hop out of their car, go to the look out point, take a million photos (like me) with their selfie sticks hovering above (unlike me, curse those selfie sticks), and then go back to their car. Strange people.

The orange of Bryce Canyon

From Inspiration I walked back down to Sunset and decided to walk the Navaho Loop Trail that made its way about one and half miles down into the canyon and back up again. Thankfully there were a few tourists doing this one (lots of European accents particularly German) and I’m really glad I did as it was truly spectacular (there’s that word again). At one point on the walk back up it turned into a slot canyon with extremely high cliff faces on either side. Wow! I did the tourist thing once I was back at the top, I hopped into my car and drove the 18 miles to the end of the park to Rainbow Point. Whilst I was driving down on the radio I was listening to a program about today being the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas shooting in Austin, where some ex-army nutter climbed the bell tower and starting shooting people, killing seventeen, and they interviewed a fella who was a twenty-year student/eyewitness at the time. The interview concluded with him saying that it was a terrible tragedy and that there wasn’t really anything positive worth remembering about this hideous occurrence. Why am I telling you this I hear you ask, because then the story took a jaw-dropping twist. Today, this day marking the 50th anniversary of the shooting, the University of Texas has passed the ‘Campus Carry’ law that allows students to carry licenced concealed handguns on them whilst on campus with the concession that there be dedicated ‘gun free zones’ such as in the day care facility (well thank goodness for that). At one point the radio host interviewed a professor who teaches feminist and gay and lesbian studies. The professor said that due to her subjects being tricky and somewhat controversial that she could either request a gun free zone for her office when meeting with students or she could request a permit to carry a gun for herself. The madness. But really this is just another reason why I just love America. Once again it throws me a curve ball. (This on top of yesterday’s radio listening whilst driving of an advert from a US republican standing for office in Arizona stating amongst many other jaw-dropping things that ‘we deserve the right to have our guns back’ just makes me wonder about this place in comparison to good old Johnny Howard’s decision in Australia to just ban the blasted things).

Navaho Trail loop, Bryce Canyon In the canyon In the canyon A gash in the canyon

Anyway, I arrived at Rainbow Point. There were many tourists (like me) wandering around. My plan was to take the 1.5 mile Bristlecone Trail for a view of the other side of the park. Soon I had left behind the throngs of overweight tourist to the tranquillity of the trail (although I did come across two girls also walking it as I neared the end). The trail was easy (why don’t the tourists do these easy trails?) and views were great. There were cute little squirrels scurrying around everywhere. But soon I was back in the car. Now let me fill you in a little about Bryce. I had read a couple of online forum’s about the park that had said that if you are only there for 4 hours then go to Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce lookouts, they also said if your there for a full day that you should drive down to end (Rainbow Point), take the Bristlecone walk then make your way back up to the entrance stopping in at the other 10 or so view points (look outs) along the way, so this is what I did with the best view points being Ponderosa Canyon and Natural Arch (the name says it all).

Through the canyon

Sadly the track and road up to Bryce Point, the last of the 10 or so view points, was closed so my final stop in the park was Sunrise Point that is the nearest view point to the entrance. It is also about a half mile in the other direction from Sunset Point where I started the day. It was by now about 12 noon and there were by far many more people around than was a few hours ago and the sun was in full shine and the heat of the day was starting to kick in with a vengeance.

A bigger gash in the canyon So beautiful Beautiful rich orange rock Coming off the Navaho Trail, Bryce Canyon

Sunrise Point was another divine vantage point for the main Bryce Canyon amphitheatre. Strangely as I made my way to the view point at the top of Sunrise all of the other tourists cleared and I had the place to myself. I took some photos, took in the vista that is the canyon for the final time before hopping back in the car. I made a quick stop into the visitors centre, bought a small book on the geology of Utah, and asked the ranger wether she knew if the road back in to Kanab would be open as on my way in it looked like there was a bunch of volunteers, dressed in fluro yellow over a 20 mile stretch of road, setting up for a race of some sort (and at one point over the radio I heard something about a Southern Utah road bike race occurring near Zion National Park). The ranger wasn’t really sure but suggested that she thought that they probably wouldn’t be holding the race at this hot time of day.

I left the park at about 1.30, stopped into the nearest service station, filled up with gas and was on the road again. The drive back was easy, and there was no sign of a bike race and soon afterwards I was back in Kanab at about 3pm. I dropped into the local supermarket, picked up some supplies before heading back to my hotel room. I spent some time in my room writing and at about 6 went for a walk. Just before I left I heard a loud crack of thunder outside, I looked out the window and it looked clear so I went for my walk anyway. This morning, as I drove out of Kanab, I went past a sign on the main road pronouncing ‘Kanab, Utah’ and next to it ‘Little Hollywood’, above it was a full size model of a cowboy bucking on a white horse. It was so awesomely cheesy that I decided that my later afternoon walk would be to this point so I could get a photo of it and it was well worth it. I took a few more photos of small town America Kanab and as I turned into the street that my hotel was on, facing me was the thunderstorm coming in fast. I saw a number of lightening strikes in the distance, as the sky got darker. I made it back to me room just in time and within 5 minutes I could hear the rain coming down hard inclusive of a brief moment when the power went out.

Natural Arch Champs Chicken... A buffalo pained as a landscape with celluloid film wrapped around it? Kanab, also known as Little Hollywood

Today was filled with yet more amazing rock formations, there was loads of little cute squirrels darting all over the place, I saw a peregrine falcon at one stage and a squawking raven preening itself out on a rock. I saw people taking photos of there friends posing them under archways fashioned in the rock (a strange but repetitive phenomena), dragonflies loudly buzzing around madly at the Swamp Canyon view point, and sadly a squished mole or beaver on the road with what looked like a panicky anxious relative on the side of the road looking over at it. I made over 24,000 steps (a record so far), climbed over 84 flights walking over 18 kilometres.