These photos are from a solo trip I took to Bryce Canyon in Utah in late September 2011. The fall equinox turned out to be an ideal time of year to visit, as the summer heat has abated for the year, but there is still about a good month of fair weather (avg. low 80s) left before the first snowfall in mid-October.
Technically, Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon…
A proper canyon normally has a river running through it, the remainder of a larger body of water it was eroded by. Bryce has no such thing – its erosion is the result of millions of years of rain/snow freeze/thaw, creating cracks in the rock with an immense amount of pressure that breaks it into fins, boring holes in the fins to form bridges that eventually collapse, leaving massive spikes and bizarrely-shaped towers known as hoodoos.
Bryce is referred to as a natural amphitheater. Parts of it actually look like a huge stadium filled with hallucinatory audience members. I guess they had to call it Bryce Canyon because calling it an amphitheater might confuse too many people into thinking it was a place to go hear concerts or lectures.
The weather was A-1 perfect all the time I was there. It had been stormy most of the month earlier, which not only makes for bad hiking, but there is great danger of being struck by lightning if one is out in the open, lightning also being one of the main causes of erosion.
I remember my grandfather mentioning that you could shoot the same spot once an hour, and get a totally different picture each time because of the movement of shadows in the sun.
It’s nearly impossible to convey the feel of space in pictures…. in many of these shots the thousands of rock shapes seem to blend together, making it hard to distinguish what’s close from what’s farther back, and I was wishing I had a 3D camera.
You can almost imagine clusters of conspiratorial hoodoos, planning an evening of mischief against the tourists.
It’s like a giant, millions-year old Rorschach test. What does this remind you of? Hmmm….. (My friend Vera from Moscow commented “These pines remind me, it still must be somewhere on Earth planet”)
This is why we drive slowly through the park. This guy stood here perfectly still for about 2 minutes, probably wondering why everyone was staring at him. Later in the evening after dinner at the lodge, I saw a couple of deer strolling across the same woodsy path people were taking to get to their cars or rooms for the night. Neither species seemed bothered by the other. The perfect neighborhood.
A sign in the lodge room I occupied read “Remember: You are staying in a living museum. Sometimes the exhibits like to visit the guests.”
Nothing to add here. These signs are posted at every scenic view point.
There are over 100 miles of trails throughout the park, both along the rim and inside, from easy strolls to hardcore back country hiking requiring special permits.
I was told this tree is 1,600 years old. Whether it’s actually alive I’m not sure, though I’ve heard it said if a tree’s bark is intact, it’s technically alive…. I doubt any of us will leave this much evidence of our existence 1,600 years from now.
This fearsome chipmunk guarding the trail head reminds us: no feeding the wildlife! Cash only!
A natural bridge. Many years from now the top center will erode away, and finally collapse, starting a new hoodoo family.
The rustic Bryce Lodge, sole overnight accommodations in the park area. Advance reservations strongly advised, although Ruby’s Inn just outside the park is a reasonable alternative, with daily shuttles into the park available.
Bryce Lodge is rather pricey, basic (no TV, as if you’d need it, or refrigerator, again not an issue because it gets plenty cold at night), but somehow this open air back porch was the coolest thing about staying here.
Aside from the obvious wooden sign, how can you tell this is a horse trail?
Every so often I was able to persuade another friendly visitor to take a shot of me so you all would know I was really there. BTW…. this is my first ever visit to this place, after years of obsession. Fall equinox turned out to be the best visiting season in my opinion.
The rim trail goes on for a few miles, affording plenty of beautiful sights for casual strollers, but at some point, one may find oneself desiring something a tad more immersive.
Navajo Loop is considered a “moderate” hike. It’s only about 1.3 miles’ length. Of course, you’re walking up or down steep switchbacks for most of that mile.
So of course, I took the plunge. Here’s a view looking up, for a change.
Switchbacks descending into Navajo Loop.
Disappearing into a dark hoodoo corridor; note the tiny hikers congregating at the “entrance”.
Hoodoos keeping silent watch far overhead…. at this point you know you’re somewhat committed to the task. You don’t want to disappoint the hoodoos.
Into the corridor, referred to as Wall Street…. by the way, you don’t want to be here during a storm either due to flash flood danger. If you visit Bryce, check the weather first every day like I did.
And here’s Solo, occupying Wall Street at around the same time protestors were doing something similar (in name, at least) in New York City. Looks like I’m really going through with this.
What we found at the end of the corridor.
Looking straight up. The Bryce hiking experience has been described as exploring a cave with no roof.
Of course I don’t know of many caves with tall trees growing inside them.
How come there’s another tree growing out of this tree?
Some of these pines have minds of their own, the strange ways they grow….. or maybe the hoodoos cast spells on them after dark…
Out into the open, for a bit of level ground and, of course, more amazing views.
Before starting on this hike, I made a mental note to take lots of breaks. Taking lots of breaks is easy when you’re stopping to shoot pictures every 3 minutes.
Navaho Loop turned out to be the ideal beginner’s hike (why it’s one of the park’s most popular)… just challenging enough for a feeling of accomplishment, and many rewarding views inside.
At this point I had a choice of joining the Queen’s Garden trail which went about an extra mile, or proceeding up the remaining half mile of Navajo Loop. I opted for up.
Gigantic arrowheads surging skywards…
Many of the hoodoos have names…. I gave this one my own, the Old Hound Dawg Hoodoo.
Not a cruel joke…. just a short split off to look at the Two Bridges. They’re kind of hard to see, again because of the dimensional thing.
Zigzagging back up, stopping to rest in the shade of the switchbacks…. one thing Bryce has over the Grand Canyon, escape from relentless sunlight.
Almost to the top…
…and an incredible view once we make it over.
That towering, top-heavy hoo-dude just right of center is referred to as Thor’s Hammer.
This photo came out looking to me like a surrealist painting. The zigging trail in the center is probably part of the Queen’s Garden split off I ended up not taking. Oh well…. next time….
Yes, I’ll be coming here again. And again.
One last look before heading back home. This one I think I’ll be blowing up into a large poster.
Thanks for coming along on this first amazing trip to one of the most amazing areas in the country.