I’m currently sitting in my tent under the most amazing night sky I’ve ever seen – with no moon, at least a 6,000 foot elevation, and a location that is the most remote area in the lower-48 states the Milky Way is lighting up the evening and the stars are shining so brightly that it’s possible to differentiate sizes and colors; Audrey even pointed out what we’re guessing is the space station flying overhead. Being the reliable outdoorsman I left the star guide sitting on my bookshelf, so we’ve been forced to come up with our own names (“Blinky” is popular) but it’s no less incredible without knowing exactly what it is we’re seeing.
The route that brought us to this astronomy laboratory started in Bryce Canyon with an early wake-up to see sunrise followed by too many pictures and a visit along the way from a group of pronghorn antelope. This adventure inevitably led to coffee and bacon at the lodge, and then off for more canyon adulation at Bryce Point. After checking out of our hotel the route took us 275 miles across the state and along some absolutely ridiculous roads – apparently the Great Depression led to the ultimate in make-work programs in Utah, and portions of Highway 12 are literally blasted out of solid rock only because someone decided that a good way to create jobs was to build roads through impossible places. In addition to Highway 12, portions of Interstate 70 (“No Service Next 123 Miles”) traverse canyons and cliffs that made it one of the few parts of the interstate highway system to be two lanes up until the mid-eighties when it was finally expanded to match the rest of the system.
Bryce Canyon at Sunrise.
We got out of bed at 7:00 this morning and were on the road by 8:00, ’cause that’s how we roll. The weather alternated between sun and rain, but luckily when we arrived at Bryce it was sunny so we set off on the Navajo Loop trail towards Sunrise Point. The route led straight down through the hoodoos, and while hugely impressive it nonetheless instilled a fair amount of dread for the return trip – I’m in decent shape, but being at nearly 9,000 foot elevation has a way of making the lungs forget how to properly inflate; luckily the route up was more gradual, and with a rainstorm approaching we had added motivation to keep moving and thus avoid becoming human lightning rods.
Given the weather, sunset didn’t provide the expected fireworks, and with my limited photography skills anything less than absolute natural brilliance generally fails to translate well in photos. It was still nice to see, however, and our plan for tomorrow is to be up by 6:30 to catch sunrise. Audrey is surprisingly tolerant of me wanting to take advantage of the light and spend the days hiking, but I suspect some lounging time will be in our future lest we both collapse in a heap in the Utah desert. On a more random note, for reasons that are a mystery to everyone Zion is full of German speaking tourists, but Bryce is the destination of choice for the French speakers; Arches may be full to the gills with Italians…
Shortly after I had curled up in the back of the Subaru and fallen asleep last night another car came down the road, parked right next to me, and two guys started setting up camp. Bearing in mind that we were the only two vehicles in the national forest, and also keeping in mind that there were numerous other places where camping was possible, I was a bit perturbed at the breach of privacy. Certain places in this world — examples include camping spots, urinals, and elevators — all have unwritten rules of occupation, violations of which are so unexpected that the brain really has no response except to think “but you just don’t do that…”
This morning I arrived at Bryce as the sun was breaking the horizon, and the clouds parted long enough to grab a few photos. I was a bit curious about Ebenezer Bryce, who the park was named for, but learned only that he was known to have described his canyon as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”.
Made a brief trip through Zion, including a trek up a small peak that I’m sure my mother would have preferred me to skip. Ate a quick dinner in Vegas, and should be home sometime tomorrow afternoon, barring surprise sidetrips.
Bryce Canyon at Sunrise.
I slept like a baby on valium last night, and as a result missed the sunrise yet again. Tomorrow I have the alarm set, and I will be there to see the sun come up over Bryce Canyon. This is one of those stake in the ground, girded with iron type of declarations, therefore it’s almost guaranteed that it will be too cloudy tomorrow morning to see anything.
Spent the morning in Capitol Reef National Park and the evening in Bryce Canyon National Park, meeting several interesting folks in the process. One really nice fellow from Minnesota filled me in on how great it was to be retired because now he had the time to take two weeks and make a (leisurely) drive from Minnesota to see California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Another fellow from France couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that my French has deteriorated to the point were I can barely put a sentence together, and had me muttering what must have been utter nonsense for ten minutes. The plan is to spend at least tomorrow in Bryce, and from there it’s off towards home, most likely with a few unplanned stops along the way.