Bryce Canyon revisited – 29th/30th October 2011

17 Nov

Just about 2 years ago we visited Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah for the first time, we were amazed at the geology, thoroughly enjoyed a hike in the hoodoos and have hoped to return, so, have made sure it was within our itinerary for this trip. We were aware it was the very end of the season for this part of Utah, snow would be arriving in a very short space of time and nights could be cold. We booked in at Ruby’s Inn RV for a electric hook up making sure we would be toasty overnight.

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As we approached Bryce the weather looked anything but wintery, the red, pink and white rocks pretty against the blue sky.

We had previously taken a hike down a popular section of the canyon and this time hoped to see something different. We called into the visitor centre for advice on which trail would be good for a short afternoon hike to view some slightly different locations. The ranger directed us to a section of the Fairyland Loop, a strenuous 8 mile hike if you completed the whole trail but thought we would enjoy the first section, turning around when we felt we had gone far enough. A great idea!

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The trail took us to views of some of the hoodoos in the eastern part of the canyon. Then as we walked further extensive views beyond the park boundary. There were some steep sections both up and down but largely the trail was well made and a pleasant hike. The sun was bright but there was not sufficient warmth to encourage me to take off the top layers. We timed our walk out to an hour and a half but actually managed the return much more quickly than anticipated. It was exactly as we wanted a nice afternoon walk to warm us up for the longer hike we hoped to do the following day.

That evening we attended a ranger talk in the visitor centre about the night sky, we were amazed that about 50 people attended the talk, and stayed on afterwards to use the telescopes set up by park staff in the very chilly car park. Through the scopes we had a great view of Jupiter with its 3 moons,also Andromeda Nebula which looked like a smudgy blob in the sky (think of the iris of an eye) .

The visitor centre was a short drive from the campground but our return in the dark was ‘interesting’. Its amazing how confusing roads and camping spaces can be in total darkness and after taking a couple of wrong turns, completing a three point turn and retracing our steps to the front entrance we settled in our site for the night.

Overnight the temperature dropped below freezing but next morning the sun was bright, so, wrapped up against the cold we set off to park at Sunset Point and begin our hike on the Peek a Boo trail. We knew it was classed as a strenuous trail but after the previous days hike hoped we were up to doing the full loop. We descended into the canyon via the Navajo trail, this part we knew as it was where we had walked before.

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As the path continued the hoodoos grew larger above us, making use of the run off from above, trees grow in the washes and on the damper northern slopes of the canyon. We speculated why the trail was called Peek a Boo, could it be holes in rock to peek through? Maybe giving a view out to another area? At times the path climbed steeply, levelled off, then dropped again. It twisted and turned through the hoodoos eventually we passed through a gap  to find on the other side the path continued amongst another section of rocks in the amphitheatre of the canyon.

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This repeated itself several times along the trail, sometimes we were low and the hoodoos high above us other times we crested a rise and found we were looking down to a view below us. At one point there was a short scramble up a bank at the side of the trail, well used it tempted you to follow and explore why others had climbed that way. I was brave and was rewarded with a breath taking sight below.

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We had taken our lunch with us knowing we would be walking for several hours so began to look for a spot to sit and eat, we hoped for a nice log in the sunshine as the rocks were a little chilly for sitting on. By now we were a long way from either end of the trail and were surprised and relieved in more ways than one to discover a washroom!

 

Right in the bottom of the valley we found our resting place and settled down to enjoy P1220240the snacks we had bought with us. We soon attracted an audience, the local chipmunk population heard the rustle of our bags and came in search of a few crumbs. While we felt sorry for these little fellows who appeared to have little to sustain them in the surroundings we also are very aware that feeding the wild life is not good for them – and we were hungry too!

 

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Continuing after our lunch we came to a small stream running down on the shady side of some rocks, in the nooks of the rocks ice and icicles had formed reminding us that despite this sunny day winter will soon cover the rocks with several feet of snow.

 

 

 

 

 

The next section of the trail is called the Wall of Windows, the hoodoos are formed once the cap rock is removed, the underlying softer stone is then quickly worn away by the action of wind and water. Initially fins are formed in the soft rock, then holes or windows appear eventually the top of these windows is removed and a pillar of rock stands on its own – a hoodoo.

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Of course the weathering does not stop, the hoodoos continue to be eroded changing shape over the years until finally they collapse or are worn to sand and washed away in the storms. What we see today may still be there to view next year or may be completely different, who knows.

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The trail was also a horse trail and we had seen evidence of their passage all morning, dodging it as best we could. We had not seen any horses though until late in the day when a small party of riders came towards us heading for the higher parts of the trail. What a nice way to see the canyon, it almost made me wish I could ride.

 

 

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Having completed the 3 mile loop of Peek a Boo we enjoyed a brief rest in the sunshine before the final stretch of our hike which would be to exit via the Wall Street section of the Navajo trail. From the flat wash in the very bottom of the amphitheatre it is obvious the exit has to be either long or steep or maybe both.

 

 

 

 

 

The first view of the accent is amazing, the rock walls close in around you, tower above P1220288you, casting a shadow on the trail and blocking out the sun. The park service have made the very steep accent a little easier by developing a zig zag route supported by rock retaining walls but still the climb is one which needs many stops to catch your breath, ideal for taking in the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eventually we emerged at the rim to look out over the amphitheatre and the hoodoos where we had been walking.

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Its hard not to be in awe of this landscape, the world we live in laid bare, stripped back to reveal its barren beauty. I am sure some will look and see a pile of rocks, we don’t all see things with the same eyes I realise. For us it had again been a fantastic visit, we were delighted to have easily completed the 4.75 mile hike  in just less than 5 hours, including a stop for lunch, adding another memory to our bank.

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