Thursday, August 02: Bryce
Just one more picture…
Today was Bryce day 2.
We arranged for a second night here, had breakfast, then drove to Sunset point. We then hiked the Navajo Loop.
We started out towards the right. The trail descends rapidly through a set of very short and steep switchbacks, all in shade at this time. We lost altitude rapidly. I was a little concerned that perhaps the other direction for the loop would have been better, because I thought we would have shade going down and sun going up.
At the bottom, the canyon is very narrow, with tall walls going straight up. That section is called “Wall Street”, and surprisingly there is a pair of tall trees growing there.
Unfortunately, for this stretch it was about impossible to get good pictures. Some of the formations were in shade and some in sun. One could not get both of these exposed properly at the same time.
Then we got to the bottom and we started up the other side of the loop. Mike and I went ahead with Amy behind. I was happy to find that there was more shade than I expected on this leg.
On the way down through Wall Street, I kept hearing the people coming up past me breathing heavily. So I expected a long tiring slog up on the other side. But surprisingly (at 7,000 feet) it wasn’t that bad. Mike and I kept a slow steady pace, and after what seemed a short while, we found ourselves almost at the top!
Even more surprising, Amy wasn’t that far behind us.
We drove out of the lot at 10:30, and we found that they had closed the lot to further traffic as being too full. Apparently you need to get there before 10 to get a space.
We then drove about 17 miles to the far end of the park, where we walked the Bristlecone Pine loop. Then we returned, stopping at overlooks along the way. Amy really likes these kinds of views. I like them well enough, but I’m not as fervent as she is. At one overlook, we saw a particularly curious raven.
Then we went to the general store for lunch and more. We first threw a load of laundry into a washer, then we had lunch. I wanted a sandwich like I had last time, but they were out. So I ended up getting a prefab beef and bean burrito, which had an ingredient list about half a novel long. Not my first choice.
After putting the clothes into the drier, I almost had a disaster. We went back into the store to get an ice cream, and when I took my glasses out of the case I was missing one ear piece! I went outside where the light was better and where it was less crowded and carefully opened things up.
Inside the case I found the ear piece but no screw. I carefully took things out of my pocket, and fortunately I found one tiny itty-bitty screw there! It was almost impossible to hold it and get in into my glasses, as my fingers dwarfed the tiny screw, but eventually we got it together. Disaster averted.
Amy and Mike didn’t want to do any more hiking at that point, and the light was bad, so we drove back to the hotel to watch some Olympics and to take a siesta. Later in the day, when it is cooler and the light is lower, we plan to return.
This turned out to be a pretty good day, with several adventures along the way. We went back into the park around 5 or 5:30, and our first stop was at Mossy Cave / Waterfall. It is part of the national park, but you get to it from outside the normal park entrance. In this case, it is relatively close to our hotel. You park on the side of the road and hike in about a half mile.
Mossy Cave was very similar to Weeping Rock in Zion. The waterfall, however, was a very nice one. It wasn’t particularly large or high, but it was very nice. The problem was that it was still too bright.
There were some dark clouds around, and it looked like if I waited long enough, some would cover the sun.
Unfortunately, a group of people came by before the clouds, and they wanted to play in the water under the falls, climb behind them, climb over them, etc. So eventually the light got better, but I still couldn’t take pictures.
Eventually they left, and I started taking lots of pictures like crazy. It was a pretty good small waterfall for picture taking. Mike was taking pictures as well.
Then the wind began to pick up, it got a bit colder, and one could feel a few rain drops here and there. It was pretty clear that we were going to get hit, it was just a matter of when and how much.
I hiked back down the river to near the trail, but the view was still too wonderful to give up. I stopped for a few more pictures. Things were deteriorating, so I finally decided it was time to make a bee-line for the car.
We started briskly down the trail as the few drops turned into a sporadic rain and then a real rain. I started jogging down the trail, followed by Mike, and the rain increased. By the time I got to the car and jumped in, it was either sleeting slightly, or at least the droplet size was extra large.
I grabbed an umbrella (the only one we brought with us) and I went out to “rescue” Amy. I met her not that far down the trail, gave her the umbrella, then I ran back to the car and jumped in.
Amy came in shortly later, and then we headed for the park proper. As we drove down the road, we kept hearing a plink plink plink. We weren’t sure if it was small hail or just extra large drops impacting the car at high speed.
When we got into the park, it was still raining, so we went to the lodge where we had another good (expensive) meal. We ended up having apparently two rather charming young Russian ladies as waitresses. We’ve been noticing that a lot of the food staff at a variety of parks are foreign students. We met a young lady from the Czech Republic in Zion.
After dinner, it stopped raining, so we drove to Inspiration Point. Getting to the high lookout requires rather a climb above the parking lot. The canyon was not well lit due to the sun being behind a cloud, but we took a lot of pictures anyways.
I went a bit further along the rim trail and was amazed. There was an awesome view on the non-canyon side of the ridge (remember that we had to climb well above the parking lot). Even more “awesome”, the ridge beyond was sort of like Angel’s Landing. The trail was 5-6 feet wide, but the canyon side dropped vertically a number of feet and then fell away in a steep slope for hundreds of feet. To my mind, it was “vertical enough”. The other side dropped away not quite as steeply for a hundred feet or more.
Walking along that path definitely made me nervous, although it was not nearly as bad as Angel’s Landing.
We spent some time between that ridge and the overlook, taking pictures etc. At one point, the sun came out from the clouds. Unfortunately, it just illuminated the tops of the spires, with the bulk of them being in the shade.
Mike wanted to take more waterfall pictures, so we left shortly before sunset and drove back to the waterfall. We hiked in, and this time I hiked above the waterfall to where Amy had found some smaller falls that were picturesque.
I (and Mike) took pictures until the light really got too low for good picture taking. But then a strange thing happened. We heard this strange animal shriek. We didn’t know what it was; it didn’t sound like anything we were familiar with.
It was in front of us, and as we left we got closer to it. Finally I managed to spot the culprit. I saw an owl on the very top of a pine tree. It made the weirdest shrieking call, not even close to a hoot. It stayed there for rather some time, so we tried taking pictures of it, but all of our attempts failed. There was just not enough light any longer, and the flashes on our cameras didn’t have enough range.
So we continued hiking out in the failing light, leaving the shrieking owl behind us. As we got close to the car, we saw an almost full moon rising behind some low clouds. We got some pictures, but I don’t think they were very good. By the time we got in the car and looked back at where we had been, it looked pitch black.
Then we returned to the hotel, I’m writing this up, and soon it will be time to go to sleep. Tomorrow we leave Bryce and the southwest and start our journey north.