Bryce Canyon! I was first here when I was in 5th grade, on a three week road trip with my family. We did National Park road trips every summer from then on, but Bryce always remained one of my favorites, we even named a pet cat Bryce. (And another one Mitchell after the Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota.)
I returned here five years ago with Zak and the girls and we didn’t have it in us or the time to do anything other than stop at a few pull off and snap a few pictures. Zak wrote a bit about that in his motivation post.
I returned, once again, today. It lived up to all the majesty, mystery, and magicaliness (real word) that I remember. Once again, there aren’t words or pictures to adequately describe the beauty. I’ll just say, that after three visits, this may be my favorite place on Earth.
Onto the hike. It was tough! And a lot of things didn’t go our way. We talked to a ranger this morning and he looked past the height of the girls and trusted us with our ability level. He recommended a figure eight loop with lots of switchbacks and elevation changes. It is six miles in length into the amphitheater, around, up, down, and back out.
It was all going fine, we finished half of one of the loops of the “eight” and continued. About a half mile later I noticed the horse prints in the dusty trail indicated the horses were moving the opposite direction as us. It was about then that Zak noticed we were heading north a lot more than the map had indicated. We put that all together, and determined we had made a wrong turn and were on the horse only trail, not the people and horse trail.
Zoe freaked out. (understatement) She was so worried we were going to get in trouble for breaking the rules. She also mentioned fear that a horse would attack her, but I am sure most of her anxiety was because we were not on a designated people trail.
We turned around and quickly came to a group of horse riders and the ranger pointed us in the right direction. After a tough hike up a dry riverbed, we connected with the trail we were supposed to be on.
All this isn’t the end of the world until you realize that the horse and the horse/people trail were covered with horse droppings. Again, not a big deal until you think about the stench when combined with the heat. Throw in trying to avoid stepping in cake-sized piles and you’ve got a hike that could be pretty miserable. However, each time I paused and looked up, my breath was taken away yet again.
Once we reconnected with the horse/people trail we noticed a large storm cloud rolling toward the edge of the canyon. Before we knew it, large drops of cool water were hitting us. So refreshing. But then we all, or at least the girls and I, had a touch of PTSD from our adventure at Arches. I watched as the steep incline we were marching up formed a small trickle of a stream. Soon the sound of thunder bounced off the hoodoos and a walls of the canyon. Zak and I kept telling the girls not to be scared, but I was shaking a bit in my boots.
Within a half hour the thunder was clearly moving further and further away. We had avoided a flash flood. What a sigh of relief from us all.
Another challenging part was the elevation changes. Down into the canyon, up the the rim. Over and over. At least a dozen times through the seven miles we hiked. (We added an extra mile from the horse trail.) Each incline and decline was at least 400 feet. It was hard.
I might get in trouble from the girls for writing this, but they were crabby for the first 2/3 of the hike. Take everything I talked about above and add in the wear and tear on their legs from yesterday’s hike and they were just not happy. We almost turned around and quit. There was whining, crying, pouting. There was stomping, frowning, and moaning. (Reminded me a lot of myself on a lot of those road trips when I was a kid. I am so so so sorry Mom and Dad.)
We stopped for (yet another) snack, had a family pow wow, and suddenly they were good. Happy, chatty, funny, motivated. Too bad it was after the half way point.
The end of the hike was by far the steepest, but it was also by far the best portion of the hike. We were all happy(ish) and proud of ourselves. And we were back on the people only portion so there was no poop smell.
Zak bought a large poster of the hoodoos for his classroom so he can quickly escape the stress of work and put himself back here. I hope the images in my mind will be a part of my peace until we return.
(We still have very unreliable WiFi, so some pics will be in their own post once Zak gets back from the laundromat. Aka, using their WiFi to upload pictures.)