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Glen Canyon Bryce Canyon

4th July 2010

A Helluva Place to Lose a Cow Amongst the Legend People in Bryce Canyon

Panorama from Sunset Point      (please use scroll bar)

Legend People      (please use scroll bar)

Silent City      (please use scroll bar)

Silent City from Inspiration Point      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama Looking from Bryce Point      (please use scroll bar)

    I was up and about before 6am, and I was not the only one. My neighbour, the one whose door we had fixed, told me that he and his wife had visited the north rim of the Grand Canyon the previous day, and were now packing up for their mammoth 13 hour trek across to Mount Rushmore. We were talking about our vehicles, and he had also experienced engine problems on his trip, which appeared to be one of his engine fuel injectors. He had taken it into a dealer, who had to wait a day for a new one turn up, installed it, then claimed a control unit had also gone down, and charged him for a new of those and so on. He was hopping mad to think that he might have spent $2,600 on the fuel injector when that wasn't the problem at all. I related my alternator problem back in Missoula, and how the dealer, when discovering the newly installed alternator was not the issue, took it off and put the old one back on. He was even more peeved. He went on to tell me about his dad, who had recently passed away with cancer, and how he would have cracked the problem in minutes. It turned out his dad was the chap who invented the C.A.T.S. system found in most garages in the world.
    I wanted to move on early to Bryce Canyon National Park, so foregoing breakfast, I was soon heading along the desert like road to Bryce. As I got nearer, the small hamlets I found on the side of the road became touristier displaying all kinds of junk to lure the unwary tourist. The scenery changed too, and ponderosa pine was becoming abundant; I was gaining altitude. I started passing clumps of hoodoos (fantastically shaped pillars of rock) and once I had passed through an arch carved through solid sandstone I knew I was almost in Bryce country.
    Once in the canyon proper, I drove straight to the campsite nearest the centre of the 18 mile long canyon. It was a self registering site, and as I picked up one of the forms, I asked a couple of German lads if there was any room left. I was informed there were still spaces left. I drove in to find a space, and to my surprise there were quite a few places untaken. Having picked a pitch and claimed it as mine, I headed off to nearby Sunset Point to get my first view of what I had been looking forward to for three years.
Stone Warriors Frozen in Time
    The hallmark of Bryce Canyon National Park was a series of deep amphitheatres filled with flame-coloured rock formations known as hoodoos. At an altitude of 8,000-9,000', the area was refreshingly cooler than the stifling heat I had experienced down in Glen Canyon, and the sweet smell of ponderosa was a delight. A scenic road travelled for 18 miles along the rim of Paunsaugunt Plateau, gaining altitude at the southern end where ponderosa pine started to be replaced by Douglas fir and white fir. But the highlights of the canyon were the vistas of vast fields of pink, orange, and red spires.
    Geologically, narrow water eroded gullies at the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau widened to produce a series of fins, which became more exposed to erosion at their vertical cracks. During the winter (the canyon experienced at least 200 days per year of freezing) ice expanded within cracks, peeling off layers and carved out vertical hoodoos. What would be even more interesting would be my trip back through time as I visited Zion National Park followed by the Grand Canyon. The pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon were relatively young. They sat on a layer which would be exposed as gray cliffs at middle aged Zion Canyon. Moving on down over the Grand Staircase would expose the lower layers as white cliffs, vermilion cliffs, and chocolate cliffs before reaching the daddy of them all, the Grand canyon.
Another Legion of Frozen Warriors
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent Scottish immigrant Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary to settle land in the Paria Valley because they thought his carpentry skills would be useful in the area. The Bryce family chose to live right below Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, and lived there from 1875-1880. Bryce grazed his cattle inside what were now park borders, and reputedly thought that the amphitheaters were a "helluva place to lose a cow". He also built a road to the plateau to retrieve firewood and timber, and a canal to irrigate his crops and water his animals. Other settlers soon started to call the unusual place "Bryce's canyon", which was later formalised into Bryce Canyon.
    I was mesmerised by my first glimpse of the amphitheatre view from Sunset Point. Below me lay row up row of hoodoos, like some army of stone red-faced warriors frozen for evermore in time. In a way they seemed to me to be nature's version of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors. It was stunning to think the beauty below me was carved out by water, wind and ice over millions of years. I was also standing at the edge of a water divide. Rain falling in front of me would wash down into the Paria River, eventually flowing into the Colorado River and finally into the Gulf of California. Rain falling behind me on the Paunsaugunt Plateau would flow into the Sevier River, which would flow into the Great Basin and just evaporate and never reach the sea.
    "Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. There were many of them. They were of many kinds: birds, animals, lizards, and such things, but they looked like people ...... For some reason, the Legend People in that place were bad. Because they were bad, Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now; all turned into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding on to others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks .... "
            Paiute Indian Legend
More Ancients Marching On
    I took a walk to Sunrise Point, and rested a while on one of the huge log seats to take in the view. Also seated were Roger and Joanne, an elderly American couple who were on vacation with their family. We had a long chat about travel; they had been out to Australia three times and New Zealand twice, and also to Britain. When they came to Britain, they actually did tour the country; loved York for all the church bells sounding off on a Sunday morning, and adored Bath. Joanne had a mishap in London, she fell on some steps outside Buckingham Palace, and had to be rushed to hospital with a head injury. They were full of praise for how they were treated by the NHS. We discussed children, and education and the provision for it, and I told them stories I had gathered from young families I had met in the Grand Tetons and Durango. They did endorse that the couple from Louisiana were right in wanting to send their kids to private school since the state schools were appalling in the south. The couple then told me that they had come up to the high altitude Bryce area for the beauty, but unfortunately their grandson, who had a heart condition, couldn't handle the altitude, and their son had had to take the child home earlier than expected. Fortunately, the accommodation where they were staying gave them a refund. We had a very pleasant chat over quite a while, before we shook hands and went our separate ways.
1,600 Year Old Bristlecone Pine
    When I arrived at Sunrise Point, I walked down a way along one of the trails in amongst the hoodoos, before returning to the plateau to head down to Inspiration Point (it was possible to walk all along the rim). It was down on this short detour where I stopped to talk to a woman who was having a fit when her kids were getting too close to the vertical drops; there were no fences to stop people falling to their deaths. I had made a comment about my surprise to find accommodation here over that particular weekend, and she replied that Americans can no longer afford to take a vacation. "But the restaurants all over America are brimming with Americans eating out, so they can't be that broke", I said. "We Americans are lazy and don't want to cook, so we usually eat out all the time. That's why we are so fat". "I didn't say that", was the only reply I could think of to that. Her husband appeared around the corner, totally out of breath from the climbing, but he had enough air to laugh. I moved on.
    I moved to Inspiration Point, and then Bryce Point, all offering stupendous views, before I drove down the Scenic Drive, taking in all the views on offer there too. At the very end of the drive, Rainbow and Yovimpa Points offered views right across southern Utah for over a hundred miles or more. I also took in the Bristlecone Loop Trail at this extremity. Bristlecones thrived when few other plants could grow. At the windiest point on the trail, on bare rocky ground, stood a bristlecone that had lasted more than 1,600 years. Bristlecone pines can survive prolonged drought, When branches and portions of the trunk appear dead, other limbs may function as the main trunk. This particular bristlecone's trunk had been dead a long time, while a surviving branch had become the new tree.
    Evening was approaching, and I could feel a chill in the air. At the southern extremity of the canyon I was 9,000' up. I slowly headed back up the canyon, the intention being to watch the Independence Day fireworks display being held at the north end of the canyon. I parked up alongside hundreds of other vehicles, and now wrapped up in layers to keep warm, I watched a superb firework extravaganza. My fellow onlookers were cheering, whooping and making all the noises you would expect from a frenzied audience, and there were moments of great hilarity when a few of the fireworks obviously exploded prematurely on the ground (can't have been amusing for the guys setting them off - manually!). At the end, there was more noise and all the vehicles were honking their horns. It was an experience.
    I drove back to my pitch and just settled down for the night. I hadn't felt too good through the day, perhaps a combination of the very early starts in the morning and either something I ate in Page or the mouthfuls of water I had taken in at Lake Powell. I overdosed on Imodium and had lived on water for the day, and took a couple of power naps. I don't normally get ill, and I was determined not to let this spoil my adventure. It would be alright in the morning.

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Glen Canyon Bryce Canyon

Uploaded from Pioneer Lodge Cafe, Springdale UT on 08/06/10 at 18:00

Last updated 9.7.2010