Spring Escape – Bryce National Park – Day 3: 4.3.14

On day three of my spring escape to the national parks in Utah, I awoke in the morning a little cold and with a little dampness on my sleeping bag. I felt the walls of my tent and they were damp. Hmmm . . . I didn’t have this problem the previous night. Then, I noticed the walls of my tent sagging a bit.  Out of the tent, I discovered the problem.  My tent walls were covered with ice, weighing down the fly, causing not only airflow problems, but also the fly to come in contact with the inner tent trapping condensation, and thus the dampness. I got rid of the ice, mopped up the tent walls with a pack towel and decided to get moving.

Since I was up, I figured I’d get breakfast and pack up snacks for the day. I went over to the food storage container, a metal box provided at each campsite so that critters (squirrels, not bears, as per the park ranger at the campground!) can’t get the food, and  I couldn’t get it open! Um, all my food is in there! The door had frozen shut, because the roof angles down toward the door the water runs down and and in below freezing temperatures, freezes between the door and the frame. After some chiseling at the ice with a small metal nail file (I had to leave my regular knife at home due to airline restrictions), I finally got the door open. Problem solved. Then it was on to the car, which was also covered in ice. Let me share a travel tip with you: cars that are rented in Las Vegas don’t come with ice scrapers. More Yankee ingenuity in the form of a credit card did a pretty good job of getting rid of the ice on the windows. Now I was ready for a trip to Bryce!

Food bin for keeping critters out.  Apparently, when it ices, it keeps humans out, too.

Food bin after I chiseled away the ice. It is for keeping critters out of the food. Apparently, when it ices, it keeps humans out, too.

A credit card does the trick for cleaning off the car.  Now I can head off to Bryce!

A credit card does the trick for cleaning off the car. Now I can head off to Bryce!

A trip to Bryce is about 1 ½ to 2 hours drive. The first part is a drive through Zion National Park, with some long switch backs, complete with stunning scenery and many pull outs, which leads to the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. The tunnel connects the west and east sides of the park. Built in the late 1920’s, it is a neat feature to drive through. Emerging on the other side, I stopped right after the ranger’s station to hike a short trail to Canyon Overlook, which provided views back to the direction in which I had started.

View up to the West Temple in the morning.

View up to the West Temple in the morning.

Another photo taken right from a roadside pullout along the switchbacks before the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

Another photo taken right from a roadside pullout along the switchbacks before the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

Into the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel!

Into the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel!

Exit of the tunnel, as seen from the Canyon Overlook Trail.

Exit of the tunnel, as seen from the Canyon Overlook Trail.

View from the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail, back to where I had started.  You can also see the swtichbacks of the road on the floor of the canyon.

View from the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail, back to where I had started. You can also see the swtichbacks of the road on the floor of the canyon.

Checkerboard Mesa, in the eastern part of Zion National Park.

Checkerboard Mesa, in the eastern part of Zion National Park.

About an hour later, I arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. With a quick check at the visitor center for trail closures, I was off and on my way to explore this park. Due to the fact that there was still snow and ice in some parts of the canyon, there were a few trail closures, so I revised my hike plans and was still able to take in a great portion of the what the main amphitheater had to offer.

Made it to Bryce!

Made it to Bryce!

First view into the Bryce Amphitheater.

First view into the Bryce Amphitheater.

I parked at Sunset Point, then walked the rim trail to Sunrise Point, to start my hiking adventure. I went down the Queen’s Garden Trail, immediately descending into the hoodoos. Hoodoos are the eroded stacks of rocks left after the cliffs and canyon walls have eroded through many, many seasons of water and sun. The trail wound around, in and out of the hoodoos, offering different views with every corner turned.

Hoodoos along the trail.

Hoodoos along the trail.

 

Sometimes the trails went through short tunnels carved through the rock.

Sometimes the trails went through short tunnels carved through the rock.

More of Bryce, yes, that white stuff is snow!

More of Bryce, yes, that white stuff is snow!

Eventually, I ended up near the bottom, down in the pine trees and at the Peek-A-Boo loop junction. I decided to hike that three mile loop for more views. This trail, too, went up, over and around many rock formations. I finished the loop and then started the return to the rim by way of one section of the Navajo Loop (the other section was closed). A whole lot of switchbacks later, and I was on the rim, enjoying a late lunch with some great views.

The trail goes through a narrow spot on the Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail.

The trail goes through a narrow spot on the Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail.

"Windows" that have been eroded from a fin of rock.

“Windows” that have been eroded from a fin of rock.

More stunning views from the Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail.

More stunning views from the Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail.

Still can't quite get away from the snow.  There was only a little bit in the shadiest parts of the canyon.

Still can’t quite get away from the snow. There was only a little bit in the shadiest parts of the canyon.

The hoodoo known as Thor's Hammer, seen on the way back up to the rim of the Bryce amphitheater.

The hoodoo known as Thor’s Hammer, seen on the way back up to the rim of the Bryce amphitheater.

Almost back to the top, just a few more switchbacks!

Almost back to the top, just a few more switchbacks!

Since the shuttle bus in not a mandatory ride in this park, I then drove the 18 mile park road all the way to the end, stopping at some of the pull-outs and checking out the varying views. I timed it just right and arrived back at the park visitor center to see the park movie to end my visit.

A beautiful arch as seen from one of the roadside pullouts in Bryce Canyon National Park.

A beautiful arch as seen from one of the roadside pullouts in Bryce Canyon National Park. For some reason, this is one of my favorite photos from Bryce.

 

I drove back to Zion, picked up some dinner in town and then went back to the tent to plan my last morning in the park.  What a great day, with an unusual start!  Although it was a lot of driving, it was worth it to see the amazing scenery in another national park!

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