After visiting the Valley of Fire I headed for Bryce Canyon National Park. Did you know this is the park that Big Thunder Railroad is based on at Disneyland? It was perhaps a bit much to squeeze both parks into a three day weekend with so much driving in between but “too much is never enough” is kind of my personal motto…And in the end I would rather get a taste for a place and feel compelled by the disappointment of brevity to return someday than not experience it at all until things are perfect. Because things are never perfect, even when you are a planner like me, and I know too many people for whom this becomes an excuse to see and do nothing at all.
This was my first time in Utah and it has to be said that wow, is this state beautiful. Quiet and a little weird (I was stared at so much at the gas station in Cedar City I literally checked my clothes and face for some sort of massive makeup smear or something), but beautiful. Before you get to Bryce Canyon you pass through Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest, which I frankly found even more stunning due to the way the firey orange rocks were set against the bright blue sky above from the perfect, clear weather. Next time this is a place I would like to actually stop and hike through.
Bryce was more crowded than I anticipated, so much so that on my first attempt to park at Sunset Point, the starting point for most of the less strenuous hikes through hoodoos, I was completely shut out and had to take the driving tour through view points and hope for the best later in the day. This ended up revealing how different a relationship I have to nature than I used to. By the third lookout stop I was so frustrated by my inability to actually be in the hoodoos, climbing around, and crunching through snow that I actually shocked myself. I grew up as a fat kid who associated nature with physical inferiority and did my best to avoid anything that involved sweating and might draw attention to my weakness. I still have difficulty hiking with people because I don’t want them to see me struggle, huffing and puffing my way up trails. Even though my parents took me and my brother to Yosemite twice when I was younger, I only remember the drive up and swimming in the hotel pools.
I wouldn’t have ever considered myself a nature lover until a few years ago when I joined someone on a whim to the Sequoia National Park and realized how calming and otherworldly it is. I adored having no cell reception and having to focus only on what was right in front of me, the feeling of pure joy that overtook me when I came upon a mama bear and her three cubs eating in the woods, and the sense of accomplishment after climbing Moro Rock, where I was certain I would fall to my death, feeling like a badass for pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Nature is amazing that way. It’s this constant reminder that you’re doing it-surviving, discovering, feeling, and a reminder of what matters-the present, the people you think about while you’re feeling all the feels, your own self. I’m not sure any of that had really clicked for me before this experience, though.
Back to this actual park though…once I had reached Rainbow Point, the furthest viewpoint accessible by car, I headed back to Sunset Point’s neighbor–Sunrise Point toward the park entrance, figuring I had a better chance of parking there since the Fairyland Loop trail starting there was considered strenuous and most of the visitors seemed to be families with kids in tow. This plan worked, as I easily found a spot and saw less than 10 people the entire time I was on the trail. I had to turn around 2 miles in because I was afraid of losing light on the hike back but it was still spectacular and such a tremendous joy to experience this beauty in solitude. The total inadequacies of my phone’s camera were revealed here as there were rocks with striated layers of yellow, orange, pink, and red that just couldn’t be captured no matter how hard I tried. Bryce was infinitely more beautiful than the only other hoodoos I have seen, the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey. Those are cool but look more like sad grey penises than the majestic waving sheets of flame I found here.
Having woken up at 4:30am and after sweating through my giant cheetah print parka on the hike I was pretty much ready to knock out. While most of the hotels in Bryce were booked I nabbed a room at Bryce Canyon Pines Motel, which was 10 minutes from the park, clean, felt safe, and was staffed by kind people. I had planned to wake up early again to drive out to Zebra Slot in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument but instead I slept for 11 hours and then drove back home. Sometimes too much is just enough. 🙂