I can be excitable. Sometimes it’s because the world doesn’t conform to my understanding like it should. Sometimes it’s immaturity.
But sometimes it’s passion! Sometimes it’s a mix of good and bad. Regardless, no other situation seems to conjure the mix more than visiting one of America’s National Parks for the first time.
Figuring out where to park, where to camp, where to hike… and all I want to do is see the canyon! All I want is to look down upon the colors and shapes manifesting as the renowned hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in south-central Utah!
So I went recently…
Left Sedona on Wednesday morning, the 19th of July AD 2017. The sky was blue and hot. Had my air conditioning blasting while driving north on 89A to Flagstaff, and then north on US 89 towards Page. Continued on 89 as it first veers west towards Kanab, Utah, and then veers north towards Panguitch.
I’ve driven to Page – on the central Arizona/Utah border – countless times. There is some monotony to the red and orange sandstone that marks the western edge of the Navajo Reservation. But that is placated by views of Vermillion Cliffs and the massive valley housing Marble Canyon that’s bordered by the Kaibab Plateau rsing over 4,000 feet 30 miles to the west. Pure Arizona! The bridge 700 feet above the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam is neat too.
Then you enter Utah. The land can certainly speak of desolation, as in Arizona. But, there is wonder. Crazy red rocks forming plateaus eroding into crags and canyons unfold scores of miles into the far horizons where junipers and pines speckle below blue. That hot sky shining through the windshield is mitigated by billowing cumulus clouds of thunderstorms that streak downward, cool skin and make you appreciate the intricate design of the Southwest Summer.
Got to Kanab. That little town is clean! Prosperous even. But that is due to the industry of the Mormon people, who have made quite an aesthetically pleasing civilization in a land that nobody wanted 150 years ago.
At Kanab US 89 veers north. There you slowly ascend through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, wherein, from Kanab northward, rise red cliffs, then white cliffs, then pink cliffs, which all tie in to the geological formation of Grand Canyon to the south, and I have no desire to explain why now.
Regardless, as you ascend the Staircase, you get into higher elevations. The higher the elevation, the higher the chance of rain. Cliffs, plateaus and mountains are literal ramps for moisture to be blown into higher elevations by the North American Monsoon Wind, where that moisture can condense into clouds and storms. This phenomena is called orographic lift. That’s why land rises are greener than valleys below.
And there was greenery! US 89 straddles first the East Fork of the Virgin River, and then the Sevier River. Both were flowing nicely. Both were surrounded by seeping cliffs and broad fields with tall grass for cattle and horses. Distant barns and cabins dotted the landscape whose cultivation and cleanliness reminded me of Switzerland. More storms showered gray and black upon the green and red land as they slowly drifted.
The temperature was pleasant too. The turnoff from 89 onto Utah 12, the road I took eastward into Bryce Canyon, is at roughly 7,000′ above sea level. Yes, there was some humidity. Yes, the solar radiation at that altitude can be fierce. But, it’s 7,000′. All these elements come together to make one heckuva’ summer vacation spot.
Then I got to the Park. Of course I’d lost my America the Beautiful Pass, which allows you to get into virtually all federal recreation lands for a year. Of course it cost me another $80 (but I’d used well over $80 worth of passes since buying the lost one in February… and I’ve almost recuperated this second $80 by now).
And then… where do I camp? Where do I park? Where do I access the rim? Where are the trailheads for going down into hoodoos?
But, after not getting too pissy, it all worked out. Camped in the park. The rim was a quarter mile away. Trails going down into the Amphitheater were right there.
And it was fantastic. I’d certainly go there again. Like the cliché I hear over and over again, usually from people who have NO IDEA how to compose a photo, “pictures just don’t do justice.” True. But that’s the fun of photography. That’s the challenge.
Anyway, I hiked for 5 hours on Wednesday, from Sunrise Point down into the Queen’s Garden and up to Sunset and Inspiration Points before before eating and sleeping.
Woke up at 6 on Thursday, and hiked the Fairlyand Trail and along the Rim for about 8 miles. Thereafter, showered and drove to Rainbow Point, which is the furthest south point at the Park, with an elevation of over 9,000 feet, and some awesome views to the south of the Grand Staircase and the Kaibab Plateau.
Thereafter, headed back to Arizona. Stayed the night at Lee’s Ferry. Went to the boat ramp and remember how majestic that Marble Canyon is at the bottom with that Colorado River flowing hard and cold.
Friday I headed back to Sedona, but not before driving through some of the Hopi Reservation, which I’ll talk about later…
Regardless, I love it out here. You’d have to offer me something fiercely tempting to head back to Texas…