A sunny Sunday, yay! The weather report for Bryce (which is at almost 9000feet) showed that it was currently 30, with a high projected for 55. We bundled up. While Evan showered, Larry and I went in search of breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch. Not much was open in Springdale at seven in the morning, but we figured the coffee shop would be. The Mean Bean (there's definitely a funky granola subset in Springdale) had some nice sandwiches on their blackboard, so we ordered some breakfast wraps and sandwiches.
We took the road north through Zion. Oh my goodness, yesterday didn't even hint at how lovely this canyon is. High sweeping red rocks, and then as you continue there's a different rock, more striated and deeply layered.
I was still on my Petroglyph hunt, so we stopped at the ranger station outside the tunnel. From the hints I'd seen online, I'd guessed they were in this area. We were told that yes, there are all sorts of ruins, petroglyphs, even native burial grounds. But. After some remains were vandalized, the Park Service stopped telling people about them, and even the new rangers are not given the locations. If you really want to see them, you need to apply, make an appointment, and be briefed on how to visit to not leave an impact. Food for thought.
We continued on, driving the switchbacks leading further up to the top of the canyon, and past Checkerboard Mesa. The landscape flattened as we headed over the plateau and out of the Park. And yes, still plenty of patches of snow! Turned at the bustling crossroads (not), and then headed down to Bryce. A long dreary road, through a narrow strip of valley with scattered ranches and ramshackle towns. A bit faster than necessary, and when doing 75 in a 65 zone we were pulled over by one of Utah's finest. Larry was contrite and polite, (and only 10 over the limit, probably a small ticket) so the officer ,who looked Dan's age, let him off with a warning.
Drove through Red Canyon, where the red hoodoos gave a small sample of what was to come. With more time in the area, this would be a nice little park to visit.
At Bryce, we first stopped at the Visitor's Center. Don't waste 20 minutes of your life on the orientation video, filled with so much ponderous purple prose any English teacher would give the writer a C. We grabbed our maps and fled. Our plan was to do the combination of the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queen's Garden Trail, about 3 miles down into the canyon and then back up. Even the sight from the rim was amazing, and someone not interested in hiking would have a fine visit just strolling the paved rim trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points, as many people were doing.
We headed down the steep trail. And down, and did I mention steep? And snow?
It was amazing to be below the rim, getting closer to the rock formations and hoodoos, seeing the different shades of rock around every bend.
I will freely admit to not necessarily a fear, more of a deep uneasiness with heights and sharp drops. It's the fear of slipping that I have more issue with, and the snowy/muddy/icy patches on the sloping trail were giving me some trouble, coupled with the slight vertigo. I also get a bit queasy at high altitudes. I was keeping hydrated, clutching Larry's arm when necessary over slippery patches, and looking at the path when looking at the drop wasn't a good idea. After about a mile my darling husband asked if I wanted to turn back. It was hard to say how much further we would have to go to hit the bottom, and the trail was getting slicker. So, we did an about-face, and climbed back up. I was much happier going in this direction, and figured hey, we're still seeing the hoodoos and working off the breakfast.
So, back at the top, we gulped more water and rested a bit. We went over to the start of the Queen's Garden trail, and started down that one. This has a gentler descent, and since the sun hits this area of the canyon the path was dry. Much happier hiking, and just as beautiful. It ends at about a mile down, where we rested and ate lunch on a log. Very good sandwiches, by the way.
We headed back up the trail, stopping every now and then in some shade. It was hot by then, and I was down to a tank top. Poor Larry hadn't brought a t-shirt, so was still in long sleeves.
There was an older couple slowly making their way back up the trail, assisted by their hiking poles. I tell you, I hope to still be able to do a quarter of this hike when I'm in my mid 60's. They looked to be in decent shape and well prepared, but we still kept an eye on them as the gentleman got redder. . There's a bench on the trail, and I was really annoyed by the group of hikers who did not get up as they saw this couple approach. Note to hikers--don't make others ask for a bench, just casually get your asses up when you see others who might need it more than you. OK, PSA over.
Afterward we drove north to the end of the Park, and then stopped at a few of the viewpoints on the way back. Bryce Point is an astonishing place to sit for a while. You can almost see a full 280 degrees, with the vast areas of hoodoos, grottoes, more canyons, forests, far-off mountains.
Drove back down to Zion, stopping every now and then. Saw these cute mountain goats.
Dinner at Oscars, another hippy-dippy place in Springdale. Good turkey burger, and I splurged on the excellent sweet potato fries..