We got a great start today; it was going to be a long day. To get to Bryce Canyon, we took the route through Zion NP. This beautiful road through the Park took us to the incredible tunnel, via a series of switchbacks, completed in 1930, costing two men their lives. Traveling through the 1.1 mile long tunnel is really quite an experience. It is pitch black but has incredible windows cut out of the rock at various intervals, allowing the light to stream in, just for a few seconds.
While the twisting roads through Zion lead to incredible views, including the Checkerboard Mesa, experiencing these in the back of a truck, all while reading and concentrating on your latest chapter book, can also lead to a feeling of nausea. Our Miss Becca said, “I feel sick.” As I turned around, she clamped her hand over her mouth and promptly threw up through her fingers, dramatically covering everything in a wide semi-circle around her, reaching from row 3 to row 1 – it was impressive! Nathan didn’t flinch when it hit him; he was too engrossed in his DS. I could do nothing but gaze in wonder! Becca immediately started giggling, man, she’s a trip! So, pull over, clean everything with baby wipes, switch Becca into shorts and long sleeves (we brought clothing options for the weather, not anticipating a need for vomit!) and we were on our way once more, still with a smiling Becca, such a trooper!
After turning onto the Scenic Byway 12, Utah’s first All-American Road, we drove through Dixie National Forest and into Red Canyon, there was still plenty of snow on the ground. We went through a couple of natural tunnels, which were beautiful. The temperature had dropped somewhat by the time we reached Bryce Canyon National Park. We added Jake’s shorts to Becca’s attire and pulled the tie-strings well, neither she nor Jake was impressed but at least it covered her legs to her knees, so added some warmth.
We watched the movie, which counted towards the Junior Ranger program and learned that Bryce’s original inhabitants, the Paiutes, believed that the rock figures here were people turned to stone by angry gods. Technically, Bryce is not a canyon because canyons are primarily carved by flowing water – a stream or a river. Naturally acidic rainwater dissolves limestone, making the rounded edges of hoodoos, but the freezing and thawing of water does most of the sculpting at Bryce Canyon.
We stopped at Sunset Point for photos and walked the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point which took us down amongst the towering rock formations called “hoodoos” (a pinnacle or odd-shaped rock left standing by the forces of erosion – think a wall of rock, eroded to a fin, further eroded to create a window, then an arch and finally split to create columns: amazing nature!).
A more scientific explanation from the brochure: Approximately 200 days a year, ice and snow melt during the day and refreeze at night. When water becomes ice, it not only gets harder but expands to approximately 110% its original volume! This exerts enormous pressure on the rocks, forcing them apart from inside the cracks. First attacking the fractures created during uplift and faulting, the rock is chiseled into broken remains. Monsoon rains remove this debris, helping to reveal fins, the first step in hoodoo creation. Most commonly, frost-wedging cracks the fins, making holes called windows. When windows collapse they create the rust painted pinnacles called hoodoos. We often think of the process as ‘hoodoo creation’ when, in reality, it’s just another step in water’s endless process of destroying the rocks it began creating 55 million years ago!
We hiked the switchbacks down the Queens Garden Trail, glimpsing more of the incredible red rock formations through splits and gaps in the existing rocks. We continued down to the very base of the Canyon on the Navajo Loop, hiking through small tunnels and tiny bridges on narrow trails – it was such an amazing sight.
At the base, there was still a good amount of snow for us to trek through – perfect, perfect, according to the kids of course! There was also a huge area filled with mini man- made hoodoos (cairns); it was so cool. Basically everyone that comes down to this area adds their own little creation – needless to say, all of ours wanted to leave a masterpiece behind.
Our ascent took somewhat longer than the descent – it was hard work, continuous zig-zagging up the steep mountain side, passing the small double bridges. This trail was rated ‘world’s best 3 mile hike’ and we could certainly understand why a clockwise direction was recommended (although not everyone followed that recommendation and probably regretted it!), it would have been precarious going down the way we came up, very, very slippery and muddy, it was hard enough hiking up.
We drove the Auto Tour, stopping for incredible views at Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Agua Point and the Natural Bridge, before stopping back into the Visitor Center to complete the Junior Ranger program.
We drove a slightly longer route back, which took us through Dixie National Forest to an elevation of well over 9,000 feet. All the kids had been informed that they may not read while we were winding our way up to the summit! The views from the top, looking down into the valley were incredible. The most wonderful thing though, was the volume of snow still evident up here. It was chilly, but beautiful. Dave, such a trooper, jumped out of the truck for a photo opportunity – you know, boy in shorts, below freezing, standing in 5 feet of snow!
By now everyone was melting down with hunger pangs so we stopped in at a neat, little more upscale than your average diner, restaurant. We were all enthralled at the number of animal heads protruding from the walls; we will never be hunters!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)