Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bryce Canyon National Park

Yesterday morning we drove to the visitors center to watch the film about Bryce, and it was quite interesting.  Learned that technically Bryce is not a canyon, since it was not formed by erosion of a central stream.  Rather, what's called headward erosion caused rows and rows of finlike rock, primarily sandstone, formations rising from the canyon floor were exposed.  Over time, further erosion working at the top of these fins wore away parts of the sandstone, making windows in the rock; then further erosion worked resulted in bridges, as the bottom of the window eroded away, and ultimately the top of the bridge eroded, resulting in the hoodoos, the spire like formations that make Bryce so unique.  Throughout Bryce there are these amphitheaters of rows and rows of hoodoos, and on first sight, it reminded me of those science kits we had as kids--the ones where you put this stuff in the bottom of a jar or bowl and added water and it formed these crystalline castles.  It's just so fascinating that Bryce is so different from Zion, which is not that far away, and the Grand Canyon, still not too far away.  The film, like most of the ones they have at national park visitor centers, was very informative, and the photography is very impressive.  Only glitch was that a whole group of Russian tourists came in--all of whom must have missed the preschool lesson on when not to use your outside voice!  But, hey, this is the no worries, no hurries tour, right?  Fortunately the film had not only audio, but all of the narration scrolled across the bottom of the screen, so we could keep up.

On the shuttle ride up to where we were going to hike, we passed several pronghorn antelope--the driver explained that most of the adult females were quite pregnant, as late May to early June is the time they give birth to fawns.  No wonder they were lying down!  Anyway, it was a glorious day as we disembarked at Sunset Point and headed off to Sunrise Point and the to the Queen Ann's Gardens trailhead.  As we started out on the trail we were once again struck by how different the same scene looks in the morning light than it did the evening before at the end of the day.  It was a lovely hike down to the canyon floor, passing so close to many of the hoodoos, finding arches and windows, walking through doors in the rock, and encountering people from all over the world, most of whom were as overwhelmed as we were at the stunning beauty of this place.  Since we've been on the road, we've really enjoyed meeting people from different places, but in the Grand Canyon, Zion and here, there are so many people from all over the world that it's been especially wonderful to hear all the different languages, observe how differently some people from different cultures go about their explorations, and to talk to folks from places we've been, as well as places we've not been.

Lots of folks we met asked if they could have pictures with Santa, and I simply never tire of seeing people smile--children often with shyness and then excitement, adults who you can tell suddenly start reliving childhood memories.  It's been interesting to both of us how often adults seem to be reluctant to say anything, or worry that I would be offended if they say I look like Santa, or worry that I would not want to stop and talk or let them take a picture.  I have read about some Santas who apparently are bothered by folks stopping them or asking for a picture when they are not officially on duty, but my thought is that if a guy feels that way, he shouldn't keep his Santa beard year round.  We had one family who asked to have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and after several pictures the man asked me "Santa you don't charge for this, do you?"  I said, yes I do--one great big smile!  But the most fun encounter yesterday was with a young German couple with a little girl who looked to be about 4 years old.  As they approached, I could hear them speaking German, and when they passed, they all looked at me expectantly.  As the little girl got close I said "Ja, ich bin Weinachtsman!"--Yes, I am Christmasman (Santa), and they all just burst out with smiles and started talking all over themselves.  I could tell they wanted pictures, so I asked if they wanted to have a picture of the little girl with me and they were ecstatic, and Mom wanted in, too.  It was so funny, though, when I was trying to keep up with the conversation in German, my brain kept inserting Spanish words, since that's the language I've learned most recently--I kept responding si for yes instead of ja!  Lots of German folks on the trail, and as I was with this family, Trisha had walked on ahead and was talking to another German couple.  Later, when we were back up at the top and were having lunch in the picnic area, I saw this family again, and they were talking about how beautiful it was, I said I thought that some of the places I had visited in Germany were spectacularly beautiful, but they kept insisting that here it was so much more beautiful than their homeland--so funny how we're all struck by the beauty of places we see for the first time!  Anyway, I was very impressed that this little 4 year old was hiking away on this trail--pretty easy going down, but the way back up was rather steep in places--and the fact that you're at 8000 ft. makes a big difference as well.

It was just a spectacular hike--so wonderful to be down on eye level with the hoodoos we'd seen from the canyon rim, and then to be on the canyon floor looking up at all these intricate structures, in places literally surrounded closely on both sides by massive rock formations.  When we had been on the shuttle bus in Zion and talking to some folks who had been here, the man kept saying you don't really get Bryce until you hike down to the floor and stand among the hoodoos looking up, and I could understand what he meant once we got down there.

After we got back to the RV, discovered that our pesky fresh water pump system was once again acting up--fortunately not in a way that caused any leaks inside the coach (the night before I had discovered that the sink drain had come loose, I guess from just the vibrations of travel, and had fixed that myself), but when we turned the pump on water leaked out of the fresh water inlet valve, which cause the pump to work constantly.  There was a place near our campground that advertised RV service, but turns out they only meant they worked on mechanical service of the motor.  The guy told me that on the route we're headed, we wouldn't find an RV service center until we got to Colorado, and we didn't want to backtrack to the nearest place, so we just decided to head on.  Fortunately it's not a problem that prevents us from driving, and it's not a problem when we're connected to campground water supply--just is a problem when we're not connected or dry camping.

So we drove on to Escalante yesterday afternoon, to make sure we got into an RV park so we'd have hookups.  Escalante is a quaint little town, with lots of arts and craft studios and shops, a wonderful natural grocery store where we stopped to enjoy some juice at their outside tables when we walked along Main street.  Jim and Sue Ann had told us to be sure and rent a jeep so we could explore Hole in the Rock Road, so we found the rental place--no jeep available today, and we decided against the glorified 4 wheeler they had, so we'll stay an extra day here and have the jeep adventure tomorrow.  Looking forward to that!

Here are the Bryce Canyon pics:

First, pics from Monday evening:

 The shadow of the smaller hoodoo on the flatter surface looked like a man's silhouette

Next are the pictures from our hike yesterday:

Looking down on the hoodoos, where we're headed; aren't the colors just fantastic?

 Distance shot of a portion of the trail below
 Telephoto of the same shot--you can see someone on the trail at the top of the photo

 These windows are so fascinating

 The different colored rock on the tops of these hoodoos is of a harder consistency, thus retarding the forces of erosion of the hoodoo

 This looked so much like a cathedral, the bottom is a beautiful pink color, not sure it shows that much in the photo

 Looking back up at the rim, where we started, second shot is telephoto of people up on the rim

 Interesting tree

 Fossil imprint in a rock along the canyon floor
 Just look at these amazing cathedrals of nature!!

 Now we're heading back up

 Looking back down toward the bottom of the trail we've climbed up

What a wonderful hike!

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