Day 12: Bryce Canyon National Park
I know so far this trip feels like I have been going at a mad dash...and I kinda have been. Since I only have one month for the whole trip, I wanted to make sure I got to spend at least a little bit of time in each of my favorite parks. So, now, I have reached the portion of the trip where I’m going to start slowing it down some and spend 3+ days in each park.
The first is Bryce Canyon National Park. This is a very small park, only 54 sq miles (Grand Canyon is 2 million sq miles), but Bryce’s scenery of red rocks hoodoo spires is out of this world and it has a bunch of great hiking trails to explore. Rain was forecast for later in the day, so the first thing I did was drive to a couple of my favorite viewpoints to take a few photos (Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Natural Bridge, Rainbow Point).
I then backtracked to the little village outside the park and headed to the campground to pay for a shower. I found a big sign on the door: “No showers for non-campers.” I looked around, and once again, noticed that only about 5% of these fine Utah people were wearing masks. Even the cashiers and campground attendants weren’t taking that precaution.
Now, I am a rule follower by nature, but I also take issue with arbitrary rules. My thought was, If management was so concerned about preventing the spread of Covid, they’d mask up their employees. Thus, I felt justified in breaking this arbitrary rule. After all, I was literally going to be surrounded by soap. The good news was the shower facility was not completely closed like it had been at the Grand Canyon - it just had a key code. So, I waited until someone came along and opened the door. (Please don’t judge me too hard - I would have gladly paid for the shower.)
After getting clean (physically, if not morally), I took pity on my poor, abused car and gave her a bath, too. Most of the dusty places on the trip were behind me, so I figured I could spring for it. I then putzed around the little town accomplishing mundane tasks - post office, grocery shopping, etc. I eventually moved my putzing to the Bryce Canyon Lodge inside the park - I knew they had a cute little writing desk set up in their lobby and I spent a few blissful hours writing postcards, editing photos and catching up on blogging.
Somehow, that ended up being my whole day. For the night, I found a free BLM campsite about 5 miles away from Bryce. Once again, I had the whole place to myself.
Day 13: Bryce Canyon National Park
The next day, I defiantly took another shower at the campground and then returned to the park for hiking. Since I’ve been to the park many times, I’ve done the relatively easy Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop trial many times. I decided I wanted to try some for the longer, more difficult hikes. First up was the Hat Shop Trail...but it was closed, so I took the Peekaboo Loop close by. This was the first real intense hiking I’ve done so far on this trip. It felt great! I hiked down into the canyon for a mile and a half and then did the three-mile loop before climbing back out. I’ve always said, in the choice between hiking down and hiking up, I would always choose up. True, my heart and lungs act like they’re going to die, but as soon as I rest, they calm down. The walking down, however, is such a pain on every joint in my lower body. No thanks.
After a picnic lunch, I decided to do most of the Rim Trail. I parked my car at Bryce Point and hiked nearly three miles to Sunrise Point. (The good thing is, it’s a mostly smooth trail and mostly down hill.) I then caught the shuttle bus back to my car and set up to get a sunset video. It was my best one, yet! Bryce is so uniquely special. To see the shadows elongate over the hoodoos was simply magical.
Unfortunately, I was swarmed by tiny gnats the whole time I was sitting there. They didn’t bite, but there were millions of them all up in my face. After several up the nostril gross outs, I finally started to use my hair as a shield. Since my hair is blonde, I could see them flying in and get stuck like a fly trap. So there I sat...looking like Cousin It with a head full of gnat corpses. I finally got the bright idea to take one of the window shade nets off my car and put it over my head. So there I sat...black yoga pants, black sweatshirt, and black mesh bag over my head. But it worked perfect - I could see right through it, but the gnats couldn’t get at me. It’s official - I have reached that point in my life where I REALLY don’t care what people think of me.
Before going to bed for the night back at the BLM campsite, I stopped by the campground for another shower since I was a gnat corpsey, red dusty mess. The no-shower-for-non-campers sign was gone, so after I showered, I went into the office and asked if I could pay for a shower. They said I was in luck - the management had just changed their policy. You’ll be proud: I did pay for all three showers I took.
Day 14: Bryce Canyon > The Great Salt Lake
I got up bright and early (while it was still cool) to do the Fairyland Point trail. I didn’t do the whole thing, but I hiked down a few miles and then turned around and came back up to where I parked my car.
My next stop was going to be Zion National Park, but they were dealing with a Covid-related logistical nightmare. Usually, Zion has a great system where most of the scenic valley is off limits to cars and you can only get around using the park’s free shuttle buses. Currently, due to Covid, none of the park shuttles were running. They were letting cars in, but as you can imagine, there are very few parking spots available inside the valley. After reading a few horror stories on the line, I chatted with a few people around Bryce and they confirmed that unless you wanted to hike the entire 15-mile valley on foot, you needed to have your car in line at the park entrance starting around 2:00 AM. No kidding. They were scheduled to start up the shuttle the next week, but I was kind of over being in the hot, dusty south, so I decided to skip Zion and head north.
Along the way, I stopped at the Great Salt Lake. Funny enough, I had been to Salt Lake City dozens of times for work, but never actually to the lake itself. I stopped at the little State Park on the south side where I knew I could dip my toes in (just to experience it once). When I made it to the beach, I was a bit put off due to the icky appearance of the rocky/muddy shore. Girding my loins, I got as close to the water’s edge as possible and gingerly took off one of my flip-flops. When I set it down, about five feet of the shoreline rose up off the ground and flew away. Flies. Gagillions of flies were infesting the water’s edge. Nope! I put my shoe back on and got the heck out of there.
Fortunately, I had a friend living in SLC, so I crashed at his house and we stayed up really late laughing and talking.
Since this is the end of week two, I took a little time to see how I was doing financially. I had some help this week since I used some of my Bryce Dollars to buy groceries and I only counted a portion of the Silverton hotel since I used my non-budgeted railroad money to pay for it.
I also calculated that I have driven a total of 2790 miles, so far.