Journey with Raven • Bryce Canyon
The Land of Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular places in Utah. It is certainly one of the most beautiful – and yet, evocatively strange – places we saw on the trip.
Even before we got to Bryce, we drove through Red Canyon of the Dixie National Forest: an appetizer to whet the the appetite before the main course, for Bryce Canyon is without a doubt, a feast for the eyes.
Whereas Cedar Breaks National Monument, where we had spent the morning, is colorfully – even vividly – painted, Bryce is more subtle. The hues of orange, pink, yellow, sand, lavender, peach, fawn, and russet, are much more delicate than their counterparts in Cedar Breaks.
But what make Bryce different are the Hoodoos: the columns of stone that rise out of the canyon floor and walls. The Paiute Indians called this place "red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shaped canyon," and certainly that name fits. Because of these hoodoos (and the reflective nature of the stone) the amphitheater seems to glow with a light of its own. Bryce has an eerie, mysterious quality to it that just naturally evokes the imagination.
And nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than with the names of the places in and about Bryce: the Chessmen, Fairyland, the Queen's Garden, Thor's Hammer, Chinese Wall, Silent City, Wall Street, and the Alligator, to name but a few.
And what's really great is that there are trails down into the canyons. The bus-hopping tourists lingering at the rim miss the best part Bryce has to offer; they see, as it were, only the tip of the iceberg.
Our day at Bryce started out rather dubiously. We got up early in hopes of catching the sun rise onto the park. We had, in fact, risen in time, but the weather intervened and a band of rain clouds blotted out the event. This disappointment was followed by another, as more dark gray-bellied clouds hove into view from the south. Off in the distance, the report of thunder tumbled across the land. It started to rain, and the next few hours were spent huddling in the car, and browsing the postcards in the visitor center.
We talked to one of the people behind the counter, who (as chance would have it) was Gayle Pollock, the executive director of the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association. He allayed our concerns about flash flooding, pointing out that while it does happen, Bryce Canyon is at the top of the watershed. Consequently, there were places where we should be careful, but essentially, it was unlikely that there would be anything like that tragic incident where eleven people were washed away to their deaths in Antelope Canyon a few months earlier.
Inspired by his optimism, we decided to take the Navajo Loop Trail down. At the bottom, we could make a decision as to whether we would merely finish the loop, go all out on the Peekaboo Loop trail, or take the middle ground by coming back up the Queen's Garden trail.
The trail into the canyon was exhilarating; to start with, we zigged and zagged along the dozens of switchbacks down the steep canyon side as tall skirting walls of hoodoos enclosed us, finally depositing us on Wall Street, a narrow passage with the thinnest slit of sky high above our heads. That eventually opened into a slightly larger chamber where several slender-trunked Douglas Firs rose hundreds of feet in their struggle to find sunlight.
By now, the sun had started to emerge with some regularity (though it still seemed to be playing cat-and-mouse with the clouds) so when we came to the junction, we decided we would head back up through Queen's Garden. We weren't about to chance it on the whole Peekaboo loop, but we didn't feel the need to head back topside right away.
It's almost impossible to tell, and very difficult to show, the wonderful sights to be seen upon the trail at the canyon floor. When you're amongst the hoodoos and firs, the place emits an intimacy that is captivating. The individual hoodoos aren't incomprehensibly large -- unlike the depth of the Grand Canyon, or the height of Zion's sheer cliff walls -- they often measure only dozens or hundreds of feet high. They rise from the ground amidst trees that are of approximately the same scale. And yet,
I used several rolls of film at Bryce. And I don't regret it. It's hard to take a bad picture at Bryce, and even with almost a hundred photos, there are so many things that I didn't photograph (and wish I did!) That, too, is part of the beauty of Bryce: there's something new everywhere; literally around every bend is another wonder to behold.
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