Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bryce Canyon

After spending a few days in the camper cramming in some schoolwork, we did something exciting.  We packed up overnight bags and took a mini-trip to a couple of the national parks nearby.

On Tuesday, March 25th, we woke up at dawn and piled into the car with our Pop-tarts and juice boxes to make the four-hour drive into southwestern Utah to see Bryce Canyon.  We arrived just before lunchtime.  (At least, we THINK it was lunchtime.  We've been back and forth over the time zone so many times that we're losing track of the actual hour!)

Our trip to Bryce Canyon was interesting.  We drove as far as we could on the interstate highway, then took a turn-off that made us wander through Dixie National Forest.  Our elevation climbed to over 9000 feet, and we got to experience winter!  Snow covered the ground around us in that high of elevation.  I really wanted to drive through another national park there called Cedar Breaks, but the roads were completely closed due to the winter conditions.  Cedar Breaks National Park is at an elevation of over 10,000 feet and has a sub-alpine climate, but apparently March isn't the best time to go there!

We wound our way back down the slopes of the Dixie National Forest before driving along the plateau which led us to Bryce Canyon.

We started off at the visitor center, which was much busier than I expected it to be.  Considering that it was a Tuesday in late March, I assumed we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.  Little did we realize that it is "spring break" around this part of the country, and many of those spring breakers went to Bryce Canyon!

We spent a lot of time at the visitor center.  Besides completing the junior ranger badge requirements right then and there, we also saw the park orientation movie, explored the museum, and ate our picnic lunches in the van.

After the visitor center, we drove to some of the scenic overlooks.  First we encountered Sunrise Point which gave us the first glimpse of the canyon.  It's not as big and expansive as the Grand Canyon, but it is very interesting to see.  Bryce Canyon is a prism of color and full of "hoodoos" - pillars of rock left by erosion, usually in fantastic shapes.  It actually isn't a true canyon since it wasn't formed by a river, but the results of the erosion make it seem as such.

After Sunrise Point, we drove a little further to Sunset Point for more viewing pleasure.  From this viewpoint we could see the famed "Thor's Hammer" which is a hoodoo shaped like the mythical hammer of the Norse god Thor.  Following Sunrise and Sunset Points, we drove to the last two stops: Inspiration Point and Bryce Point.  Each of these overlooks offered us unique vantages of the many varied hoodoos and their hues of colors.

By this time it was nearing dinnertime, so we said goodbye to Bryce Canyon and drove back through the Dixie National Forest to the interstate town of Cedar City where we found two hotel rooms for the night and went to dinner at Dairy Queen.  It was so strange to sleep away from the camper!  It was a vacation from our extended vacation!

The next morning we continued on our trip and went to Zion National Park.