Bryce Canyon. What’s to say about Bryce Canyon. Cold. Hot. Visually stunning, and most colorful. At 9,000 ft. it’s the highest canyon in the Grand-Staircase Escalante. It’s also not a canyon at all, as it lacks the one crucial distinguishing characteristic of all canyons, the river that runs through them, the source of their vastness, mystery, steep walls, and great depths. In this case, Bryce canyon, or more accurately, amphitheater, was formed over thousands of years by rain and snow melt runoff. Different layers of sediment, eroding at different rates of speed, create the hoodoos, or natural sculptures. Frost being the main culprit in the process.
Scientifically speaking, it’s an intriguing phenomenon. Artistically speaking, it’s one of natures finest creations, of mind-bogling proportions. Rough sculptures of immense size, and striking color, natural light paints the prehistoric landscape, from dusk till dawn, setting the ever-changing mood. The high altitude clouds deserve an honorable mention here. One can only imagine what the hoodoos look like under the light of the moon, while shivering in their tent or van, wrapped in blankets, sleeping bags, and various layers of clothing.
As we came upon Bryce, the landscape slowly starts to advertise whats in store. Coming from the southeast, the shapes and colors of the rock and odd hoodoos, brilliant red, white, and orange, illuminated by the setting sun, inspire the senses, confirm you’re on the right track. There’s a well placed rest stop, also confirming your approach. Ahead, in the distance, I finally think I’m witnessing the first glimpse of the famed canyon, and upon seeing the white layer, assume it must be a recent layer of snow. Completely off my mark, the canyon is still out of sight and I’m mistaking an average part of the surrounding area for Bryce canyon. Also, the layer of white is a sedimentary layer. What? What? senses deceived, pride defeated. At last, the crisp alpine forest reveals the legendary canyon from a break through the trees. Distant and obscured at first, but a short walk from the van brings the picture into focus, revealing it’s grandeur. Sunset point at sunset seems fitting, and surely it was and still is. The hoodoos, magnificently lit and at home in their majesty, the court of dinosaurs and kingly beast of the wild.
Paiute Indian legend has it that the hoodoos are ancient people who were actually animals that had the power to change their image to human. They were bad people, and as a result, they angered the coyote, who in turn, changed them to stone, permanently. That’s why some are in groups, some are sitting, some holding on to one another, painted faces frozen in time.
The park is conveniently surrounded by national forest, we took advantage of the scenic and isolated camping and facilities. At this point, Ingrid and I were pretty burnt out on national parks, stayed for only 3 days. However, this one still stands out front and center in my mind. Was it the high altitude isolation, the rich and vibrant colors, the never failing hoodoos, spines, and arches, or the presence and signature of the great artist in the sky, I can’t say. Or was it the crisp clean air, the blistering cold, or the alluring switch-back trails leading into a fairy tale world? It stands out none the less. Perhaps a combination of all. We left the place feeling content, grateful,and blessed to witness such a place. Take the hike, it’s worth it. Ebeneezer Bryce, the Mormon pioneer credited with discovery of the canyon, and it’s namesake, sums it up with a blunt determination. “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”