Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bryce Canyon, Part One

Friday morning we got the pleasant surprise of warmer temperatures and no blowing wind. Unfortunately we still wanted to see Bryce Canyon, which at the highest elevation is about 9,000 feet above sea level. We were sure to encounter cold temperatures and snow. Bryce Canyon is 76 miles northeast of Zion Park, which we drove through on the first leg of our journey yesterday. We then left the high rock walled canyons and drove on Highway 12 over some rather flat land dotted before reaching Red Canyon. We learned at a rest stop along the way that the Mormons settled in this valley in the 1870s. It was one of those settlers, Ebenezer Bryce, for whom the canyon is named.  At  Red Canyon, located in Dixie National Forest, we got a foretaste of what we were to soon see at Bryce Canyon- hoodoos in all different kinds of configurations.
We learned at the Bryce Canyon Visitor's Center that the canyon is an ideal place for hoodoos. It has freezing temperatures more than 200 days of the year. We were lucky to have a warm day in March to see the park. A constant cycle of freezing and thawing widens cracks in the cliff. Water run-off scours the frost-wedged debris and cuts narrow gullies between the canyon walls. Eventually pinnacles are isolated which are exposed to more weathering. Our second stop at the park was to view Bryce's natural amphitheater where we walked around its' rim. Here there are many colorful intricate spires and formations - an awesome view to behold.
 We took a trail down into canyon to get a closer look at the formations.When a ledge off the path presented itself, I could not resist the urge to walk onto it.The plateau was a lot safer than it looks!
The trail down into the canyon was a little treacherous with snow and mud covering the path in several places. We did not get very far on it before heading back up. A sign along the way pretty much aptly described the scenery, it was a quotation from a surveyor back in 1876: "there are deep caverns, and rooms resembling ruins of castles, churches with guarded walls, battlements and steeples, niches and recesses, presenting the wild wonderful scene that the eye of man has ever seen". More on Bryce Canyon in my next posting.

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