Bryce Canyon

The drive from Zion to Bryce is quite interesting, and was some of the most interesting country visible by car that I've seen. Typically in the Northwest, much of anything scenic roadside is obscured by trees, or high up and hard to see through the windshield. Out in the desert, the number of trees is quite small, until maybe 6-7000 feet, and when it is high enough to be wetter, the stunted trees are still easy to see past.

The road from Zion to Bryce (built in the 1920s) goes up numerous switchbacks through a mile long tunnel, ventilated with peek-a-boo holes, offering views of very high cliffs opposite. They say not to stop, but it's hard not to. As the road descends and ascends again, you're passing through some very red canyons and hoodoos, which I worth exploring next time. We left Zion late (due to screwing around in town) and once in Bryce Canyon, I was too hungry to go watch the sunset. Instead, we steamed tortillas with cheese, eaten with beans and canned salsa.

Sunrise was early and cold, but we'd been in the habit of getting up early. Out of bed, we quickly got our boots on and headed out without breakfast. Surprisingly, there was already a crowd at the main viewpoint. The Sunset Point lookout was dominated by a group of Japanese retiree tourists. It seemed silly to huddle among them when the view was just as interesting among the hoodoos below: We went hiking. Hitomi and I took pictures of each other posing with the various shapes in the canyon, like we were wandering through a sculpture gardens. Certain areas seemed like walled in gardens, as the shade created opportunity for more plants to grow out of the harsh desert heat. After the trail wound back to Sunset Point (opposite on the rim where we started) we had breakfast and headed to the visitor center.

The visitor center contained a small theater to explain the geology and human history of the park. Back before the highway system, trains brought people to Bryce Canyon, and in fact the railroad companies built lodges and tour packages. But these days, everyone drives. Though, Hitomi and I would have preferred traveling park-to-park by train, which is unfortunately impossible now that infrastructure no longer exists. Ironically to deal with the car traffic, parks like Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon encourage or require those in the park to take shuttle buses.

The park newspaper and visitor center discussed how air pollution and light pollution can prevent city dwellers from seeing far away scenery during the day or many stars in the night sky. In the coming years, once perhaps more malignant forms of pollution are addressed, people might become interested in addressing light pollution, which is just more than obscuring stars from people, but really a waste of energy. Governments could certainly lead by example by using less lighting, or lighting more effectively with motion censors and timers.

Another ecological note: The park is intentionally burning the park forests to simulate the natural fires that they have suppressed in the past. If you've ever been on a hike in a recent burn area, you can't see much of anything. Regular fires reduce the amount of ground fuel and closely grown together small trees; large trees can mostly resist the heat. This actually makes fires less dangerous. And it's the natural forest cycle, which we hope the park service would encourage.

After hearing "Only you can prevent forest fires" so many times from Smokey Bear, I feel the U.S. government is sending mixed messages when we're actually paying them to set fires. Would this be one way for arsonists to make a living?

The rest of the morning was spent exploring throughout the park, on short stops or walks which took us to various views of rock formations and forest features, and sweeping views of the valley. We left in the afternoon to Moab.

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About eliasross

Blogging before the word "blog" was invented.
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