Driving out of Kanab, we looked in our rearview mirror and vowed to return, for there were many (red) stones left unturned. Our next and final stop in southern Utah was Cedar City, with the intent of visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument. We did some walking there, but the most desirable trails remained closed due to heavy snow during our June 10-14 visit. Total bummer! Continue reading
Our trek south and east is well underway, and as you read this we’re already sitting in Alabama! Yup, we’re moving along faster than usual, but doing lots of fun things as we also dodge some severe weather along the way. The fast pace and juggling of our stops has put a bit of a cramp in my blogging efforts, but I’m trying to avoid falling too far behind 🙂 Continue reading
Moving to Ruby’s Inn RV Park from Cannonville was probably the shortest campground move we’ve ever made, a mere 13 miles to get us right outside Bryce Canyon National Park for a week.
A little heads-up here: this post is loaded with vibrant images of rocks galore!
Prior to the move we had already filled our eyes and minds with the awe and wonder of this awesome place as we took the scenic drive with friends Dave and Faye. We did the drive the right way by going all the way to the end of the road and working our way back – leaving the magnificent view at Inspiration Point as one of the final stops. It was mind-blowing, and a perfect standing ovation for this place.
Bryce Canyon is not a canyon, but a 56.2 square-mile series of more than a dozen natural amphitheaters. It’s a place like no other we’ve seen. Its spires, rocky temples, castles, pillars, walls, windows and arches are arranged within huge amphitheaters of red rock that cannot be captured, although we certainly tried by keeping both of our cameras blazing every day.
The vistas of spires displayed various shades of orange, red, ochre and pink with chalk-white highlights, depending on the lighting conditions and time of the day. They were so colorful and wondrous that we were constantly gasping right along with all the other tourists!
These nature-chiseled pinnacles known as hoodoos are yet another product of erosion. It all began about 55 millions years ago as the lower pink layer of iron and manganese was deposited as muds and silts in meandering streams and shallow lakes. The upper white layer represents limestone deposited later in a shallow lake system. Over time the layered sediments consolidated into rock, and the effects of wind, water and millions of frost/thaw cycles took over to carve the unique sculptures. If interested, click here to read more information available from the National Parks System.
Many of the hoodoos, fins and spires have been given names, and for fun we added a few of our own. Besides, depending on the time of day and viewing angle they can look like something totally different!
We hiked just about every available trail during our stay, several offering us a close-up view with a different perspective from the canyon floors. The sun and clouds created magical effects on the amazing rock sculptures.
To see all of the hidden treasures we hiked trails rated from easy (Rim Trail and Bristlecone Loop) to medium (Sheep Canyon Trail) to strenuous (Fairyland Loop and the Figure-8 combination of Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop).
With both of us taking hundreds of photos every day, selecting the best ones to share was a challenging and time-consuming process. Folks who have been here will probably agree that it’s hard to take a bad photo!
Most of the “must-do” trails we chose began from the rim with a steep descent into the canyons. Of course, that means a steep climb back up at the end of the hike. We definitely got some good workouts!
On the canyon floor we were mesmerized as we weaved through amazing formations into the heart of the hoodoos. We walked through tunnels and craned our necks while playing a game of “what do you think that formation looks like?”
From afar we could see loads of tourists following Sunset Trail up to a junction with Navajo Loop. Many turned around when they saw the steep downward switchback, realizing the effort required to climb back out.
Trees clinging to the rim show the extent of erosion here. As roots become exposed scientists are able to calculate that the cliff is retreating at an average rate of about one foot every sixty years.
Pine trees managed to grow within the slots between the hoodoos:
Bristlecone Pines are the oldest single living organisms known, and there were several at the end of the aptly named Bristlecone Loop Trail:
A hike we had planned along the Rim Trail was stymied by construction between Inspiration Point and Bryce Point, but we were able to add several miles from other outlying trails to make up for it.
Beyond our hiking escapades, we had the pleasure of meeting fellow bloggers that Steve had been following for several months – Mike, Kathie and Opie from Life Rebooted. Opie is the cool and high-energy doggie of the group, and Steve forgot to ask if Opie was short for Opium? Maybe we’ll learn one day.
The natural beauty of Bryce Canyon left us in awe. Stunning, breathtaking, spectacular and unique, this became our #1 must-do national park if we had to pick one.
It may seem we lingered long – 10 weeks to be exact – in Southern Utah (also known as Red Rock Country). Our response is, “No way”! There are still many “stones” left unturned, and we’ll be back next year.
Next up: We are out of Red Rock Country!
While perusing my recent photos I realized I’d overlooked some activities we enjoyed along scenic US 89 near the Utah state line while camping in Page, AZ. There are two accessible areas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument between Kanab and Page. Folks who enjoyed my Lower Antelope Canyon photos (click here to see them) might also like the ones I took in this area.
Pahreah (now called Paria) Townsite Road
We learned about this road from John and Pam, and Dave and Sue, who explored it a week ahead of us. It leads to the remains of Pahreah townsite and descends from the junction with US 89 (milepost 31) into a valley. The road becomes steep and twisting near the end, as it crosses the undulating banded hills that cover the area.
Our Honda CRV survived the 12-mile roundtrip drive, but it was a long haul and we realized that 4-wheel drive would be required if the road were muddy.
The original Pahreah townsite is located just across the river, but none of the structures remain. The settlement was established in 1869 and subsequently abandoned 40 years later due to frequent river flooding. The river flows along a wide valley and is often dry during the summer, and covered in places by an extensive plain of white salt crystals. The crystals result when the floodwaters recede and then evaporate.
There also used to be a movie set here, located at the bottom of a multi-colored sandstone canyon. Western movies and TV shows were filmed between 1963-1991, but floods and vandalism took their toll and the set was abandoned.
The area is surrounded by amazingly colorful rocks. The cliffs at either side are equally layered and multi-colored, with alternating red, white, purple and grayish-blue strata. A Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation, this fascinating place reminded me of the Painted Desert National Park in Arizona.
Paria Rim Rocks – Toadstool Trail
Also along US 89 and within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the Toadstool Trail. We followed the short .8 mile trail that led into an area of unusual rock formations known as toadstools, hoodoos, goblins or mushrooms.
The many balanced boulders are created by blocks of hard sandstone perched atop narrow columns of softer rock that has eroded around and under them, resulting in a “toadstool” look:
There were some unusual rounded mounds of rock as well:
I don’t know about you, but we think these are some pretty cool formations and agree with our friends that they are definitely worth a visit.
Wiregrass Canyon Trail
Our reliable hiking tipster, Pam, suggested we would enjoy the 6-mile Wiregrass Canyon Trail, which is located 12 miles north of Page off US 89. So on our last day in town we tackled the trail that took us into Wiregrass Canyon, a steep-sided wash that leads down to Lake Powell (although we didn’t go that far). We did some scrambling up and down pour off’s and hiked through the wash between multi-colored sandstone.
This was a great hike, with fascinating exposed geologic formations. We find that canyon hikes always display different geology, colors and formations that make each one unique and interesting, and we never get tired of them. Especially in Utah!
Let me leave you with a few more scenic vistas, colored mountains and formations we saw along scenic US 89 between Kanab and Page:
This area between southwest Utah and northern Arizona is incredibly geologically diverse. There’s so much to explore here that we’re hoping to make it back next year.
After each day of running around between Arizona and Utah, we settled into our spacious site next to a campfire:
Next up: A Glimpse of Past Inhabitants