Friday, June 16, 2017

A Visit to Bryce Canyon

Bryce's Canyon from the rim trail.
In 1847, the Mormons arrived in Utah and started spreading out from the Salt Lake region to acquire as much land as they could possibly plant themselves on.  They took over pretty much all of Utah as well as large chunks of current day Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Southern California.  Among these pioneers was one Ebenezer Bryce, a penny pinching miser until he met three ghosts one Christmas Eve and... oh wait, wrong Ebenezer.  Bryce was just a settler I guess.  He designed and built the oldest Mormon chapel still in continuous use until this day.  He also, in 1874, moved onto a plot of arid wasteland with bizarre geology to try to farm and raise cattle.  That area came to be called "Bryce's Canyon".  He wasn't much for aesthetics I guess.  When asked what he thought of the spires and hoodoos in his back yard he is said to have replied "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow."

A hell of a place to lose a cow.
It was also generally a hell of a place to farm and raise cattle and after a few years Ebenezer gave up and moved his family to Arizona, becoming a minuscule footnote in history.  Eventually others came along that were more appreciative of the area's scenery and thought it should be protected like the Grand Canyon recently had been.  Stephen Mather, the legendary first director of the National Park Service, suggested that Utah make the area a State Park but the Mormons thought it would cost more money than it would bring in and declined the offer.  Finally Mather relented and got Warren G. Harding to declare Bryce Canyon a National Monument in 1924.  After a few senators and congressmen got out to actually look at the place they decided to up the ante and make it a National Park in Feb, 1928.

Just to prove we were there
Bryce Canyon is not, in fact, a canyon, which technically has to be formed by a river like the Colorado cut the Grand Canyon.  Bryce instead consists of a dozen amphitheaters carved into the side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau by wind and rain erosion. I assume nearly everyone who reads this blog has seen Bryce Canyon.  If not, what's your excuse?  It's only an 8 hour drive from Temecula, fer Pete's sake.  You can spend the night in Vegas and visit Zion on the way.  Get off yer butts and get up there.  Anyway, I won't go into any kind of detailed description (which I doubt I could accomplish in any event).  I will include a few pictures just to prove we were there.

We did not stay in the national park but just outside it in the town of Red Canyon which, in turn, sits just outside of Red Canyon, part of the Dixie National Forest.  This is sort of a mini Bryce, made out of the same rocks but is 10 miles down the road and covers only a couple of square miles.  In fact, all of the big Red Rock formations in Utah turn out to be the same stuff, all the way over to Canyon Lands and Arches.   Early on geologists did not know this but it is now accepted that this layer of the Great Inland Sea covered a lot of territory and when you go 4 wheeling in Moab you are traveling over the same sediments as Bryce or Cedar Breaks.

Cedar Breaks - a little snow left in June at 10,500 ft.
Speaking of Cedar Breaks, we visited there while we were in the area.  Very lovely landscape with red rocks and hoodoos... hey this sounds familiar.  Difference is that Bryce sits at 8500 ft and Cedar Breaks is at 10,500.  Up there, there was a small amount of snow still on the ground and it was quite a bit cooler, which was fine by me.  Apparently they had just opened the road over the top a week or two before.  Don't know where the fault line is exactly, but there has obviously been some uplift on the Cedar Breaks side to raise it up that high.  We went up through Panguitch and west on Utah 143, then came back on Utah 14 back to US 89.  A nice big circle tour that took up most of an afternoon.  A lovely drive both ways though wildlife was pretty scarce.  We first stumbled onto Cedar Breaks in 2008 when Chris and his friend were hiking up Zion Canyon and we needed to find something to kill 4 or 5 hours.  If you've never been, it is worth the investment of a day.

A sandstone pipe at Kodachrome Basin
Another day we took Utah Hwy 12 past the Bryce turn off, through the town of Tropic to Cannonville, then took the little road to Kodachrome Basin.  This is a tiny Utah State Park named by someone who fell for Kodak's advertising.  Back in the 1950s Kodachrome was new and considered the best color slide film in the world, but I think I could have come up with a better name for a scenic park.  Heck, the Indians probably had a better name for it.  Utah probably got a kickback for it.  Anyway, it is an interesting place notable for the presence of 67 sandstone pipes.  These are stone monoliths ranging from 2 to 52 meters in height.  I have no idea how they got there but I don't feel bad about it since no one else seems to know either.  One theory is that they were geysers that filled in with sediments which were left standing after the softer surrounding sandstone weathered away, but this is just a guess.

At the end of the asphalt you can continue on a dirt road for about 132 miles (at least it seemed that way to me) and you eventually come to a little parking  area with a short path to Grosvenor Arch, a double arch out in the middle of some ranch land.  Probably worth the drive (which is actually only 11 miles if you believe maps) as it is an interesting formation.  It is named after a former president of the National Geographic Society who, as it turns out, are the folks who actually came up with the name "Kodachrome Basin".  A certain amount of mutual back scratching going on there I think.
Grosvenor Arch
We went back to Utah 12 and drove on as far as Escalante before turning around and heading back to Red Canyon.  Some of that road was at a 14% grade.  We had intended to drive the motor home that way to Capitol Reef, but after traversing it in a car decided we would take the RV the long way around on Hwy 89.  I'd hate for Vicki to have to push it up that steep a hill.
Red Canyon
Red Canyon
Cedar Breaks
Fairyland at Bryce Canyon
A little crowded for our tastes
A Raven keeps watch over the crowd
Bryce Canyon again
Ceratopsian skull at the Grand Staircase visitors center
Long view of Grosvenor Arch
Another shot of Bryce
Cactus flowers at Kodachrome Basin
A nicely done lizard statue, don't ask me why.

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