May 2014 – From Cannonville it’s a short drive north to Bryce Canyon City but don’t let the name misguide you, because there is literally only a handful of buildings here. It is however, the gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park, and it’s certainly getting colder again……..we hope our stay escapes the snow that is forecast for later this week, whilst we are camping in the Park’s North campground.
In 1875, Scottish emigrant Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary, had a homestead nearby and grazed their cattle in Bryce Canyon. After a few years there however, they moved away, leaving behind little more than their name.
Bryce Canyon is not apparently a canyon but a series of amphitheatres that have been etched in time into the pink limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Established in 1928 not only to preserve and protect its outstanding wilderness of eroded and multicoloured, phantom-like rock shapes and pinnacles known as hoodoos, but also for its beautiful night skies, said to be the darkest in the southwest with stars that shine so brightly. The park is also said to boast some of the region’s best air quality and acoustic studies have found that the natural silence here, equals the quality of a sound studio.
Melting snow, ice, wind and torrential rain are the sculptors of Bryce Canyon’s wonderland and there are many viewing points and hiking trails along the 18 mile park road. We begin at Fairyland Point, 1 mile off the main road.
Surrounded by their spectacular wilderness, hoodoos are said to cast their spells on all who visit and many of them really do look like rows of people. Paiute Indians who inhabited this region for hundreds of years, have a sacred legend to explain the hoodooos……..” Before there were any Indians, the ‘Legend People’, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in this place. There were many kinds……birds, animals, lizards and such things but they all looked like people. For some reason, the Legend People were bad and because of this, Coyote turned them into rocks. Some were standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding on to others. You can see their faces with paint on them, just as they were before they became rocks…….”
Lowest elevation at 6620 ft. is at Yellow Creek rising to 9115 ft. at Rainbow Point. Between these Points, many native plants survive. Pinyon Pine and Juniper grow amongst the hoodoos at a lower levels, pine forests dominate the plateau top, whilst fir and aspen can survive the highest elevations. Ancient Bristlecone Pines are able to grow on rocky slopes unsuitable for most other trees and some are well over 1000 years old.
As the Rim continues to erode, many trees near the edge can be found hanging on by their bare roots.
Mule deer are the most common large mammals seen here. Mountain Lions (or Cougars) prey on these but along with black bears, are rarely seen. We didn’t see any mammals just a gopher snake, that disappeared slowly into its hole in the ground.
The hike from Sunrise Point, that takes in the Queen’s Garden, Navajo Loop, Thor’s Hammer and the Bryce Amphitheatre, finishing at Sunset Point, takes a few hours but follows an interesting and very scenic trail from the Rim, down into the valley and back up again….definitely to be recommended!
Views as we take the trail down into the valley.
‘Queen Victoria’ in the Queen’s Garden. ‘The Sentinel’ on the Navajo Loop Trail.
Down in the valley.
‘Thor’s Hammer’ at the far left.
Part of ‘The Amphitheatre’.
‘Silent City’ from Inspiration Point.
Contrasts of light and colour at Agua Canyon – 8800 ft.