Saturday, May 14, 2011

In and Around Bryce Canyon

From Capitol Reef we headed south on Scenic Byway Route 12, climbing way up over 9500' where we stopped to look out over the landscape:

Then, as we rolled down the other side towards Escalante, the forest opened up to reveal an amazing 270 degree panorama of the tortured terrain of Grand Staircase National Monument, stretching off as far as the eye could see. One of the most amazing vista's we've seen - my photos don't begin to do it justice. The roadway was at times perched along the spine of a ridge, the earth sloping away out of sight on both sides of the road. And the descent was the steepest yet at 14%, but the exhaust brake was a champ and held our speed with ease all of the way down. Here is the view from one of the pulloffs:

Our camp was very near Bryce Canyon National Park, but also nearby was Red Canyon, where a well-reviewed mountain bike trail beckoned. I headed out in the morning, a beautiful day, picked up a map at the visitor center, and started pedalling: 4 miles on a paved trail, then 2 more on a dirt road before reaching the Thunder Mountain single track. Along the way I was happy to spot my first pronghorns in the meadow along the road, frolicking & sparring (the pronghorns)

The trail wove through through pine covered hills, rising as it skirted one hillside, then descending as it skirted the other side, many times over. Eventually (finally) the climbing ended as the trail emerged into a beautiful scene of red-rock and hoodoos:

But...just as the trail became super-hoodoo-licious, I began to perceive that the soil was adhering to my tires. Within minutes the tires were so laden with tacky red mud that they would no longer rotate. The gears were coated with mud. The derailleur was encased. Clumps the size of grapefruit were jammed in the front and rear suspension forks. What a mess! I got off, spent 15 minutes scraping off the worst of it and rinsing off the expensive moving parts with my drinking water. I carried the bike back to dry trail, my shoes collecting ludicrous clumps weighing many pounds each. Ugh! I hate to turn back on a loop trail, particularly when the best was yet to come, but going forward was not an option. Back at camp I spent over an hour cleaning and lubricating the bike to restore it to order.

Bryce Canyon, however, is awesome! We went in the first day to scope things out, drive the scenic road, and catch the late day sun illuminating the city of hoodoos in the amphitheater:

The light there is amazing - at times it seems like the rock is the source of the light. With every step along the trail the shapes change reveal a new scene. It's really great. We returned the next day to hike along the canyon edge, down the Queen's Garden trail in amongst the hoodoos, along the valley floor, and back up the Navajo trail to form a loop. It's great to see these formation from above, but to walk among them is magical. Descending the Queen's Garden trail was amazing, but climbing back out the Navajo was simply mind blowing. The formations were so towering and close together, and the steep trail winds up the canyon wall at their feet. A brilliantly routed trail. Enjoy this tiny sampling of the photos from this hike:

Finally, on the morning of our departure, we met our neighbors Tommy and Danielle, a young couple on a two month adventure in a motor home. I'd seen them around during the past two days, and noted the pair of nice mountain bikes perched on the back of their car. We had a great conversation, talking bikes, camping and destinations; they came over to see The Whale, and then brought us over to see their motorhome. It was great to meet them, and I only wish we had met early in our stay, as it would have been nice to ride with them and perhaps share a meal. It's tough meeting nice people and then leaving with little chance of seeing them again. But, you just never know....perhaps our paths will cross again. I hope so.


  1. Really funny for us to see that first picture of the landscape from the top of the pass on 12. There was so much snow there when we went through the overlooks were closed and we couldn't see anything. I actually thought it would still be there!

  2. It was really great meeting you guys too. Danielle and I were talking about how we really wish we had met you, Nancy and the pups earlier too. Maybe we could have gotten you out to that Thunder Mountain ride on the day we went when it was passable! That mud was pretty insane, I can only imagine how bad it was a day earlier. Anyways, again it was really nice meeting the two of you.

  3. I really love this place, more fun and excitement here, how i wish be there again.

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