Bryce Canyon Recap

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Uniquely colored hoodoos showing off their stylish tones

Length of Stay:

  • 4 days, 4 nights

Highs

  • Exploring the canyon on an ATV

Lows

  • Somewhat crowded, somewhat cold

Favorite Hike

  • Navajo/Peekaboo loop (a fascinating look at the hoodoos from up close)
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Meandering along the canyon

Favorite Treat

  • Pioneer-style black licorice caramel

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A Canyon That’s Not Really a Canyon

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Okay, so I know that it’s called Bryce Canyon, but technically it’s the top portion of a long eroded staircase that gradually descends all the way down into the state of Arizona. Natural amphitheaters – large circular hollows in the rock – are filled with strange and fascinating shapes called Hoodoos. The Native Americans tell stories of how these tall skinny spires of rock were once people, transformed by the trickster god due to disobedience. One cannot help but notice the strange, mysterious-like quality of this area. Hiking down into the amphitheater was striking; I felt dwarfed by the mammoth rock pinnacles that cast ominous shadows about me.

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Resting in a sunny spot in the “canyon”

 

From the top, I could only stare. Although it’s rather a small park, Bryce Canyon definitely has a uniqueness to in that draw tourists from all over the world.

And now, here’s a picture of me on an ATV.

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Great Basin Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights
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Autumn in the mountains

Highs:

  • Touring Lehman caves and learning about the underground speakeasy during Prohibition
  • Exploring the ancient bristlecone pine grove (some of these trees are more than 5,000 years old)
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Beautiful in all its ancient grotesqueness…

Lows:

  • Wind storms (poor Clarence was being pelted with flying debris throughout the night)

Favorite Hike:

  • Timber Creek loop
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Making my way up the mountain on the Timber Creek trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Pine nuts! Visitors are allowed to gather pinyon tree pine nuts in the park. What a lovely, nutritious snack, right?
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Contemplating the mysteries of the universe

Dark Sky

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Great Basin national park is in the middle of nowhere. Driving towards the park on highway 50 (dubbed The Loneliest Road in America) was quite an experience. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the separateness of it all. Isolation, but not loneliness, seemed to mark the surrounding countryside. I cruised along happily, towing Clarence the MyPod behind me while trying to find a radio station. I passed only one other vehicle in the span of an hour and then rolled into Baker, NV: population 50.

This tiny town sits outside one of the least visited national parks in the U.S. It’s no wonder, considering how off the beaten path it is. Yet being so far removed has its benefits. Less crowds? Yep. More “alone time” with nature? Check. An incredibly beautiful night sky that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before? Oh yeah.

The Dark Sky Association is an organization that focuses on preserving a valuable resource that many of us don’t realize is endangered: the night sky. Light pollution is growing at rapid rates, and many of the children being born this year will never see the Milky Way. Because it has no city-light contamination, Great Basin boasts some of the best starry skies in America. On a cloudless night, there is sparkling beauty as far as the eye can see.

As most photographers know, it’s extremely difficult to get good shots of stars. Do a Google image search of “Great Basin national park night sky” and let your world be rocked! And next time you get a chance, go outside and appreciate the sky. Even if you’re unable to see many stars, take a moment to derive as much aesthetic pleasure from this invaluable resource as possible.

Capitol Reef Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights
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Unique sand colors make hiking even more enjoyable

Highs

  • Picking apples in the orchard
  • Attending a ranger-led geology program that explained some neat things about the park’s rock history

Lows

  • Weird weather – it was hard to plan for hikes since the temp would change 10 degrees within the course of an hour

Favorite Hike

  • Chimney Rock loop
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A view of Chimney Rock and the surrounding area

Favorite Treat

  • Fruit pie! (You can purchase a delicious personal pie in the historical Gifford house within the Fruita district)
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Simply delicious.

Fruita!

Nope, that’s not a typo. There’s a district within Capitol Reef national park named after the plentiful fruit orchards planted by Mormons in the late 1800’s. It’s a spectacular place, full of lush greenery due to the confluence (that’s a fancy word for junction) of a creek and river. The surrounding desert region protects this little pocket of productivity making it a cozy little haven amid the sandstone cliffs.

And let’s talk about these cliffs for a moment, shall we? Before arriving to the park, I found its name, Capitol Reef, somewhat odd. Apparently the term reef denotes a barrier, since early explorers felt that this geological fold of rock was impassable. Capitol refers to the white dome-like structures of Navajo sandstone. Personally, I think they look more like scoops of vanilla ice cream.

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The Fruita district wedged between the mountains. Note the white “capitol” rock in the background.

But back to Fruita.

Visitors are allowed to pick their own fruit and eat whatever they like while within the park boundary. This means that each day I visited, I would snag a juicy apple for a pre-hike snack. The mule deer hang around, yearning for me to throw them a morsel. For those wishing to take apples out of the park, there’s a self-pay station based on the honor system. The best part? It’s only a dollar a pound! That’s cheaper (and fresher) than the grocery store varieties.

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The mule deer keeping an eye out for stray apples

I think all national parks should have some sort of edible goodness available. Just sayin’.

Canyonlands Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 3 nights

High:

  • Fantastic hiking that truly immersed me into the natural wonders of the park

Low:

  • Sunburned lips

Favorite Hike:

  • Murphy Point
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Spectacular canyon view from Murphy Point

Favorite Treat:

  • Prickly pear cordial (the local establishments sell a lot of prickly pear victuals: fudge, licorice, tea, etc.)

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Watching lizards – yep, just sittin’ on a rock seeing how many I could spot scampering by