Have you stopped to thank erosion lately? I would wager that you haven’t. If you’re lacking in gratitude and think that is the craziest question you’ve ever been asked then my presumption is that you’ve yet to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. We happen to be big fans of the the silent earth eater and its destructive power. Patient and methodical in her work, her only concern is change. Always present but seldom appreciated, she labors day after day, year after year, decade after decade. However, time as we know it is of no concern to her. She only measures time in layers of exposed rock. An earthly artist to humans. A heinous devastating villain to sedimentary rock. Erosion is queen and southern Utah is her kingdom.
We started in the middle and now we’re at the top… of The Grand Staircase that is. The Grand Staircase goes something like this – Bryce Canyon at the crown, Zion at the midpoint, with the grandest of grand finales at the Grand Canyon. A divine staircase indeed. Designed for a god. Managed by the Park Service. Explored by Rootless and Roaming. A transcendent decent across land and time. But where did it come from? Long before the process of erosion commenced, 60 million years to be exact”ish”, a freshwater lake occupied most of southern Utah. This lake lived a jolly, carefree life for many, many years. Then around 16 million years ago, the land in southern Utah became restless and fidgety. Bored with a life concealed under water, the land decided to rise up and see how things are above two-parts hydrogen and one-part oxygen. The land grew skyward and with the permission of nature the land had its fun for some time. Then our old friend erosion showed her face. Maybe it was because the land had become arrogant from looking down on everyone and everything below. Or maybe it was out of boredom. No one knows for sure. But erosion had enough of the uprising and decided it was time to humble the land. With the enlisted help of rain, snow, and ice, erosion went to work slowly but surely. It broke the land into small pieces and then carried those fragments of weathered rock debris away. The result – The Grand Staircase.
If you read our previous post, then you will know how amazing Zion National Park was for us. Bryce Canyon had the same effect. It is a true wonderland. The highlight of the park is the Bryce Amphitheatre with its array of supernatural rock formations known as hoodoos. Who do like hoodoos? We do like hoodoos. If you get a kick out of finding shapes in cloud formations, then you will love seeing what shapes and figures you can make out looking at the variety of hoodoos. Each of the spires and pinnacles is the only one of its kind, fashioned into the oddest and most beautiful structures. Shaped by the hand of erosion but painted by the hand of God. Altering the typically white in hue limestone, oxidized iron produced vibrant yellows, oranges, reds and browns that run perpendicular across the hoodoos adding the perfect hypnotic touch.
We woke one morning while the stars were still brightly shining to arrive at Bryce Amphitheatre early. We stood from a vantage point looking down into the great amphitheater waiting for the sun to call an end to the night. Only an array of erratic shadows was visible in the dim light provided by the stars. Then came the sun. Little by little it peaked its inferno head over the ridgeline. Each second casting more light into the canyon. The sight of the garden of hoodoos below transforming from shadows into light was breathtaking. A sight we hope that everyone gets to experience. The sun not only brought the Bryce Amphitheater to life, it brought us to life as well. Surged with energy, we ran into the canyon to be part of the magical event, yelling out the different shapes we thought that each hoodoo resembled.
A smaller National Park at only 35,835 acres, Bryce Canyon is a perfect weekend trip. Easily doable in one or two days, unless you plan on hiking every mile of the 50 miles of trails found in the park. If you plan to stay the night, two campgrounds are in the National Park for 30 dollars a night. The campgrounds are nice; however, we opted for the free option and stayed in Dixie National Forest. Dixie National Forest borders Bryce Canyon and is a one-minute drive from its entrance. Primitive campsites can be found pretty much anywhere in the forest – perfect for our likings. So now that you know that it won’t cost you dime (in lodging) to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, there really is no reason not to visit it. You’re welcome. Well that’s it for Bryce Canyon. We’re off to make a side trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park before heading all the way down The Grand Staircase to the Grand Canyon. So much adventure!