By Jelane A. Kennedy
In 2004 when we were in Cedar City, Utah we tried to drive to Bryce Canyon National Park but our VW Vanagon would not have it (too much snow and the engine overheated). A couple of days after that aborted trip, the engine blew in the VW so it was probably good thing we did not make it that far. So when we were again in Cedar City, Utah this time with our GTRV, we knew that we wanted to try again to make it to Bryce Canyon.
It was fall and the leaves were changing colors. The drive was pretty and the air had that special combination of warmth and crispness to it. At some point about halfway to Bryce we drove through a large grove of Aspen tree’s that encircled both sides of the road. The leaves had all changed to orange and it was like driving through flames as we were engulfed. The drive was a precursor to the red orange hoodoos and canyons we would experience at Bryce Canyon. This park was one of the smaller parks we visited, at just under 60 acres.
The campground was near the park visitor center, which gave us easy access to the shuttle. Luckily during our visit the shuttle bus system was still running so we took full advantage the first day to ride the length of the bus route, which gave us a great overview of the main section of the park where we would spend our time. We had wanted to take the shuttle out to Rainbow Point but we had no luck getting a spot. (Maybe at another time in the future it will be on our list). The trip out to Rainbow Point according to our book was a half-day, so we decided to enjoy our time in the main area, since we knew we would not have a full week in the park.
Our ideal campsite was usually near the restrooms, since we do not carry a toilet with us. At the campground this was a challenge since many of the bathhouses were being renovated. The terrain in the campground was also a bit of a challenge as Abbey does not have hydraulic jacks to level her out and we have not found leveling blocks that don’t hog lots of space. It can be tricky to find a spot that we aren’t lopsided, which can make sleeping and day-to-day living in Abbey awkward. With some hunting we found a workable campsite.
One thing we liked about Bryce was that we could move pretty easily from the rim where you can look down into this forest of red orange hoodoos that make up the amphitheater of the canyon into the canyon itself and walk amongst the hoodoos and see them towering above you. Unlike when we visited the Grand Canyon where accessing the canyon floor was more difficult, Bryce’s terrain offers more options. One of the hikes we took a couple of times was along the rim trail from the lodge complex back to our campground. The view of the amphitheater was awesome.
The lodge complex included the lodge, a general store off to the side in a separate building with the showers and laundry for campers. There was also a small pizza shop in another little out building. One afternoon, when we need down time to do laundry (and because I was not feeling well), we also took showers and hung out on the porch of the lodge to write post cards. The lodge was the only hotel in the park. It was built in the 1920s with local stone and timber. It was one of the smaller lodges that we have visited in some of the western National Parks. A couple of times we took advantage of the pizza shop for dinner and walked back to our campsite, it was a nice evening event that broke up our usual camping fare.
We went to an interesting ranger talk where we learned about how the amphitheater below in the canyon was formed and we learned about the weather on the rim. We were warned about how quick and dramatic storms could be. The ranger shared with us to be alert for sudden afternoon storms and warned us to stay away from the rim during thunderstorms because of the lightening. She spoke with us about casualties, which had occurred in the park.
Hiking down into the canyon was amazing; we did two shorter hikes, Navajo Loop Trail and Queen’s Garden Trail. Walking down into the canyon required hiking down multiple switchbacks to the floor. We were then immersed in the orange glow of the canyon and loved exploring the rock formations that we were in, out and around. Looking up and seeing the amazing hoodoos and cliffs above us, took my breath away. Of course what comes down (lots of switchbacks) must go up and by the end of the day climbing out of the canyon was a bit strenuous, we were tired but a good tired.
There was so much to see, again another place we could have stayed for several more days. But it was time to move on. Each park is so awe-inspiring! I am constantly amazed and humbled by the beauty.
© Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran