Thursday, 5/20/21: The Real McCoy

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park. I’m just happy to be there.

We love hoodoos. How can you not? They come in all sorts of shapes. Some defy gravity. Some come in multiple colors. Some look like people. Some, with giant mushroom heads, can even be made into houses. But if you want to see the bestest, the greatest, the tallest, the orangest, the mostest magnificent hoodoos, you have to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. These are the real McCoy.

All the sights at Bryce are located on the east side of the road. It is suggested that you drive the whole 18 miles to the end at Rainbow Point, then work your way back. All the turnouts will then be on your right, making it easier to access. We followed this advice and it almost backfired on us.

Rainbow Point offers amazing vistas and about 1.75 miles of trails to more vistas. Many backpackers used this spot as a jumping off point for the Rim Trail which follows the entire 18 miles of canyon after canyon. We walked the 1.75 miles. It was cold and windy. Everyone, including us, were well bundled up.

On the drive back, we stopped at each vista. Some had short trails and others just had viewing platforms. Each vista was outstanding. The bright orange and white spires looked both majestic and delicate. These hoodoos were big and they were many.

When we got to Rainbow Point, it was a chilly 45º with a very stiff and penetrating wind. Everyone had their winter jackets on.

The main attraction is the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, a giant mass of giant hoodoos crammed into a giant deep valley. The tall hoodoos reached up to meet the surrounding cliff tops. The bright orange shimmered in the sun.

And thank goodness for the sun. At 9,000’ elevation, the wind bit through our jackets. When the wind would subside for even a couple of seconds, the sun would re-warm us until the next breath of wind whipped up. Eventually, we were able to shed our layers, one layer at a time, but it took until 2 pm before we were down to shorts and short sleeve shirts.

By the time we returned to the Amphitheater section of the park, all the parking lots were full. Nobody followed the driving pattern advice. Most people just b-lined for the Amphitheater. Bryce has a solution for this - a shuttle bus system. At the park entrance you can drop off your car and hop onto the free shuttle buses. Unlike Zion’s shuttle buses, you don’t need advanced tickets. This was our fall back plan, but fortunately, we stumbled onto a stray parking spot at the very last parking lot in the Amphitheater section.

The deep valley of hoodoos is accessed by a labyrinth of trails zig-zagging around the valley floor between all the tall hoodoo formations. We clocked a good 5 miles in the valley of hoodoos. To reach these valley trails, you have to descend 550 feet. The trails going down are a real trip. They are steep with seemingly endless switchbacks that are amazing in their own right. Yes, again with the thoughts of, “what goes down, must go back up.” Our lungs and calf muscles were well seasoned for the return trip after our Upper Calf Falls Trail hike.

The Bryce Canyon Amphitheater was the highlight of the Park. There are several tail loops that wind through the hoodoos. They require a steep climb down and a steep climb up. By now, Wanda and I are getting pretty good at these climbs at 7,000 or 8,000 feet of elevation. We have the lungs of a young 50 year old.

This guy was making points with his girlfriend. All the way down to the valley floor he was taking photo after photo. She was eating up the attention.

The path went through this little tunnel.

A double bridge hidden in the tall hoodoos.

On our way out of the Park, we stopped at one more short trail, Mossy Cave Trail that is accessed directly from Highway 12. This added another 1.15 miles to our total for the day. The trail followed a milky river up to a small waterfalls and a rock ledge that pretended to be a cave. Although the attractions weren’t all that great, the hoodoos in the surrounding hills were awesome.

The milky river leading to the rock overhang they call Mossy Cave. Plenty more hoodoos in those corner of the Park.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town.

Dave and Wanda

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