Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Well, the skiing in Park City stinks right now, so I took off for another photography trip into the parks of Utah. I went down to Bryce Canyon (a bit over 4 hours driving) on Monday and came back Tuesday afternoon.

I spent the first part of Monday heading through the park to figure out where everything was, and where the best shots might come from. But I was really drawn to an area called Red Canyon.

These shots aren't from some big national park, they are from the highway I took to get to my hotel. Where else in the world can you find eye candy like this as you drive down the road?

Highway 12 is designated as a scenic highway, and it is!

Notice the sign in the bottom right: "Scenic Turn-out 1/4 mile". Every time you got to a turn-out, there was another sign. I guess they decided that mixing lots of gawking tourists, slowing down or stopping in the road, didn't mix well with some of the big trucks that speed along the winding curves. There were turnouts and parking everywhere.

You hear stories about GPS's leading people off into stupid places. I stopped at the Ranger's station and asked about where to get good pictures. I got some decent advice, but when I asked about finding wildlife, he suggested I go travel this "back road". Dopey me. I was expecting a road. When I finally found it, I discovered it was 12 miles of ATV goat path. My GPS was smart enough not to even acknowledge its existence.

As for getting pictures in Bryce Canyon, Utah just continues to surprise me. I am driving through the park. It looks like southern North Carolina, with some surprise snow on the ground. Mostly flat. Long leaf pines. Where's all the rock structures?

Then you get to to the overlook and find this. Damn!

The hoodoos look very different from anything I saw in Zion or Arches. How can the rock and erosion in such a small area of the US, look so incredibly different?

There was one arch, but that was about it.

I liked how clearly you could see the different types of stone on this lonesome tower. Notice the tough little pine trees trying to grow on top of the tower.

The park has had a number of controlled burns and accidental forest fires. It gives some sections an almost ghostly appearance.

If you have followed my blog, you may have noticed how much I love the look of the gnarled tree stumps. Bryce was full of them.

Very pretty in the evening light.

But the star of Bryce is the hoodoos. There are miles of them.

They are intricate and seem fragile, but are huge and will probably be here for many thousands of years.

So after shooting from several of the overlooks, I decided to hike down into the canyon. Unfortunately, this was not a common idea. OK, it was just me. That meant heading down a steep "trail" in snow that ranged from my knees to my thighs. Hiking back out took me two hours of hard work, and I think I am in decent shape. No wonder it was just me.

Something I couldn't really see from up top were the rolling hills in the valley. As best I could tell, they were hills of eroded waste from the hoodoos.

From the bottom of the canyon, you could see more differences in the make-up of the towers.

But I think my favorite two pictures were funky trees I ran across. This pine looks like it has lead a very difficult life.

And this one was even more interesting. Those are pine cones at the end of the branches.

The snow was melting in interesting, flaky looking patterns. Very fragile.


And just a few more to finish up.

Bryce is drop dead gorgeous in the winter. The park is almost empty and you can get cheap accommodations. Bring snowshoes, poles and ski pants.

Next stop Canyonlands? Goblin Valley? Monument Valley? What an awesome collection of parks!
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