Friday, May 13, 2011

A trip to Bryce Canyon

Julie and I were going to make a trip to St George, Utah back around Thanksgiving to celebrate Julie's birthday. Unfortunately, we had blizzard warnings throughout Utah for both of our travel days. We put the trip on hold.

Now that mud season is upon us, we decided to do our trip to St George and add on two days in Bryce Canyon and one day in Zion National Park. As always, I take a lot of photos, so I am breaking down the trip into chunks. Here's Bryce Canyon.

If you haven't been to Bryce Canyon, you should add it to your must-see list. The main attraction is a giant amphitheater (not really a canyon at all) full of rock spires called Hoodoos. The rock is a gorgeous mix of whites, pinks, yellows, reds, and everything in between.

If you travel further south into the park (18 miles long) you can see another amphitheater, but this one is a bit less spectacular.

It is such an interesting mix of shapes and colors that it is hard to capture. Even if you sat in one place, shooting in one direction, your photos would change dramatically with the sky and the position of the sun.

Some of my favorite areas had interracial hoodoos, with the light pinks and the reds living hand in hand. Of course, they don't actually have hands, but you get the point.

The south end of the park is around 9110 feet above sea level. For those who have skied Park City, that's pretty close to the top of Deer Valley. So, even in mid-May, the hiking trails at this end were all closed because of snow. We got lucky and had two gorgeous days. Right after we left, they had another big snowstorm. So much for being 50 miles from Arizona.

The hoodoos wear down over thousands of years, leaving sand. Sometimes you find patterns of sand that look like they were created by an artist. Is Bryce a Christo project?

Other times it is the hoodoo's shape that is interesting. They range from sheer walls to tiny, thin towers. If you were ever at the beach and made drippy towers with wet sand, you could be a hoodoo master.

Others were almost like giant knife blades, thin towers and walls with edges honed by the years of wind and water.

Every shape and color and yet they all looked beautiful.

And on to another favorite of mine, the trees. It is hard for a tree to grow at elevation. It's harder to grow at elevation in barren soil that was just recently a rock. Now imagine that barren soil is always disappearing, washing down hill. It makes for a tough life and some interesting trees.

This little guy was growing in a big hill of sand from eroded hoodoos. I wonder if it was ever standing up or always just drifted down the hill.

At the top of a hill, you get little water and your roots are always getting exposed.

And some just look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I would guess this poor thing was 20+ years old.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife in Bryce. There were a fair number of Pronghorn, but I never got a great picture. There were the deer that you felt like you might have to kick out of the way. Beggars.

But my favorite animal was the endangered Utah Prairie Dog. We only saw one of the bigger colonies as we were leaving and we didn't stop, but this one guy was quite the ham. Here his is doing the well known "on alert" pose.

And more relaxed, but still not trusting me.

OK, now we are getting relaxed enough the drag along the ground for a good belly rub.

Bryce Canyon is a fantastic place to visit, especially this time of year. It is warm enough to get good hiking in, but the crowds are still two or three weeks off.

On to Zion.
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