Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A day around Bryce Canyon

I decided yesterday evening to stay here a day, Bryce Canyon visit or no. It's not like I've had a real difficult couple of days, but more relaxation never hurts... The decision being made, I walked up to the road and called home for a bit, then came back to write a letter and watch the pronghorn and white tail deer graze at dusk.

Morning was a lazy affair. I felt sort of slow and heavy and it was tempting to just stay put all day, but instead I repacked a bit, left my heavy stuff in camp, and took off down the dirt road the seemed to go in a favorable direction. I'm not sure what natural barriers may exist between me and the actual Park boundary, but it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye out for a back entrance of sorts. A quick cell-phone enabled search also revealed a road to a reservoir down there somewhere, but instead of getting too into exact locations and directions, I just figured "Downhill probably means water".

Very nice dirt road.

The road I picked was a good one, it turned out. I rode a few miles through beautiful, airy pine-woods, walked up a loose-gravel incline, then back down into a wide meadow. At a T in the road, I had a strong feeling that one way would lead to the aforementioned reservoir and went for a look. Shortly down a second, nicely compacted dirt trail, was a tiny wooden signpost; "Bryce Canyon", indicating the other arm of the T. Sure enough, after turning around and riding perhaps another mile or so, I came across a gate - the kind passable by hikers and cyclists only. Beyond this, an employee housing area, and the return of pavement. After a few short, steep hills, my road joined up with the main passage through Bryce Canyon National Park. No entry fee for me, thank you very much.

Me, being a sneak.

I've not been in one of the big National Parks since Yellowstone, so I braced myself for a crowd. The roads where quiet enough, but the parking was packed. Busy or not, the view from the tame little fenced off overlook was undeniably amazing. Way down there I'd see a clump of hikers, or a horse and rider. Okay, how do I get down -there-?

I ended up going down the mile-long Navajo trail. Doesn't sound too big, but it's very steep down a twisty snake of switchbacks. When I reached the bottom, I was confronted with a "trail closed, go back the way you came" sign. It was interesting to see the variety of people pumping back up the trail - old and young, everything from classic backpacky looking folks to some middle aged Japanese fellow who didn't understand that it's not cool to play tinny cell-phone music LOUDLY in the midst of a natural wonder.

The crowds, buses, fences, interpretive signs, and the idiot playing music off his cell phone didn't stop this from being special.

Switchbacks on the Navajo Trail.

More switchbacks on the Navajo Trail.

After the toe-bashing trudge down, and the calf-burning one up, I made sure my bike hadn't wandered off, topped up on water, ate some more nutella, and pulled out. During this, I encountered an interesting phenomenon. I came across a line of Asian tourists disgorging from one of those "Asia America" tour buses, and quickly discovered that I could not cross that line. Every time I tried to walk through them, they'd cluster up and prevent it. In the end I just had to wait until every last person had left the bus before I could leave the parking lot. Hmm, that was different. I stopped at the main visitor center on the way out, where I felt oddly compelled to buy a postcard. In my defense, it's a legitimately neat WPA reproduction postcard.

Having seen the essence of Bryce Canyon, I didn't feel I needed to ride way up the road then way back down, so I turned back to camp for some overly complicated soup that didn't turn out well, more deer-watching(Wandering right into my campground while I'm cooking!), a good shit in the woods, and sleep. Pretty awesome day.

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