Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mon 18 & Tues 19 April - Bryce Canyon, UT - another mighty national park

Our Monday was pretty easy going with a 4-5 hour drive from Moab to Bryce Canyon. 

As usual we were packed and ready to go earlier than expected but it was easy driving as some stretches were in I-70 at 80mph. 

The countryside varies quite a lot and we stopped at on spot called Ghost Rock, above a canyon known for being an outlaw hangout in the Wild West days. This include the Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy and other famous folk. 

Salina was a town on the map that marked the half way point so we thought we would stop there for coffee. 

On the way we drove through FishLake Forest and seeing snow covered mountains. And of course kept seeing signs for stupid deer ...who fling themselves across the road (Di has a grudge against them from her expensive run in with a deer in a hire car in Vermont in 2013). 

Approaching Salina we had hopes for a diner or cafe for our coffee break but the town was largely dead and not inspiring. So we went to Arby's and Love's where coffee was hot and good and so were the corned beef sliders. 

Stupid us we should have filled up fuel with this cheap petrol price. We didn't but we're fine anyway. 

We then took a series of back roads towards Bryce Canyon through some Mormon Hamlets including one with the great name of Antimony - or Anti Money as we called it. The biggest buildings in the very quiet hamlet was a Tabernacle for followers of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Di was a bit perplexed with one school house which was titled Academy for Young Ladies. Hmmm 

We were soon in Bryce Canyon looking for a late light lunch. Not much was open except the restaurant where we are staying. Ruby's Inn is a monopoly business here and the restaurant was rubbish. We could not find anything we wanted to eat - they had a tired cold looking buffet at $12.99+tax which looked like a rip off. So we opted for a lukewarm bowl of canned soup with a small piece of cornbread for $3.49+tax each. We won't eat here again and it was a sour start for our time here. Tourist trap written all over it. 

Fortunately things got much better. 

Our room was fine, we rested and went out for a very early dinner (5pm) as we were hungry.  We chose the cowboy grill at the Bryce Canyon Resort based on Trip Advisor and we're delighted with our meals and the staff. The ribs Hans ate were soft and falling off the bone and the Flank steak Di ate was perfect and well seasoned. All yummy with good veggies and a baked potato each. We waddled out and vowed to be back tomorrow night. 

Tuesday dawned very crisp and cool -at -1 degrees when we awoke. Ice on the car too.  We put on lots of layers and made sure we had plenty of water for our hike. The air here is very dry and the altitude is high too - always higher than Mount Koziousko in Australia. At least 7,000 ft everywhere. 

We had planned to hike the Fairyland loop but the 500+ metre climb out of the canyon concerned Di so we altered the our plans slightly. Hans would still the full loop but Di would walk the rim with him for the first 4.5km then we would break into separate routes. 

Starting at Sunrise Point was lovely. The views make you go wow and we took way too many photos. Sorry.

Spectacular views over the Bryce Amphitheater as they call it.

All rugged up on the Rim Trail. 

We took about 70 photos of various rock formations. Sorry. But they are remarkable. 

Hiking here is known as "Hike the Hoodoos"  which are the formal names of the rock features here.  Signs are helpfully located along the trail. 

We could see the return trail for the Fairyland Loop at various times. It did look like a long steady climb but also looked awesome. 

At 2,500m the air becomes a bit thinner and Di was puffing a bit on the up hills but we still thought the trail was very good and pretty easy. 

You have to steer well clear of the crumbly edges though. It's obvious how fragile the structures are. This tree is holding part of the edge together. 

We took a break at the start of the descent, at Fairyland Point. 

Here we said our goodbyes and Hans headed downhill. 

Hans was on his way. Almost immediately after Fairyland Point you come to this. A narrow stretch of land which looked like a destination for many visitors wanting a small sample of hiking.

Hans found his trail obvious and easy to follow although not always simple hiking. The Fairyland Loop Trail was wide and well defined all way through and there would be almost impossible to get lost. At least in fair weather.

Lots of great views (and photos of course). 

The below was the most narrow section of the whole Fairylands Loop Trail. Hans didn't find it scary as the drops on either side were not that dramatic. However, as He arrived on the other side, there was a French couple waiting there.

The bloke, who was big and taller than Hans suffered from vertigo. He asked how long this narrow tongue of land went for. It looked that he had attempted to cross it but had to abandon that thought. In fact, what you see in the picture below was pretty much all there was to it and I told him that. He still didn't appear that convinced when I left them there. Perhaps they later returned the same way.

On his next break Hans gives Bryce Canyon the thumbs up. 

The visitor's map lists 2 attractions along Fairylands Loop Trail (apart from the Fairyland Canyon itself which the trail circles). The Tower Bridge name was obvious. 

After Tower Bridge the trail started it's climb - up and up...

 And up...

There were still pockets of snow in various places along the trail. Here is was almost next to the trail so Hans walked down there and picked up some.

And then Hans was almost back at the Rim Trail. This sign is some 100 meters away from there.

In summary, Fairyland Loop Trail was the best hike in the U.S. for Hans during this trip. They described the hike as "strenuous" in the Visitor's Guide but Hans labelled it "hard".

While Hans descended Di continued along the rim but after a mile the trail basically disappeared. She was following one set of footprints... Hmmm. She walked for about a mile on her own until she lost her "trail" and doubled back to Fairyland Point.  As you can see below the "trail" is not obvious. 

Footprints stopped about here. 

Later Di found out that the trail she intended was a winter ski trail rather than a hike. Hence it disappears when the snow goes. 

From Fairyland Point Di walked along the road until she reached the bike path that headed down into town then happily wandered along for the next 2-3 km, passing into Dixie National Forest. On the whole way she met only 2 bike riders.  Lovely walk - 11km in total. 

Back by midday at Ruby's Inn Di ate a can of soup for lunch in the room (better and cheaper than yesterday!). Just before 1pm she decided a swim and spa visit would be great and took herself to the indoor pool. Hans was only 20 minutes or so behind her.  The pool complex is in another building but is large, warm and very nice. 

After a few hours rest we decided to go to Sunset Point but were a bit early for the full sunset. The views were still fantastic as the sun and shadows were quite different to what we saw earlier today. 

This lovely bird is a local woodpecker and he was quite active still at nearly 6pm. 

Dinner was back at the Byce Canyon Resort where we had decided last night that we would try the local Virgin River Trout tonight. The food was even better than last night. We wiped our plates clean.  Delicious.  We found out the executive chef had some serious credentials and was from Michigan .  He's good!

Full and happy we returned to our room and watched some ice hockey on the TV. After all it is the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Good night. 



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