2010/10/31-11/02: Bryce Point to Rainbow Point – 25 Miles, 3 Days
As we moved from Zion to Bryce on Saturday, there were thunderstorms. This is high and desolate country, and the jagged forks of lightning were spectacular. We did our stint at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center, and got our backcountry permit to start this hike the following day. When we asked about what critters might try to get at our food at night, the ranger told us there had been a single black bear here last year “but he got real ornery and the other ranger had to shoot ‘im.” So all we had to worry about was the accustomed mice, and I was happy to hear the ranger confirm that the rattlers would all be in their dens.
A dead-end road leads along the rim of Bryce Canyon, with pullouts at viewpoints. The ranger advised us to start our hike from the visitors’ center end and hike to the terminus, where we would likely have no difficulty getting a ride back to our car. This was despite the official “no hitch-hiking” in the park. It doesn’t count as hitch-hiking unless you have your thumb out, said our ranger.
So, having organized gear in a warm motel room the night before, we set out southward from Bryce Point on Halloween Sunday. We started with a descent, and continued rolling up and down below the rim for the next two and a half days. Climbing more than descending, we trudged through meadows and forest, and a wide range of canyon life zones. The trail led us over sandy or rocky ridges, with various views of the long western escarpment of Bryce at every turn: sandstone, siltstone and mudstone have been eroded into an intricate wall of hoodoos, ribs, arches, and canyons, stained in a range of warm hues by iron oxide. Some guidebooks advise visitors to see the hoodoos up close in a series of day hikes, but we enjoyed the peaceful views we had, close and distant. We didn’t see another soul.
The challenge was the long and cold nights. It got dark shortly after six, and although sunrise is around seven, it took some time before we dared emerge. The first night was well below freezing, and the second night a little warmer. We carried the water we needed for each day’s travel, since sources were scarce. This was manageable because we knew we’d be camping near water at each day’s end. The middle of the days got pretty hot, so we made major adjustments of clothing during the course of each day.
Emerging to the rim at Rainbow Point, we were almost sad it was over. We soon secured a sociable and interesting ride back to our car with Joe and Cindy from Massachusetts, and were happy to stop at many viewpoints with them. It would be impossible to tire of these landscapes! We had a late lunch at the camp store, where a very demanding ground squirrel tried to insist that Chris break park rules and feed him. When the creature realized Chris was a stickler, he quickly moved on in search of an easier target.
We’ve uploaded a Bryce Canyon Flickr set.