Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunday, Sep 25, 2011 at 15:25

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

TRIP DAY 15
Monday 19th September, 2011

As mentioned in the previous blog we had a half day driving and stopping enroute to Bryce from Page today, however we had to time the day carefully to allow time to get through the main sights of Bryce before nightfall. We could only get one night's accommodation but had been very lucky to get the top place in town - Ruby's.

Everywhere we stay, we try to get a room with a fridge because we are carrying an esky with freezer blocks to keep a bit of milk to make breakfasts, and a range of fruit, salad ingredients and cold meats etc for lunch wraps. Funny enough, many of the fridges don't have freezers, but ALL motels have ice machines - it's the American way. They also have hideous filter coffee machines - yuck! We have bought our own ground beans and filter papers to try to improve on that but we are craving a real coffee!!

Nowhere other than Vegas can you get a room with separate beds for the kids so they complain about sharing, and Chardae ends up kicking Leah etc. The mobile phone service is dismal, so unless we get wifi in our hotel (most do but often terribly slow) we can't do our blog updates easily so that's one of the reasons we're a bit behind. David is now preferring to at least do a little daily blog on the iphone using the email blog system which only uses photos we've taken on his iphone so its not as good as I'd like (I'm a bit of a perfectionist, it's so annoying).

So, back to the story of our Bryce visit... the whole drive from Kanab to Bryce passes through delightful rural areas with quaint cottages and some ranches in green valleys set against a mountainous backdrop - pretty nice! Before reaching Bryce the road passes directly through a spectacular region called Red Canyon on one side and Dixie State Forest on the other (beautiful RV camping in shady forests). But nothing prepared us for our arrival into Bryce which was an enormous tourist town overflowing with tour buses, RVs and people from the 7 corners of the globe! We quickly checked in, pleased that we were so close to the park (1 mile from entrance) and went directly to the ranger station to plan our afternoon. We have found that starting by determining the kids junior ranger program requirements we get to see the best of the parks and the rangers are so helpful at timing and advising where we can go, and what to do in the given time we have. So, for Bryce we were told to avoid the shuttle for this afternoon and drive ourselves the full length of the park for 18 miles to it's highest elevation at Rainbow Point (9115ft/2778m) and then drive all the way back , pulling off at the many marked scenic points for views over the rim at the lookouts. Unfortunately, there was not going to be time for hikes, as we had to get to a meeting point at 5pm for a guided ranger program.

We had rain and cold at the higher elevation then heat again at the sunset point at 8000ft/2438m.

The kids got all the attention by the ranger and we all learned lots about the geology of the area and enjoyed the information as we ambled along the ridge. This park is all about the incredible natural formations called "hoodoos" that have been formed by unique weathering and erosion due to the climate (it snows here). Its a unique and beautiful sight.

After our busy day, the kids completed their workbooks on our way out of the park and had them checked at the ranger station where they were sworn in and received their badges. The gift shop also had junior ranger hats for $7.99 so as they were starting to collect so many of these badges I figured we'd pin the badges to the hats. They are so proud of these hats with ranger badges showing all the parks where they've been and it's a great talking point for them to interact with other Americans who know about the program and want to talk.

It was late by the time we headed out for dinner so we hit a huge line-up in our hotels restaurant but it was very efficient and we were seated quickly. Just a buffet like Sizzler, and the kids love it. I've discovered I like cornbread but all other American food is awful and it is so disappointing to feel ourselves getting fatter! My loose comfy jeans I packed are tight and uncomfortable now :(


TRIP DAY 16
Tuesday 20th September, 2011

Today started with a great treat for the girls - horse riding! For $55/person we had a private guide to take us on a 1.5hr ride throughb thr forest and out to the ridge of another section of the canyon. The girls had full sized horses with western saddles and this was Chardae's first trail ride, infact first ride off-leash so she was very excited. The horses had to trot up the step rocky hills and we had to lean well back to help the horses down the steep slopes and nobody fell off so that was good! We had a wonderful family outing and it was a great way to enjoy Bryce. None of us wanted to leave but we had seen all of it, except doing the walks but it was so hot it didn't really faze us as we knew there would be more hiking in Zion.

The drive to Zion was meant to only take 2-3 hours but we encountered heavy traffic (RVs and buses) and road works so stopped at the Checkerboard Mesa and had lunch from the goodies in our esky (turkey and salad wraps).

The drive from here down the massive switchbacks and slopes of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway through the east entrance along Ut9 was incredibly breathtaking. The drive itself shows you the entire best features of the park and is enough in itself to make a Zion trip worthwhile if you don't have time to stop and visit. Although there is a lodge within the park (beautiful) and lots of lodging on the fringe in the quaint township of Springdale that exits purely for Zion hikers, it was fully booked out and we had to drive a further 30miles onwards to a horrible town called Hurricane to our accommodation. Before we did that however, we had to stop at the Zion ranger centre to get ourselves oriented, get the junior ranger program booklets and plan tomorrow. Like Grand Canyon and Bryce, Zion also operates a free shuttle bus service to move people throughout the park. This is a very good system with stops every few miles and connecting hikes between stops. Problem was choosing which hikes for just a one day visit... but that would be decided tonight over dinner.

The Virgin River is a feature of the area and on our way to Hurricane we passed through the tiny outpodt toen called Virgin, noted by a very odd asortment of buildings outside the Virgin Trading Post. Curiosity got the better of us so we stopped. What a laugh we had - thanks to Donna (who died for 3omins and spoke to her mother alast year) and the tasting of 10 different chilli relishes followed by tastings of icecream. I choose the Prickly Pear Cactus, it was unlike any flavour I've ever experienced and the prickly pear cactus is the purple fruit on the cactus in the photo.

We finally arrived in Hurricane at 5pm only to find our booking didn't exist and they had no vacancies - I though David was going to have a breakdown but the lovely Indian owner who was on the front desk quickly solved it and rang another hotel and secured the same rate for the next two nights phew! However, I had to call Orbitz who we'd done the online booking with to get a refund as we'd paid. I got no apology and got a bit upset with him when he tried to charge me another $35 to find another room. After all that, our other hotel was pretty good, had a fridge, nice staff, included breakfast and was cheap $79. It also had an indoor pool but although we were hot it was too late and we needed to sort out dinner. David got a headache from the stress of it and feel asleep so we let him be, whilst I looked up reviews on TripAdvisor (my new favourite website) for where to eat and choose JB's a cheap buffet the kids loved. This was our cheapest meal of the trip so far at $36 including tax (no tipping required). That cheered up David so we got through the night ok ready to tackle Zion tomorrow.

The only drama was that I gave myself a terrible burn across three fingerss of my left hand from touching the hotplate of the coffee machine back in our room. It was the hottest thing. It was excruciating but I spent the night treating it with running cold water and dunking it in icewater and when I slwpt I wrapped my fingers in a facecloth soaked with iced water and in the morning smothered it in paw paw cream - problem solved despite the brown tinge and numbness.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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