“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aesop
Bryce Canyon National Park
Ellie and I took off from Capitol Reef NP just before 1:00 p.m. We made it to the NPS sign before the park entrance to Bryce Canyon in two hours. Either we were hauling ass, or GPS and traffic worked well with us. Between both parks was a little over one hundred miles. When I look at the map, we hit some nice twisties, which is motorcyclist-speak for ‘sweet corners and curves to test out our technical skillset’.
The terrain was pretty much high desert. Wasn’t much to write home about. The day was beautiful though. Gorgeous blue skies as the backdrop for some of the picture, nary a red rock within miles of our location. Again, we made the trek between the park in 2 hours. How did I know that you ask, or maybe you didn’t? Because of all the timestamps and metadata in each of the pictures I took in the parks and between.
We pull into the quaint little town of Bryce, Utah, just outside the entrance of the park around 2:30 p.m. Still plenty of light to peruse the park with. We pull into the little alcove for the National Park sign. There were tons of kids and parents wandering around aimlessly. I wait patiently for the timing to be clear for me to release my little Kraken. Once I see people dissipating, I bring the little monster out. Up to the sign, she waddles. I take the leash off and snap pics. I hear the ‘awwws’ and ‘ohhhhhhs’ from some of the people bearing witness to our ritual to get proof we were somewhere – or bear minimum, at least Ellie was there, for all we know, I was nowhere near these places…
I load Ellie back into her comfy taco and off we gallivant to the National Park portal. We met a live body in the NP Entrance booth. I again get to proudly sport my annual pass and driver’s license. Ellie yells at the hapless staff member, as they are welcoming us to the park. I think I asked if they had a no-trailer policy, and they didn’t but suggested I drop it off at the Visitor Center parking lot, for ease of parking.
I took them up on the suggestion. Found a nice spot on the outer edge of the parking lot to plant the trailer. In less than 10 minutes, I fully disengaged the trailer from the SUV and secured it. ‘We are free!’ We follow the masses into the park. The red rocks were brilliant everywhere. This truly was a decadent park, judging by the entry alone.
My strategy for this park was to go all the way to the bitter end and then take our sweet time coming back to the Visitor Center parking lot. We blazed onwards to Yovimpa Point. The weather was nice and cool, below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I could afford to get out of the vehicle for short periods to snap some pictures. There were some trails to vistas up there. The trails were short.
I parked in a spot I felt seemed away from the crowds so that people wouldn’t possibly molest Ellie in the vehicle. I put the windows down a bit. Considering there was still visible snow everywhere, I felt safe leaving her in the car, as a good pet parent should consider. I trek off down one of the vistas. I sense, based on the drive to this point, that there will be many pictures taken.
My first assessment is not wrong. So much to see, so much red to capture, some with a blanket of snow. The contrast of the red rocks, the white snow, and the deep blue skies. Dare I say, feels so American? Or any other nation that uses those colors in their flags, like Puerto Rico, Cuba, France, Russia, North Korea, Philippines, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Netherlands, ughhhh, you get the idea…
Once I had snapped the pictures from the vistas offered at this point, it was time to giddy up down the road. Retracing my steps and gaining the necessary perspective on the drive up, of that which seems picturesque. It seemed that the drive back towards the Visitor Center was plagued with driving for less than 3 minutes, to the next pullout for more pictures. The thing about this park is that the parking areas are spacious, and many allot for camper-trailer or bus spaces.
Each viewpoint offered a unique perspective of the natural erosion eating away at the autonomous plateaus of old. Heading directly south to this point was even advised, as I was reading about the park while writing about this adventure 5 weeks prior. It also was the highest altitude point in the park, at over 9100 feet (about twice the elevation of Denver, Colorado). This area has lots of juicy information, being a part of the Grand Staircase. Reds, greys, whites, and browns are the natural colors in this terrain.
I remember starting my college days hearing about a title of software called Bryce, which was used for 3D modeling. It was the go-to title back in those days. The name of that software brought to my attention this park that I was finally in. Walking around, seeing, listening to, smelling, deep into the wilderness of this amazing park. The connection of that software, even though I never used it, finally came to fruition. I was fully enthralled by this park.
Of the five National Parks in southern Utah, this one and Canyonlands were by far my favorite, so far. There was one more to get to, Zion, which was next. Ellie and I hit a really large parking lot at Fairview Point. We parked in one of the camper parking areas. There was snow still on the ground, it was shady, and it was far away from people. I pulled Ellie out, along with her pickle. I also grabbed her collapsible water bowl, so she could lap away her thirst.
As soon as she got as much water as she wanted, I threw the pickle for her to chase. Even though she didn’t fully bring it back to me, I saw her rolling around in the big snow pile near us. She was having a blast being free of her taco and being in the coolness of the snow. She would do rolls and flips atop the snow, then stand up. As she stood up, she would smile with her tongue hanging out. The bliss on her face was supremely satisfying. She was happy. I was happy she was happy. She was happy I was happy she was happy. You see how that cycle goes. It almost passes for an Ouroboros.
I would try to get her interested in throwing her pickle, but she was more at peace being in the snow. Who was I to argue with her? I pulled out the cooler from the boot (that’s Euro speak for the back of the vehicle) with our summer sausage, cheese, and other odds and end cool snacks. That was the thing that drew Ellie’s attention from the celestial snow she was currently captivated with. She would come over grab a piece of meat or cheese, then back off to the snow.
Once I felt she had tinkled, had her fill with snow, felt good with the exercise time I gave her, and enjoyed some snacks with me, I placed her back in the taco. She was a bit muddied up from the snow and dirt she ignorantly planted her feet down in. I went over to the viewpoint connected to the parking lot and snapped more pictures. I cannot put into words how beautiful this park was.
Once I had nabbed more photographs, we carried on down the road, steadily, though very slowly, making our way to the Visitor Center. This Park deserves more attention as well as the trails offered to walk through this mystical landscape. The erosion kind of reminded me of an earlier trip into Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. I had been there a couple of times but never had been deep into the interior of the park. There is a part in the park called The Pinnacles. What I was seeing here in Bryce was akin to the erosion of the rock, though the pinnacles looked like stakes pointing upwards.
As I am writing this, I am finding myself asking more questions about the pertinence of this area. Who lived in this area before it was ‘discovered’ and turned into a national treasure? Lo and behold, the NPS has at least supplied a small blurb about that very fact HERE. I see some of the same nations represented here as I had seen down at Grand Canyon NP, earlier this year.
As an interesting aside, I find myself looking over cliffs, in the far-off distance, imagining the Indigenous peoples amassed there. Sitting on their horses, standing in their regalia, or simply surveying the distance, from this cliff. In much the same way Hollywood has interpreted hill people surrounding an enemy in a valley, in the peaks and cliffs to show force. I love imagining them being so proud of how they took care of their planet, more so than we do, when I see fucking garbage on a trail because some moron feels it’s too much to have to carry their shit back to civilization, not fifty yards away.
Ok, enough of that aside. Ellie and I make so many pitstops, I capture 414 pictures in 3 hours and 5 minutes. 414 pictures in 185 minutes (about 3 hours) equal 2.24 pictures per minute. 18 miles to Yovimpa and Rainbow points from the Bryce Canyon Lodge (aka Visitor Center). 36 miles total with 414 pictures to date. That is approximately 11.5 pictures PER mile of this park.
Any way that you boil this down, it turns out to be a ton of pictures. Trust me, I don’t just go around with the shutter button on auto. This means the subject in mind, at that moment, was thinking about, mentally contrived in a way to present it to others. Landscape or portrait, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios, more or less light, and macro or wide-angle shots. Each frame was contemplated, regardless of how quickly they may have been captured. This Park, as stated previously, was decadent with great pictures to be taken within its confines.
Bryce Canyon Visitor Center
Ellie and I meandered back down to the Visitor Center to retrieve the trailer and take a minor pause. The Center was close to shutting down for the day, so I took the opportunity to chat with a couple of available Park Rangers at an information booth outside. The first one was an older tall woman. She wore her brimmed hat proudly. I inquire about the No-Dogs-On-Trails policy that seems universal. I prompted her with what I thought part of the reason for the policy, because of stupid pet parents not keeping full control of their fur babies. No, astoundingly, the ONLY reason this woman proffered about the fucking policy was that the critters in the park would be affected.
I re-worded my expectation of what played a part in all of this, and no — I was fucking rebuffed with, ‘we don’t wish to induce anxiety in the woodland creatures’ argument that we are all so very fond of. My mind was ablaze with a shitton of ‘WHAT THE FUCKS?’ as I did ask her if that was the ONLY reason. Sure, as shitting, it was, according to her. This NPS employee was not very knowledgeable about that aspect of her job and maybe ought not to work at an information booth with that simplistic of an understanding.
The only reason Ellie cannot stomp around paths in the National Park Service system is that then the woodland creatures would need fucking talk therapy about the anxiety that my dog, and others, mind you, would have bestowed upon them. Little Squirrel Jones and his family would not have any night sweats worrying about the earlier encounter with a(n) (fill in your favorite carnivore) fucking fox, cougar, lynx, bear, wolf, hawk, eagle, condor, vulture, owl, you get the picture, but our fucking pets were viewed more as a menace to nature. Mentally, I was livid.
Thankfully, the other, squat and short Park employee intervened. She provided more detailed information as to how the decisions are made. These come from each Park’s Superintendent. They have ecology studies ran and experts afford their theories. This made far more sense to me than ‘FEELINGS.’ She did inform me that there are a few NP’s that do allow pets on trails. The alternative would be to visit State Parks, (which I already do with rabidity) and National Forests. Both of those generally allow pets as long as they are (actually connected) on a leash no longer than six feet.
I felt far more satisfied with the second reasonable Ranger’s argument about the NPS Pet Policies. Once done with that conversation, I proceeded to the bathroom and did my business under the shadow of a male-only venue. Once that was done, I hopped in the vehicle, checked my cell phone for service, and popped in Zion National Park. With that loaded up on the phone, I sent off a couple of (the many) pictures I had freshly taken to some friends.
I connected the trailer, made sure Ellie’s thirst and/or hunger were sated. We then set out, listening to the squeaking of the trailer high rubbing on the ball. Podcast set, destination set, doggie in the taco, driver in the seat, engine firing on all 6 cylinders. Time to roll, and a-rollin we did commit to. We were, but a short 80 minutes away.
On To Zion National Park
The drive between the parks was cool. So much similar terrain throughout much of Utah. I had wanted for a very long time to see southern Utah. I appreciated the disparateness in some areas to the molten red rocks all around. There was water, vegetation, trees, wildlife, snow, and I am sure there may have even been a few Mormons traveling where we were. Lord knows there were enough tourists. Yet again, thankful for the delayed indecision of a woman to cast me aside in the early spring, so that I could enjoy this with probably the least number of tourists possible.
Again, the travel between both parks was short. We made it to the eastern entrance of Zion in good time. The sun was still up. I had passed a couple of possible campgrounds good enough for Ellie and myself. I forged on, into the park. Ellie had to get her picture taken next to the NPS sign. She was whining about it the whole way. She loves being yanked out of her comfortable taco, to be dropped on the ground, to being bossed around explicitly to stay the fuck put so that daddy can get the perfect shot. Once daddy’s frustration has allayed, then it’s the short march back to the vehicle to be lifted into the taco. Yeah, Ellie fucking loved that.
Setting Up Camp – Closing
As soon as I captured a handful of pics of the tender dog, we turned around. I wanted to use as much of the daylight as possible to enjoy seeing WHERE I plant my tent for the night. The campgrounds were a mere 2 miles east of the sign and entrance into the park. To me, that just made sense. Once I figured out that the cashier for the campground was across the street in the small café, huge gift shop, I walked across and plopped down the necessary funds for the night stay.
We got as remote a site as we could, which was maybe two hundred feet from the road. There were other campers around. It wasn’t busy, but it was busy enough. The night was beautiful. The kind of night that a hooded sweatshirt just feels comforting. I backed in the trailer into our parking spot, unloaded all the camping gear, and set up shop. Took no more than 30 minutes for our night-time home to be ready.
Once I had that completed, I walked across the street to buy some completely unnecessary snack food and flavored (non-alcoholic) beverages. I brought it back to the campsite and made a couple of sandwiches, ate my snack food, fed Ellie her num-nums, and drank water with her. Once all that was completed, I decided a shower was in order.
I drove over to the laundry/showers building as it was getting late. I had taken notice that there was no cell service where we were at. There was Wi-Fi, but it didn’t reach too far. Once I had scouted out my shower stall, I decided then that I NEEDED Wi-Fi. So, I walked out into the laundry area and interrupted a couple of young ladies talking, to demand my first-world problem be solved! “Excuse me, what is the Wi-Fi password?’ BOOM! First world problem resolved in one fell swoop. I did the polite thing and thanked them for letting me impose upon them.
I showered, which felt soooo good. I took my time staying in the building, to benefit from the Wi-Fi. I sent off some more pics, checked in on some friends through a multitude of chat apps. Once I was done dilly-dallying, I got back into the vehicle, and made the 300-foot trek to the campsite. Ellie had done a fantastic job protecting the car from inside the comfort of her taco.
And here is where we close this day’s adventure. Hitting 4 of the 5 main National Park treasures of southern Utah was fascinating. So much terrain, yet it seemed that I traveled so lightly. I drove plenty in Bryce Canyon, but other than that, each park was merely a couple of hours from the other. The terrain was great, the podcasts were touching parts of me never investigated without the aid of a therapist on a chair nearby. Until I add the following day’s adventure in this lethargic, ongoing LoA project, I’ve embarked on, be well.
As always, I welcome any constructive criticism, or complementary theories, analogies, anecdotes. I would love to hear if you find these edicts of challenge useful or utter horseshit. Similar to the ’90s when the catchphrase, ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ was hailed as a marketing genius. I need to come up with one that invites you to either subscribe, via WordPress or email, like posts, or even comment on posts. Immediate feedback is useful for anyone. Thank you very much for reading through all of this drivel. Be well, stay safe, AND stay sane!