So we made it out of the Narrows, and with that, our days in Zion National Park come to a close. Under normal circumstances I'd say this was a shame, but these aren't normal circumstances. We still have two National Parks to go on the way to a week in Colorado to celebrate a good friend's wedding, so if we're going to leave Zion, might as well do it on a high note, and if you've been following along the last several posts, we're definitely coming out on top. Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park, so after our Narrows and rodeo adventure and a late night arrival and camp setup, there was no doubt that sleep was going to be no problem at all.
And it wasn't…after a meal of delicious hot link ramen and a bottle of wine over a stubborn campfire of course.
We awoke the next morning to the smell of fresh pine and morning dew. I looked out the tent window and got my first glimpse of our environment as it was way too late and dark to see where and what were in for when we got in the night before. I almost felt like I was in the familiar Sierras…sitting in the shade of pine needles, brisk morning air that coupled perfectly with a steaming cup of coffee as the final remnants of the night fog transformed into evaporation on its way over the hillside behind our campsite. It was also this moment when we discovered the evidence of what seemed to be a large storm that had made its way out of the area no more than a few hours before we arrived - the puddles, the damp dirt, the water dripping down the embankment behind the campsite.
In any case, we only had one day allotted here so decided to make the best of it by getting as deep into the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon as we could in half a day. We did a bit of research and settled on the Navajo trail, a loop that would take us deep into the canyon and back up again over the course of about 4 or 5 miles, and, well, I'll just jump right into it…while Zion National Park's formations were insanely awe-inspiring and magnificent…these were just…just...weird! Where the sentiment in Zion was "this is justinsane!," the sentiment in Bryce Canyon was, what the heck are these!??
We stood at the rim perplexedly staring at the strangest natural structures that perhaps exist. Sandstone spires that reach from dozens of feet to hundreds of feet into the sky, all originating at the base of a canyon that seems to be fairly well guarded from the elements. It's like God was hauling a God-sized tractor trailer full of soft serve ice cream cones and s/he jackknifed at the top of this canyon, projecting all of its contents into this golden valley. But then upon closer inspection and deduction from the direction of the looming thunderstorm just on the horizon, you realize that this canyon seems a perfect corridor for heavy desert winds and rushing water from the plateaus above. But still…how do they get to look like this??
In any case, we descended into the valley and twisted and turned through miles of this madness. The way down was a brisk and mild pace, stopping every here and there to catch different angles of the weirdness from within. Granted we were now looking from the bottom up at them rather than from the top down, and it just got more bizarre with each step. It's an extremely alien landscape that served as just another reminder that the tricks up Mother Nature's sleeves are endlessly varied, but all equal reminders of our place amongst this vast unexplainable madness. After the steep climb up right through the middle of it, we hopped back in the car, got on the road, picked up some coffee and ice cream next to an old rusted German car just outside of Bryce (dunno...) , and off we went, hoping to get to Moab that evening to check out the Arches in the morning.
Thing is, we miscalculated how far it actually was and decided to do a bit of sight seeing on the way…but how could you NOT stop when there're signs pointing out Indian carvings on a sandstone wall just off the side of the road (which, by the way, had me convinced that aliens existed back in their day...I mean, click here, look at these drawings...)? So we drove and drove and drove and drove and the landscape began to noticeably change from the warm sandswept orange hue to a very sterile and, well, freaky white tones…the sort of environment that you look at and can't help but think there's no way anything out here can sustain life! It was an almost apocalyptic feel - just a lot of HUUUUGEEE white barren sandy nothingness.
We finally started to close in on Moab, but by the time we got there, it was almost midnight and our main goal was finding something to eat…we figured we'd splurge on our first real meal since beginning this trip. We pulled up to the first open establishment we can find, parked right in front, and as we were ditching the smelly hiking gear for a spritz of Axe deodorant and fresh socks, a slightly disheveled man walked up to us with a message - not to park right in front of the bar as the police just wait outside, preying on people who walk out and get in their cars to leave. He then conveniently proceeded to tell us exactly where to park, which was essentially about two blocks and and a few turns away. I found this particularly odd that a local, who sees a truck full of gear and two obvious out of towners, is leading us directly somewhere for our safety. It might be the L.A. in me, but I couldn't help but feel he was basically just leading us to a spot that perhaps a few of his friends might know about, giving him the perfect alibi that he was at the same bar we were.
I didn't feel comfortable with this arrangement, so we just got back in the car and looked for another place…problem is, it was late and the options were slim. We were luckily able to find a spot, Frankie D's Bar & Grill, and when we walked into a pool bar manned by a heavily tattooed bartender blasting Korn, we knew that this was the place for us…there was no way this bacon-cheese-jalapeno burger with a side of Negro Modelo was going to disappoint, and it didn't.
It was too late to head into Arches National Park and risk not finding a campsite, so after a quick photo opp with the Gonzo Inn sign (the Hunter S. Thompson fanboy in me geeked out a bit…), we opted to camp at one of the small private campgrounds along the Colorado River just outside Moab. We popped open a few brews, started setting up camp, and we sat down to finally relax and let the day wind down. As I was wrapping my ankle that I must have tweaked somewhere along the way, I noticed a thing…I asked my friend for his flashlight, pointed it at the thing and realized we had just set up camp, loudly, on a site that already had a tent set up, it was just tucked away behind a thicket of trees.
We couldn't help but laugh and feel bad at the same time, but the feel bad part fell away after a few beers and the realization that no one was in the tent…we picked up our tent while it was still assembled and just dragged it across the way to an open site.
We woke up the next morning, struck camp, and after a bit of deliberation, opted to skip Arches National Park. We were scheduled to make it all the way to Loveland, Colorado by nightfall where our friend was expecting us, so we had to decide between a 6 hour hike into Arches or making our way into Colorado to spend some time in Rocky Mountain National Park before heading into the front range. We figured we had plenty of desert and nothing was going to top Zion and Bryce, so let's mix things up a bit…let's do this Colorado thing…
So below is a selection of images from this part of the trip, and if you missed the first few parts of this “3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag" saga, just click HERE to go to the beginning. And if you're ready to move onto Part 6, "They Could Have Been Serial Killers," click HERE.
Til' next time...