Bryce Canyon National Park

Fairyland Trail
Wednesday, April 24We arrived at Bryce early enough on Tuesday to get a pretty good site in the one open campground. It is all first come first served, so we were not sure anything would be available. It fills every night. Sunny and warm is the weather, with afternoon clouds and some wind. In the morning we plan to hike the 8.5 mile Fairyland Trail. We hiked this once before in 2012, but the heat that day, and the 1300’ elevation gain made the second half of the hike a real trudge.It was much better on Wednesday morning as we set out on the hike. Mid-70’s is predicted, but the last quarter of the hike will feel like high 80’s – all uphill and exposed with no shade. Mary thought this was a little out of her hiking range for today, so we agreed to start the hike at Fairyland Point and walk it to Sunrise Point back up on the rim, about 5.5 miles in. From there, Mary could catch a shuttle back to camp and I could continue along the rim trail that loops back 3 miles to the parking area. It’s a long addition, but I really wanted to do the entire loop.We started down the trail around 8:30. The sun was well up and many of the formations glowed from reflected light. It was a pretty quick decent into the first canyon, except for all the stops we tend to make. The views all along this stretch are great. The trail is wide, firm and easy to walk for the most part. A little rain changes things considerably, turning the solid ground to mush. The formations of course give Fairyland it’s name, but to me It’s more like the Flintstones in what they remind me of. Some areas do resemble castles or fortresses though. The trail keeps dropping into the canyon and as we reached the bottom, we could see water flowing down the wash. Ponderosa Pine was growing here and a quick sniff of the bark revealed it’s vanilla-like aroma. Formations continue to pop-out of the landscape. We were walking at their base looking up now. Soon enough the trail rises again. In fact it does this repeatedly as it winds in and out of one amphitheater after another. The elevation change of 1300′ I’m sure does not take in consideration of the many up’s and down’s of this trail. The landscape opened up more after awhile and more complex formations appeared. The trail really started climbing now in the last couple of miles. It was getting hot too, but afternoon winds and some cloud cover helped cool us as we climbed. I learned later the far-off mountain that had been playing hide and seek, was Navajo Mountain. It is very clear today.Eventually we passed the Tower Bridge formation below. Earlier hikes here, we dropped down to a spur trail to hike to it’s base. Not this time.When the “Chinese Wall” came into view. I knew we were getting close to the end. Just a last long rise into and among towering formations to get us to the rim again. By looking at my pictures here, you might think we had the trail to ourselves. Far from it. By this time, a constant stream of visitors was coming down the trail. There were so many coming by – some I’d seen earlier doing the loop – I stopped saying hi to them. Just too many. But that’s to be expected in our national parks these days.Up on the rim at Sunrise Point again, we came to the trail junction, Mary went her way back to camp, and I continued along the Rim Trail back to the Fairyland parking area. Little did I know the trail brushes right by the campground we are in. We could have started and finished the trail right there, but that would have meant Mary would’ve had to do the entire 8.5. Right now I was wishing I didn’t have to do it either.This part of the Rim Trail to the parking area goes up and down a few hundred feet a couple of different times. It was hot and my legs were really feeling it, but some of the high views from the rim were pretty nice. Thankfully I reached the end of the trail. I’d taken Mary’s spare water when we split, and it was good I had. Mine ran out about a quarter mile before the end. This hike was actually more enjoyable this time around. The cooler temperatures and nice breeze most of the day were key. We have another day in the park tomorrow. Afternoon thundershowers are predicted and we are thinking of touring the canyon overlooks for the 13 miles of road that are open. Should be fun.

Bryce Canyon National Park – Rim Overlooks
Wednesday, April 25After the long hike yesterday, we were inclined not to be too active today. We spent the morning processing images and trying to catch up on the blogs. Only some of which I actually accomplished. After we had a little lunch, I suggested we go out to the canyon rim overlooks. Thunder showers were predicted for the afternoon, but clouds had been steadily moving in since mid-morning. It was pretty well clouded over by the time we left the campground, It seemed like it might have been too late for good light already. I wasn’t expecting much at the viewpoints. We drove first to Sunrise Viewpoint. This is the first and most visited of the viewpoints, once entering the park, and it is also a really grand view. I was happy to see that, while clouds covered us along the rim, there was still plenty of breaks over the formations. Verga was falling from isolated thunderheads that slowly crossed the canyon in front of us. This really worked out well for our entire trip along the rim. Despite the threatening sky, dozens of hikers continued to stream down the Queens Garden Trail, and linger on top at the overlooks. At Sunset Point, cold fat raindrops fell occasionally, then the first peel of thunder echoed across the park. It was pretty amazing how quickly the place cleared out after that first crack. The ranger we were talking with didn’t seem to mind much, so we stayed around too and had the viewpoint to ourselves for a short time. Since it was clouding up so much more, we decided to skip Inspiration Point and drive out to the furthest open viewpoint at Natural Bridge. We continued along Highway 63 (the rime drive), but discovered the road was no longer closed at the 12 mile mark. It must have just opened this morning. We stopped briefly at some of the turnouts that had views to check weather conditions along the cliff face on our way to Rainbow Point – the new end of the road. It is another 1000’ higher there than at Sunrise Point and as we got higher, snow started appearing on the roadsides. Rain showers pummeled us as we got closer, and soon turned nearly to sleet. It was another passing shower though, because when we reached Rainbow Point, it was still wet, but clearing up.  The views were spectacular and sunshine was occasionally breaking through. The orange cliffside would light-up while rain showers drifted by. Ravens seemed tp have their areas staked out at each of the viewpoints. Another round of rain soon began and we took that as our queue to start back down the ridge. On the way down, we stopped at two of the viewpoints we skipped on the way up. At Natural Bridge, we stopped long enough to see a brief moment of sunshine cross the formation, brightening it just enough. Our last stop was Farview Point. After walking the area, we noticed a connecting trail out to Piracy Point, maybe 1/8 mile out. While several of the viewpoints seemed similar, they all offered something unique and just hanging around a while could reveal new views.
Just as we were leaving for the day, clouds in the distance lifted, revealing Navajo Mountain. We will be moving on in the morning, looking to the general Escalante area for several days. There is lots intermittent rain predicted for the next several days. If it happens, even just a little rain, it will wash-out our plan for driving Cottonwood Rd, a dirt road not drivable  in the RAV when wet.

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