Saturday to Monday, Sept. 30 to Oct. 2
Our two and a half days in Bryce Canyon were filled with horseback riding and hiking. We also took a car ride along Rte. 12's scenic byway and attended Sunday Mass at a little country church in Panguitch about 25 miles form the campground (See here). It was all enchanting.
The red rocks of Red Canyon and the rock formations of Bryce Canyon offer endless flights of fancy for the imagination. Some of the rocks look like drip sand castles children make on the beach. Some resemble chess pieces, church spires, grottoes or entire small cities. I could pick out the ruins of the Parthenon and the walls of Jerusalem and walled medieval towns. Some structures look like castles in the Rhineland or little towns in the Swiss Alps hugging the side of the mountain. The picture at the bottom of this post is one of my favorites. It looks like a snow-covered house with a chimney behind a stockade. Everywhere we looked another interesting rock "picture" greeted us.
We took several hikes into the canyon: the Fairyland Trail and the Navaho Loop Trail. The Fairyland Trail is an 8-mile hike and we started late in the day on Sunday so we only hiked a small portion, about a mile in and a mile out, but it enchanted us with its variety. The steep rocky sections alternated with a pine woods and fairy paths everywhere. On Monday before we left we did the Navaho Loop. Going down into "Wall Street" where the stones rose straight up and enclosed us was amazing. The 1.3 mile trail loops back and forth in short switchbacks at the beginning and then narrows out for a level section at the bottom of the canyon. The walk back up was a steady steep grade with narrow places that made me hyperventilate looking out over the cliff. I never had such vertigo as I've had out here in the western mountains. They make our little Virginia mountains look like foothills. But to be honest, I miss our mountains back home. The mountains here are beautiful but so rugged and
many sections look like the badlands of South Dakota. I can't even imagine the pioneers wanting to settle in some of these desolate mountain landscapes trying to scrape a living out of the dry and rocky ground. It's beautiful but formidable.
Our three-hour horseback ride along the floor of red canyon was an easy way to explore several miles of the area. Our guide Pete is taking off a year before college. He spent the spring and summer doing trail rides and will work at a ski resort this winter. He is also a bull rider in the rodeo. A friend of his who was on the trail ride with us says he's somewhat of a local celebrity. At one point on the ride he stood up on the saddle and rode a bit standing up. Wish I could have gotten a picture but it happened too fast.
The Ruby Inn Campground was a great base for our explorations. It's only a mile from the entrance of Bryce Canyon. They have a heated pool and beautiful large spa which we took advantage of on Saturday evening. I think we'll remember our few days there as a highlight of our trip.