Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bryce Canyon... Land of the Hoodoos a spiritual place

I have been putting off writing about Bryce Canyon until I finished processing all the 600 photographs I shot while walking the canyon. The difficult process of choosing which images to use on this blog is what has taken so long. So I hope you will enjoy the images and get a feeling for this amazing canyon.

My first impression of Bryce is that it is a classic old lodge set in a nice block of woods that one reaches from SR 12 to SR 63. There is only forest and snow as I drive the road. Spring thaw has had no effect on the grip of Winters cold in this place. I am wondering what sets this place apart from the many other nice looking woods I have seen on my travels? After a few minutes I reach what appears to be a parking lot framing a classic old log building and a group of cabins set in a snowy wood, a Christmas card setting if ever there was one.

Checking in as evening is setting, I go to my cozy room up on the second floor of the rustic lodge main building. The room is really two rooms, one for sitting, reading or just looking out of the perfectly placed window and the other part for sleeping. There is a small no frills bathroom off the bedroom. I am grateful for the second floor location and a warm comfortable bed. I check my photo gear for the next day of exploration before going down for dinner.

Dawn brings the light of day in my window, waking me from a restful night sleep. The smells of coffee and eggs waif their way up the stairs as I go down to the lodge dinning hall for a hardy breakfast, a welcome way to start my day.

Soon I am loaded up with food and gear and ready to experience Bryce Canyon. I walk from the lodge through the woods on a small path in the snow. Then without a hint of warning I am standing at the top precipice of a massive and deep open space full of colorful towers reaching up to meet me. The first experience is shocking and unexpected, even if you have seen pictures of Bryce before. A large gust of wind blows up the walls hitting me in the face with a cold blast of air as if to say wake up and take notice of where you are. My eyes begin to water. After a long pause to take in all that is before me I decide to walk the rim trail above to see the view from all angles. The light is beautiful in the morning, creating deep shadows of reflected red shades. The sunlight adds warm yellows to the towers. The first day passes fast as I return to my room to recharge both my own batteries and that of the camera. I couldn't wait to see how my shots came out. Tomorrow I will walk the steep lower trails.

Day two is met with eager anticipation. A quick breakfast and I am off to the edge and the trails that lead to the canyon floor. As I walk the canyon's up and down trails I can't help but think how time and weather must have diminished the still overwhelming scale of the towers looming above me.

 It is hard to explain the feeling I had the first time I looked out over the rim of Bryce Canyon it was as if it belonged to another planet or to a science fiction film set. Not quite real yet there it is a sight to behold.The red rock of this place is so unreal that you may think that I have adjusted the color of the photos, let me assure you that it is the real color. The consistent rushing wind of the upper rim is clearly missing in the relative quiet calm of the descending trail. I become aware of my breathing and the rising Hoodoo Towers around me. Hoodoos... that's what they call them. They have personalities you know, distinctive features that make me feel they are watching and wondering why I have come among them.

It is a long and winding walk of many hours down as I stop to take pictures. It will be much more difficult on the uphill climb out of the canyon as I will be tired from the long hike. I am grateful for the forethought of a packed lunch and several bottles of water I brought along with me. Turkey jerky never tasted so good.

At the bottom, the Hoodoos of red rock reach to the sky as if standing guard over some unseen treasure. The treasure though is the beauty of the spires themselves. The towers are like nothing else I have yet experienced on this journey through the Parks of the Western United States. Now the land flattens out a bit in front of me and the trees take hold as the forest starts to regain a foothold. Small animals scurry around. An incredibly bright blue bird lands on a branch near me, my wife tells me (she is a bird watcher) that the bird is a Western Bluebird. It is a fabulous bird that is disappearing from many ranges that it once inhabited.

Noon passes and the day wares on as I cross the canyon floor, Soon I start the long slow climb back out of the canyon. I am glad I took my time getting to this point, my back pack and camera begin to feel like lead weights as the trail steepens. I am now using my tripod as a walking stick and have to rest at each turn of the switchback trail.

The shadows begin to grow longer and the temperature starts to fall marking the need to start the long climb up. There are many climbers marching up the trail, I am passed by several young folks that seem to not even realize the steepness of the path they are walking. I feel my age as they go by me with a big "Hello".

Undaunted I press on shooting and climbing the steep trail. An hour passes, and then another, now I can see the top of the path. This has to be one of the most strenuous hikes of my trip, but I will do it again the next time I return to Bryce it is too good to miss. As darkness falls I am back at the lodge, a shower, a rest and a well deserved dinner with friends ends the perfect day that I will long remember.