HMV Day 9: A Temple of Time - Bryce Canyon National Park

We slept until until after the sun was up on the morning of the ninth day.  It seemed like it had been a while since we'd slept in even that much.  There was too much fun to be had and we were always going from one place to the next.  So, we slept in a little bit on this second day in Bryce, even building a fire to linger by after we got out of our sleeping bag.  We had a leisurely breakfast and recorded the temperature as 39 degrees F at 9:30am.  We started the day by taking in the length of the park with a cruise--with the top down, of course--along the Canyon Road.  We stopped at view points and overlooks along the way.  Oh, those hoodoos!  Each formation is different and each is remarkable.  I was just enthralled by them.
Our first stop was at Natural Bridge (8,627 feet above sea level) which is not really a natural bridge at all.  Technically it is an arch.  The semantics make it no less impressive though.
We paused at Farview Point (8,819 feet above sea level) and took a little jaunt over to Piracy Point.
We then continued on down the road to Sunset Point and, finally, Rainbow Point (9,115 feet above sea level)
We decided to ease into our day with a short hike called the Bristlecone Loop (8,960 feet above sea level) located at the end of the road at Rainbow Point.  It was sweet little stroll through the trees and along the rim offering lovely views of both.  We found it a most splendid warm up before heading out for the significantly longer loop we had planned for the rest of the day.
After the Bristlecone Loop we backtracked to Sunset Point and made up our own larger loop by merging together several suggested hikes from our guidebooks.  Over the course of the day we hiked part of the Navajo Loop, all of the Peekaboo Loop, part of the Queen's Garden Complex, and then followed the Rim Trail back to our car at Sunrise Point.  The entire trek would prove one stunning vista after another.  It was so surreal as to be truely breathtaking.
Departing from Sunset Point we took the south branch of the Navajo Loop leading down to the lower trail.  Going down this trail was like descending into another world!  I don't know if I can really put it into words.
The trail rapidly dropped, through a series of switchbacks, from the rim of the canyon into the twisting, turning world of the canyon bottom.  It was amazing to drop from the top of the hoodoos to their base in such a short distance.  Almost immediately upon reaching the canyon floor Wall Street looms ahead.
The Wall Street formation was dazzling.  This rift is so narrow and tall that light doesn't really reach the floor except at mid-day.  Its bizarre and splendid to behold.  The path runs through the middle of the rift making it seem like a natural room.  The sunlight bouncing in through the opening at the top illuminated the highest portions of the walls in a stunning orange flame of light.
At one end there are two epic 750-year old Douglas fir trees that have managed to find enough footing and light to grow right up between the walls.  Even if I'd turned around at this point I think I would have been amazed, but oh, there was so much more to come!
A little over a half mile into the Navajo Loop we hit the junction with the Peekaboo Loop and the connecting trail to the Queen's Garden Complex.
The Peekaboo portion of the loop would prove to probably be the highlight of the day for me--though Matt would argue that Wall Street might have taken the cake.  The rock formations were sublime.  The weather delightful.  The trail nearly empty of other people.  A Red-tailed Hawk soared over the hoodoos--and our own little heads.  The red tail really caught the sun.
The Peekaboo Loop continued to weave up and down and around the hoodoos.  There were plenty of places to stop and rest and soak up that view.  The view was truely amazing.
Even more amazing was how different it would look from different portions of the trail.  The same hoodoo could look markedly different as we approached, stood beneath, or looked back.  It reminded me of the first time I saw the Teton Range in Wyoming.  Those mountains looked amazing and they looked amazing from every angel.  Its the same with the hoodoos.
The Wall of Windows (7,682 feet above sea level) would be a great example of this.  They made my heart soar the second I laid eyes on that first window--before I even realize it was The Wall of Windows.  As we hiked closer the number of windows we could see multiplied.  As we stood right beneath it we were humbled by the enormity of those windows.  They'd looked small enough from a distance, but oh no, not so.  The age of the place, the history, the patience, the wisdom was palpable.  I could feel it.  It was transcendent.  We spent quite a time spinning in our dazed and bemused tracks trying to take in the panorama around us.  I sure it was an impossible task.  But, we tried.  That spot, beneath the wall, remains burned into my memory with clarity.  It was a grand amphitheater.  An ocher-colored castle.  A temple of time.
The Peekaboo Loop was the largest of the three and so we continued on past The Wall of Windows.  I really cannot begin to describe the sublime grandeur of traipsing through and around these pinnacles.  Every bend brought new beauty to behold and it was the likes of which was beyond my imagination.  It was another planet.  There were some similarities to the earth I know though.  The sky was blue and drifted with clouds.  The clouds made for an almost ideal temperature.  There were countless Stellars Jay throughout each portion of the hike.  Matt and I agreed that they really are the most lovely of the jays.  We took the Queen's Garden trail back to its junction with the Rim Trail at Sunrise Point.  We were tired and did not hike to the rock formation known as the Queen herself.  Part of me regrets that we didn't push ourselves to do so, but the other part is so utterly satisfied by the day of glorious hiking as to feel complete.
After reaching Sunset Point we continued on back to the car via the Rim Trail.  We stopped at the Visitor's Center to talk with a Ranger about our prize for "hiking the hoodoos."  There had been plaques with brass benchmarks at various points along the trail.  If you collected, as it were, by photo or rubbing enough of these benchmarks you got a prize, or so the sign said.  It turned out to be a very neat little pin--a delightful souvenir of our time on the trails in Bryce.
We also got to watch a partial solar eclipse at the Visitor's Center.  A Ranger was set up with a huge telescope outside on the lawn.  Naturally, we had to inquire as to what he was up to.  So, we got a peek through the UV filtered telescope.  It was wild.  It just looked like a cloudy day to the naked eye.  I could hardly seen the sun through the filter of the clouds.  But, lo and behold, there it was, being slowly eaten by the moon.  It was a very unexpected treat.

After a dinner of boxed Thai noodles supplemented with fresh, stir-fried veg we took an evening cruise to Sunset Point.  It was a wonderful, colorful sunset.  It was so splendid as to make even the gruffest-looking grown men around me remark as to its wonder.
We returned to camp with the gathering dusk for beer and star-gazing.  Around the fire we would reflect that though it was around eight miles each day the day's hike had been much easier than the previous day's had been.  We both were tuckered, but in a supremely fulfilling way.  In the night, I awoke to the yipping of coyotes.  I never mind when they wake me.  A magnificent ninth day.


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