There is a sense, when you stand at the edge of almost any overlook at this park, of otherworldliness. Your mind rebels at the idea that this vista your eye beholds, that it belongs on this earth. The scale of it all is one thing, but the sheer oddity and variety of all the formations out there on the great expanse, it easily pulls you to imagine you’re far away on some distant world.
The crowds were sparse here, at least when we visited that early morning- though I will say if you’ve plans to enjoy Mesa Arch, time your arrival well in advance and be prepared for loads of people crowded around the formation. Grand View Point Overlook was almost completely deserted when drove up, and compared to the previous day we had stopped by when there was absolutely no parking available, it was a welcome sight. We spent the better part of an hour just wandering around the edges of the overlook there, casting our eyes down down down to where we could see hints of the at times dangerous and high clearance, four-wheel-drive recommended Shafer Trail Road. I think very highly of my beloved Renegade, but that doesn’t mean i’m so foolhardy as to think we should attempt any part of that road, no matter how utterly tempting it might have been. (Definitely something i’ve bookmarked in my mind to come back to later though. )
Leaving the Grand View Point overlook was almost harder than leaving one of my favorite overlooks at the Grand Canyon, and that’s truly saying something, though I guess i’ve a thing for “grand” things.
“Tell me of the way the lights splash against the rocks.”
If I had to pick a favorite rock formation from this viewpoint, it would be the rather awesomely named, The Organ. A close second would be The Tower of Babel. The Three Gossips (and if you can’t guess which one that is just from the name alone I might just need to sign you up for some new glasses) was really fascinating to gaze at from below and reminded me strongly of the Three Sisters I saw at Monument Valley back last March.
Though this section of the park was the one we spent the least amount of time at, I would definitely recommend parking your car and crossing the street from the view point to walk a bit along the Park Avenue trail as 1. it gets you away from the crowd and 2. it provides excellent views of the surrounding monoliths and other interestingly formed geological marvels.
( On a side note, I’ve only got 2 more posts for Arches in the pipeline, after which i’ll be moving on to cover the Canyonlands – Death Valley- Joshua Tree- Salton Sea/Salvation Mountain – Carlsbad Caverns part of the trip so…if you’ve only been hanging around for more Arches, er bad news I guess. If you’re happy to move on to other interesting places and eventually hear about those wacky adventures, hang tight.)
Driving out of Utah back into Arizona and then slightly back up into Utah on a road that was at times deserted and at times piled up with 7 cars in a rows staggered behind a slow trailer-truck, thats how we got here. But i’ll go more in depth with all these and the teeth clattering experience that was driving around the 17 mile dirt road loop in another post (the one i’ve been leaving till last because it’s the one that actually requires me to sit down and really dig deep with all the travel notes and tips, the one that requires me to surround myself with maps and receipts, and i’ll get there I promise) .
This post is just my ode of sorts to the way the red earth felt so alive everywhere you looked, like you could taste it behind your teeth if you stared out at the expanses for long enough. This post is about the feeling of wanting to yell out into the wind whipping across the flat lands and around the giant sandstone buttes rising hundreds of feet up into the swirling blue sky, but how I didn’t because being respectful of land that is not our own is a rather important part of visiting here.
I can honestly say being here was exactly what I had anticipated it would be like when I got it into my head head I needed to visit, though a big part of me kept asking myself “is this truly real?” in a sort of hushed whisper because it was so hard for my brain to really comprehend that something so vast and majestic like this area actually existed outside of movie scenes, that the land stretching out-out-out and rising up in buttes and spires and mesas was not some CGI fevered dream.And I really do think that I could watch the light and skies change here for days and still not get the photo that would really do the monuments justice.
After leaving Bryce Canyon, we debated on whether to head back to Springdale (a two hour or so drive) or head out towards Boulder, UT on Scenic Byway 12, also know as “Highway 12 — A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway”. We decided to press on, because of course we did.
At first there’s just not much to see, the land carves out low and steady as you wind down into the basin of the surrounding hills and the bf was quite right when he commented that this felt like something out of “the Hills Have Eyes”. It didn’t help that we seemed to be the only car on the road for mile and miles. We passed through tiny closed up towns and after about a half an hour of this we were wondering what exactly rated this highway the title of scenic.
That changed of course, the further we got from Bryce, but what also changed was our mindset for what exactly you could call “scenic” or even interesting. After the veritable splendorous riot of beauty that Bryce laid out, the scenery we were encountering here was anything but comparable.
Once we let go of that idea of beauty and stopped the car on the side of the road to sort of breath in the isolation and emptiness out there…it quickly became clear that the desolation out there is fiercely beautiful. It hard to explain or even show in these photos how huge the landscape is out there, how far exactly your eyes can see towards the distance that holds the horizon. But it is very much worth the drive to find yourself out there as a tiny racing towards the sunset.
After leaving The Grand Canyon and passing through Zion to get to the place we would be spending the next 3 nights in the lovely and utterly charming town of Springdale (more on that later), we woke up somewhat early Tuesday morning, had breakfast at Wildcat Willies (more on that later as well) and headed towards Bryce Canyon.
I guess as a quick aside, I should mention that this trip took place at the beginning of last month and while here in Texas March is pretty much the transition to Spring from whatever weird kind of Winter we had, in other less odd states, March is still somewhat on the Winter end of the spectrum when it comes to weather. It would perhaps have been good for me to remember this but then again if the rest of this trip has been any indication, I literally plan nothing so, what can you expect? This is also the reason I ended up at Bryce Canyon in really inadequate Vans that had literally zero traction and therefore couldn’t really do any of the trails that were still covered in ice at the most inopportune of places. Not that I didn’t try, after walking most of the Rim Trail me and boyfriend came across the Queen’s Garden Trail sign and well, of course I had to see if it was doable, even in my at this point utterly-covered-in-mud-vans. It is a straight up miracle that I didn’t fall on my butt heading down that trail, and while the boyfriend was actually surprisingly optimistic about our chances, I was the realistic one and had us turn back before someone got seriously hurt. Who says I can’t be responsible?
We walked the muddy and at times icy Rim Trail from Sunset Point to Fairyland Point and it was honestly more amazing that I had been expecting. With the Grand Canyon, I had certain expectations going in and while they where all met and at times exceeded, with Bryce it was completely different. I had decided to visit Bryce because I had mistakenly googled Bryce Canyon instead of Carlsbad Caverns (don’t….just don’t ask how I messed that up so badly, even I don’t know) and after seeing photos of the red rock formations called of all things, “hoodoos”, I had bugged the ever living life out of the boyfriend until he agreed to add it to the roadtrip itinerary. His face when we crested the first overlook and gazed out at the startlingly orange formations was priceless, as were his first words, “holy crap, this is really cool!”.
We drove to the rest of the viewpoints which were amazing and which i’ll cover in the next post, but I will say this was the most enjoyable part of the visit to Bryce, just walking around the rim of the Amphitheater and while visiting here continued the tradition I picked up at the Grand Canyon of random tourists asking me to take their photo (and I still can’t figure out why no one ever approached the boyfriend for this) I can say I still didn’t mind it and we even had a lovely woman come across us taking a selfie at Sunrise point and offer to take our photo so, fairs fair.