Tuesday, October 14, 2008

South to Bryce Canyon

Leaving Grand Teton National Park, we headed south through Wyoming to spend a few days visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, one of our favorite places from past visits. The drive through Wyoming was both beautiful and interesting; there were numerous small towns that had what looked like a migrant RV park nearby. It became obvious that we were looking at the new oil boom - a cluster of office trailers, surrounded by dozens of cheap RVs, and a sign announcing the site of an energy company. Since there are few houses in the area, workers buy low-priced trailers and 5th wheels and move to the area. Not too scenic, unfortunately. While traveling along a little-used road on our way to the main highway, we were surprised to come across this historic site, called Signature Rock. The sandstone cliffs mark a crossing point near the Green River for the Oregon trail used by emigrants on their way west, and are covered with names and dates of the people who passed through. The most famous name was that of Jim Bridger, famed frontiersman and guide, who name was dated 1844, well before the wagon trains used the trail and presumably carved when he was scouting the area. Standing there in front of the rock, with the surrounding area virtually unchanged aside from the lonely road, it was easy to imagine what it must have been like for the original pioneers traveling in their "travel trailers".
We crossed into Utah, picked up Interstate 80 West, turned onto the I-215 bypass to avoid Salt Lake City, then headed South on I-15. Traffic and congestion in this area is remarkable, and it wasn't until we were well past Provo that it began to thin out. We picked up US 50, crossed over to I-70, then onto US 89 south to Panquitch, where we stayed at the Hitch-N-Post RV park, a small but comfortable place to stay while we visited Bryce Canyon.
Southern Utah is home to a number of impressive National and State parks. It's a unique combination of mountains, desert, forest, and multicolored rock formations. At Bryce Canyon NP, water and wind have created a fairyland of red and orange rock formations that are incredibly beautiful. From the entrance and visitor center, a good road runs along the canyon rim for 18 miles, with pulloffs and side roads to parking lots and overlooks. Like Yellowstone NP, Bryce Canyon was busy with tour buses full of European visitors taking advantage of the strong Euro (that's probably over!) and each overlook was filled with French, German, and others. It's an easy day stopping at the overlooks, visiting the lodge and visitor center, and hiking the short distances on the canyon rim. For the more adventurous, there are trails that wind through the hoodoos and canyons, but for us, the altitude and length of the trails was a bit too much and we worked up our sweat in the gift shop. There's not much to say that can describe the rock formations from the vistas, so I won't try, here are some pictures. Come back and visit as we wrap up our trip!

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