Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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"Thor's hammer" (on the right) from Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon After a relaxed night at the Country Inn Motel in Tropic, I drove into Bryce Canyon National Park again. On this visit, I wanted to restrict my driving and just stop in the developed area near the visitor center, rather than venturing South to the lesser-known viewpoints. I had seen these last year already, and was planning to do some below-the-rim hiking instead.

I started off at Sunrise Point at an elevation of 8015 feet to take some more photographs, and then proceeded to Sunset Point (0.5mi). There, I took some more pictures, and took in the view. Navajo Mountain, 82mi away was visible.

Shortly before 11am, I started hiking down the North side of Navajo Loop trail (0.6mi). This passes Thor's Hammer on its 500 feet descent below the rim. I stopped often to take pictures and get the mud off my shoes. This proved to be fairly futile, the thawing snow had transformed much of the trail into mud, and just one step after cleaning my hiking boots, they already seemed a pound heavier again. Sometime during the trail, a short trail lead to Two Bridges, another photo opportunity. After about 35 minutes, I had finished my descent and would now join Peekaboo trail (or rather, its western part) for some excellent hiking below the rim.

Peekaboo Trail is really a Loop, but I had instead opted to just walk half of it and join the rim at Bryce Point. I would walk 2.8mi and ascend about 800 feet to reach it.

Slightly unusual Bryce Canyon view, from one of the tunnels blasted through the rock on Peekaboo Trail But at 11:45, these 2.8mi still seemed far away, and as I would later discover would not be the end of my hiking.

I met only two other hikers during the following three hours it took me to get to Bryce Point. I was taking my time, resting every now and then and stopping very often to take pictures. The colorful scenery, constantly changing both in appearance, or just simply perspective, after every step, along with the snowy highlights and good weather conditions proved to be optimal for extended picture-taking; and I sure filled up my Smartmedia cards...

After a tiring ascent and some much needed rest, I finally arrived at Bryce Point shortly before 3pm. The last half hour of the ascent had been unpleasant, with lots of mud on the trail.

Then, I discovered that there were no shuttle buses running in winter, and that I would have to hike the entire way back to my car. I should really be getting more information from Visitor Centers or visitor guides before making any plans. So grudgingly, I walked off again, fairly disheartened at the prospect of the 2.7mi back to my car. It occurred to me for a moment that I could just beg for a ride from some other tourist, but I didn't want to be a burden to anyone, not to mention my dirty shoes being incompatible with all the high-end cars of most casual visitors and personal security considerations ("Don't trust anyone" :).

The Rim Trail turned out to be full of mud, again, and there was no easy escape. To one side the canyon, to the other side forest. So I moved forward, slipping and sliding, and at one point even fell down because I had preferred to safeguard the camera I had been holding in my hand, rather than using my hands to regain stability (and smash the camera along the way). This later added further time and distance to my hike, because I had, without noticing, lost the objective cover of the camera and had to backtrack to retrieve it.

Still, I didn't let this ruin my day, and continued taking in the views, and memorizing them for later on with numerous photographs.

And finally, around 16:30, I arrived back at the car. Tired, but happy. I had been walking 6.6mi, not all that much by most standards. I had also been taking over 400 pictures. Now, that might be more than your usual hobby photographer.

After cleaning my hiking boots one final time, I got into the car and drove towards Mt. Carmel, backtracking the same way I had taken into Utah just the day before. Unfortunately, all the photographic opportunities I had seen along the way on my drive north the day before seemed fairly bland now, so I didn't stop until I reached Mt. Carmel Junction, just a few miles outside of Zion National Park. Here, I would spend the night at the Golden Gills Motel, a nice and inexpensive place. My only gripe would be the walls, which seemed to be made out of plywood and meant I got to know my neighbors (or at least their voices) more than I would have wished.

Miles driven: 76mi (122km)

Motel/Hotel Accommodation: Golden Gills Motel (Mt. Carmel, UT): $30.73

Written on Saturday, September 21st 2002 between 2pm and 3pm. Less than five weeks away from my next US trip! :)