Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Heading up Cottonwood Canyon Road, hiking one of the local slot canyons; and then to Zion for a thunderstorm sunset

With every trip, I seem to wake up later and later every day. Maybe it's a sign of jetlag effects subsiding, maybe it's just because staying at a campground or motel is more comfortable and therefore there's a smaller incentive to just get going. Either way, I left Kanab by heading east on Highway 89. My first destination for the day was Cottonwood Canyon Road (CCR) - in a way, yet another case where the real destination is not a finite end point, but all the different sights as you go.

At the start of the road, there was a sign alerting travelers that "High Clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles" were recommended. Next to that warning, the 35 mile speed limit sign looked slightly out of place. The first part of the road was in a relatively good condition however, and I made good progress. There were some ominous-looking rain clouds to be seen, but nothing close enough to make me worried. But the CCR is not where you want to be when it rains. The roads will turn to deep mud, as evidenced by the deep ruts I saw that were left by cars going by when it was still wet. With the ground bone-dry, I didn't have any problems however.

I stopped a few times for pictures, and then almost 15mi after leaving the pavement I parked the car near the intersection with Brigham Plains Road, near the mouth of Hackberry Canyon, where I planned to do some hiking along the creek that ran throgh it. Hackberry Creek was just that - a creek, not a river - and it was flowing at a moderate pace. At first it was still possible to keep my feet dry, but as the canyon got narrower, I had to make a few creek crossings. Rather than scramble over rocks or through brush (never knowing if a snake might lurk in said bush) it was far easier to  just get my feet wet. After about three quarters of an hour of leisurely walking, the canyon broadened again. 10am had turned out to be a good time to hike it: there was enough sunlight to illuminate all but the narrowest parts, and the light now was just great: perfect blue skies with only a few thin white clouds to make it more interesting. At one point, I sank into the mud with the entire shoe - it would be a bit of a challenge to get them clean and dry again. Since the canyon seemed to stay broad and relatively uninteresting, I decided to turn around. The hike back down to the car took less than 40 minutes, also because I had stopped taking pictures.

I continued driving North on CCR. The clouds I'd already seen earlier in the morning started to look more menacing, and I wanted to get off the unpaved road before a lot of rain hit them. I stopped once more near a section that's been labeled "Candyland". The colors were nice even though I was there right around noontime, and the large rain clouds further north provided an interesting backdrop for my photos.

Along the upper stretches of the CCR, the rain clouds started too look real threatening. Fortunately, where I was the sun was still shining. But as I hit pavement, what had been white or light gray clouds had turned into nasty dark gray clouds encompassing almost the entire sky. I decided that Bryce Canyon with its paved roads would be my next destination. I was slightly wary because the ridges are pretty exposed, but then I'd always be near a car if a large thunderstorm hit. As an added bonus, with Bryce Canyon being at a higher elevation than the surrounding land, I'd get a nice view from above.

As I hit the various viewpoints (starting at the furthest one from the highway and making my way back towards the park entrance - stopping at Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge and Farview Point), I encountered some rain. The light wasn't all that great, but improved as I reached the more interesting viewpoints. I decided to stay longer at Inspiration Point, which is probably the most impressive viewpoint in any kind of weather anyway. I set up my tripod and panorama head, alternating between panorama and single shots. After a while, I got lucky and among the rain clouds some rays of sun peaked through, basking the hoodoos that Bryce Canyon is famous for in glorious late-afternoon light. Then, a 180 degree rainbow appeared. Magical. The biggest challenge was keeping my lens dry - there was still some rain falling, and the wind was blowing it straight towards me.

As the light faded, it was time to call it a day.

Miles driven: 174mi (280km)

Campground Accommodation: Main campground (Kodachrome Basin State Park): $16.00

Written 19/Feb/2011 in Esch-Alzette