Monday, July 18, 2011

A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

I come to you tonight from Campsite 277 in the Sunset Campground at Bryce Canyon National Park. I arrived bright and early to ensure that I’d be able to find a vacant site. I chose the first one I saw, but after driving the one-way campground loop road back out to the main park road, I realized that I could have chosen any number of sites. Kids, let that be a lesson – get to Bryce Canyon by 9am and the campsites will be ripe for the picking.

So I pitched my tent and made my first camp meal. The work involved there wasn’t too terribly difficult as I’d been warned it might be, due to the altitude. My breakfast consisted of tea (easier to make than coffee) and a box of Raisin Bran. As Samuel L. Jackson would say, that’s some gourmet s**t right there! But that was only the beginning – I had even more extravagant things planned for dinner. But more on that later.

The basic structure of a visit to Bryce Canyon involves driving down the main park road and stopping at the 14 viewpoints along the way. The park newspaper noted that all the turnouts are on the east side of the north-south road, and so suggested driving all the way to the south end and then stopping at the viewpoints on the way back up. So that’s what I did. I also happen to think that this method shows off the park’s assets best since the first few viewpoints, while impressive, are not of the main Bryce amphitheater – the site of the main concentration of the park’s famous hoodoos.

As I continued on, I passed a natural bridge (really an arch),

as well as a few side canyons (which really are canyons, unlike Bryce itself, which is, as a ranger described, more like the world’s largest pothole.).

I skipped a few stops so that I could get to Sunset Point by 2:00 to hear the daily ranger talk about the park’s geology (and really, the geology of the entire Grand Staircase). Ever since hearing from a geologist at PFI last year, I’ve concluded that geologists always give good talks. If they’re able to see the stories hidden in the ground and make rocks come alive for themselves, it must not be much of a stretch to be able to do that for others, as well. Ranger Po dotted his stories about the formation of the Grand Staircase with self-created parodies of “popular” songs. The songs weren’t at all good, but that was part of the fun, and thankfully Ranger Po was in on the joke.

Ranger Po
By this time it was nearly 5:00 so I headed back to cook my gourmet dinner – hamburgers and Velveeta Shells & Cheese. Since I’d brought my own charcoal neither was anything I’d never done before, although I did throw a few pieces of wood on the fire for effect. Luckily, there’s a dishwashing sink near Campsite 277 so I wouldn’t have to worry about chipmunks running off with my cheesy bowl.

I ate dinner early so I could get back to Sunset Point for (wait for it…) sunset, without having to worry about first cooking dinner after that. However, when I got there, ominous sheets of rain were falling in the very near distance. As soon as I got out of the car, they reached Sunset Point. After about 20 minutes of waiting, I decided to brave the elements and see if I could get a decent picture anyway. As it turned out, this was a rather fortuitous decision.

The rain soon cleared, leaving a cloudy sky with somewhat interesting textures, but the sun was blocked so there was no “sunset” to speak of.

But then, I looked down to see something on the camera and when I looked back up, the sun had poked through the clouds, painting the tops of the cliffs with golden light and producing a spectacular rainbow. From there, the show was on.

The rainbow proceeded to grow brighter and brighter, and once the cliffs were in shadow, the clouds began to light up. The result was one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen.


  1. too cool! love the sunset shots....we caught a rainbow like that at the Grand Canyon.

  2. Double Rainbow all the way. (amysue)

  3. awesome sunset photos. wish you had gotten a video of ranger po's stair story though.

  4. Spectacular! Isn't it wonderful how Mother Nature can still awe us.

  5. The Grand Staircase story was the whole talk, which was about 45 minutes long. It was good, but I wouldn't have been able to hold the camera still for that long.

  6. love the sunset pics and the double rainbow!