Day 13: Thursday (Part 2) - Bryce Canyon
After the not so great Antelope Canyon tour (read about it in Part 3) we hit the road from Page and soon passed back into Utah. A couple of hours later we arrived at Bryce Canyon, and luckily snagged one of the last campsites in the north campground. We parked the van and set off on a little explore by foot. We ended up heading around the rim of the canyon to several lookout points and did a small loop trail into the canyon, before climbing back out just in time to watch the sunset from the rim.
Whilst nowhere near as big as the Grand Canyon, we loved Bryce and found it extremely beautiful with it's iconic rock "hoodoo" formations. There is also plenty of differing landscapes to see from a maze of trails in a relatively small area. We cooked some dinner, had a few cheeky beers and hit the hay.
After 2 weeks in the van it was great to be able to park it in one place all day and just walk around the park from our campsite. We went to the visitors centre, saw a ranger talk, took a long walk along the rim and then back down into the maze again along the "peek-a-boo" trail. I'll let the photos do the talking here, but basically we had a lot of fun and had some pretty tired legs by the end of the day after seeing some amazing stuff.
Zion is an extremely popular, and actually quite small national park a couple hours north of Vegas. It's so popular that this time of year we had heard from plenty of people along the way that campsites fill up by 9 am most days at this time of year. They weren't wrong.
Hence we got up at 4 am and left Bryce in the dark to make the relatively short drive south to Zion. We got to the park around 7 am, and literally 2 minutes after entering were treated to the sight of a big herd of big horned sheep climbing down a sheer rock wall to go grazing for some breakfast. Despite having no opposing thumbs or even fingers to speak of, those sheep are amazing climbers!
We carried on to the campgrounds and pulled into the first available spot we saw, which turned out to be one of the last in the whole park. It was before 8 am, and as we set up cooking breakfast we watched a huge procession of fellow campers searching unsuccessfully for an unoccupied camp site.
After breakkie we jumped on a shuttle further up into the park. Zion runs these regular buses through the main paved roads as there is really limited parking and the traffic would be a nightmare otherwise.
We ended up doing several walks that day, along the river, to the emerald pools, and a really sketchy one to the "hidden canyon." The last involved walking along slippery sandstone ledges a long way above the canyon floor, holding onto some heavy duty steel chains. Needless to say in our slippery running shoes it was a little more stressful than enjoyable.
The day ended with a stroll along the river and a quick dip in the cool water at our campsite before heading intothe nearby town for some tasty thai food for dinner. We were pretty tired after a 2nd day in a row of walking close to 20 km, and after the 4 am wake up, an early night was on the cards.
We had a little sleep in before prepping a breakfast with the ends of our food supplies and heading into town for a coffee. It was nearly midday before we knew it, so we prepped some lunch and jumped on the park shuttle to the end of the line.
We jumped off and walked along one of the paths we had visited the day before, but today a little more prepared. Our plan was to head up into "the narrows," which is deemed as a "hike" but basically involves walking and wading upstream through a highwalled and narrow canyon, and then turning around and walking back down.
Today we had packed much lighter than the day before, and had to a decent extent waterproofed our camera. After smashing down some home made tuna rolls on the edge of the river, we were off.
The rocky river bed was completely obscured by the silty river water, so it was hard to find your footing and at first going was slow. However after about 10 minutes we got the hang of it and were racing upstream passing plenty of people along the way.
The canyon was absolutely beautiful, and unfortunately I don't think our photos do it justice due to the difference in light from the top to the bottom. However picture yourself wading through a riverbed in water anywhere from ankle to chest deep surrounded by sheer rock walls and you kind of get an idea.
After about 2 hours heading upstream we knew we were getting pretty close to the mandatory day hike turnaround point. With the sun dipping below the canyon walls overhead and the temperature heading down with it, we rounded a bend in the river mostly blocked by a huge boulder. With neither one of us wanting to have to fully swim around and risk the camera drowning, we decided to call it quits and turn around.
So for some reason when we turned around to head back downstream we ran. It wasn't something that was verbalised between us, or even consciously thought of for that matter, but before we knew it we were both running like maniacs downstream. We had no idea what was under our feet for every steep until our shoes hit it. And it was even more fun.
We arrived back at the bus stop soaked, grimy from the river water and puffing like the slobs we were but also with some ridiculously big grins on our faces.
That night we ate the end of our supplies, made an awesome little campfire and destroyed a packet of marshmallows between us as well as the leftover beers.
We couldn't believe that more than 2 weeks had gone by since the beginning of our little road trip and were both sad that it had come to an end. However we were both extremely excited to move on to the next step of the trip knowing that we have another road trip ahead of us in California in November.
That morning we got up before dawn and hit the road for the last time.We were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the desert, and arrived in Vegas to drop off the van.
We did the cheesy Vegas touristy things and hit up plenty of casinos along the strip and the old school area in Freemont. Needless to say after 2+ weeks of camping in some of the least populated places in the country, the big city lights were somewhat of a shock. We still had an awesome time and ate like kings at the buffet in out hotel for 3 meals a day. Apart from xmas day, I can't remember eating more in my life. And we did it 2 days in a row.
Our 2 days here flew by, and before we knew it we were heading back to the airport for the next leg.
Next stop, New York!!