Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hiking Down Into Bryce Canyon

After seeing Bryce Canyon National Park from the rim at sunset, I was determined to get down into the canyon for a hike the following afternoon.  I reviewed the park handouts and maps and decided to do the moderate-rated Navajo Loop and combine it with an “out and back” jaunt over to the Queen’s Garden while I was down in the canyon.  The total distance would be just over 3 miles with an elevation gain/loss of 550 feet.  A bit of a workout, but very do-able!

Remember this shot from my last post?  A commenter said she was starting to realize the impact that good lighting has on a photograph (such as late afternoon/early morning light versus the mid-day sun).  Well, here’s a perfect example!  This first shot was taken at around 4:30pm, an hour before sunset, as the sun was reflecting incredible “glowing” light off the hoodoos.  Complete magic!

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Now, here’s the same scene the next day as I started my hike (around 1:00pm in the mid-day sun).  Certainly still a great scene with some nice glowing hoodoos, but surely not the magic as the first shot.   Yes, indeed, lighting is a crucial element for a great photo!

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Now, let’s get on with the hike!

I began the Navajo Trail on the Thor’s Hammer side of the loop.  Thor’s Hammer is the name of the distinctive hoodoo with the block (or hammer head) on the top of it.

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As the trail makes its way past Thor’s Hammer just below the rim, it’s still a fairly level and easy walk.

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But just around the corner awaits this 400-foot descent into the canyon!  Thankfully, all those switchbacks and smooth grading, make it a much easier trail than what canyon visitors a hundred years ago must have had to endure!

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As you get lower and lower into the canyon, the Ponderosa pines get bigger and bigger….

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The hoodoos get bigger as well!

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Fairly quickly, I’m now down into the canyon and the park takes on a completely different feel.  Here, the pine trees tower, while the hoodoos stand further in the distance.  It’s a perfectly delightful afternoon for a hike…just the right temperature, and trails that are pleasantly not mobbed with fellow park visitors (as they surely must be when the season is in full swing!). 

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At the bottom of the Navajo Loop is “the junction” where a number of trails (and hikers) converge.  The split log benches give hikers a cool respite and a chance to recheck their maps.

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I decide to take the connector trail over to the Queen’s Garden.  The trail leads me out of the cove of hoodoos visible from Sunset Point, and over to the next cove typically visible from Sunrise Point.  Here, the rocks take center stage, and there is even a fun, small arch to walk through.

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The colors of the rocks here are incredible!

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I also love the slits and holes the wind has carved into some of the hoodoos.  See the tiny hole in the cliff wall behind this spire? (click the photo to view it larger if you need to).

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After enjoying the garden views, it is time to bid adieu to the Queen and her court…

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and admire the twists and turns of this bristlecone pine on my way back to the Navajo Loop.

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Ah, have I mentioned lately how much I love being retired with nothing better to do than go for nice quiet afternoon walks, smell the pine trees, and admire all the nature that surrounds me?

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As I finally get back up to the hoodoos, I reach the final and most famous portion of the Navajo Loop—Wall Street.  Yep, the name seems quite fitting!

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At the base of the final set of switchbacks leading back up to the rim are a couple of massive Ponderosa pines that, however improbable, manage to survive and thrive in this narrow sliver of space between the hoodoos.

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I watch these tall trees gradually diminish as I begin climbing the switchbacks.

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Smaller and smaller…

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until I can barely see them at all.  Now, the walls of Wall Street are the main show.

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I lose count of how many switchbacks there are along Wall Street…

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but there are a lot!  At the top of this set of quick curves….

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is a tiny little arch to take you back out to the larger switchbacks.

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Here, I am starting to get level with the hoodoo-tops.

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What a different look and feel the park is from here!

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Finally, I’m now able to see the rim above the hoodoos again.  Amazing, how these hoodoos keep the most spectacular parts of the trail hidden away when you’re up here. 

Even with this quick 3-mile hike, I now understand that Bryce is most definitely a park to be experienced from both above and below if one is to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.   I can’t wait to return to explore it even more!

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16 comments:

  1. What a great hike! I'm planning a trip to southern Utah next fall and I appreciate the hiking tips in your blog.

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  2. I did that same hike about 10 years ago. I took it slow like you did and savored the views and feeling of being "in" the canyon. So different when you're down in it. You captured in beautifully in some great pictures.

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  3. Ok, practical questions. Does anyone know you're on these hikes in case of accident? How do you know how to find your way back? It looks so treacherous and strenuous to me that I'd be intimidated about trying...........and I'm not easily intimidated about anything.

    It sure is majestic in all its glory, though.

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    1. Well, in this case, I was on Bryce's most-popular (and fairly crowded) trails, and the paths were all well-graded and virtually "paved", so no real risk to them, Zion was a different story, but there I hiked with a group. But you do remind me that I should keep my family better informed of my daily whereabouts (especially as I prepare to head to Baja next week!). So thank you for the gentle reminder!

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  4. Your pictures are magnificent and it is wonderful to hear you enjoying your retirement and full-timing so much.

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  5. I had the same concern as Babs, I would hike with a friend. Fantastic lenswork as usual.

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    1. I do hike with others whenever there's the opportunity, but if I'm somewhere exceptionally gorgeous, my photos are always MUCH better if I'm out on my own and focused 100% on making images.

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  6. Just awesome! Convinced more than ever that I must go hike these trails in the not too distant future.

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  7. The trees! that is amazing! I have never seen that… gorgeous pictures, Lynne! and yes, I, as I do with Suzanne … get concerned about how you don’t get hurt or lost … I’m such a sissy wimp … I so enjoy going along on these hikes you all do… but just following you … I get claustrophobic …

    and that’s with all hikers and backpackers … who go alone … man oh man ~ brave souls for sure

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    1. now listen-- I recall a brave woman who traveled the US in her Homer Odyssey all alone (and still does it on occasion!). You're no such sissy wimp!

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  8. Wonderful pictures, Lynne--you're such a terrific photographer, and thanks for sharing all of these. That is a very special place indeed--we did this hike two years ago and it is pretty spectacular! So glad you're enjoying your time out there!

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  9. Beautiful pictures! How long would you say it takes to do this hike?

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    1. Even doing the extra 1 1/2 miles over to the Queen's Garden, this hike was not that long or difficult-- I think it took me about 2 1/2 to 3 hours with generous stops for photo-taking.

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