We could have definitely stayed at Zion for another week or so, but Joy and I were only at the beginning of our National Parks road trip – we had just a little over 3 weeks left. This is how awesome Zion is: we met two Canadian guys on the Zion shuttle back to our car who said that they had driven all the way from Vancouver to Utah, JUST to hike and backpack Zion National Park!! They only had like a week and a half for the entire trip, so they pretty much drove down for a few days, spent a few days in Zion, and turned around and went straight back to Canada. No other stops along the way.
As we made the drive towards Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to hit up a mini-mart to get some snacks for the road. The store carried hardcover Babysitters Club books and used leather cowboy boots! (the kid who worked the store said that the owner “was kinda weird” and liked to stock his store with interesting stuff). But we just bought drinks and sour straw candy. We on a budget, ya know.
It was about 5 pm and cloudy when we rolled into the park. The air was muggy but cool (much cooler than Zion), sunlight beamed around the clouds, and the land was beautiful. Mule deer and their babies ate peacefully along the sides of the road as we drove past them towards the hoodoos.
After the sun set, we drove around to secure a campsite. While you can crash the campsites (there’s a few in the park), the good camp sites aren’t guaranteed (many people, it seems, do make reservations in advance). We ended up driving to the North campground where we settled in a nice spot with a lot of space in the middle of a loop. Some sites on the edges of the campground however, have amazing views of the hoodoos from their “backyard”! There’s probably only a few of them, but STILL. That must have been an amazing experience.
The next day, however, made all our campsite-finding problems totally worth it…
On the second day, we woke up slowly and made our way out of the campground to hike the hoodoos. The rangers recommend a handful of trails – including the Fairyland loop and the Queen’s Garden (two of the park’s most popular and scenic trails) — but we had less than a day to enjoy the park, and Joy was feeling sick. She also had these awful little blisters on her foot from some bad flip flops that she was wearing a few weeks ago. Blisters are straight hiking boner-shrinkers.
We decided to do the Navajo loop to the Peekaboo loop to get a good 8 or so miles of good hiking in for the day. The first part is pretty awesome – descending down red dirt switchbacks in an area called “Wall Street” (perhaps due to the mud brick walls holding up the switchbacks all the way down) while passing through the towering hoodoos above us.
I know that EVERYONE loves Zion National Park, but I still have a lot of love for Bryce. In some ways, I think that Bryce’s hikes through the hoodoos are even more impressive than Zion’s awesome landscapes (sacrilegious to say, I know). Not that I think that Bryce is better than Zion, because Zion is still on my top 5 list (the diversity of amazing landscapes there is hard to beat). I guess it’s because the land out here is just so mind-blowing and fcking out of this world. Hiking through it is an even more surreal sensation than what you can see in these photos – you just have to experience it for yourself. Despite that fact, we literally couldn’t stop taking photos around every corner. The color, the land, the texture, the tunnels, and the trails twisting and cutting across tall mountains of earth – amazingly gorgeous. I could hike these hilly roller coaster trails for DAYS.
Downside: lots of horses on the trails. I LOVE horses and ponies (I was one of “those girls” growing up) but I hate horses on the trails. They poop everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It stinks. I don’t know if it’s an environmental concern or whether horses erode or maintain the trails, but it’s one of my least favorite things about hiking – next to getting lost in the wilderness, mosquito bites, and pissed-off bears. You have to stop moving so that you don’t startle them as they hoof by (I’m sure it’s a very relaxing – AKA lazy – way to see the landscape however). On the other hand, the most comedy part about hiking Bryce is how dusty your calves are after a few hours of hiking. Here’s mine. The muddy dust did make my tan look great though.
By the end of the Peekaboo loop, Joy’s sickness was getting worse. We found a little patch of shade, ate our lunch of turkey jerky sticks, dried fruit and bread, and laid down on the ground to take a nap. I heard her light gurgling and snoring as I drifted off for a quick nap myself.
The day was actually pretty perfect for hiking at first. Despite the fact that we were in southern Utah during the month of July, the weather was humid but mildly warm – not too cold or too hot. However, around mid-afternoon, we started to see gray storm clouds forming quickly above us. We got up made our way back up the switch backs of the Navajo loop, just in time to experience Utah’s summer monsoon showers pelting us with gigantic rain drops!
The cool rain was actually a nice reprieve from the hot and sweaty hike up the dusty trails. As we walked back to our car in the parking lot, we found the showers, did a small batch of laundry in the sinks, and hung our wet camping clothes around the Toyota Highlander. As we drove off, we said goodbye to the land of the dusty red hoodoos went to find ice cream and a quick dinner. Note to self: the fast food outside of Bryce National Park isn’t the greatest.
Another confession: There were too many good photos to choose from for this post, so check out the extra ones below!