As we travel from National Park to National Monument in the Southwest, we find that many of them are one-liners – they have been deemed significant by virtue of one outstanding feature. In Bryce Canyon, this might be termed Infinite Numbers of Really Tall Weird Eroded Thingees. The technical term is hoodoos (not much more refined than thingees), and they are the result of geological processes which don’t really interest us, but as far as we can comprehend, are mainly erosion by water and wind.
What did interest us is how incredibly cool they are. Bryce is one of those places where you get your first glimpse and you say, That can’t be real. It’s Max Ernst on acid. They are incredibly strange, and they go on for miles and miles. They are basically the same, but there are many variations on the theme, and they are all interesting.
We got our first exposure from viewpoints along the rim road. The big picture is fun, you understand the scope, but then we wanted to see them up close.
Fortunately, Bryce has a few trails down from the rim to the canyon floor. Bryce is even higher up than Zion – the rim varies from 8000 to 9000 feet, and the oxygen levels are apparently about 70% of those at seas level. After our experience at Zion, we didn’t want to get to the bottom, try climbing up, and find ourselves flopping around like fish. So we took the relatively sane combination of the Queen’s Garden trail down and the Navajo Loop trail up, about a 600 foot climb.
Looking down on a canyon is cool, but once you start to move around inside it is even better.
As you descend, vegetation starts to appear.
You begin to get a sense of the scale of the individual hoodoos.
At the bottom, the balance changes, and you find yourself walking in a piñon forest with hoodoos appearing, or looming over you.
The ascent on the Navajo trail was quite different – a narrow canyon with relatively few hoodoos.
Back to the rim, looking into the big area known as the Bryce Amphitheater. There are rows and rows of the hoodoos, and you start thinking you can see a pattern to them.
There is one area where it is impossible to convey the scale in photos. It looks like ruins that you keep trying to make sense of.
I later looked at the map and found out it is called the Silent City.
Other, smaller items do eventually get noticed. This was one of the first places where it became clear to us that wood just doesn’t rot here.
Greta also discovered a mountain lion print in the snow.
The weirdest place we’ve ever been. What we don’t understand is why such a high percentage of the world’s weirdest places are in this one corner of the US. That would probably involve geology.