"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity..." ~ John Muir
We began our day at Sunset Point on the rim of Bryce Canyon gazing in amazement at the pink orange and gray pinnacles . We had arranged to attend a ranger led geology talk in order to better understand how Bryce came to be. We learned that we were not really looking into a canyon but, an ancient ocean bed. This entire area had once been under an ocean that spanned North America north to south. What was left was primarily a mix of limestone, sandstone and magnesium.
At Zion most of the erosion is caused by the flow of the Virgin River but here the erosion is due to the regular freezing and thawing of the landscape. Bryce experiences over 175 days where a freeze and thaw occurs. Snow and moisture fall in the striations, then when the freeze occurs it breaks the fragile limestone and creates what are call hoodoos and windows.
Hoodoo is a west African word that is used to describe folk magic. These thin pinnacles of limestone are what remain after years of erosion have removed all stone around them. Ancient Indians used these formations as teaching tools warning that tribe members could be turned to stone for misdeeds. The formations were referred to as legend people and that link to folk magic led to the spires being called hoodoos. I saw Snoopy laying across the top on this hoodoo can you spot him too.
The above photo shows an example of a window. The stone is actually eroded from the center creating a window in the rock. The walls of Bryce actually erode at the rate of two to four feet per 100 years.
One of the highlights of the day was a three hour bus tour to the far reaches of the park. Our guide was Spike a 30 year resident of the area who was full of information and stories. Our bus took us to Rainbow point where Spike took us on a short nature walk en route to one of the rim lookout points
The bristle cone pine is found at high elevations at or slightly above tree line where harsh conditions cause the trees to grow quite slowly but with great strength. These trees are known to be the oldest living things on earth..The oldest bristle cone pine is said to be over 5000 years old.
This Raven hangs out at Ponderosa Point lookout and has almost no fear of humans. His name is Harold and he is quite the goodwill ambassador. Speaking of birds, the state bird of Utah turns out to be the California seagull. This dates back to times when the Mormon farmers were descended upon by a plague of locusts. California gulls arrived to dine on locusts and saved the crops, consequently saving the settlers as well. These days with all the landfill dining opportunities between here and California the seagulls would never have arrived to save the settlers.
As the sun was setting we paused at the canyon rim for a quiet moment of reflection and gratitude. The setting sun transforms the view with each passing minute. The world is pink, gold and copper at sunset on the rim. It is a wonderful photo opportunity. One of the best pasts of the sightseeing ritual is the camaraderie among total strangers who share a moment in time. We all offer to take photos of each other, a rare opportunity to get each member of the group in one shot.
Our visit to Bryce coincided with their annual star party. Astronomers from Salt Lake City congregate annually in the park to view the stars through their telescopes with virtually no light pollution to hinder the viewing. The event began at ten-thirty PM and lasted till twelve-thirty AM, transforming the parking lot across from the Visitors center into an outdoor observatory where hundreds milled from one telescope to another in total darkness. The rangers and attendees all remarked at our luck to be experiencing the best viewing conditions in eleven years.. The dark sky was a brilliant mix of galaxies twinkling stars and constellations. We were mesmerized and could have stayed there all night with our heads tilted back and smiles on our faces.