Monday, April 13, 2009

The Hunter and the Bridge

Driving the length of Bryce Canyon NP means driving 18 miles and gaining 1200 feet in elevation to reach Rainbow Point--the southernmost point on the Park's highway.

There are five observation points (discussed in our previous entries) near the Visitor Center. The observation points shown in these photographs appear in the final 15 miles beyond the Rainbow Gate. This road is closed in the winter.

These first two scenes are views from Rainbow Point, the southermost point in the Park. On a clear day, it is possible to see 90-100 miles into Arizona and New Mexico.

Heading north, the next observation point is Black Birch Canyon.

The next three photos were taken at Ponderosa Canyon. The canyon's namesake, Ebenezer Bryce, settled in the valley just below the canyon in 1870. Bryce was a shipbuilder who journeyed west with Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers to assist in the construction of buildings essential to community life throughout the new land.

Bryce lived here for only five years, but in that time, the canyon became known as Bryce's canyon to the people who knew him. Ebenezer Bryce was a pragmatic man, constructing roads to facilitate lumber transport and surveying the route for a 10-mile irrigation ditch from the top of the plateau to the valley that would later lead to larger, more permanent settlements.

If he had romantic ideas concerning the land on which he struggled to survive, they are lost in history. All he is known to have said concerning this striking scene behind his home is, "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow."

At Agua Canyon, two prominent hoodoos command attention. On the left, is the taller of the two towers, "The Hunter." To the right (partially hidden) is a hoodoo commonly referred to as the "Rabbit" or alternatively the "Backpacker." The Park staff have stopped naming hoodoos because erosion or collapse have changed the shapes of the formations.

What caught my eye was the delicate balance that the hoodoo above and the one to the left maintain. It is just a matter of time before they, too, collapse, but that time could be decades.

The Natural Bridge is technically an arch since it was not formed by a stream. Bridge or arch, it is a beautiful formation--at Natural Bridge Point.

Panoramic views, with potential visibility as far away as the Black Mesas in Arizona--up to 160 miles!--and Navajo Mountain, 90 miles away on the border of Utah and Arizona, are possible from Farview Point.

Here at Swamp Canyon, two tiny creeks and a spring provide enough water to sustain more lush vegetation like grasses and willows. This canyon remains wet year-around.

The colors of the formations here at Swamp Canyon were unusual. The pinkish shades were unlike any others we had seen in Bryce.

I think the visitors from the tour buses agreed that this is one of the most beautiful parks in the US. The number of different languages we overheard as the groups passed us was a beautiful sound.

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