There is much to love about this day which greatly contrasts with the rest of the Hayduke. It was total luxury compared to what we’ve become accustomed to. Not what we’d want frequently, but fun for a day.
We took a popular alternate to the guidebook route that goes through Tropic and connects to the “backcountry” trails of Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s a way to be up close to all the spectacular other worldly hoodoos and participate in the national park spectacle of visitors. And where there are lots of people there are all sorts of perks not found on the Hayduke. Bryce Canyon is so posh.
Perks: Comfy bed. Hot shower. Coffee and a hot breakfast. (So, those weren’t part of hiking, but they aren’t part of most of our days out here.) Easy walking. Honest to goodness trail! More trail. Golden mantle ground squirrels! Kids and adults who like squirrels. Ponderosa pines! More trail! Happy people out walking. Interpretive signage. Wondrous hoodoos. Prairie dog conservation information. Hot cocoa and cookies. Potable water coming from fountains. Trash cans. Restrooms with running water. Beautiful coral pink cliffs. Hiking cats!!!! And more lovely, beautifully designed, well-maintained. Such joy and luxury.
A totally easy, fun day delighting in colorful hoodoos and appreciating other people getting outside.
It also started off fun with a connection to home. While having breakfast in Tropic, Gabriel recognized a partner from many a Mountaineers scramble. It quickly became an improptu Northwest Hikers gathering in the midst of the bustling restaurant. Fun to connect, talk about awesome spots in southern Utah, and appreciate the enthusiasm of folks who love to get outside and explore.
After breakfast we finished last errands and headed west out of town. Lilacs starting to bloom, fresh mowed loans, and baseball practice on a sunny morning. Feels like a fine spring day. Icicles on the fences and rime on the irrigation systems. A reminder that spring on the Colorado Plateau is cold.
After a few miles we were in Bryce Canyon NP walking on trail with peekaboo views of the Pink Cliffs amid the ponderosa pines. It only got better. After stopping to take a picture of a very accustomed national park golden mantled ground squirrel(!!!!!), we were in the thick of hoodoo land and people admiring the hoodoos.
Pink, coral, orange and white walls of clarion limestone eroded into all sorts of formations and configurations. Hoodoos, like clouds, take form and shape in the imagination. The columns are massive but delicate. Up close the rock looks like melting ice cream, displaying a pattern of erosion.
Being a sunny Saturday, LOTS of people were out and about. Smiles. Pointing. Taking tons of pictures. Watching squirrels. They all seemed happy to be walking amid this beautiful fairy land. It is such a good feeling to see people enjoying their national parks. For once, I didn’t feel bothered by the crowds.
We hiked up to the rim and walked the paved path down to the visitor center for our backcountry permit. At first the very knowledgeable volunteer at the front desk started to go into a spiel about the day hiking trails being where the hoodoos are and how we wouldn’t want to hike the Under the Rim Trail because that’s not where the hoodoos are.
I quickly insisted on getting a permit and he said, “Ahh. You’re on the Hayduke. We heard you’d be coming in soon.” Fireweed and Bob must have mentioned us. We got our permit. Bemused by all the different ways national parks administer their backcountry systems.
While walking back to the hoodoos and trails we stopped in the general store for hot cocoa, sandwiches (with leafy greens), and a cookie. Such luxury: food we didn’t carry. It was still cold out on the rim, making the hot cocoa all the nicer.
I couldn’t have been more delighted by all that we’d seen and done in the day. But I was beyond gleeful when I saw a couple with three leashed and harnessed cats(!!!) walking along the paved path (where leashed pets are allowed). They were hiking with their cats!! Ever since I learned of Millie the climbing cat from Salt Lake City, I’ve been enamored with the concept of a hiking cat and have been working with Gracie to get her outside on leash and harness. Such joy to see kitties on leash and wearing sunglasses to boot.
After some kitty admiring we hiked amid the hoodoos for several more miles of awe. By 3:30 pm we were descending the Under the Rim Trail. Pink and coral cliffs to our right, beautiful ponderosa forest around us and lovely trail under foot.
Made it to our designated camp site by 7:30, just as the temps started to drop. While attempting to put up our line to hang our food (bears in the vicinity), hairy woodpeckers drilled away at the snags in the nearby burn area. We are camping amid large pines on delightful ponderosa duff. A very chilly, but peaceful night.
Happy Birthday Mom!
Day 32: 20.4 miles; 485.7 miles total. Best Value Inn in Tropic to Right Fork Swamp Canyon, Bryce Canyon NP.
GPS: not needed; people sighted: too many to count, from all over the US and world to see an amazing National Park – here’s to public lands; roads: a couple miles to get into Bryce Canyon NP from Tropic.