After establishing in Torrey that we weren’t going to be taking Route 12 to go to our next destination at Bryce Canyon, we selected a series of roads that ran west of the Grand Staircase instead. The first north/south portion of this journey took us along Utah Route 62.
This road runs a little over 40 miles down a wide valley until it joins up with US-89. We literally saw only two other vehicles over that distance…both heading in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but think of the 1960’s TV series, The Big Valley as I motored along. It was a scene that spoke to the vastness of this part of the country. It was also noticed while we were planning this route that the Mormon pioneers laid out their towns in the same way. Known as the Plat of Zion, each village uses a grid system with a north/south Main Street and an east/west Center Street. The town of Loa is a prime example of this.
The streets are wide and the blocks are large. The streets use the same numbering system, based off of the ones in Salt Lake City, which begin at Temple Square. For instance, E 200 S Street is the second street south of Center, on the east side of Main. There are four 1-1/4 acre parcels within each block. The original settlers would determine what parcel they would receive by lottery. It made it pretty simple for us when navigating these communities, once we realized they were all laid out the same.
Once on US-89, we broke up the trip by stopping at the town of Circleville. This little burg was the childhood home of the legendary bank robber and outlaw, Butch Cassidy.
The log cabin he grew up in still stands along the highway. There are several interpretive panels that tell a bit about him and his time on this small ranch.
I found this video camera amusing, in that banks use these now to thwart robberies. Maybe Butch would’ve had second thoughts on his career choice, had this monitor been here a century earlier. 🙂
This was our view out the rear window of our fifth wheel in Circleville. Utah certainly received its share of snow this past winter!
From there, we headed into the mountains to Bryce Canyon National Park. Once set up at Bryce Canyon Pines RV Park, we made a quick trip to the Visitor Center to grab our Junior Ranger books. We were alerted to the fact that they were difficult by Ranger Keith, with him quipping that they were PhD level. He wasn’t kidding. It was probably the second most difficult program, coming in just behind John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon. Not wanting to wait any longer, we buzzed out to Sunrise Point for a peek at the hoodoos that this park is famous for.
Photos of them would have to wait, as my camera trained on a herd of mule deer descending into the formations. This trio leading the pack were alerted to something in their path.
Turns out it was a line of horses and mules coming up the trail. There was a bit of excitement when this lead horse spotted the deer, but the experienced rider quickly regained control of his stead.
That evening, we attended a program called Things That Go Bump in the Night, led by the same Ranger Keith who gave us out Junior Ranger books. It was at that event where we met a longtime friend for the first time. How is that possible? We will tell you in a bit. The program itself was fantastic, reminding us of the wonderful programs that Ranger Mariah would present while we worked with her in Prineville, Oregon.
The next day found us heading back into the park to see the hoodoos.
What a gorgeous place! Bryce is technically not a canyon, as it is not carved by a river. It is rather a series of amphitheaters that look east over the Colorado Plateau. These formations are at the top of the Grand Staircase, which steps down all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Our visit that day saw a mixture of sun and clouds, with brief periods of snow. Rainbow Point, the highest point on the Scenic Drive, tops out at 9115 feet. I actually had issues with the altitude in this park, as I was finding it difficult to catch my breath.
This massive anvil cloud rose near the town of Escalante in the distance. We revisited there during our visit to Bryce to become Junior Rangers at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It’s to be noted that we got their well before closing time this go-around. 🙂
The stunning scenery at Bryce, such as Natural Bridge, produce an interesting phenomenon:
The hoards of tourists witness most of it through a viewfinder.
No one is immune to it…not even yours truly. 😉
As you can see in this last photo, there seems to be a bit more snow than in the previous Bryce images. That is because we awoke one morning to the following scene:
Yikes! These sea-level Floridians aren’t used to dealing with this! Knowing it would likely soon melt, we headed into the park to take in the view.
The sprinkling of white on the top of each spire added depth to them, bringing definition to the scene before us.
Due to the strong winds, cold temperatures and snow that we had while we were there, our hiking was limited for this visit. We did take one short and easy walk out to Mossy Cave, one of the wettest spots in the park.
Yessir….its a cave with moss in it!
Along the trail, this pretty waterfall appears to be the idyllic natural scene. It is anything but. Carved out by Mormon pioneers with picks and shovels over a century ago, this river is part of a canal known as the Tropic Ditch. Since it was completed in 1892, the creek has provided the communities of Tropic and Cannonville a near steady flow of irrigation water.
Returning to our reference to a longtime friend that we mentioned earlier in the post. At the evening program on Tuesday, we met Gaelyn from Geogypsy in person for the very first time. We have followed each others blogs for a long time, with Diana discovering her journal in early 2014. On Friday evening, we met for dinner.
Gaelyn is a veteran NPS Ranger, having begun her career with the U.S. Department of Interior at Mount St. Helens in the mid 1990’s. She is the person who inspired us to seek out the Junior Ranger programs at the parks we visit. With our constant commenting back and forth on our blogs, our conversation over dinner was as natural as the outdoors we all three love so much. It was truly a joy to finally get to meet her in person.
Oh, and that PhD Junior Ranger badge?
We got ’em! Definitely worth the effort. 🙂
Bryce Canyon National Park is surely on our ‘return to’ list. We thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to this scenic Utah beauty.
Next up: we head southwest to the westernmost point of this trip, Zion National Park. Along the way, we find a little gem of a park that most people pass by on their way there. We also spend the day with friends we last connected with in South Carolina. Stay tuned for all of that in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!