May 23rd-May 26th
From Green River, we drove south again to Capitol Reef NP. This park also has some crazy rock formations, but it’s a little different than the previous ones. Here, the rock has been uplifted so everything is on a slant. The rock formations looked like sinking ships. The area was also a Mormon settlement. A small Mormon community aptly named Fruita (for the fruit orchards they planted) built their homesteads there along the Fremont River. We visited an old homestead that is now a historical site and then drove up the scenic drive to the Capital Gorge, a narrow gorge that we hiked up for about 2 miles. We arrived early enough to secure a nice camping spot in the campground under the Cottonwood Trees. Looking down on the campground, the almost fluorescent green trees seemed out of place against the dry desert landscape. Before dinner, we did a short a hike called the Rim Overlook Trail along the cliff tops to get some beautiful views of the area. We passed through a series of red rocks and I commented to Fabien that this is what Mars must look like.
After a cool, but restful night, we woke up very early the following morning to get an early start to Bryce Canyon. We weren’t expecting it, but the drive was absolutely beautiful. We passed a summit around 10,000 feet and saw snow on the trees once again. We arrived at Bryce Canyon just in time to get a camping spot. They were all full by early afternoon. We set up camp, had a picnic lunch and then took a walk out to peer into the magnificent canyon. It reminded me of a fairyland (if one really exists, it’s here.) The hoodoos (or rock formations sticking hundreds of feet into the air) are a beautiful mix of red, orange and white. We hiked the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point and then descended into Queen’s Garden. For me, this was the most impressive area of the park. There were colorful hoodoos in all directions, some naturally formed to look like castle walls and spires. Others resembled people or animals. At the bottom of Queen’s Garden, we joined the Navajo Trail which took us up through the famous Wall Street section. There was a warning that rock falls occur often on the trail, and in fact, part of the trail was closed due to a serious rockslide earlier this spring. Back at the top, we continued the Rim Trail to several more viewpoints giving us expansive views over the “canyon.” At the end, we took the handy shuttle bus back to our campground.
Our second day in Bryce Canyon, we started with some areas that you can only get to by driving. At the very end of the road at Rainbow Point, we could see the rocks that form the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We also did a short hike at this point that took us through some muddy and snowy areas (we were at about 9,000 ft elevation here compared with 8,000 at the campground.) We went back to the campsite for lunch and relaxed a bit before doing a 5 mile hike that started on the Peekaboo trail and returned on the Navajo and Queen’s Garden trail. After all of that we still had energy after dinner. We went to the evening program at the lodge, which was very charming place. Apparently, it’s the only NP lodge in its original 1920s state. There are private log cabins with fireplaces that look very cozy. Anyway, the evening program was about slot canyons (extremely narrow canyons) and all of the exciting things that can happen to you while you’re hiking through them- particularly flash floods! Back to camp and to bed; the next morning we would have another early start to grab our camping spot in Zion NP for the holiday weekend.