6:25 a.m. — I’m sitting with a hot cup of black coffee perusing the news on the iPad. The sun peaking over the distant mountains begins to push back the chill that settled overnight across the desert. I’ve heard not a peep from Grammi who is still snuggled under a pile of quilts and blankets. It’s crazy to think that in a few hours we’ll be seeking relief from the heat of the day.
It’s a moving day. We’re going to Bryce Canyon National Park, one of Utah’s “Mighty 5”. Our plan is to arrive early to secure a first-come, first-serve site at Sunset Campground inside the national park boundaries. Timing is important. We don’t want to arrive too early, not before those checking out have a chance to eat breakfast and pack up. We just want to be there when they pull away. One thing we’ve learned is that check-in and check-out times are just a suggestion at a lot of parks. Having our daughter visiting with a rental car should make things a little easier. The plan is for her and Grammi to go ahead in the rental car to find a site. I’ll stay back to pack up the camper before heading out.
12:50 p.m. — I’m sitting under a shade tree looking back at the camper, sipping on a cold bottle of water. We’re all set up inside Bryce Canyon National Park. Everything worked out perfectly. Grammi and Shanna found a site, filled out the registration, paid for it, then parked on it while waiting for me to arrive. How sweet is this? The girls did good! It’s one of the best sites in the campground. It’s a spacious pull-thru site with ample room to park the camper, the truck, and the rental car. With plenty of room between sites and because we are on the outside of the loop so our camper’s door faces the forest and not other campers, there is a feeling of seclusion and privacy. This will be a good site to stay for a few days.
The girls are making lunch. I can hear them talking. They’re making plans for the rest of the day. I think I hear something about a hike to a cave or a waterfall. Oh well, why not? After all, it was a short and easy move today. There’s still plenty of daylight left. I’m just wasting time relaxing. No need to get out the hammock yet.
7:25 p.m. — We just finished dinner. It’s been a long day, but a good day. We have another big day planned for tomorrow too, so it won’t be long before I call it a night.
After we finished lunch, we went to the Mossy Cave Trail. It is located away from the main area of the park on UT 12 about eight miles from the campground. There’s a small parking lot at the trailhead with maybe twenty spots. It looked to be overflowing as there were cars parked along the side of the highway. We pulled into the lot to find the one and only spot available. We were lucky. Someone must of just pulled out.
The trail goes into Water Canyon. The stream running through the canyon is not natural but rather an irrigation channel constructed by Mormon settlers in the early 1890’s. A sign at the trailhead says the hike is only 0.4 miles long. I’m not sure if that is to Mossy Cave or to the waterfall, but if you plan to hike to the cave and to the top and bottom of the waterfall as we did, I think you should plan to hike a little more than a mile round trip.
We crossed over a couple of bridges before we came to a fork in the trail. One direction was to the cave and the other direction was to the top of the waterfall. We hiked to Mossy Cave first. It was a short uphill hike to a platform overlooking the so-called cave. I say that because I wouldn’t actually describe it as a cave. It’s more like a grotto or alcove. The interesting thing about it though is that water continuously seeps from the ceiling and walls dripping down to form a small stream. The grotto is covered with a layer of moss ostensibly giving it its name. But according to the information sign displayed at the platform, in the winter, giant icicles form creating impressive icy sculptures.
Next we hiked to the waterfall. First to the top where we had a view of the stream cascading down the canyon and rushing over the cliff splashing in the pool below, then to the bottom where the hearty would swim in the cold pool of water and the brave at heart would climb the rocks for a view from behind the waterfall. Grammi and I were content standing in front of the waterfall for a picture but our daughter Shanna climbed over the rocks, circling around the backside to pose for a picture.
This is a beautiful place. A stream cascading over the rocks. Water falling into an inviting pool. Hoodoos and a scenic arch towers above. It’s worth a stop to take a look. However, it’s a very popular location. Because it’s an easy hike for young and old alike, it attracts large crowds. We were there in the middle of the afternoon when there were lots of children running and splashing around. Parents were screaming in a futile attempt to control their excited kids. I would rather find a more remote waterfall hidden deep within an undisturbed canyon surrounded by nature. I’m not sure where that may be nowadays, but it is a pleasant thought.
The rest of the afternoon we took a leisurely drive on Highway 63, the main road in Bryce Canyon National Park, down to the southern end of the park. We drove until the highway ended at Rainbow Point, stopping at all the scenic overlooks along the way. The traffic was light and we had no problem finding parking at any of the overlooks. A free shuttle bus is available along this route and may be the better option when exploring this part of the park during busier times.
Each overlook offered a different prospective of the beauty in the canyon. Every time we stopped, the three of us jumped out of the truck and started taking pictures. We took so many pictures. It was irresistible. Some of our favorites are shown below.
7:10 a.m. — I’m listening to the sound of perking coffee. It’s a sound I’m now accustom to. There’s no popping a k-cup in a coffee maker like at home. Here in the camper, it’s fresh perked coffee every morning. Shanna gets up. She’s looking for a cup of coffee too, then realizes it isn’t ready yet. We both sit and stare at the coffee pot. Suddenly, Shanna jumps up and pours a little in a cup. “Nope, not yet, it isn’t strong enough”, she says, then sits back down. Finally, after a few more minutes, we both have a strong cup of coffee.
We have an exciting hike planned today. We’re going to hike down into the canyon for an up close look of all the hoodoos. But first, Shanna has a couple of phone meetings this morning before we can go. Not a problem for me. I can use the time to work on the blog. I don’t know why it is, but I’ve always worked better in the mornings. If I try to work in the evenings, I struggle, I lose focus, I doze off. Ever since I can remember, mornings are my most productive time.
10:35 a.m. — I’m sitting in the truck waiting for the girls. We’re parked in the Sunrise Point parking lot. They went to use the restroom one last time before we start the hike. As the park’s most popular hike, we’re expecting to see many people on the trail. We’re hiking the Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop starting at the Sunrise Point Trailhead. It’s 2.9 miles long with 600 feet of elevation. It’s rated as a moderate hike.
12:15 p.m. — We’re now on the Navajo Loop Trail near the bottom of the canyon. We found a shady spot about 50 yards off trail with a downed tree to sit on. We’re not the first to sit on this log as there’s a well warn path leading here. It will be a quick stop to rest and drink a little water. Thus far, this has been a really cool hike. Weaving past giant hoodoos, stooping to pass through tunnels, and peering through natural windows, has kept this quite interesting.
1:55 p.m. — The three of us are sitting on a bench at the top of the canyon having lunch. What a beautiful hike! Honestly, I was a little worried about climbing out, but the scenery was so amazing that I barely noticed the effort. Every where I looked, every turn along the trail revealed something new. Ascending the section known as Wall Street was like being in a narrow slot cannon. The reflected light from the sun was truly spectacular and made for amazing pictures. Even the famous switch-backs up the canyon were fun.
This has to be one of my all-time favorite hikes. We talked about this very thing as we were walking between the hoodoos, when I asked, “What do you girls think? Is this our favorite hike?” We’ve done some fantastic hikes in the past, so I knew this would be a difficult question. Shanna talked about her hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and another hike with her sister in Hawaii when they went down into a volcano. I brought up the hikes we did in Zermatt, Switzerland on the slopes near the Matterhorn and the Glendalough White Trail hike in Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland. Grammi mentioned our hike in Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain and the hike in Zion National Park to Observation Point. All memorable hikes and I think this hike in Bryce Canyon will be just as memorable.
10:45 p.m. — I just finished washing my face. We sat around a campfire tonight roasting marshmallow for s’mores. I love those gooey sweet treats but they’re getting difficult to eat with my wild COVID beard. I’ve stayed away from the barbershops since February. I don’t feel comfortable these days walking into an unfamiliar place for a trim. My daughter said I look like I belong on Duck Dynasty. Another daughter says “dad, I like your beard. Don’t cut it.” Eventually I’ll get things trimmed up. I just don’t know when or where.
It was a clear moonless night and the stars were on full display. We laid back, gazed up and found a dim light moving across the sky. We concluded it was probably an orbiting satellites. We found Jupiter, Saturn and the hazy light of the Milky Way using the SkyView app on my phone. Then streaking across the sky was a shooting star. “Wow! Did you see that?”, Grammi said with a slow drawl expressing her amazement. “Make a wish”, I said. We stayed out for a while and saw a couple more shooting stars before I stood up and declared I was going to bed.
6:45 a.m. — We are readying ourselves for another exciting day exploring the sites in Utah. Today’s adventure will take us across Highway 12, rated as one of America’s top ten Scenic Byways, to a waterfall in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Maybe this is that secluded waterfall I’ve been hoping for.
10:09 a.m. — The dramatic views along Highway 12 are breathtaking. We’re stopped at Head of the Rocks Overlook. The view across the slickrock of the Escalante Canyons is awe inspiring.
12:57 p.m. — I’m sitting on a large rock eating a sandwich. Shanna and Grammi are sitting next to me. We love finding beautiful settings to have lunch and this place fits the bill. In front of us is a spectacular waterfall. Though we’re not completely alone, I think this is as close to a secluded waterfall as I’m going to find. Hidden at the end of a ravine, Lower Calf Creek Falls drops 126 feet into a large pool suitable for swimming. Trees and other plant life flourish in this damp environment. A cool mist from the waterfall and the abundant shade from the trees create a wonderful oasis.
We hiked nearly three miles to get here and there are less than a dozen people quietly sitting around admiring the view. This was a pretty hike through a deep ravine with steep cliff walls and a stream running along the bottom where we could see plenty of trout swimming around. It was definitely worth the time and effort to see this.
3:30 p.m. — We made it back to the truck. I’ve got the air conditioner cranked up on high. The girls walked down to the stream to cool their feet. We spent over an hour splashing around at the waterfall before making the three mile return hike. The afternoon sun was hot making for an uncomfortable hike back, but again…it was worth it.
11:05 p.m. — Another long day. We made it back to Bryce Canyon in time to see the sunset. The low angle light reflecting in the canyon and the darkened shadows from the hoodoos gave us a totally different scene to see.
We also enjoyed sitting around another campfire under the stars tonight. This time we avoided the sticky s’mores. It really cools down around here after sunset. The girls like to scoot their chairs close to the fire to feel the warmth. I still can’t get use to the contrast of scorching arid heat during the day and bone-chilling cold at night.
9:15 a.m. — I’m busy writing. I’ve already had breakfast and just now finished off the last of the coffee. Grammi and Shanna were up early. They left for a three hour horseback ride down into Bryce Canyon. It’s something they’ve been wanting to do. I am taking advantage of this quiet alone time to catch up on my blog.
12:10 p.m. — The girls are back from horseback riding. They sure are dirty. They said it was a dusty trail. Shanna gets in the shower right away. She has to get ready to fly back to Florida today. She has to pack up and drive to Las Vegas to catch her flight this evening.
Grammi description of their ride was like this: “There were probably 25 to 30 riders broken into three groups. I was in the last group, on the last horse, bringing up the rear. My horse’s name was Sam. Shanna was just in front of me on Ringer. We rode single file into the canyon. The horses liked to walk close to the edge because that is where there was softer ground with less rocks. Sam liked to lag behind so I had to give him a gentle kick to get him to gallop back up to the group. Our COVID masks came in handy keeping the dust out of our nose and mouth. The scenery was beautiful with the views of hoodoos and red cliffs, much like what we saw the other day on our hike. We rode pass the Bristlecone Pine trees that are roughly 1500 years old. Not as old as the ones in Great Basin National Park, but certainly something special to see. At the bottom of the canyon we stopped to rest the horses and get a drink of water. We were happy to find a toilet there too. It was just a short ten minute break before we climbed back on the horses and rode up out of the canyon. We had a good time. other than being dirty and dusty, it was fun.”
1:15 p.m. — Shanna just pulled away. It was hard to let her go. Of course Grammi cried, she alway does. We had so much fun during her visit. She has so much energy and kept us going. We have missed our children while traveling. This was a much needed visit for all of us. I told her to text us when she got to the airport and text us again when she got home. No matter how old my children are, I’m still dad and I want to know how they’re doing.
8:35 p.m. — We heard from Shanna. She’s at the airport waiting for her flight. Grammi and I decided to go to the local rodeo. It was fun. We watched cowboys getting thrown from wild bucking horses. There was bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and even children as young as four years old trying to ride a sheep across the arena. It was an entertaining evening (although I’m not a fan of having children ride on sheep) and a great way to spend our last night in Bryce Canyon.
I know this blog is long. Longer than I would like it to be. But we did a lot with our daughter this week. She keep us moving and going places and so we have many adventures to share. We loved having her with us and enjoyed every minute of it. But now that she’s gone home I might need a couple days to recuperate.
Until next time…happy days and safe travels.