Hoodoo You Think You Are

Monday, May 01, 2017 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Ultimate Utah, Days 9 & 10:  Escalante, UT to Bryce Canyon, UT

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear.  The air was crisp, and we were finally headed to Bryce Canyon National Park, a place that has been on our travel list for at least five years.  We made a brief stop at the Escalante Interagency Center for maps and brochures, delighted to see the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Forest Service sharing a building and employees.  Efficiency in government is always a welcome sight.
Utah Highway 12
As we were leaving town, we paused at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which sadly turned out to be a glorified campground.  Apparently there are some petrified wood artifacts, but only at the end of a strenuous hike that looked as if it would take a few hours.  We moved on, driving west on the scenic UT-12.

In Cannonville, we turned south to visit Kodachrome Basin State Park.  With permission of the Kodak Corporation, National Geographic had given the park this name in 1949.  After visiting, we are still pondering why.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
We are perfectly willing to concede that our perception may have been skewed by the glorious Capitol Reef National Park, but honestly we found Kodachrome Basin to be quite pedestrian and anything but colorful.  Our hike to a purported scenic vista overlooked the visitor center below and a few rock formations, so we cut the hike short and departed, heading for greener more colorful pastures.
Arriving at the eastern edge of Bryce Canyon National Park just after noon, we hadn't gone a quarter mile before the scenery changed dramatically and we were treated to a hillside crop of Bryce's famous hoodoo rock formations.  Continuing west on UT-12, we exited the park before turning south on Highway 63, which led into the main part of the park.  After a quick stop at the visitor center, we headed south on 63 to Rainbow Point at the far end of the park road.
Ancient bristlecone pine
From the Rainbow Point parking lot, we took a hike on the one-mile Bristlecone Loop trail, which meandered through the forest past bristlecone pines as old as 1,800 years.  Though it was only a mile in length, the trail sits along a cliff atop the highest portion of the park, with a 200-ft elevation gain from 8,900 to 9,100 feet.  At this elevation, the air you're breathing provides 25% less oxygen than at sea level.  Since we had not acclimated to the higher elevation, we were huffing and puffing over the minor exertion the hike demanded, but the expansive vistas from the trail reached to the Four Corners area and the chance to see the ancient trees made it most worthwhile.  A sign advised that the trail is usually inaccessible in winter due to snow depths up to 15 feet.
Following our hike, we continued north on the park road, stopping at each lookout point and overview to ogle the spectacular Bryce Canyon rock formations.  Most famous of the park's rock stars are the statuesque features called hoodoos.  We learned that hoodoos are but the final stage of the erosion of what begins as cliffs or canyon walls.
Fins (L), Windows (C), & Hoodoos (R)     (Illustration from Bryce Canyon web site)
In the first stage (left, above), narrow walls form from cliffs as erosion eats them away.  These thin walls are called fins.  As water seeps into cracks on the fins and freezes, frost-wedging enlarges the clefts into holes, which develop into a windows.  When windows grow larger, their tops eventually collapse, leaving a column.  These pillars don't become hoodoos until rain and other erosive factors sculpt them into bulbous spires.  Eventually, they continue to erode until they are reduced to lumps of clay.

We visited most of the viewpoints on Sunday and finished up on Monday, taking hundreds of photos of these fascinating landscapes.  A few of those are presented here.

Though the colorful formations are quite interesting and beautiful, it doesn't take long to realize that Bryce Canyon National Park is, at the bottom line, a one-trick pony.  The park road is a nondescript lane through a sparse forest running alongside the canyon that holds Bryce's featured rock formations.  Every viewpoint and trail gives visitors the chance to look at the same canyon, if only from a slightly different perspective.  Unlike our infatuation with Capitol Reef and its infinite variety of colors and types of features, we found Bryce to be a place that one visit will suffice.  Make no mistake, we're grateful that we made our pilgrimage to this unique national park, but we don't expect to come back.

By noon Monday we had seen all we cared to of the park and set out to search for some letterboxes nearby, scoring a total of 7 finds by the end of the afternoon.  Tomorrow we'll continue west on the scenic UT-12 to Zion National Park.


    Two-Day Stats:
    •  Started in:  Escalante, UT
    •  Ended in:  Bryce Canyon, UT
    •  Miles driven:   202   (total 3,160)
    •  Weather:  32° to 65°, sunny
    •  Letterboxes:   Found 8, Planted 0   (total:  F23, P6)
    •  Walked:   7.62 mi   (total 38.37)
    •  Hoodoos:   63,214
    •  Disappointing state parks:   2
Loved:  The views from Inspiration Point and Sunset Point

Lacking:  Oxygen!  We had thought about hiking down into the canyon for a closer look at the hoodoos but were discouraged from doing so by the oxygen level and the fact that letterboxes were waiting nearby.

Learned:  (See införmation above about hoodoo formation.)