Coffee cup in hand, I am taking an early morning stroll along Bryce Canyon’s Rim Trail to work out the kinks from a night in a too-soft bed. The cool morning stillness is broken only by the wail of an unhappy child, giving new meaning to “not a happy camper.” I marvel at beauty that was unseen the day before; phone and camera-less, I commit these images to memory so that I can share my thoughts on paper.
Filtered by high clouds, the early morning sunlight brings new shadows to the display of hoodoos in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheaters. Off in the distance, at least seven different ridges jut from the haze (a by-product of wildfires in California, Oregon and Idaho) in varying shades of blue-gray. The sound of a single-engine light aircraft draws my eyes skyward. I want to see this dizzying landscape from the air! But here on the ground it is truly special. I am taken aback by these one-of-a-kind vistas that took millions of years to form.
Continuing my stroll, I come upon a Steller’s Jay, hopping along the ground munching on the large black ants that scurry around. Nearby, squirrels forage for seeds among the manzanita. Further along the path, a mule deer chomps his breakfast of fresh meadow grass, oblivious to humans taking pictures from the parking lot above.
Three young women, well-prepared for a hike in boots with backpacks and camelbacks, look lost. I ask what they are looking for … “the Queens Garden Trail,” they reply. I point them in the right direction. Continuing my stroll, I meet a couple dressed quite differently; she in a long black dress and he in slacks, vest and tie. The photographer accompanying them gives away the reason for this strange sight … they are soon to be married, choosing this stunning canyon as their engagement photo backdrop. I wish them congratulations as I pass. At the parking lot, others are getting out of their SUVs and minivans; I walk past a teenager brushing his teeth outside a small RV. The world is waking up; today is a new day at Bryce Canyon.
Twenty-four hours earlier, we awoke to the drone of hotel air conditioning in Page, Arizona, perched on a bluff overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. The heat was already in the 90s as Judy, our granddaughter Lizzie, and I loaded our bags into the sweet little BMW convertible Lizzie had chosen among the President’s Circle choices at the rental car complex at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport a day earlier (thanks, Hertz, for the upgrade!). This was the first full day of her Wild West Adventure with the Grandparents, having ditched the rest of her family at the airport for their flight home.
We headed north and west on Route 89 through the northern Arizona plateau, gazing at the constantly changing landscape as we rolled into Utah. The heat was unrelenting so the top stayed up until we got to Kanab, where we stopped at an outfitters to get Lizzie a long-sleeved shirt for a horseback ride later in the week. Since the temps cooled slightly as we drove up the Mt. Carmel highway, we lowered the top so we could really enjoy the views.
Entering Bryce Canyon National Park, we made our way to the lodge to check-in for our cabin. We were early, but the helpful staff took care of the paperwork while we ate a late lunch. With time to kill, we drove to the Visitor’s Center to pick up a few souvenirs and gifts and watch the excellent movie about the park. Film can’t compare to the real thing, however, so we parked the car near the cabin while Judy went to pick up the key. We dropped off our stuff and took the short path to the Rim’s edge.
To say Lizzie was in awe was an understatement. Together, we walked to Sunrise Point, each taking tons of pictures along the way, and both Judy and I being nervous “parents” when Lizzie got anywhere close to the edge. Having fulfilled the shock and awe part of the day, we headed back to the cabin to unpack and decompress from the drive. We played some games and ate our dinner of leftover pizza and quesadilla, Judy and I both wishing for a cocktail accompaniment. Sated, we headed back out to experience the Amphitheaters at sunset. It was a bit anticlimactic due to too many clouds, but Lizzie had a great time walking partly down the hiking trails, every corner a new site.
It was great fun and we were thrilled to see Lizzie so engaged. Judy and she tried to come up with every superlative they could think of to describe what they were seeing … everything from divine to mesmerizing. Exhausted, we headed back to the cabin for a long night’s rest.
Now, as I finish my morning stroll, I think about those words they came up with, and even they don’t do it justice. Yesterday was a blur, today is a chance to contemplate and appreciate. B is for Bryce Canyon, but it is also for beautiful … an opportunity to appreciate all the wonderful things this great land gives us.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Share it with your kids and grandkids…but also spend some time in nature alone to truly bring out your own thoughts and emotions.
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