Thursday, 10 November 2016

Bryce Canyon.

Tuesday 8th November.
Today is Election Day; strangely, we have seen and heard virtually nothing about the election although, mercifully, we have not been near a television.
Our day could not have been a greater contrast to the frantic hysteria of the election. It was a day of peace, quiet and serenity.
After breakfast, we set off for Bryce Canyon. The road that leads to Bryce and beyond has been voted the second most beautiful route in the world (the number one is somewhere in New Zealand) by the readers of National Geographic. It took us through Red Canyon, which was certainly striking.
At Bryce, we drove the 18 miles to the far end of the Park to a place called Rainbow Point at 9,115 ft where we parked the RV and walked round a circular path along the rim with a forest of pine trees on one side and the magnificent "Hoodoos", for which Bryce is famous on the other.
The Hoodoos are pillars of stone, often with rock shapes balanced on top, that have weathered over thousands of years into bizarre shapes. On all sides were spectacular views - the Hoodoos in the foreground, but you could also see to the mountains on the far horizon, about 50 miles in the distance.
We had this peaceful, magical place to ourselves; there was no sound other than the birdsong and the occasion chattering from squirrels - not even the sigh of the wind through the trees, it was completely still and silent.
A chipmunk amused us for a while with his antics.
With great reluctance, we dragged ourselves away from this special place and started back down towards the Visitors' Centre and the Park entrance - but we stopped at every viewpoint on the way along the road, each of which gave way to "Oohs" and "Aahs". Unlike many other parks, the road runs through the forest, so you have to stop and walk to the rim at each viewpoint - but it was certainly worth it each time. One famous location is called Natural Bridge and features the only large arch in the park.
At one of the viewpoints, a cheeky crow was strutting around among the visitors; we christened him Cuthbert. If he was hoping for food, he was sadly disappointed.
On the way down, we passed a large meadow and, in the middle, was a coyote just strolling along, vaguely interested in the cars stopping on the road to watch him.
Further down, we passed a small group of deer by the road including youngsters, females and one magnificent Buck, who was keeping watch.
We visited the Visitors' Centre at the entrance, where we noticed that there was a talk about the night sky by a Ranger between 7 and 9 in the evening at "Sunset Point". Bryce is famous for the fact that there is no light pollution as it is surrounded by miles and miles of parkland - not a light to be seen right out to the horizon. So, we returned to Sunset Point, where we walked round the rim as the sun went down.
After dinner in the RV, we walked out to the Point where the Ranger was waiting with a large telescope and about forty visitors. It was dark, but there was a very bright moon, just over half, so one's eyes soon became used to the light. It was a joy to walk in the moonlight, although the bright moon meant that the stars were not as bright as they might have been; despite that, one could still see the Milky Way very clearly.
The lady Ranger was very knowledgeable and we were able to take turns to look through the telescope at the Moon, Mars, the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy, two White Dwarves and a Globular Cluster. As the evening wore on and it got colder, after all we were at 8,000ft and it is November, the number of people dwindled until, at the end, there were only about ten of us left - but it was well worth it. At one point a shooting star streaked across the sky, which gave rise to the biggest "Ooh" of the evening and a comment from behind us of "can you do that again?", which caused much laughter.
After saying a heartfelt "Thank You" to the Ranger, we went back to the RV and drove back to the campsite.
32,410 miles, 89 miles today to Bryce and back, 1,240 miles so far.

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