November 4, 2013
I’m rushing to beat the setting sun. A chain dangles off the rock face and I onto it. I ascend, hand over hand, using my arms as much as my body to hike the steep stony face. I should’ve brought my gloves and worn my boots, the rock is slippery, but at least this time I have a snack for when I get to the top. My balance falters as I cross a narrow path of rock, unforgiving drops falling away at either side, but I steady myself before moving on. My heart rises further up my throat with every step I ascend towards the place where angels perch.
The nights are cold in Bryce Canyon. I discover a minor snow has covered my car when I step out my motel room in the morning and I must clean the windshield with a toy shovel left in the glove box from the car’s former beach-filled Atlantic City days. The room, a first on this trip, was a necessity due to my late arrival and the biting cold. It was refreshing to have the desk, light, and warmth a proper shelter provides and it all gave me a chance to update my travel map and outline my future plans. Today will be a double national park day, starting in Bryce and ending in its neighbor, Mount Zion.
Everyone in this small tourist town of Penguitch seems surprised to see me when I arrive. The motel clerk had given me a very accusatory “Can I help you?” and now the lone waitress at the sole diner in town freezes like a deer in the headlights when I walk in. After confirming that she is in fact open I order a pancake sandwich and coffee. I tuck away the fluffy cakes along with the bacon and eggs they conceal, all coated in a heavy layer of syrup, knowing a long cold day awaits.
The drive to the park itself is eerie, long snow covered planes and sudden deep fog accompany the trip to the gates. I take the park’s access road to the end to absorb the brilliant vistas of snow covered orange cliffs and evergreens before returning to the main trail area. I elect to hike the short, but steep, Navajo Loop. The cold of the upper peaks gives way to squelching orange mud that makes my boots look twice their normal size. However the stunning zigzag path down between the high auburn walls is well worth the mess.
I try my best to clean off the grime but ultimately pack my boots away and drive on to Zion.