For another year, I flew out to Salt Lake City to score AP essays, braving more of Salt Lake’s odd traffic conventions, the unorthodox ways of eating at the Reading, and additional unusual discoveries in the city. After 6 straight days of scoring, we finished the last full day of reading essays, so we returned to our room at the Grand America to celebrate. But first, Jim, Daniel, and I stocked up with a trip to nearby Epic Brewery.
We overcame the hardship of the hotel room’s lack of a refrigerator, chilling drinks the old fashioned way, the way Brigham Young might have in 1855. You know, if Brigham Young chilled beer in his 4 star hotel room.
The next day, the reading ended at about one, and we were able to head south. This time, Jim and I would be head to Bryce Canyon National Park, which would be several dozen degrees cooler than Arches was last year.
Having learned a lesson about trusting concierges last year, I skipped the “shuttle service” to the car rental place and actually walked the block and a half to Hertz. Soon Jim and I were on our way. We stopped at the famous American Forks Target, home to more young children than the entire Indian Subcontinent, and grabbed lunch at In-N-Out Burger, confirming once again that, while In-N-Out is delicious, it is objectively worse than Five Guys. Three and a half hours later, we reached the Bryce Canyon region, stopping first at the Red Canyon.
In Utah, the type of awesomeness above merits only a small green road sign, the kind of sign that says, “Stop if you feel like it, but if you don’t, no biggie. There’s more where this came from.”
At about 7pm, we made it to Bryce Canyon. Parks out West are awesome for the lazy; the pictures below were taken at “scenic pulloffs” a few feet from the car.
At around 8:30, we left to check in to our hotel in Tropic, Utah, a small town with a population of about 500 people.
As Jim did last year, on that first night after leaving the Reading he entered the energy-replenishing Odin-sleep, so in the morning I enjoyed the view from the town coffee shop while waiting for him to wake up.
At ten, I interrupted the Odin-sleep, pumped coffee into Jim, and got ready for some hiking in Bryce. Our plan was to hike Peekaboo Loop, universally considered the best day hike in the park. Before the hike, we stopped off at Inspiration Point for some, um, inspiration.
The view from the point was, in fact, inspiring.
The Peekaboo Loop hike started at Bryce Point, which was far enough above sea level that the temperature was significantly lower than it was even in Tropic, which was only 20 minutes away.
After making our way through the canyon paparazzi who crowded every overlook, it was time to descend into the canyon!
While it wasn’t that hot, the sun was intense on the rim trails, which were mostly out in the open.
We made it to the bottom, which was much greener and more shady than at the rim of the canyon.
A park ranger informed us that three rattlesnakes had been found on the Bryce trails in the weeks before we hiked, one on this path. When we asked what would happen if a snake bit someone, the Ranger replied that the person bitten would have to walk out. That person would have their choice of walking a mile uphill after being bitten by a rattlesnake or just lying down to die. Clearly, there are no good options there.
The scenery was awesome, and the hike was made even better by the fact that the air was about 70% less humid than in Virginia.
The stone formations at Bryce, known as Hoodoos, are spectacular from the rim of the canyon. I wasn’t sure if the Hoodoos would be as easy to appreciate at the bottom of the canyon since we would be so much closer and they are so massive, but the spacing of the rock formations and the differences in elevation, even at the bottom, enabled us to appreciate the Hoodoos no matter what our perspective.
We completed the loop at around mid-afternoon and now were ready to hike out of the canyon. See the top of the peak in the middle of the picture below? Those are people at Inspiration Point, which was close to where the hike started.
The climb out involved about 850 feet of elevation gain over about a mile. You know what made the ascent even better?
We made it out without suffering a rattlesnake bite or heart attack. After washing off the dusty camouflage, it was time to celebrate through the consumption of victory pie at the Bryce Canyon Pines.