carocali (carocali) wrote,

Sunrise, Sunset...

 This is our Bryce Canyon Sunrise and our trip to the Grand Canyon - and beyond... I'm still working on Day 14 and the flight home, but should have those up shortly.




October 12, 2007


Morning came much too early as the alarm buzzed in our ears.  I’d promised Kathy that I’d be up and at ‘em early enough to catch the sun’s rays on the hoodoos.  It wasn’t easy; I don’t do mornings well.


After some debate, we decided to go back to Inspiration Point, since there were various angles and heights to capture.  The air was brisk, but not too cold, so we’d grabbed our patented cups of tea for the road, becoming experts at using the coffee machine to steep our own brew.


The park ranger was there again to take our value pass and wished us a good trip.  We raced through the park, now a little fearful that we were running behind.  The sky was already turning a raspberry pink, signaling the entrance of our bright friend.  The sign of our destination was ahead and we screeched into the lot, finding only a few cars - again.


We limped up the hill to find a couple of avid photographers with tripods ready to go, aimed at the amphitheatre; the light of the day just touching their permeable peaks.  Looking downward, the white layers of the hoodoos were starting to come alive with a glow that was not visible the day before.  The reds of the rock seemed to vibrate in anticipation of their basking.


Above, pinks and blues flirted with each other across the heavens, waiting for the arrival of the star.  Slowly, a hint of yellow peaked out at the bottom of the sky, indicating that she was on her way up for the morning exposure.  Clouds nestled to the bottom of the horizon welcoming her with open arms as she stretched into the day, one tendril at a time.


On cue, the hoodoos suddenly absorbed more of the sunlight, adding a new vivacity to their shells.  They draped the radiance on their shoulders like Saks designer clothing and a whole new landscape was before us.


It was spectacular!


As the sun rose higher in the sky, the beams enveloped the pinnacles.  They actually seemed to blaze the further she ascended, inching her way among the wisps.  More colors announced their arrival as the sunbeams shot across the atmosphere to the hoodoos.  Every second, something different happened.  Between the sun and the shadows, the angles on the rocks held so many options for beauty, it was impossible to know what to take in first.


We stayed for about an hour or so, watching the display before us morph into scene after scene, but we knew we needed to be on our way.  After a quick stop at the gift shop, we packed up our gear and hit the road for the Grand Canyon.


But, of course, we had to stop – again.  The Red Canyon was there, begging to be explored, so we had to oblige. 


We flirted with the red rock as we wove our way through the trails and the unusual foliage on foot.  We each went our separate ways, being drawn to different areas of the site.  Looking at these formations up close certainly showed their relationship to their cousins in the amphitheater.  The red was more vivid and darker, but these hoodoos were not as shapely and they seemed much bigger.  In fact, I’m not sure they’re called hoodoos out this way. 


The rock stood sentry over the grounds; a few select pieces jutted higher than the others with their oblong shapes and horizontal cracks.  The ground held many samplings of colorful stone, ranging from yellows to deep orange and red.  In between, pine cones and needles were littered among them like placeholders for the next batch of pebble.


Just when we thought we were out of the weirdness of Bryce Canyon, we were assaulted all over again.  This time, we were able to get up-close and personal with a part of history, adding the extra bonus that the hoodoos of Bryce did not allow due to time constraints.  Next time. 


We finally found each other again and hit the road, reuniting ourselves with 89 SOUTH.    The Taurus drove us back to our original destination as we made our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


On our way, we passed back near Zion where we witnessed the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and they are definitely pink!  At first, we were unsure what we were looking at, then Kathy remembered reading something about this park being along route 89.  The area is not very large, but it is unique and apparently a product of the Vermillion cliffs on the other side of the Grand Canyon. 


This desert is home to various animals, but the Coral Pink Tiger Beetle only lives in this area of the world.  The creature sports a metallic green head and grayish body.  Can’t say that I’m sad we missed it, but it is fascinating that it only lives in this small region. We blew through trying to get to our next destination, but it’s very surreal to look at small plants and trees surrounded by this pink wrapping. 


We continued to head south until we hit Jacob Lake Lodge, located on the mouth of highway 67.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was a mere 42 miles now, so we decided to stop at the hotel/restaurant/tourist trap for a bite to eat and to check if they had any rooms for the evening.  They were fresh out (which became the mantra of the evening), but we got a nice snack for the road and looked around the gift store.  And the strangest thing happened – Kathy noticed this woman. 


“I’ve seen her before.  Do you recognize her?” 


I was oblivious, but after a moment, Kathy caught her attention.  It turned out she was on the same bus at Zion National Park with us!  It’s just such a small world!   She decided to tour the same areas we were looking at – but by herself!  She was the second lone female traveler we encountered (the first took our picture in the Narrows)!  Girl power!


We decided to hit the road before it got too dark and found more devastation from fire along the way.  We later learned that this wildfire – caused by a lightning strike – started in June of 2006 and burned for a quite a long time.  Many tourists and workers were stranded because of the proximity to Hwy 67 and burned over 50,000 acres (I believe).  The devastated area torched the landscape and scattered the wildlife; but it’s part of how nature keeps itself going, just like in Yellowstone.  It seems like it’s the worst thing in the world, but in the end, nature rejuvenates itself to continue to flourish and grow.


We approached the Grand Canyon Lodge and its cabins with excitement.  This is one of the most famous landmarks in history, and Kathy had never seen a glimpse of it (I’d been to the south rim in the 90’s for about an hour).  We worked our way through the lot and into the cabin area.  What a cool place to stay!  The Lodge was ahead and we peaked in, hoping that perhaps there’d be a room here – but no such luck; just a crabby man at the front desk who was sick of answering questions about room availability. So, we grabbed a cup of tea, headed out to the balcony and soaked in the awesomeness of the canyon below, propping our feet up on the railing and just staring.


A gentle miasma hovered over the gorge as we looked downward.  Sight went on for miles, but the clearness was disturbing.  Again, we thought of how much more beautiful some of the scenery we’d passed would’ve been with the sun gracing us.  It seemed we were destined to get glimpses through the clouds of nature’s wonders, but we were there, and that was the most important thing of all.


The tea was tepid made its way down as we shivered (okay, I shivered) slightly at the temperature. A family of tourists fed the chipmunks and these vivid blue birds along the ledge.  While it’s frustrating to watch people blatantly break the rules about feeding animals, seeing this bird up-close was wonderful.  The blue in its feathers glimmered as it glided quickly down to grab the cookie on the ledge.  The wings were more like scales as the variances of blue permeated its body.  It also had a spiky black head with white around its eyes like the opposite of eyeliner.  Over the back, a gray splotch draped like a sweater to keep the chill away. Truly one of the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen!   I still have no idea what it was though!


After that novelty wore off, we continued our observations of the massive rock with the varying colors below.  They almost had a purple tinge to them at first glance, but upon further inspection, the deep reds and stained white of Bryce and Zion shone through.  Here, too, layer upon layer battled its way through the anger of Mother Nature’s past, struggling to survive each blow.  There are no delicate stratums with intricate carvings – just huge intense beasts. 


The history that this place holds is amazing; millions of years in the making!  It turns out that the top layer of the Canyon – the white sediment – actually was the bed of the ocean!  There are fossils in the rock of clams, sponges and various sea creatures.  The whole area was underwater eons ago.  The eruption of volcanoes disturbed the platelets of the earth, pushing them upward to create the spires, while being cooled by the conflicting waters.  The Colorado River continues to weave its way through the sediment, changing the shape and size of the gorge with each pass.  Eventually, the water will wane the rocks to nothing – thousands of years down the line.


I guess there’s really no way to describe the awesomeness of the area – all 290 miles of it!  Incredible!


The day was getting on, and we figured that we’d need to drive in the daylight to find somewhere to stay for the night.  We trudged back to the car, spotting a Kanab squirrel along the way (big, bushy white tails and sleek bodies – indigenous to the Canyon area).  We loaded up and rode back through the 42 miles of weaving road to the edge of Route 89 again.


That was just the beginning of our driving for the evening, however.  We learned that there’s no civilization at all on route 89 from the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff.  I’m not taking anything away from nature – because what’s there is absolutely breath-taking - but with no cell phone coverage and no sign of life for miles and miles and miles, it’s a little nerve wracking.


We drove and drove, finally getting around the Marble Canyon (which is supposed to be absolutely magnificent) when Kathy asked me to pull over and take a look at the sky behind us.


It was on fire!


The bluish hue was fading into night, but not without a whole lot of color bursting out from every direction!  The clouds were at that perfect level, just settled above the mountains we’d driven through, to accentuate their awesomeness.


Vivid pinks and oranges filled the sky and literally looked like flames.  They rolled over the rocks with purpose and stunned us.  While there were few cars on the road, the ones we did see also paused to take in the scenery as well, knowing that this was not your typical sunset.  How amazing this would have been over Bryce or ‘the Canyon.’  We were lucky that Kathy spotted it at all.


We stopped parallel to the Vermillion Cliffs.  At the time, they simply seemed to be large sediment that went on for miles.  Actually, it was more like forty miles of just straight highway - literally.    Our trusty car ran beside them, and we were glad we’d filled up the gas tank.  It was unnerving not seeing an end in sight as the sun found her blankets for the evening. 


After doing some research, however, I feel like we missed the boat on this one.  The beauty of the rock formations etched away by water drilling its way through left behind waves of curiosity imprinted on the sediment.  The area is one that needs to be hiked, but the treasures hidden along the way are astounding.  Definitely something to go back and visit when we’re back this way.


Twilight took over and we worried about stray elk and deer passing the almost-deserted highway.   Wanda (our GPS) led the way and told us our next town would be Tuba City, Arizona.  As we got closer to that destination, we realized that the town would not give us the shelter we needed, so we forged on to Flagstaff – three and a half hours later!  Of course, once we got there, we found out that North Arizona University was having parent’s weekend, and there wasn’t room at the inn.  Anywhere!


It was getting late; we were cranky and just needed to get some rest.  We finally ended up about twenty miles outside of Flagstaff in Winona, Arizona.  We puttered around for a bit and finally ended up at an out-of-the-way, family-run motel off the ‘downtown’ strip.  It was clean and had running water, which was pretty much all we needed – especially after driving for almost four hours in the dark.  We lugged our stuff upstairs and we both quickly got ready for bed as we had more driving to do tomorrow.


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