Back to Bryce: A Cold Sunrise, a Hot Jacuzzi


Crossroads' associate editor Judy Koutsky is on a weeklong tour of national parks, starting at the Grand Canyon and extending through several parks in Utah. She will be chronicling her adventures with daily travelogues and photos. Her fourth installment follows:

GLENDALE, Utah -- It would be a shame, when in such beautiful country, surrounded by the most amazing natural parks, to miss nature's own unique slide show. So we woke up at 4 a.m. today to view the sunrise in Bryce Canyon.

sunrise at Bryce Bryce is a bout a 45-minute drive from our accommodation, Eagles Nest Bed and Breakfast. However, as stated in an earlier report, navigating in the darkness (especially when there is an abundance of wildlife that seem to love nothing more than darting into oncoming traffic) tends to prolong a journey, so it took about 90 minutes to get into the park. We were surprised to see about a dozen other people, cameras set up on tripods, eagerly waiting at the Bryce Canyon overlook. (We originally were going to go to Inspiration Point, but our B&B hosts thought the view would be more remarkable at Bryce.) As we huddled together for warmth -- it was about 50 degrees, but in shorts it felt like 10 -- we exchanged travel stories and anecdotes with the other travelers. It was easy to spot the national park regulars: They came prepared with long pants, jackets and thermoses of coffee, while the rest of us novices were dressed for a 90-degree day.

When the sun began to rise, light beams reflected off the tops of the spire-like rock formations, called hoodoos. This majestic scene is quite difficult to catch on film, and I almost recommend not even making the attempt. The moments go by too quickly, and it's best to just lose oneself in the experience. By the time it was over, we were more than a little cold, but it seemed a small price to pay for such a show.

We headed to Bryce Canyon lodge, which does not boast the grandeur of the Grand Canyon lodge has its own cozy appeal, where we had a full breakfast and lots of hot coffee. Then we headed to the stables. We originally had reservations for horseback riding in the afternoon, but yesterday's thunderstorms made us rethink that plan. Switching to the morning half-day ride turned out to be one of the wisest decisions we've made -- it thunderstormed all afternoon. Our horseback ride on Peekaboo Trail, down into the canyons of Bryce, has been the highlight of the trip so far. Although the Grand Canyon mule trip offered great views of the canyon, the trees dotting the North Rim lessened the drama of the rock formations. Bryce too has pines and firs, but they're not as dense, so stark red outlines of hoodoos can be seen at every turn.

horsesWe went all the way to the bottom of Bryce Canyon riding along winding paths making every turn a Kodak moment. The brilliant shapes and colors of the hoodoos could have kept me on that horse for the full day. For those who don't like to ride, Peekaboo Trail is shared with hikers. If only one day can be spent at Bryce, the horseback/mule rides really give visitors an in-depth look at the park. Bryce-Zion Trail Rides, (435) 679 8665, Fax: (435) 679-8709.

As luck would have it, the thunderstorms started moments after dismounting. We had planned to spend the afternoon hiking, but decided to alter our schedule. As the local folks say, the mountains and canyons create their own weather, and if you don't like it, drive 20 miles. We did that yesterday when we left a wet Bryce for a very dry Kodachrome. Today, we decided to employ the same tactic and leave Bryce to go to Escalente State Park. The rain gods, however, were not smiling down on us. While driving, a pretty severe rainstorm forced us to pull off to the side of the road until it passed. The storms here are hard and quick; it's just a matter of waiting them out. The black storm clouds hovering in the direction we were headed made us change our itinerary once again. We decided to head back to Eagles Nest and take a nap while the skies cleared.

Eagles NestAfter sleeping for a couple hours, we decided to head up to Navajo Lake to catch the sunset. Navajo Lake looks like a snaking river, but it's really an enclosed lake that formed over a lava bed. Surrounded by lush forests it's a great backdrop for backpacking, hiking, camping or fishing. Fortunately we arrived there in plenty of time to see the sunset. Unfortunately it was an incredibly foggy night. The rolling fog hovering above the lake, however, provided an alternative spectacle. We stopped for dinner in Duck Creek Village. Visitors can find some local color at the Pizza and Suds. Here the regulars tell their stories to anybody willing to listen -- we were easy prey.

Navajo LakeDriving back to Eagles Nest in the darkness provided a rare look into the regions wildlife. We saw signs that announced that this was "bear country," but fortunately we didn't run into any furry friends of that kind. We did however spot over two dozen deer, some inches away from the road, on our way home. We saw whole families of them, including little fawns. They would just stop what they were doing and look at our car inquisitively. Although the graceful creatures prevented us from driving faster than 20 miles per hour, which made it take twice as long to get home, it was nice to see nature that up-close.

Back at Eagles Nest, we dumped our cameras and headed straight for the outdoor Jacuzzi. Eagles Nest Bed and Breakfast, nestled in the woods, is an upscale accommodation. The owners, Dearborn and Shanoan Clark, are targeting an affluent clientele, not family vacationers in minivans. Visitors are offered a glass of wine or beer upon entering the B&B. Rooms are lavishly decorated with artifacts from the couple's many years of travel. The living room is ornate but not overbearing, and it includes a library of "potato chip reading" (light summer novels), travel books and magazines. Photo albums chronicling the couple's many hikes throughout the national parks are also available. A soft snuggly robe is provided for use in the hot tub, located out front. After a day of hiking, horseback riding or simply sightseeing, nothing refreshes those tired muscles better than soaking in hot, bubbly water under the stars. (It's a pretty spectacular view of the sky, as the B&B is located off the main road and far enough away from the town's center.) Rates at Eagles Nest are between $69 and $107, and the property pays 10% commission to agents. URL: Phone: (800) 293-NEST.Fax: (435) 648-2221.

Part One: The Grand Canyon's North Rim.
Part Two: Lake Powell
Part Three: Bryce Canyon/Kodachrome
Part Four: More Bryce Canyon
Part Five: Zion National Park/Lake Mead

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