The story of my day in Bryce begins at a hotel in Torrey, Utah. A wonderful cute little rustic roadside inn, nothing fancy. It was special because it was the first bed in five nights (the longest stretch up to this point) and with that, the cleanest, warmest place I had been in for just as many nights. I woke up fresh with a plan of action to deal with my flat tire. The fix-a-flat was still working its magic on the bulbous sidewall tear, but I needed to deal with it and move on. This side-jaunt to Utah was meant to be a quick trip.
My “Uncle Dave,” had helped me purchase this car when mine was totaled and had insisted upon getting a lot of extra protection since I would be “Lord knows where.” So I pulled out my large envelope of coverage and gave a quick call to the tire protection service. I had barely owned my car for a month, so they had not even received the registration paperwork yet. With an edge of panic and maybe a little vinegar in my voice, I called my friends at the dealership and laid it to them straight. I had been stranded on a fairly deserted road in Utah without reception, drove three hours over the mountains in a National Park and was stuck in Utah with little time or money. They were extremely helpful and told me to go wherever I could to get the tire replaced and send them the receipt. In the end, they reimbursed me immediately without hassle.
I had to go another 20 miles North and West (not my intended path) to find a place that had a tire for a sedan. Apparently, it is unwise to have anything but a large pickup in this part of the country. Hmmmmm…food for thought. The repair shop had to finagle a deal with the intended owner of that tire for a later replacement, and I paid a little more, but they had me set up and ready to go in 45 minutes, along with a brand new can of fix-a-flat.
I got back on my schedule which included a stop in Bryce Canyon National Park and then an Airbnb in Kanab for the following couple of nights so that I could hit up Zion and the Grand Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park was insanely crowded but for obvious reason. You don’t have to go on a hike to see the beauty, and you can only see a beauty like Bryce.. in Bryce. Walking up to the edge of the overlook trail at Sunset Point, I was in awe of the bright orange and white hoodoos (https://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/64bryce/64bryce.htm) rising from the canyon floor. This place is truly magnificent, and for 20 minutes or so, I just sat on a bench in silence taking it all in.
I wound my way through the visitor’s center and fortunately it was enough on the downside of their busy season that they were allowing cars, and not just shuttles, to get to the inner region of the park. I drove to the main lookouts and ogled mother-nature with everyone else. I gazed at Thor’s Hammer from afar and longed for the future day when I would take a hike into the maze of hoodoos rather than view them from the overlook.
I took the long drive up to the peak of the park and the Alpine forest. It is an interesting thing that the woods appear so near, but high above, this odd, desert-looking place. I took a quick hike on the trail to stretch my legs. I came around a corner, stopped at a beautiful vista and quickly lost my breath as I came face to face with a Buck just 10 feet away. We were both surprised. I snapped a quick pic with my phone and then slowly backed up and returned the way I came.
At another trailhead I went the opposite way, not wanting to end my hike so quickly. Before long, with my heart still racing, I saw two guys coming my way. “Oh, my God, another person!” they exclaimed. I saw this as a chance to share my recent find with other humans. They immediately cut in and told me that they hadn’t seen anyone for hours, got lost, and ran out of water. I gave them my water bottle and we shared a couple of moments of chatter about this crazy beautiful place and their unplanned adventure.
I continued on the trail a little while longer and then returned to the trailhead. I took a moment to stop at a bench overlook for some quiet contemplation and meditation. Bryce is truly a beautiful and odd place, and I wished I could stay for a few days. I put it on my list as another place to return to for a more intense visit.
When I returned to my car, I saw the two hikers again, and they called out my name, raised their granola bars, and thanked me loudly for “saving their lives” J. They were far from perishing, but none-the-less, I was happy to help and have a human connection in this beautiful place.