Tag Archives: hiking

Lost in the Desert Part Three – The Rescue

15 Feb

Sometime during the day, one hearty traveler ventured into the camp while I was attempting to summit Mica Mountain starting from the campground. I don’t recall the individual’s name, but he traveled alone and did not use any kind of shelter – he just slept in his bag. I thought this was unusual because it was quite cold and windy. He also told me that winds the preceding evening were strong enough to knock over one of the oldest and largest saguaros in the area.  We spent some time talking and getting to know one other that night and discussed traveling out together the following morning.

I can’t remember exactly how the events  unfolded, but I believe the following morning this individual decided to break camp earlier than we had planned. Unfortunately, I was still in the process of breaking down my camp and wasn’t able to accompany him. I think I left approximately an hour after he did. That’s really when the trouble started.  In and around the campground, there are a number of use trails, and it is difficult to discern which is the main trail leading out of the camp. I am not exactly sure where I got lost, but I think it happened pretty quickly.

One of the  interesting things about Saguaro NP East is  housing developments abutt the park boundaries. So when traveling in and out of the mountains,  many of the distant views are of residential areas. I think this gives the traveler a false sense of security because everything looks closer than it is, and it is impossible to tell the lay of the land.  At times, it almost looks like you can reach out and touch the houses, but they are much further off than they appear. Another major mistake I made was using these homes as a guide point to determine which way I should be traveling.  I’ll try to describe to you what happened next….

Instead of following the ridgeline down and off the mountain at approximately a 45 degree angle, I descended straight down a 90 degree angle.  Needless to say, before I realized  I was traveling in the wrong direction, I had already passed the point where it made sense for me to try to turn around and retrace my steps. I wasn’t even sure if I could find my way back if I tried. Part of the problem was there were a considerable amount of game trails in the wilderness and I was deceived into believing that I was traveling on an actual hiking trail. I saw an astonishing amount of deer during this adventure.  At one point, I must have spooked a herd of nearly 50, right in the middle of day, just galloping through the groves of giant saguaros. It was really quite a site.

Once I realized that I was lost, my game plan was to follow the washes down and out of the wilderness. Often times, the washes represent the path of least resistance. Occasionally, they cliff out and you are forced to circumvent around. That happened a couple of times, and I basically resorted to bushwhacking through some nasty desert terrain. By this time, my water supply was quickly dwindling. I had a couple different plans for my water. One strategy that I’ll sometimes use is to hold the water in my mouth for as long as I can without swallowing, which keeps your breathing passages hydrated and moist. If had completely run out of water, I knew that I could probably find some stored in the park’s many barrel cacti and would not hesitate to cut one open if my life depended on it.

That ended up not being the case, but I was a complete mess by the time I wandered off the mountain. I never saw a single soul during the entire length of my descent, which took about twice as long was what it should have taken. My thighs to my ankles were completely covered in scratches ranging from one to five inches in length. It literally looked like I had been attacked by a wild animal. By the time I reached the base of the mountains, I ended up in a remote section that had just a single trail. That trail eventually led out and I ended up soliciting a neighbor for some water and the use of their phone.  As it turned out, I was a good 15 mile drive from my car when I should have been able to walk right off the trail and throw my gear into my trunk. I called the park for assistance, and they sent a ranger out to drive me back. After searching all my stuff for “petroglyphs,” he returned me to my car. It was the only time I had to be “rescued” and I was thankful  I made it out in one piece. It was quite the adventure!

Lost in the Desert Part Two

8 Feb

I arrived at the barren Juniper Basin campground, nearly seven miles from the trailhead, to have my pick of campsites. I was the only one there.  By this point, I was at about 6,000 feet in elevation and there were patches of snow just starting to appear. There was a small stream near the campsite, with just enough running water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. There was also an outhouse, bear boxes (bears in the desert!), and fire pits. My goal for the following day was to hike to the summit of Mica Mountain at 8,666 feet.  This was an ambitious goal, as getting there involved a round trip hike of nearly 20 miles.

That night, the winds were some of the hardest I  have ever experienced in the backcountry. As I understand it, over 60 mile per hour winds were whipping through the mountains. I could hear the wind coming before it smacked into my tent. The next morning, after a breakfast of soup and dried peas, I readied myself for the long day ahead. Because it was the middle of December, I was dealing with one of the very shortest days of the year. Daylight was certainly at a premium. I was also leery about starting too early because of the weather and running into any potential predators, specifically mountain lions, which are known to frequent the area. 

It was  beautiful day and I encountered just a few small hang-ups along the way. Specifically, around the area of Tanque Verde Peak, where I lost sight of the trail and spent close to a half hour trying to find it. That incident set me back a bit. The snow got deep as well, and it was quite a different scene when I arrived at Manning Camp.

I want interrupt here for just a brief moment and apologize for not having any pictures. I checked my old hard drive earlier today and cannot find the images from this trip. Anyway, Manning Camp is a high camp used by the park service as a backcountry HQ. It is located at about 8,000 feet near a number of intersecting trails.

I knew I didn’t have far to go to get to the summit, just 1.4 miles and in the end I decided to be prudent and turn around so I could get back before dark. This part of the story reminds me of an image I took of an eight point buck just lying in the snow, not 25 feet from the trai. It didn’t even flinch when it saw me coming. It just laid there and chilled. So cool! I’d love to share it with you, oh well…not today I guess. Anyway, I arrived back at camp safely an hour before dark, fueling skepticism in my mind that I could have summited the mountain and returned safely in time. No matter, I really didn’t want to potentially cross paths with a mountain lion at dusk anyway.

To my surprise, there was one other adventurous soul setting up camp upon my return….to be continued on the next post.

Wild Moments #3 Lost in the Desert – The Expedition Pt. 1

3 Feb

In December  2004, I ventured into the Rincon Mountains of Saguaro National Park East for my first solo backpacking trip. It was a trip that I’ll never forget. For those of you that don’t know, the Rincon Mountains are part of the “sky islands,”   a group of mountain chains in the Coronado National Forest of southeastern Arizona that draw their name from the extreme biodiversity found within the topography.  The largest of the sky islands is Mt. Graham. At 10,720 ft, it is also the third highest peak in the state.

The Rincon Mountains top out at 8,664 feet, but draw distinction as being some of the roughest mountains in the state. A few years back, I read a book about hiking the Arizona Trail and the author claimed the Rincons, which traverse the state from north to south, were the most difficult part of the 772 mile hike.  Although there are over 100 miles of trails in the Rincons, there is one trail that serves as the artery into the park. It’s called the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail and it’s the one most backpackers use. It is an 18 mile trail (roundtrip) that journeys on the spine of the Rincons into the heart of the mountains. From its terminant, it is a manageable day hike to reach the top of the mountains.

I started out in mid morning on a typical December day. Temperatures were in the high 60s and it was sunny and relatively warm. At the trailhead, the topography is lower Sonoran desert. You’ll see a veritable display of plants such as saguaro, ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear, and barrel cacti as well as mesquite and palo verde trees amongst others. As the trail begins to climb, the topography soon changes.  Lower Sonoran desert gives way to high Sonoran desert and the larger cacti soon disappear. They are replaced with large boulders, wild grasses, and more trees. (If you are interested in the different biotic zones of this hike, you’ll find more information here)

By the time I reached camp near the seven mile mark, the temperature had dropped about  15 degrees. There were patches of snow at the campsite. When night began to fall, the wind picked up considerably and  the temperatures plummeted. Backpacking in the Rincon Mountains is not for the faint of heart. This was just the beginning of my adventure…(I’ve got my pictures from this hike on another hard drive and I will update this post with a few shots before my next post.)

Wild Moments in the Wilderness Close Call #5: Quicksand

9 Jan

During my wilderness travels, there haven’t been too many things more startling than stepping into an area you think is solid, only to instantly sink up to your knees in sand or mud. It’s stepping in quicksand and it has happened to me on several occasions in Zion National Park. The first time I encountered quicksand was during a through hike in the Narrows with a buddy of mine about four and a half years ago. I was aware of the potential hazard, but it is very difficult to perceive where the danger is, meaning you basically have to experience it. When you step in quicksand you are generally taken off-balance because your momentum is stopped cold. So while you think you should be walking, you’re not, resulting in a mild whiplash type of effect. In this instance, I stepped almost up to my thighs and lost one of my boots in the process. Luckily, I was able to retrieve it, regain my composure, and move on.  Make no mistake about it, stepping into quicksand requires quick thinking.

While in Zion this past fall, I had another near miss with quicksand, only this time it was in swift moving water that was almost waist deep. As I was moving slowly into the water to try to set up for a picture,  I could feel the sand give out much too quickly underneath my feet as I lightly stepped into the deeper section to test the current. Immediately I knew it was trouble and backed off. This wasn’t something you could see, as it was actually beneath the water in some fairly deep rapids.  A serious situation in which in an unsuspecting person could have conceivably been seriously injured or drowned.

Dangerous Times - This was the area that had the quicksand. I wanted to get into those rapids, but what lurked beneath made it much too dangerous.

In another instance during the same trip, I was walking through a canyon in Zion’s eastern section near the Checkerboard Mesa, where I carelessly stepped into a shallow patch of quicksand. This instance was quite surreal because I was in a side canyon and was intently searching my surroundings for photo opportunities.  As I walking, the ground looked solid and I was looking up and boom, right up my knees in quicksand!

This time I really banged up my shin and almost ruined my camera which I was carrying on my tripod.  The quicksand caught me so off guard I actually put my camera down in it for a split second, getting dirt and sand in its controls. It took more than a week for my shin to heal, another half hour to clean my camera, and my shoes to this day still stink from that episode.

Bottom line is,  make sure you are educated on the areas where quicksand is a potential hazard. Be aware and mentally prepared for any encounter.  I keep a very level head in the wilderness, but I’ve been caught off guard several  times. If you get stuck, don’t struggle or wiggle to get out. Try to free up one leg at a time or if you are up to your waist, lift yourself out and roll onto the mud.  Remember it’s the first 30 seconds after it happens where you can really get yourself into trouble, especially if you are carrying expensive camera equipment. Be sure to use a hiking stick to probe areas that lock suspicious. Be alert and prepared and have fun! I hope you enjoyed this post, if so, please let me know. I’ll post later this week with number four.

“Wild Moments”, Close Calls in the Wilderness Pt. 1

6 Jan

Happy New Year and welcome to the newest lineage of postings for 2011. To start the year, I’ve been reflecting on the precarious situations I’ve experienced over the years in the wild, the ones that sometimes make for great stories, but aren’t  nearly as fun when you are experiencing them.  Fortunately, all these stories have a happy ending . We didn’t lose any body parts, break any bones or even wreck any vehicles. We are so very thankful and fortunate for that. That being said, we still have gone through some sticky and sometimes nasty situations that I think you’ll engaging, entertaining and even useful. I am going to count down the top 5 this month, starting later this week in reverse order at number five.

Here’s what to expect: From close calls with big game animals in big parks, to being stranded and trapped in the wilderness, I’ll give you my first hand account what went down, how I approached it, and what I learned. We’ll start with number five by this weekend and from there it is going to get intense! I am looking forward to sharing these stories with you and I’ll talk to you soon.

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Your Landscape Photography….

21 Aug

I am feeling compelled to share this tip with you before the weekend and my hope is that you’ll find this advice solid, useful, and rewarding. Before we start, I’ll admit I am guilty of skipping around on my blog posts and this one is no exception. As a result, I will continue my last series about sharing your photographs online next week.  Allow me to briefly provide you some context  for this post and where the inspiration came from. Lately, I have returned to many images already in the archives or previously posted to reprocess in hopes of a better result.  So far, I am very pleased with the results.  This has been a season of less travel for me, and  I haven’t taken what I consider to be a major trip (more than a week in the wilderness) pretty much all year. 

Being grounded in society like this really helps provide perspective on my time outdoors;  it is something that I cherish, relish, and value very much. Sometimes, when you out there so long (at least for me) one can get a little desensitized to the special meaning of their surroundings. While reworking some of these older images and through feedback from posting them online, I’ve seen once again how incredibly spectacular some of the places are that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. 

That brings me to the topic of this post:  Want to be a better landscape photographer? Well, besides enrolling in a photography workshop (another post at a later time, improve your research skills.  It dawned on me that I rarely just show up and luck into a great photograph. For me, it is much more than that – it takes time and efficient planning.  For your convenience, I am including a list on the steps I go through when planning a trip, and the questions that cross my mind and that I need to answer in order to move forward. (Not all steps will be applicable to everyone) 

1. Dates: When are you going to go? How much time can you spend on this trip?  This is pretty much my first step in planning a trip. I’ve got to decide when and for how long. We all have extenuating circumstances that help dictate or shape the dates of our trip – so I normally don’t precede any farther until I can confidently answer both these questions. 

2. Location:  For me, the location is always determined by the date and the amount of time I can spend on the trip.  Most of the time, I drive. For instance,  if the trip is less than three days, I won’t go out of state. If it is for a week, I’ll drive further to parts of a neighboring state like California, Utah, Nevada, or Colorado. If it is two or more weeks, I’ll consider driving somewhere like Northern California or Wyoming. The second part of this equation is the time of year: Obviously, we aren’t taking any backpacking trips in the Sonoran Desert in July and I am not planning on driving to Wyoming in January either. I generally try to maximize the season. That means go where the going is best….     

3.  Specifics:  The first two steps are pretty obvious. This step is where the rubber meets the road. It’s good to get a little dirty here.  I start with maps. Normally, AAA state road maps work best as the wilderness areas are well-marked in green. For instance, if I am going to Yosemite, I might look also at the areas around Yosemite to see if there is any interesting worth checking out. For some parks, like Yosemite, a lot of your options are decided by which way you’ll be driving so I like to determine that first so it gives me a clearer path of direction. (Excuse the pun) 

Along with all my maps my hiking book collection is an indisposable resource for my photography. This is just part of the collection...

 

 

So now you now where you want to go, when you want to go, for how long you are going, and which way you are going to be driving. Now the hard part; what are you going to do when you get there? For the sake of time, here’s a list of recommendations, advice and questions to think when planning this important leg of your journey. 

1. What are my physical limitations and what do I feel comfortable doing? 

2. If backpacking, do I need a permit and should I reserve one? Where do I get the permits? What are the best campsites?  What are the camping restrictions? 

3. What dangers do I need to be aware of and educated on?  (Wild animals,  flash floods, creek or river fording, unmaintained trails,  precarious climbs) 

3.  Which camera equipment should I bring?   

4. Where are the best places to stay should I need a hotel? 

5.  What is the elevation gain/loss of the hike? How many miles will I be traveling? 

1. Buy and study the guide books – the more research you do the better. 

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – don’t be too ambitious in your planning, allow for layover days and for days just to explore the area (just make sure you have the right area) 

3. Monitor the weather reports 

4. Spending time learning the topography of the land and learn or read about when are the best times to shoot. 

5. Get there early and stay late if possible. 

6. Schedule layover days for scouting expeditions 

7. Make safety a priority & have fun!!

ATV’s and Landscape Photography Like Mixing Water and Oil

9 Jul

Just so you know, there won’t be any pictures on this post as I don’t like to shoot four-wheel tracks. This is a spontaneous blog as I wanted to write about Utah’s crown jewel today, but I changed the topic while doing research on my top 10 parks for summer travel  series while coming across this newspaper article. Instead, we are discussing a particular state park located just outside of the eastern entrance to Zion National Park near Kanab called the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

I’ve been fortunate to visit dunes like the Mesquite Flats in Death Valley National Park as well as the Kelso Dunes in the Mohave Desert National Preserve , and let me tell you the coral pink dunes are every bit as scenic and grand as those. These dunes are extremely impressive. Honestly, they don’t really look pink until about ten minutes before sunset, but there are some spectacular trees, plants, and flowers, amongst the large, rolling dunes with excellent distant views to boot. This is one cool place. Unfortunately, there is one large non-geological difference between these dunes and the aforementioned ones in California. It has to do with rules and regulations… yep, you guessed it at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes ATVs and their drivers scurry across the sand like ants on ant hill.

Here is my issue with this: I believe the state is allowing a relatively small group of individuals to basically ruin the experience for most other people. (And I am not even talking about the environmental and physical impact and consequences these machines have on the land) At the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, it’s not just a small, designated area for the ATV riders to enjoy; it is pretty much the whole darn park, including its highest and most scenic dunes. Can you believe it? Clad in helmets and racing suits they zoom up the sides of the dunes like skateboarders on a half-pipe. For an avid nature lover, experiencing this is very annoying and frustrating; you can forget about doing any hiking in the park because you’ll most likely get run over and killed.  

What’s even worse is the noise pollution, so not only can you not do any exploring, one can’t even sit back and peacefully enjoy the views because there is so much unsettling noise. Before I went to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, I thought areas like this were for natural relaxation to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and technology; not listening to what sounds like a high-pitched lawn mower screech across the desert. Now that I think about it, while they are at it, why don’t they just set up a shooting range there and let all the gun-toting enthusiasts come in and blast things up too.

On the flip side, there is one group in particular that I feel especially bad for, who I think get the real short end of the stick here. If you have ever been to a national park in Utah then you’ve probably seen lots of these folks. Its out international friends from Germany and other countries that predominately come to these places. Seriously, these people are paying a lot of money to come to this country specifically to visit these out-of-the-way places. Small town, locally owned businesses around these parks absolutely depend on these types of tourists for their existence.

 My guess is anywhere between 40 – 60% of park visitors at any point in time in Utah are from a countries other than the United States. Now, I know these people aren’t towing ATVs over from Europe and my unsubstantiated hunch is they probably aren’t renting them much either. I just can’t image the aggravation of traveling (that’s flying and driving) literally thousands of miles to come a place to enjoy its natural beauty – only to have it ruined by the rules and regulations of that country’s or state’s government. Were not talking about a 3rd or 4th world nation here, but the good ol’  US of A. The country who invented the idea of a national park.

This again leads me to my point for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – why bite the hand that feeds you?  Why give so much power and authority to the ATV users? Well, anyone who has spent some time in the area will notice what a huge marketing ploy ATV use and rentals really are. My guess is the consumer market for this brand of entertainment is a totally different type of person. It’s unfortunate because it appears that ATV riding is extremely popular. Now I am wondering how long before the government takes this to the next level and allows them in national parks too. Now, that’s a scary thought! In conclusion, trying to allow ATV users and photographers/hikers to simultaneously enjoy the same tract of publicly owned land just doesn’t blend –  is like mixing oil and water  and it is unfortunate at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes my group is on the wrong side of the equation.

North Face, Tents, and Vermin

7 Jul

I’ve been very busy this week editing and painting my kitchen so I will have the newest post on my top 10 parks for summer travel either tomorrow or Friday at latest. To give you a hint – check out my new releases gallery here. I just posted two new images today, one of which is from that park.

Anyway, I wanted to give a short plug to The North Face for their outstanding products as well as their customer service.  We have been proud owners of a North Face Rock 22 tent since 2004. Last year alone, the tent received over 60 uses including a frozen night on Shoshone Lake (Yellowstone NP), 60 mph winds in the Rincon Mountains (Saguaro NP), among other adventures.

Well, after years of use and abuse, our tent finally gave out. The zippers just couldn’t handle the wear and tear anymore. Long story short, we sent our tent into The North Face warranty department to see if they could fix it. We didn’t expect it to be covered under the warranty, and it wasn’t, and North Face said they couldn’t even fix it. What we also didn’t expect was the warranty department to offer 50% off on a new tent in its place (as well as on a footprint)! We were thrilled to accept their offer and very impressed with their customer service. Hence, this post. Kudos to The North Face for their outstanding customer service! 

Also, in RIP of our wonderful, old tent we leave you this picture, which just happens to be from the most miserable night I ever spent in it – at Havasupai Canyon. We were harassed by two, pesky, full-grown, adult raccoons who started stalking during an early evening dinner. The harassment continued all night culminating in the raccoons breaking into our backpacks and eating our favorite protein bars. At one point, I had one of the vermin trapped on a low-lying tree limb and my fiancée convinced me to let it live. Needless to say, I slept all of about an hour that night. This picture is from that day. We’ll talk to you soon. Have a great one!!

An Eerie Reminder of the Night of the raccoons. RIP Rock 22!

Zion Narrows Workshop and How $6 Feeds Two While Camping

1 Jul

We just returned from an exciting trip to Great Basin National Park as well as another Narrows adventure in Zion National Park. We had a wonderful time, learned lots of new things, met new people, made some improvements, and are looking to build on the momentum into next year’s 2nd Annual Zion Narrows Small Group Workshop. I’ve posted the information on my website – you can find it here.   Briefly, I’d like to discuss the advantages of this workshop with you. 

If you have ever wanted to hike and photograph the narrows this is your chance! Literally, I’ve been up and down that river so many times, and combined with my vast canyoneering experience, you’ll have the best guide possible for slick, water travel while carrying expensive photography equipment. I’ll show you where and how to cross difficult sections of rapids, check the depth of the water in questionable places, and assist you in your photography in every way possible. You’ll learn what lenses to bring, what to wear and expect, and how to get the best images possible.

I truly believe this is the best way to maximize your experience. This is an incredible opportunity and group size is limited to seven participants. There is a discount for signing up early and if the workshop sells out I will offer more workshops later in the summer and possibly for the fall as well.

What’s even more, we met with just about every hotel general manager in Springdale to secure the best lodging opportunities,  and feel confident we are offering the best of both worlds when it comes to accommodations and instruction. This is an awesome opportunity. Please contact me for more information or see my website on the link above.

Now, I’d like to briefly revisit my trip to Great Basin National Park. This is an incredible National Park, one of my absolute favorites. I hope to be offering small group workshops there in the future. I will write specifically about the features of this park in the future, but  for now I want to share a campfire recipe I created and used for the first time when visiting this park.  The beauty of this recipe is in its cost. Most of the ingredients can be purchased at your local 99 cents store, making it a low-cost, yet healthy and tasty alternative to packaged meals.

Michael Greene’s Campfire Chili for Two

1 large can or two small cans of crushed or diced tomatoes

2 small cans total of either: pinto, black, or kidney beans (you can mix them)

chili powder, various seasonings 

These simple ingredients are enough to make the chili for two. It will cost approximately $3-4 and that’s using organic products well! Here are some additional ingredients we came up with:

8 – 12 oz ground beef – you can freeze it at home, and make chili the first day of your trip or just pick some up at a store nearest your campsite

3 – 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

4 packets of Wendy’s Chili Sauce (optional)

Dried or fresh white onions (optional)

Make sure you are at a campground that has a grill. Build your fire and after about 10 – 15 minutes you should have a sufficient enough ember bed to begin cooking. During the entire time of cooking, it is best to keep your fire going if possible. If you are cooking with meat – cook that first on its own so you can drain the fat. Cook the meat on its own for 5 – 7 minutes. When 75% cooked, add the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes and meat cook for a f ew minutes until they being to boil. Add the beans and the spices. Depending on the heat intensity of your fire,and your patience, the beans should cook anywhere between 7-10 minutes or longer if you prefer. The cheese and/or fresh onions should come at the end. This makes a large meal for two adults or can even be split up into 3 portions for those with smaller appetites.

Next Monday, we’ll start again with another episode of the top National Parks to visit in the summertime. Have a fantastic July 4th weekend!

Top 10 Parks for Summer Travel #8

18 Jun

8. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Pros: Breathtaking Views,  Abundant Wildlife, Centralized Location,  State of the Art Visitor Center, Easy Access, Family Friendly

Cons: Small in Size, Sometimes Overcrowded, Very little natural water

Dates of Visit: August ’06, August/September ’09,  May ’10

Bryce Canyon is probably the hottest park on this list right now as I continue to enjoy myself more and more every time I visit. In fact, this park has gone from a middle of the road contender to one of my favorites in the country. Although it is smallest in size on this list, it packs quite a punch. If you have never visited, the scenery here is second to none. Jaw dropping at first sight and continually beckoning the interpid sole.

Unbelievable scenery awaits you at Bryce Canyon

The base elevation of this park is over 8,000 ft. making it the coolest national park in Utah during the summer. There are two rather large campgrounds inside the park and several more just on its outskirts.

Furthermore, summer also means monsoon season and  Bryce Canyon is certainly known for its spectacular skies. Sunset and sunrise views here are both fantastic, arguably some of the best views in the world. I give a slight edge to sunrise for photography as most of the park’s vistas are facing East and the color is slightly better.

There are about 40 miles of hiking trails in the park, which is substantial considering its size. Hiking is relatively difficult here because of three reasons:  1) all the trails descend into the canyon 2) the air is thinner 3) there is no water in the canyon. There are backpacking opportunities as well and getting a backcountry permit is relatively easy because this park is more geared for tourists rather than hardcore hikers.

There are two items of interest that have specifically captured my attention that I want to talk about. First off, the trees in this park are absolutely beautiful. I could spend days here wandering around looking at the distinguishing character of the trees. The way they are set apart and scattered amongst the red rock makes it seem like a natural chess board. In my opinion, this is a very underrated aspect of the park.

The trees are fascinating at Bryce Canyon

The second suprising tidbit about this park is the abundance of wildlife. Now, I haven’t seen a lot of diversity, but cruise the main road in the park at sunset and you’re sure to see some deer and or antelope grazing in the meadows. There are quite a few birds in the parks as well…..

Because of its location, there are plenty of opportunities for other forms of recreation in and around the park. Whether it be ATV’s (certainly not my thing), fishing, swimming, rodeos, horseback riding, rock climbing, bicycling, etc., it is all here. For a first time visit, I’d suggest spending a solid week in the general area devoting about 1/3 of your time specifically to Bryce Canyon. At any point in time, two to three nights seems like the perfect stay there. It’s just simply not that big of a park to spend a week or longer there.

A visit to Bryce Canyon wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory stop at Ruby’s. The folks at Ruby’s basically discovered Bryce Canyon and put it on the map so they are the only game in town. Ruby’s is like the grand central station of Bryce Canyon. It has everything you need, want, or forgot from high-end souvenirs to groceries and sporting goods. Of course, don’t forget to try the buffet. I’ve personally sampled it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your dining options are pretty limited in these parts and for that fact alone – I do endorse this buffet.

At $11.99, lunch is a dollar more than breakfast I believe and much better quality. It’s not the greatest selection in the world, but it is hearty, decent quality, standard american fare:  salad bar, soup, chicken, pork, corn, carrots, beans,and a pretty killer desert bar that features some scrumptious brownies and soft serve ice cream. (The desert bar is not available for breakfast) It also runs until 5pm before it switches to dinner and the prices goes way up. If you get there at 4:30 you’ll pay for lunch and get to eat dinner, which basically involves adding some fish and maybe beef. Between shopping and eating plan on spending at least a couple of hours there. It is actually a pretty cool place and most of the employees are helpful and friendly.

So there you have it, Bryce Canyon in a nutshell:  indescribable views, amazing colors, special wildlife, the best buffet around, and literally bus loads of Europeans everywhere. This park is awesome. Please don’t make the mistake of just driving through. Get our your vehicle and explore! That is a fantastic place and highly recommend a summertime visit.

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