Twig Adventures

HayDay 27: Bryce

Thursday, April 27th, 2023, 1000-1910
Tropic to just south of Noon Canyon Butte, mile 35 of Bryce Extension, just outside of park boundary
20.5 miles, elevation 7740′

We got a late start, as I was once again dragging my feet. Tropic was actually easy to leave, since all we had to do was simply walk out of town, resuming the trail on what’s known as the Bryce extension. The official Hayduke route skips the best parts of the park, entering it far to the south at a remote trailhead. But I wanted to see all the hoodoos and pillars that the park is famous for. It was named after a Mormon guy, Ebenezer Bryce, which gave rise to my invented Bryce ROUS: the Ebenezer Shrew. Ok sure, that’s probably only funny to me.

no comment…

Bryce did have bears, though; so all overnight backpackers were required to carry a bear canister. This didn’t play well with thru-hikers of the Hayduker, who were walking through and couldn’t easily return a rented one. Fortunately, national forest bordered the park and the various trails made it easy to ditch out into these areas to legally camp for the night. Thus we didn’t bother with permits or canisters. There’s only around 20 bears in the entire area anyway. I never saw any prints or scat, so I’d guess a bear encounter is pretty rare.

The walk out of town was easy and we met 2 on a bike, John and Marsha, that knew Adrian, the Hayduker we met in Moab. Small world. Mac caught up to us just as we entered the park, so we hiked loosely as group the rest of the day. From there it was a pretty short distance before we came to a series of loop trails stemming from the visitors center…and hordes of people. I could see why, because we were almost immediately walking through all the pinkish orange hoodoos that Bryce is so famous for. Of our group, I was the only one who hadn’t visited them before, so I was pretty blown away. I wanted to stop to take a million pictures but I was also wanting to get away from the crowds. The wide, easy trails encouraged a fast pace, so we all just kinda moseyed along, blowing past everyone else. The trail was like a fun roller coaster, going up and down through all the fluted valleys but at a gentle grade. There were even switchbacks!

I took lots of pictures, just none of which I liked. I decided Bryce was one of those places I’d need to come back to, taking it in more slowly. It was still very cool to walk the Peekaboo trail, connecting to the Under the Rim trail. I didn’t even think we’d be able walk these trails when we first started the Hayduke, since they were still covered by snow. We’d stopped at the visitors center nearly a month prior, which had then looked like a winter ski resort. I was thankful that we were able to see the best parts of the park, and not skip this section entirely. In fact, I bet we saw more of the park than 99% of most visitors. I’m sure there were plenty that merely drive to the overlooks, barely bothering to get out of their cars. We’d been experiencing all the parks as Edward Abbey so passionately advocated for: by foot. George Washington Hayduke III would have been proud.

Speaking of feet, quite a few tourists were ruining their casual shoes this day. There was still some snow on trail and a whole lot of bright orange mud. I was entertained by the antics of some rather poorly shod walkers…as in dress shoes. At least I didn’t see any high heels, but it wouldn’t have surprised me. As usual, we just slopped through it, splashing as we went. I expected soaked feet by the end of the day from walking through snow, so it didn’t matter. I videoed Mac making a mockery of a snow patch, but suspected it would be a real struggle the next day, if we stayed high on the Under the Rim trail.

We came to Bryce Point, beyond which only backpackers seemed to venture. A couple was there, asking where the trail back to the parking lot was. I guess it was hard to tell since it was covered by snow. I could see cars driving by on the road, so I pointed in that general direction…it was just a guess since this was not where I was going. Hope they found their way. Instead, I headed down, hence the Under the Rim name. The trail meandered along more valleys and ridges, crossing some psychedelic orange streams. The water seemed unnaturally bright, but one only had to look at the orange cliffs to understand the reason. This did not bode well for finding drinking water later but worst case, I could melt some snow.

It was quiet the rest of the day. I took it easy, trying to soak up the surroundings. I fell behind the others, out of sight. With an established trail, I figured there was no need to work hard to keep up. I was getting used to being by myself again. There were a few tricky spots where the trail had been washed away by all the flooding, but easy enough to figure out. I passed only one other backpacker, then 4 campers near swamp canyon. I noted that there was a short connector trail coming from the road, which I assumed was the reason for seeing others. I hadn’t kept track of the mileage since leaving Bryce Point, but it seemed like it wasn’t a very popular backpacking park. Maybe it was rather sparse just because of all the lingering snow.

Near the end of the day, I found a snow-melt stream that wasn’t too silty. Right after was a steep set of switchbacks covered by snow. Mac had already gone up so I simply followed his tracks. His big Hokas made the holes easy to step in. But this made me ponder all the north-facing slopes that we’d be traversing the next day, if we stayed on the Under the Rim Trail. I’d noted that it went up to 9000′ and could see a lot of snow to the south. We’d only gotten as high as 8300′ on this day, which was manageable, but another 700′ could make a big difference in snow troubles.

Mac took really nice photos with his real camera…so I took photos of him taking his photos

We went down a ways and exited the park just as it was time to find a campsite. There was a fence denoting the boundary. We joked that all the bears were trained to stay behind it, so we were SAFE! Our pace and timing were perfect all day, almost as if we had planned it. My only regret was that we didn’t go down a little further to find an even better campsite under the ponderosa. As it was, I chose a juniper since it had such a nice flat spot, but missed my opportunity to camp under my favorite tree. Oh well. It got cold quick and I snuggled into my quilt. It was nice to be under the big trees, in a real forest. I just hoped there weren’t any Ebenezer Bryce shrews.

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