Bryce Canyon National Park
The first thing to learn about Bryce is that it isn't a canyon. It's just the edge of a plateau, and the edge of the plateau happens to be significantly eroded.
Of course, the erosion is the big spectacle hereabouts. First the upper layers of the sandstone split into fins. Then, cracks appear across the fins, sections drop out, and the remains form narrow towers, or hoodoos. Each of these is unique and individually beautiful. The rock layers are yellow, red, pink, vermilion and white, according to the concentration of trace metals. Part of the beauty is the way that the colours change from sunrise, through the heat of the day, and on into sunset.
Put a few thousand of these hoodoos together and what you have is the 'Silent City'. It's as near to a cathedral as you're likely to find in nature. Or a medieval city. Or a ruined fort. Or something. The columns and rows of hoodoos look just too uniform to be quite natural. And even where the edges aren't quite square, it looks like they might have been once.
Many of the lesser formations are named. Some of these names are ideal, some aren't. OK, so some rocks do look like poodles, or like elephants. But Queen Victoria? Tower Bridge? The latter looks like it might have been named by the same people that bought London Bridge, thinking that it was Tower Bridge.
You could almost miss the flora amidst the rocky splendour, but it's there. Various ancient pine varieties (for the connoisseur, Ponderosa, Limber and Bristlecone), junipers and other desert-adapted species. It's quite lovely in a gentle, unassuming way, but here it's just a backdrop for the spectacular rocks.
And finally, there's the weather. This was our first (but by no means
last) brush with what is known, in south-central Utah, as the "monsoon".
Inverted commas, because this is a region where the annual rainfall is
in the 10-20 inch range. Most of the rain falls in sudden, dramatic thunderstorms
in August and September. We spent one afternoon in Bryce, bathed in sunshine,
watching a solid gray block five miles away. A little late we drove the
five miles to find heaps of marble sized hailstones at the roadside. Of
course, by the time that we got there, they were already melting in the
sun. Sunshine to torrential rain and back to sunshine again takes about
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
The Silent City
Dawn over Bryce
That city again