We are in the Mazda, speeding our way along the road that will shortly lead us right to the mouth of Bryce Canyon, a local (and national) jewel that I had never taken the chance to go see. My feet are wedged awkwardly next to our bulging bag of chips, Easter candy, and Diet Dr. Pepper, and in my hands I hold In Defense of Food, a plea for Americans everywhere to stop eating processed food and start going back to “real food.”
The irony of it all is not lost on me.
Only slightly grumbling as we pay the $25 entrance fee, we make our way into the park, unsure of where to go next. I keep snapping my head around, hoping to catch the first breathtaking glimpse of the hoodoos and rich red rock that this canyon is known for, but the canyon is intent on making me work for it. A few miles in, we pull off at a marked-off viewpoint, and I take my first steps toward the edge of the cliff we’ve been driving on.
My mind will always be wondrously capable of being awed, a fact for which I will (hopefully) always be incredibly grateful. The canyon glitters before me, a picturesque scene of snow and spire, and I immediately feel reverent, as if I am in the presence of my Creator Himself. After months of slogging through snow and ice and frigid cold and desperately craving a break from the chaos and frustration that are seemingly ever-present at my job, my heart felt like it wanted to take wing and lift itself right out of my chest and settle out onto the tallest spire.
How quickly my winter-starved soul is fed by the arrival of even the faintest signs of spring!
Like most tourists, we wander around to everywhere and nowhere, intent on doing it all but realizing at the same time that it is an impossibility. We drive back and forth and back and forth (partly because I was put in charge of navigation) until we finally find the Fairyland Trail we were looking for.
Call us ambitious, but we want to take on the park’s longest and most difficult hike first, while we are still fresh. As we make our way out of the car and down the first half mile of trail, our earlier query of “I wonder why no one else is doing this hike?” is quickly answered: oozing masses of thick orange mud and snow drifts that often unexpectedly give way, leaving you thigh-deep in white.
But, courageous adventurers that we are, we decide to “stick it out” for awhile longer, climbing up nooks and crannies, taking in the unfolding views, and scraping off mud when our shoes get too heavy.
About an hour and a half (maybe less) into our hike down into the pit of the canyon (without meeting a single other hiker), we have a conversation that goes something like this:
Me: “I say we’ve gone at least 3 or 4 miles, and it doesn’t look like this thing is looping around anytime soon. And where are some stinking signs anyway? Do you think we should keep going?”
Matt: “3 or 4 miles? Try like one. Maybe two.
Me: “Don’t you be pulling your marathon mind-tricks on me again, like when you said that Mile 18 was really only Mile 4.”
Me: “I’m serious–what should we do?”
Matt: “Let’s keep going until we round the bend. Then we’ll decide.”
He says that around the next 5 bends. At least.
Finally, we come to a mile marker that I’m convinced is going to tell us we are now at least 4.5 miles in.
It says that we’ve only gone 1.7.
I kick it, wiping a little mud on the corner for good measure.
We decide to hike 200 more feet to a rest stop overlooking some of the plateau’s delicate formations and eat our lunch of pb & honey sandwiches and melty string cheese.
We consider the fact that we’ve covered less than two miles in almost two hours (mostly due to mud, snow, and picture-taking), and we come to a unanimous decision to head back the way we came without trying to attempt the whole loop.
The hike back is uphill the entire way, made even more brutal by several feet of melting slush and mud that threatens to make you slide right off the cliff face. I start panting like a German shepherd, and I am reminded of our hike in Zion up Angel’s Landing. After multiple water breaks and minimal talking or picture-taking, we find ourselves back at our starting point with aching calves and heaving chests.
Within an hour of getting back to the hotel, we realize we are hopelessly–stupidly–sunburned.
Like a pair of lobsters.
Looks like Day Two will be nothing like planned…