Day 4: Our Junior Ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park.
We got a fairly early start this morning considering both of us went to bed well after midnight. I actually only got about 3 hours of sleep but I am not going to let that get in the way of our big plans today. Our destination today is Bryce Canyon National Park about 20 miles up the road from us.
The scenery around this part of the country is truly breathtaking. The wide open spaces, the evolving ecology with the constant elevation change and the iron-oxide colored hills make this area so unique.
The drive seem to take no time at all and there was no traffic heading into Bryce. Since we didn’t have to tow the Airstream, it made the drive that much more pleasant.
On the way between Panguitch and Bryce Canyon, there is a decommissioned lodge named Silverado on the side of the road. It is really a shame as we could tell how great of a place it must have been while it was open. There is a huge lodge as well as a couple dozen cabins on a very scenic property. I don’t know much information about it but I bet there is an interesting story about its demise.
As you travel from 6,600 feet where Panguitch sits to the 8,000 feet plateau where Bryce Canyon is located, you can tell that the high desert landscape quickly fades away to a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest.
The girls were excited to finally get out to see something new. This being our first National Park in awhile, we wasted no time to purchase our annual park pass. With a family like ours on a trip like this, it is a no brainer.
The shuttles pick people up right at the parking lot so you don’t need to drive your car into the park. It runs every 15 minutes and can take you to every corner of the park. We parked the van at the shuttle parking lot across the street from Ruby’s Inn where we contemplated staying. They have a nice campground with full hookups but we were glad to have decided against it. Even though it looked like a great place, we found out that the cell phone service is pretty bad. Since I need to have Internet and there is definitely no 3G or 4G service, it would have been a disaster on the work front.
After a quick stop at the visitor’s center, we hopped back on another shuttle and headed to Bryce Point. It is the furthest lookout point in the park. The views are amazing. Ebenezer Bryce was a pioneering homesteader back in the late 19th century and he settled in this area along with several other Mormon homesteaders. I just can not imagine what it must have been like for him to stumble across views like this. He was famously quoted when asked about the canyon behind his humble log cabin, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”
Now that Ava is 5 years old, she can start collecting her Junior Ranger badges at all of the participating National Parks. Not only is it a fun project for her, it is also a great way for kids to learn about everything there is to know at the park.
The rock formations that seem to rise straight up from the canyon floor are called ‘Hoodoos’. Native American legend has it that they are petrified people who were tricked by the trickster coyotes and turned into stone.
In reality, these rocks are caused by the natural erosion that occurs here in southern Utah. Hundreds of millions of years ago, this area was actually in a shallow sea. What became the North American continent was actually split right down through here by the Pacific Ocean. Over the millions of years since then, different types of sedimentation from varying climate changes have developed the layers that are now seen in the cross sections of the hoodoos.
In the last 25 to 50 millions years, pressure under the surface of the earth has pushed this area up nearly 2 miles above sea level. At this elevation, Bryce Canyon has about 180 days a year when the night time temperature would drop below freezing causing moisture in the rocks to expand. As the ice melts the following afternoon, the ice turns to water leaving a crack in the surface. This process happens over and over again and is what causes the rocks to have such a unique shape.
This is a rare family photo we asked someone to take for us. And of course, someone is not looking at the camera.
There is a reason for that, Mila got up early today and badly needed a nap. Sorry little one, we will be back in the car soon.
We hopped back on the shuttle to Sunset Point to catch a ranger’s presentation as part of Ava’s Junior Ranger requirements. As we were riding in the shuttle, right out side the window, we were surprised to see wildlife out and about in the middle of the day.
Luka spent most of the day attached to Marlene inside the Ergobaby carrier. It got a little warm so while Ava was busy learning about the hoodoos, he got to come out and see his first National Park.
Some of these kids are quite the pros at this junior ranger thing. Ava has her work cut out for her.
One of the things a junior ranger candidate needs to do is to help clean the park by pick up litter. Mila got into the action and they tagged team their way all through Bryce Canyon.
Of course their hard work never goes unnoticed. We stopped at the Bryce Canyon Lodge for lunch to fuel up our little trash pickers. This lodge was built back in the 1920s by the Union Pacific Railroad as they recognized the tourism potential of the area. The food was surprisingly good and pretty reasonably priced.
I think Ebenezer and Mary Bryce would be proud of what we’ve done with his backyard.
With her projects complete, we headed back to the visitor’s center for her official badge ceremony.
I think this might be the first time she has ever raised her right hand and repeated after someone.
Check her out, our very own Bryce Canyon National Park Junior Ranger!
Since Mila is 2 until next month, she is a little young to work on these projects. She was not too thrilled that Ava got a badge and she didn’t. After all that trash she helped pick up for her! Sorry Mila, we will help you get one at the next park after you turn 3 next month!
over and out,
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