Our final day of vacation has arrived. Apparently David was up around 7:30 am and was bored so he started getting everything packed up so we would be able to check out of the condo and get moving to our next adventure. By the time we rolled out of bed shortly after 8:00 am David had half the boys packed and he brought the moving cart in the room and was beginning to load everything on it for a trip to the suburban. We had to slow this boy down so we could eat breakfast before packing the food.
By the time we had eaten breakfast, finished packing the food, the boys and ourselves it was about 10:30 am when we finally shut the condo door for the last time and turned in our keys. From there we hopped onto the highway and headed for Bryce Canyon.
Our route took us back through Zion NP, through the mile tunnel and out the east end of the park. This route enabled us to see a few more features of Zion NP that we hadn't seen before. The first site was the Great Arch.
Then on to the tunnel. This picture shows one of the panorama windows in the tunnel. From here it just looks like an oval black dot on the rock face, just above the trees, in the middle of the picture.
A second view of the tunnel shows two of these panorama windows on the far left and right of the picture that were blown out of the rock face.
With the sun up we were able to get a better picture of the east tunnel entrance. (There isn't a spot to stop and take a picture by the west entrance.)
We drove past Checkerboard Mesa. It was muddy between the road at the mesa so we just stayed in the suburban and took a picture (I don't know who those people are but they were brave enough to trudge through the mud to get on the snow covered mesa. We are glad too, that way it's easier to get an idea of how huge this mesa is).
Bryce Canyon was over one hundred miles from Zion NP so we had some drive time to enjoy the scenery and listen to Inkheart. With Inkheart playing the boys were very quite and it made the trip quite enjoyable. When we reached Dixie National Forest we incorrectly thought we had made it to the edge of Bryce Canyon. With the beautiful red rocks right there we stopped for a picture and some information.
We tried studying the map and checking google maps to figure out where to go next because we hadn't seen the pay station we were expecting. It took us a few minutes to figure out that this stop was for the scenic highway 12, not the start of Bryce Canyon. (Side note: Michelle had never been to Bryce Canyon and I couldn't remember the last time I was here so this was all new territory for us.)
Picture stop along scenic highway 12.
And finally, we reached Bryce Canyon.
We stopped in to the visitor's center and ask the first park ranger what was the first and second best sights to see there since we didn't have much time. He said that the Sunset to Sunrise hike was the best hike (which could be made into a loop if we wanted) and the second best hike was out to Tower Bridge.
It was getting late in the day (we only had about 2+ hours of daylight left) so we headed to Sunset Point for the best hike option. But once we got there we decided that we didn't have enough time to do the whole loop (Sunset Point to Sunrise Point and back on the Queens Garden trail) and opted for the Navajo Loop (through the Hoodoos) instead.
The Hoodoos...looking south
The Hoodoos...looking north
The Hoodoos...looking at my boys!
A view from Sunset Point facing Sunrise Point
A view from Sunset Point looking east
A view from Sunset Point looking south
A panoramic view from Sunset Point
After trying to capture the breath-taking beauty of Bryce Canyon (and failing completely with my camera phone) we began our hike down the Navajo Loop trail.
A few sections of trail were in the sunlight, but the majority of the trail was already in shadows. The sunlight sections were much warmer, the colder sections of the trail had snow and ice on them.
This trail was several sets of switchbacks down into a narrow canyon area.
This section of switchbacks we nicknamed the "Marble Run" because immediately after we took this picture all the boys started running down the switchbacks and it reminded us of marbles going back and forth on a marble run. Our only regret is that we didn't get it on video ;-( Michelle was so tempted to go back to this point after we finished to loop, but that meant we would have had to climb back up which took a lot longer than going down and we would miss seeing a few other sights that we were hoping to see before it got too dark.
A small tunnel on the trail.
At the bottom of this narrow canyon space.
Michelle was able to get a decent picture of these amazing trees that had grown so tall from the canyon floor. They were much more amazing in real life. Michael is standing right in front of the middle tree for perspective.
Gidean was still enthusiastic as we hike around the loop.
David is excited too.
This was a cool tree we saw along the trail.
This was a pause in the hike while Michelle is taking a picture. The boys have picked up this acting trick of throwing a punch toward someone but hitting your own chest to create the "thud" sound of an actual hit. They think this is the best trick in the world so they are "hitting" anything and anyone with their newfound trick. Here they are circled up to "hit" each other. I think the trick would look better if they actually extended their arms so that their fist was somewhere in the vicinity of the person they are supposed to be "hitting". But this way we're sure that no one is going to get hurt with an accidental hit that actually connects!
(The picture that Michelle was taking in the previous picture)
Quinten by the "You Hiked the Hoodoos" medal.
Heading back to the beginning of the trail.
The boys at the "Two Bridges" just off the trail. These are rock bridges.
Almost back to the trailhead and the overlook.
An amazingly skinny rock ahead.
The boys at Thor's Hammer.
Aleky heading up the trail (he was caught running ahead of the family, again...).
There were several trees that we saw near the trail that had the roots exposed due to sand erosion. This particular tree was an amazing example of exposed roots. You can't help but wonder how this tree stays alive or how it just remains standing with so much erosion.
The wall of windows (seen from Inspiration Point).
Donovan and his owl hiked to Inspiration Point. We discouraged him from taking this owl on the Navajo Loop trail because we didn't know how long we'd be hiking.
A panoramic shot from Inspiration Point.
As we were leaving Bryce Canyon NP we saw this old-time store front and we just had to stop and get some pictures before heading down the road.
Khayyam and Michelle
I don't know why but the older boys just couldn't resist and wanted to join in the fun. I guess we now have blackmail pictures for later.
David and Michael
David, Donovan and Michael (the 3 Amigos)
After a quick trip through Bryce Canyon NP we were on the road home. It doesn't seem like it's been a week but our vacation has come to an end. The drive home went by quickly as we finished listening to Inkheart. In fact, we finished the final disk of Inkheart as we were passing Payson at the southern end of Utah County. The only trouble we had on the way home was that the steering in the suburban got "loose" so that I drove like I would imagine a drunk driver would drive. I don't know what happened but we'll definitely need to get something adjusted before we drive much further in the suburban.
We found a movie version of Ink Heart at the library and watched it as a family Saturday night. It was fun to be able to discuss the differences between the movie and the book with the boys. They all liked the book so much more!
This week has been phenomenal and we can't wait for the next family adventure!