Reverse Circle: Fairyland

(Day 10: Bryce Canyon)

Wow. Really. I know that I’ve been here before and on days with better weather, but…wow…. but we’ll get to all that. First,  back to the beginning of the day.

I got myself up and peered out of the window at the lake. It looked pretty, sunny…and cold, with the car covered in frost. A check of the weather forecast suggested that it was about or just below freezing, but forecast to climb to around 11C with partly sunny weather. Now, when getting ready for a day on the bike, when the temperature is loitering around 14C, I find myself dithering; tights or shorts? How many layers? Long fingered gloves? So, I’m not quite sure why it seemed like a great plan to wear shorts…but it did. I was relying on the sunshine staying out, because even when the air is cold, past experience suggests that the sun still makes it feel hot. I did go with four layers on top though!

After we had breakfast, we loaded up our packs (first outing for my new purple pack) and drove to the trailhead at Sunrise Point. Granted, it was a little bit past sunrise by this time, but we were trying to let the day warm up just a little. We walked to the rim and started our descent. It was still cold, so we walked briskly for the first mile.

On our way down we passed the China Wall and wound our way around a few more hoodoos, before arriving at Tower Bridge. This was a decision point. We could turn around and climb out of the canyon, for a 3.25 mile hike, or continue around the Fairyland Loop, which would be around 8.5 miles…we chose to continue.

The scenery and the views were amazing. The path zigged and zagged around cliffs and canyons, through pine forests and across dry creek beds; up above the hoodoos; down below, circling the base of them; and proving views occasionally out of the amphitheatre to distant cliffs and towns. Overwhelming in its beauty, even of a day which was grey cloud and flat light. The sun barely came out, meaning it was still cold, but even this didn’t make it less awesome. I will provide photos to speak for themselves.

We stopped for our lunch snack, sitting on a handy dead tree trunk, shortly before we reached the summit of Fairyland Canyon. Once at Fairyland Point, we looked back on the sign warning of steep grades. Whilst they had been steep, the trail condition was good and going had been easier in some ways than the rocks of Moab. 

We started walking the 2.5 miles of rim trail back to our car. The wind was noticeable now, I could hear the pine trees whispering, and it was colder. One of my four layers had been removed for the climb out, but promptly went back on. We noticed some serious weather coming in on the next mountain range across the valley and hoped it wasn’t coming our way. Luckily, it wasn’t. Finally, with just a mile to go, the sun came out. Whereas I had previously been thinking about a quick yomp back to keep warm and beat the weather, now I was enjoying a leisurely amble in the afternoon sunshine! The difference that one thin layer of cloud, located between us and that ball of heat some 93 million miles away, makes is huge. I noticed the sun shining on the plants of the plateau.

The last mile of the rim trail winds back along the top of the Pink Cliffs and we had some wonderful views before finishing our hike.

Afterwards, we returned to our lodge, had hot showers and coffee, before putting on a greater number of clothes to dash out and, hopefully, catch the sunset. It was not clear how good this would be, as cloud was covering the sky again, with only a few gaps for the sun to get through. We headed for Inspiration Point, although we missed the turning at the first attempt and had to make a swift u-turn to get back on track. It was worth it, although it was now even colder!

We went straight to dinner, having seen the long queues when we came out last night. Apart from having to wait to be seated, for no apparent reason (the meeter/greeter/seater told us to give her a minute and just disappeared…we were still waiting 5 minutes or more later; after complaining we were eventually seated in a ‘closed’ section, I think they wanted to keep us troublemakers out of the way then, but we quite liked the peace and quiet!), dinner was good. They do make the most of their monopoly here, but I think, based on new developments that appear to be coming along, that may have to change for the better in future years. The queue for dinner was very long when we left, proving the wisdom of our choice. There were plenty of tables, they just couldn’t seat people because they have fewer staff on duty for the off-season, which seems a poor management choice.

Back in our toasty warm room now, blogging, watching TV and relaxing, before deciding on tomorrow’s hike, although given today was nearly 8.4 miles long and over 1,600 feet up and down perhaps we had better check out how well the legs work in the morning before committing to a decision! Here, courtesy of Andrew’s birthday watch and it associated app, is today’s hike…enjoy!

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