Reverse Circle: Red Canyon, Blue Sky

(Day 11: Red Canyon, from Bryce to Springdale)

This morning was even colder than yesterday. According to weather reports from Bryce Airport, it was 1C, feeling like -2C. According to me, -2C may have been an overestimate of how it felt. The frost was solid on the roof of the lodge buildings, not even melting in the sunshine. But today I had gone for thermal leggings under trousers – not shorts!

It looked as though it was so cold, the clouds were sinking down into the canyon, although we didn’t have a clear view. We had breakfast and packed up, the ice was nearly melted from the car window. Ducks were swimming in the lake…brrrr.

It is only 10 minutes or so down the road to Red Canyon, situated in the Dixie National Forest. We missed the parking bay near the trailhead at the first attempt, so parked at the visitor centre, which I was surprised, given it is now November, to see was open.

We set off and soon found the trail, which started by winding its way through the forest. The ground was covered in green leaf Manzanita, illuminated by the sun, it glowed bright green. Up above, red and golden rock walls stood out against the blue skies.

As the path continued, it crossed a dry river bed, before it started to climb a little more steeply; but the walls remained high above us. It was very quiet, except for the birds, one raven in particular was making a real racket, with a variety of strange calls.

We passed a tiny flower, the only one I had seen so far this trip, still going in th late autumn. The trail kept getting steeper. It was hard going as it climbed up, eventually reaching a ‘saddle’, on a ridge between two valleys. The view was fantastic from the top. The going from here appeared to be downhill.

We were mistaken. Although the trail descended for a while, we reached another dry creek and then it turned uphill again. The route followed the top of ridges, wound its way up and down and around canyons, through delicious smelling pine forests and out amongst the arid, open hoodoos and red rock formations. Sometimes it was solid trail, at other times loose gravel and rock, tricky on some steep downhill sections. There was one section where a short section of sleepers had been installed to make the route down a little easier and safer.

It’s strange, but when you’re out hiking, there is never anywhere to sit, just where you want it…until today. We reached the junction of the Golden Wall trail and the Buckhorn trail and, right there, a long way up the mountain, was a park bench! Fantastic! It seemed rude not to use it, so we sat and admired the view in front across red canyon, as well as the view behind to Buckhorn Point.

We started on our way down. Before long, we spotted the road in the canyon valley. It felt like the moment in a Bear Grylls’ programme, where he has hiked for days, through the wilderness, up mountains and across deserts, and finally he spots his evacuation location…ok, maybe we hadn’t hiked that far, but the effort required from the legs made it feel somewhat similar!

Once back at canyon level, we made our way through the closed campground to the shared foot/cycle trail which we followed for about half a mile or so back to the visitor centre. We gave Smokey Bear a hug and had a browse in the centre itself before setting off for Springdale.

The route south along US-89 passes a lot of grazing land and through small towns before turning off towards Zion Park.

The drive through Zion was really pretty and was a relaxing reminder of how beautiful it is.

We checked in easily at La Quinta Inn and unloaded our belongings into the spacious room. We hadn’t had any lunch and the hike had certainly worked up an appetite. We decided to postpone showers until after dinner and walked the short way to Zion Pizza and Noodle. Having had pasta the last two nights, as Ruby’s Inn has a limited veggie range, pizza was justified both in terms of calories and as a means of obtaining nutritional variety. The beer also provided necessary carbs…honest! We sat outside on the patio and spent well over an hour there, watching the sun set on the cliffs opposite. Luckily, it was really quiet so there wasn’t any pressure to finish and leave.

Back in our room, we spent the evening blogging and watching the CMA awards on tv. Hopefully, we will manage an early start tomorrow…we will see!

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