Onward to Bryce Canyon

“So, where is the lake?” the camper questioned.

“It dried up 3 million years ago,” the campground host replied.

I lay in my tent laughing to myself. This is what I woke up to this morning. I knew Jacob Lake was just the name of the campground and no lake existed. I think this other camper was a bit surprised though. If he was planning a vacation on the lake, I’m sure he was disappointed.

Once again I quickly began packing up camp. The goal was to make it to Bryce Canyon National Park and secure a campsite since nothing could be reserved. I wanted a spot specifically at the North Campground. I had a backup plan if the campground was full and that was to camp at King Creek in the Dixie National Forest. But while packing up camp early at Jacob Lake, I was determined to get there and find a site. One of the many great things about this area of the West is that the sun rises so early, between four and five this time of the year, so it’s easy to get an early start.

Dom was not at camp when I awoke, but this was expected. He planned to take an early excursion to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon 44 miles away. I opted out of this, because I was tired and wanted to sleep just a bit longer. I had already seen the Grand Canyon, although only the southern rim. Numerous people I encounter brag about the northern rim, but after trekking through the wilderness of the Petrified Forest and navigating all the way across the Navajo Nation, I was exhausted, and didn’t want to get up any earlier than what I had already planned. When Dom returned to camp, he told me he spotted and took pictures of bison along the way. His bison photos, just like all his photos, are amazing.

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 10.26.27 PM
Dom’s amazing bison photo.  https://www.instagram.com/domdavid/

Leaving Jacob Lake, Dom followed me in his mom’s SUV that he had borrowed for the summer. The drive was beautiful, through green and mountainous regions of Utah. We stopped at a Family Dollar in Kanab. I had been here the year before en route to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and I knew this was a last stop opportunity for food and supplies for a long distance. I told Dom to get what he wanted because this was it. I found it odd that he chose to buy rice and a tin container and utensil to cook it over the fire. However, I bought pizza pockets because I figured I could cook them over the fire on marshmallow sticks, so who am I to judge? I also bought some Gatorade. I first discovered lime and cucumber Gatorade here the previous year, before it was available anywhere in middle America.

With our odd food choices packed away in our vehicles we proceeded to Bryce Canyon. Approaching the park, there were a number of hotels, obviously catering to park visitors, but it was not excessive nor tacky, and the road was still wide open. Bryce Canyon National Park has a gated entrance like a number of the National Parks in the West. At the entrance booth I showed my NPS pass and ID in exchange for a park map and newspaper. I asked the employee if he thought I could find a campsite. He checked the time. “Oh, nine o’clock. I think you’ll find one.”

By this point I had lost Dom somewhere on the road, but I didn’t mind. We talked about this. I’d find a campsite and call him, if cell service was available, if not i’d meet him in the visitor center. The North Campground was close to the park entrance, and when I got there it was filling up fast. I had to drive deep into the campground and up a hill. I settled for the second site I found open. It just so happened to be perfect. It was right next to the slope of a hill which rolled down into pine forest, and there was enough space for both of use to pitch a tent. I felt relieved.

Trying to get a hold of Dom was tricky, because cell service was spotty, but we managed to communicate. He found me and we both set up our tents. We then went down to place the camping fee in an envelope at the collection post and proceed to the visitor center, as it is customary for me to watch the park films. I learned how the landscape within Bryce Canyon changes every winter season as the snow and ice causes hoodoos to fall. Apart from the theater the visitor center was very busy. The line to talk to an employee at the desk to inquire about hikes and plans was very long, stretching through the expanse of the whole center to the front door.

After our brief stop in the visitor center we prematurely embarked on one of my most challenging hikes ever. The high elevation combined with running out of water and forgetting sunscreen made for some difficult times, and falling off the trail down a rock slide into the canyon onto a cactus just added to the challenges. One can rightfully say I was grossly unprepared this time.

Read the next entry “Falling into Bryce Canyon,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/falling-into-bryce-canyon/

Read the previous entry “The Wonder of Horseshoe Bend,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/the-wonder-of-horseshoe-bend/

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