Leaving Zion National Park was tough. We could have spent another week there exploring everything the park has to offer. But like all running trips, the next spot calls, and we were about to experience another National Park that is extremely different from Zion.
We awoke at 7:15am and were on the road by 7:45am. Our first night in the van was a cozy one, and sleeping in it brought time benefits as we worked to pack up and get out. East out of the park, we drove around a bend and saw dozens of photographers lined up on a bridge capturing the Zion sunrise. Naturally, we got interested, so we parked and joined them.
This was our reward.
We continued east up the switchbacks in the canyon on the Zion-Mount Carmel highway and reached its famous 1.1 mile tunnel. This section of road, and the tunnel, was constructed from 1927 to 1930 in order to provide access to Zion National Park from Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon.
An hour and a half later, we turned onto Scenic Byway 12 that would lead us into Bryce Canyon National Park. Along the way, we got our first glimpse of the famous hoodoos for which the National Park is known. I thanked my Fraternity brother Drew Miller for his continued support. Drew has been an amazing supporter of my trips, and I’m very grateful. Drew is a Quad Cities boy who works for John Deere. Sounds about right!
Up the road a bit, I took advantage of a Runner’s Choice photo. It’s not everyday that you get to drive through an arch. There are many arches in our near future. I thanked Matt & Kysa Lind at the stop. Matt and I are Phi Delt pledge brothers, and I spent a semester abroad in Wales with him during our junior year of college. We are lads. Thank goodness he has Kysa to keep him in line.
The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon was originally designated as a national monument by President Warren G. Harding in 1923 and was re-designated as a national park by Congress in 1928. The park covers 35,835 acres and receives substantially fewer visitors than Zion National Park or Grand Canyon National Park, largely due to Bryce’s more remote location. Oh yeah, and it’s much colder in October than the other parks we’ll be visiting. At the entrance sign, I thanked Suzanne Alexander once again for her donation. Suzanne was here just a few months ago.
Bryce was the only National Park that we did not have a campsite reservation. It’s first come, first served. Did I mention it’s cold here. There were PLENTY of open spots, so we grabbed our spot, geared up, and headed out for the day. Zim decided that he was going to be a fashion icon today. Nailed it.
We parked at Sunrise Point and were in awe as we walked to the rim for our first glimpse of Bryce Canyon. I think we both said “Whoa” about five times. From the top, you have the luxury of seeing everything in front of you, and we instantly knew it was going to be a great day. I thanked my old pal Jon Hernandez, another Iowa State Phi Delt for his donation. Appreciate your continued support Hern! Jon has the philanthropist blood in him.
We started on Queens Garden Trail, and if you visit here, I would definitely start here. You are instantly overwhelmed with the Park’s beauty, and you’ll stop every few feet to snap a picture.
Along the trail, I thanked my son Calvin. Calvin is named after my boyhood idol, Cal Ripken Jr. Little did I know that Cal Ripken would be my first introduction to Lou Gehrig, when he broke Cal’s consecutive games record. It’s funny how life works. Cal is our compassionate, friend-to-everyone, and dancing little boy who brings great joy to our lives.
Cal is getting to age where he’s starting to pick up a lot of what is going around him. A day before I left on this trip, I opened Facebook to a wonderful surprise that nearly left me in tears. His elementary school features students each day. Nice timing Fellows Elementary!
Another photo from the amazing Queen’s Garden Trail.
My next thank you was supposed to be in front of the Bryce Canyon Lodge, but I decided that there was too much beauty outside to showoff an overpriced lodge with a mediocre buffet (which we devoured anyways after this hike). I thanked my niece Grace Jensen. What you can’t tell in this photo was how windy it was. Our faces were on fire after today. Did I mention Bryce Canyon is cold?
Along the way I had to prove to myself that despite being nearly 40, I could still climb. Still got it.
THE HOODOOS. In the world of amazing rock structures, hoodoos might take the cake. One part beautiful, another part amazing name. They are everywhere in the Park, and they come in many different varieties. I thanked Mike & Deb Sedlacek. Deb was excited to sponsor a few landmarks in this part of the country. The two of them have traveled out here recently and loved it. Deb worked alongside my dad for many years, probably cleaning up many of his messes. 🙂
My travel buddy and me.
The Queens Garden Trail connected to the Navajo Trail that led us through the valley. There was much more green down below. Pretty standard for canyons. At a scenic spot, I thanked my colleague Andrew Norrie. Andrew has visited Utah in the past and enjoys a great hike. He’s currently stationed in Toronto working to build a new chapter of Phi Delta Theta at the University of Toronto. I know he loves being back in his Canadian homeland. Appreciate ya Norrie!
Zim’s getting really good at capturing candids during our days.
We connected on to Peek-a-boo Loop Trail that would have us climbing up the canyon for a few miles. I definitely recommend this hike. It offers some of the most spectacular views along the way. You can connect to it at the bottom of the canyon or start at the top at Bryce Canyon Point.
By this point in the day, we were worn out. The frigid and windy weather coupled with an up-and-down hike had our legs burning.
We made it to Bryce Canyon Point for another photo, thanking my cousin Lauren Good. Funny story about Lauren, my son Cal caught wind of her YouTube Channel about slime and instantly wanted to create his own channel. The Cannonball Cal concept was launched, but I failed spectacularly at showcasing his collection of cannonballs at Ames community pools.
We walked the Rim Trail that follows the rim of the canyon to Inspiration Point.
We ended the 7 mile hike at Inspiration Point. I can see how this view can lead you inspired. I thanked my uncle and aunt, Tom & Colleen Good, once again for their donation. We were ready for some food!
After said mediocre lunch buffet at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, we sat down in a couch next to a fire for a few minutes before we realized that we should probably move before we fell asleep.
Our final hike of the day would be on the Fairyland Loop Trail. This is another can’t miss area of the park. It sits at the northern entrance. At this point in the day, we weren’t sure if we could see anything new that we hadn’t already seen. Fairyland Loop proved us wrong. The structures were incredible!
On the trail, I thanked great friends Bryan and Kristin Pates. I have a really tough time spelling their names correctly as individuals, so I was very proud that I was able to spell BOTH of their names correctly on this sign. The Pates live on our block, and Tillie and I love have them and their kids around. We visited Las Vegas with the Pates (and Hansons) last November, and Kristin can tell you that I owned the Wheel of Fortune quarter slots. We appreciate your friendship you two.
Did I mention that it was cold and Zim was going for style points?
After hiking on the Fairyland Loop Trail for a bit, we drove over to Sunset Point. While it wasn’t quite sunset, the view was still spectacular. I thanked my old pal Mike “Scar” Scarlatelli for his donation. Admit it, if you’re last name was Scarlatelli, you’d own the “Scar” nickname too. Scar is a past president of Phi Delta Theta.
We headed back to the campsite for a fresh Modelo and a little relation. We had no intention of setting up the tent for the night as we knew it was going to get down in the 20s. Van life it was going to be. A big thanks to Alex Stefanic, a former colleague of mine, for his donation!
We drove back into Bryce Canyon (the town) for dinner at the Cowboy Ranch House Restaurant. We ponied up to the bar and instantly recognized the bartender. He was our shuttle driver earlier that day in the park. A working man! Tim the shuttle driver/bartender was absolutely hilarious. Talk about a man with so many stories. He travels the world and works odd jobs as a retiree. And he has 32 grandchildren. He casually mentioned going to Antarctica next to work. Why not? I like this guy’s style.
Overnight in the van was freezing. I made the mistake of not getting into my sleeping fully and woke up with numb toes. Lesson learned. This would be our coldest night of the trip, but we made it!
And if you’re curious about what living in a minivan looks like, here you go. Things get more and more disheveled each and every day. Thanks again Scott!
Onward to Capitol Reef National Park.