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ADVENTURE 26: The Lost Days (Bryce Canyon NP, Cedar Breaks NM)

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Sunday, 11 September 2022, Bryce Canyon City UT

Ever heard the phrase, "It's always darkest before the dawn?" I could confirm that, since sleep mostly eluded me, and I could watch the night's darkness flow and ebb. Even though we'd found pharmaceuticals at Ruby's General Store yesterday, letting me self-medicate with Robitussin, I still tossed and turned, and the little sleep I found suffered from dark dreams.

By 6 a.m. I gave up, got dressed, and drove into the park to greet the sunrise.

(That makes a better experience than 'hiking in the dark'.) Other people had the same idea, lining up on the rim, waiting for the light.

Though clouds still littered the sky to the east, a gap at the horizon allowed the early rays to paint the hoodoos red.

Our dining choices hadn't changed. Ruby's Restaurant remained the default, offering a breakfast buffet for me to coddle my colon. So far, so good.

How fortunate that I'd included a slack day in the schedule, opting to check out Kodachrome Basin State Park. This park, noted for how 'the colors change hues based on light and shadow', got permission from Kodak Corp. to name the park after the company's signature slide film. Only a half-hour away from Bryce, we could handle it as an easy, low-key day trip.

The ranger suggested the Panorama Trail - "It's a three-mile loop through the park's scenery." However, the sign at the trailhead declared a six-mile loop. We asked the first hikers coming back about the difference, but they were taking it as an out-and-back hike. "We're not up for six miles!"

As always, the Utah red-rock scenery impressed, though the clouds muted the colors. But as the temperature rose into the mid-70s, I paid less attention to the terrain. After 40 minutes, I had to kneel over a log, trying to expel the demons roiling my stomach but only producing clear spittle, while Bill stood patiently by. Two more episodes followed, accompanied by guttural sounds I'd never before voiced [I don't need no big white phone to call Ralph!], before we turned back. After a fourth episode soon after, I wondered if I had joined the Bataan Death March, worrying about a Japanese soldier shooting me for malingering.

By the time we returned to the car, the nausea had passed and my stomach stabilized. We drove to the Angel's Palace trail, the other ranger recommendation, touted as a 'photographers heaven'. It climbed a bit at the start then levelled off, offering views stretching as far as Bryce. Another nice trail, but my attention span shrank after a few photos, and we moved on.

On the drive 'home', we stopped for a quick hike to Mossy Cave, in a remote corner of Bryce Canyon NP. Very short and easy, featuring a small waterfall.

Then we retired to the room for a nap, followed by more soup-and-salad-bar and an evening doing laundry.

Monday, 12 September 2022, Bryce Canyon City UT

Our hotel offered a continental breakfast spread. I had enough appetite to fill up with oatmeal, hard-boiled egg, and toast, the bland basics. The Robitussin seemed to help with the cough and congestion. But should I worry that my weight had dropped below 180 for the first time in decades?

We opted for the shuttle bus into Bryce, a park which I'd immensely enjoyed on trips in the 1980s. Since Bill had never hiked here before, I took him back to Sunset Point, where we could descend into the basin on the Navajo Trail.

The trail drops steeply, a series of switchbacks into a narrow cleft in the canyon (known as Wall Street). How that tree ever got enough sun to grow still surprises me!

After a short meander among the hoodoos on the basin floor,

we turned onto the Peek-a-Boo Trail to follow it upward to the rim at Bryce Point.

I set an easy pace, enjoying the views on the less-crowded trail. As we proceeded, the trail grew steeper, and my pace slowed. I regularly paused, leaning on my hiking pole, wheezing for breath as other hikers passed us by. (Should've taken a hint from this guy!)

Finally, a quarter-mile from the rim, I sent Bill ahead. "Go on, Bill, get yourself some real exercise. I'll catch up to you on top."

Never before have I felt so weak while hiking. Is this what aging has in store for me? Is this how Ron felt, struggling up Cinder Cone at Lassen?

That did me in for the day. Time for another long nap, followed by an encore at the soup-and-salad bar. I could feel my mental focus shrinking: Thoughts of the Death Valley fled; I couldn't even think about my return home in less than a week. My world shrank to getting through this in time to enjoy the impending, long-anticipated trip to the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022, Cedar City UT

Amping up my medicine from Robitussin to Mucinex seems to have let me sleep a bit. It didn't help with the conditions outside, as the day dawned dark and drizzly. No reason to drive back into Bryce, so we took our time at the bland breakfast basics before decamping from the Bryce View Lodge and heading for Cedar Breaks NM.

Cedar Breaks is cut from the highest level of the Grand Staircase, that broad span of geologic cliffs that bottoms out at the Grand Canyon. The Breaks carves out cliffs and hoodoos from the same layer that hosts Bryce Canyon, though (due to buckling and uplift) the Breaks lie at 10,300' elevation versus 8,300' for Bryce. The big difference: trails at Cedar Breaks stay on the rim, instead of dropping into the amphitheater.

Not that the wet weather (courtesy of Tropical Storm Kay, fresh from its tour of Southern California) invited thoughts of hiking as we arrived near noon. Clouds draped the rim, blocking any sweeping views into the Breaks.

We stopped in the Visitor Center, where I bought a book of John Muir's writings, before driving the twenty miles downhill to Cedar City.

Along the way, it dawned on me that I'd eaten almost no protein for three days. With my innards feeling improved, I accepted the risk of fast food to build my stamina back up. Another long nap followed in our hotel room du jour.

At 5:00, with the weather brightening in town, we drove back to the monument. The lingering clouds, however, sat at ~9000', and we plunged into a pea-soup fog a few miles shy of the rim. We pushed on, and decided to take a (very misty) walk along the Alpine Pond loop trail.

It took nearly an hour, enough time for the clouds to begin lifting.

Not spectacular photography, but still worth seeing.

Back in Cedar City, Chinese food appealed to me. We stopped at an Asian Bistro a few minutes before closing, and they agreed to seat us. Once we ordered, the waitress asked, "Would you like some egg drop or hot-and-sour soup? On us; we have to throw away anything left over. And how about an egg roll?" Gee... maybe things are turning around....

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