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Mama Said There'd Be Days Like These (Capitol Reef NP)

Saturday, 10 September 2022, Bryce Canyon

So much for regenerative sleep. This ranked as my worst night yet, tossing and turning incessantly. At one point, with darkness still filling the room, I awoke shaking uncontrollably. It took over five minutes to quell the tremors and return to slumberland for a few precious moments before the next wracking cough stirred me.

When the morning light released us from our feeble attempts at sleep, we arose to the new day. Yesterday we'd bought groceries - breakfast burritos, bananas, orange juice - to avoid another Sunglow meal. I only ate part of mine, feeling as if my digestive system could punish me if I pushed my luck. NOW I truly regretted that half-slice of pickle pie, blaming it for my condition. (No, I declined to test whether the other half-slice would cause an encore. I know, a true scientist would have run that controlled experiments.)

Maybe a nice, hot shower would provide a modicum of relief. The hot needles of water did restore a measure of calm to my body. However, pressing the button on the mounted shampoo dispenser caused it to fall off the wall and break on the tiled shower floor. Oh, Lordie, gonna be one of those days.

We checked out of the Aquarius Hotel, apologizing for the shampoo/soap dispenser, and headed to the park. No road crews on the weekend, so we got there quickly. The ranger had recommended the Cohab Canyon hike, so we parked the car and began climbing - up and up, on a stone staircase that took us above the Fruita orchards.

Once we'd climbed 440' in a third of a mile, the trail entered the canyon and slowly lost altitude.

Still concerned over the state of my system, I suggested we return after another half-mile. On our way down the staircase, I lightened the mood of the people struggling up the slope by asking them, "Listen! Can you hear it? Someone's playing Stairway To Heaven!" One person retorted, "Sounds more like Highway To Hell to me!"

I still had the sock subbing for the lens cover on my camera, happy to see that it entertained people. At the top of the stairs, though, I heard a new comment: a hiker excitedly said, "I found your lens cap!"

"Excuse me?"

"The lens cap you lost! Did you just lose it?"

"A month ago, in Redwood NP."

"Oh. Well, someone just found a Canon lens cap. They set it on the ground at the trailhead, just to the left of the sign, in case the owner came back to find it. Maybe it will replace the one you lost!"

Good thought! But when I reached the trailhead, I noticed not one, but FOUR signs. Of course, Iron Man and I could see no lens cap, to the right or left of any of the signs. Hopes dashed!

We popped back over to the Visitor Center, where I asked the ranger about the 'swiss cheese rocks'. "They're called Solution Cavities," he explained,

"or honeycomb weathering." He went on to describe how the sandstone is made up of sand grains cemented together. In some areas, the 'cement' is weaker and erodes quickly, leaving the circular depressions.

As he wrapped up his lesson, I suddenly KNEW I had to leave. The instant he finished his last sentence, I barely said 'Thanks' before darting out the door, running to the restroom where I prayed to the Porcelain God (or 'called Ralph on the big white phone', as a VP of a company I once worked for so eloquently put it).

No more heavy duty hiking for me today! Bill and I wandered around Historic Fruita, walking by the orchards that were not ripe,

strolling through the Gifford House,

looking in the windows of the Fruita school.

I laid in the grass for ten minutes, hoping that might help quell the roiling inside, but I still felt the bile lurking.

At 12:15, I encouraged Bill to take the two-mile roundtrip hike so see the Hickman Natural Bridge. He did, seeing the bridge

and a pair of mountain goats while I laid in the shaded dirt by the trail head.

A minute before he returned, two women starting their hike asked if I was alright. Did I need some water? Would I like some peanuts? I thanked them, but said I was fine (relatively speaking).

Time to move on! It felt like we'd barely managed to scratch the surface of the park - I'd wanted to hike the Grand Wash, and I remembered Cathedral Valley from a trip years ago.

(Of course, the valley requires a 4WD vehicle - and signs at the Visitor Center declared it was temporarily closed.) Time to head to Bryce Canyon, where I anticipated a highlight experience - hiking in the hoodoos under the light of the full moon.

Bill drove the two-plus hours to Bryce while I reclined my seat and closed my eyes. A few handfuls of grapes helped quiet my stomach, and slowly I regained equilibrium. By the time we reached the park, I felt somewhat recovered. When we arrived at 4:20, I asked the ranger to add my name in for the 5:00 lottery for the ranger-led hike, only to find that they ran the lottery at 4:00 - I must have written down the wrong time. "I'm sorry, we always run it at 4:00 on the day of the full moon. But you can still take a moonlight hike, just not the ranger-led stroll."

That gave us time to check in to our hotel and scope out Bryce Canyon City - mostly, a set of businesses (restaurants, campground, laundromat, store, tour guides) owned by Ruby's Inn. The dining choices were Ruby's Restaurant, Ruby's Fast Food Diner, a dinner-theatre owned by Ruby's, and a Mexican restaurant outside of town. Given the state of my stomach, we had to choose Ruby's Restaurant, where I could baby my body with a soup-and-salad-bar.

We returned to the amphitheater (you see, Bryce is not really a canyon) before sunset to prep for the full moon. In the last 30 years, I had forgotten how enchanting the hoodoos were.

I searched for specific spires I recalled from earlier trips, but couldn't pin them down. Maybe once I hiked into the amphitheater...

Scores of people strolled along the rim from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, watching the light slowly fade. We wandered over to the Queen's Garden Trail, and descended as dusk deepened. At the bottom, we sat and waited a few minutes to see if the full moon would make an appearance. Unfortunately, clouds blocked the sky to the east. Disappointed, we started the long haul back uphill in the gloaming. ('Taking a hike in the dark' just doesn't have the same cachet as 'hiking with hoodoos under a full moon'.)

Back at the hotel, terror gripped me. "Where's my wallet? It's not in my pocket!" I first thought of the restaurant - I'd had it when I paid the bill - but I called, and no one had turned it in. I looked in the car - not on my seat, not on the floor. Damn! could it have slipped from my pocket when we sat and waited for the moon to appear? I'll have to assume that - contemplating the alternative was too depressing. Guess I'll have to wake up early (not that I expected to sleep anyway), head back to the trail by sunrise, and retrieve.

Twenty minutes later, I remembered that I had the wallet when I drove back into the park - I'd had to dig it out of my pocket to show the nice attendant my pass, and knew I couldn't jam it back in. Another trip to the car verified that the billfold lay right where I'd set it in the center console. Hallelujah! Time to finally put this day to bed.

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