Wednesday 4th November and it was off to Bryce Canyon. Fortunately, following the somewhat reluctant and not to mention (oops, I just mentioned it !) resentful nursing by Tony yesterday evening, my ankle feels much improved. It seems that the painkillers, ice and elevation worked a treat after Tony finally conceded that I might not be faking it after all! Now don't for a second think what a caring soul Tony is because prior to this he'd made me limp unaided to dinner, stepped away from me when he thought I might faint from the pain, told me that my miserable face was in danger of giving him indigestion and "why should he have to suffer along with me". I mentally filed that one away for the future.
Anyway ankle improved we did a relatively easy hike to the Lower Emerald Pool before hitting the road - Highway 9 to be exact and the most incredible stretch of road. The road takes us through Zion National Park and out the other end, involving hairpin bends and sheer cliff drop-offs as we climbed ever higher up the side of the Canyon. Nearing the top, a mile long tunnel took us right through the rock face before we finally left the Park behind us.
Bryce Canyon is about 80 miles away but is nevertheless a 3 hour drive due to the much lower speed limits imposed. We'd skipped breakfast so Tony was keen to stop on route for a snack, but whilst the scenery was amazing, there was very few signs of life, even in the couple of small "Towns" we passed through. By Town I am talking about a single row of buildings on either side of the highway, extending for a couple of miles at best. Interestingly at the entrance of each Town sat a Sheriff's Car with a deputy poised to pull over any unsuspecting motorist exceeding the 30 mile per hour speed limit - luckily Tony had already made me promise to stick to the speed limit due to an irrational fear of small town Sheriffs - something to do with Pulp Fiction, I believe?!
We realised that we were nearing Bryce when, despite TomTom suggesting we had a few miles to go, we pass a few ramshackle timber shacks with "Bryce Canyon Airport" painted on the roof. Tony made me pull over so he could take a picture only for us to be confronted by 2 old boys in a pickup, wearing stetsons whilst grinning maniacally at us the entire time and demanding we take their picture...........that would be the Pilots, I guess!
We hadn't been expecting much of our accommodation at Bryce Canyon, in view of the remoteness of the location and the fact that we are only paying $46 for the room. As is turns out Ruby's Inn is actually the hub of the "Town" and has bags and bags of character.
We checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed into Bryce Canyon National Park (1.3 miles away). We decided to combine the 'Moderate' hike along the Queens Garden Trail with the 'Moderately Strenuous' hike along the Navajo Loop Trail finishing off with the 'Easy to Moderate' Rim Trail to complete our hike, covering a total distance in the region of 3 miles and a descent & climb of 550 feet.
The conditions were fabulous, clear blue skies, bright sunshine and a temperature of 20 degrees. The views and scenery were spectacular. Immediately, as we approached the Canyon Rim we were greeted by the most amazing sight of a vast Canyon with it's floor populated by hoodoos - these are the natural rock formations resembling pinnacles and spires. The appearance of the hoodoos changed with every step we took, with the light casting different shadows & patterns as our outlook changed. It was eerily quiet on the Canyon Floor (Tony was sufficiently awed to stop whining about is almost constant need to pee - really the man has the bladder control of a 3 year old) and we were pretty much on our own on the trail. We felt dwarfed by these magnificent 'statues' (accepted that in Tony's case pretty much everything dwarfs him). The climb back to the Canyon Rim was seriously hard work but we finally reached the top before we lost the sunlight and proceeded with a 13 mile drive to the venue of tomorrow morning's hike (a 'Moderately Easy' one) at Rainbow Point. Our drive was delayed by frequent stops to allow the Mule Deer to get off the road (surely they should know that the grass tastes better than the tarmac!). By the time we reached Rainbow Point, only 45 minutes after completing our hike, dusk was upon us and the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees, it will be well below freezing overnight. I decided that it was time to head back to our room and a soak in the bath.
Thursday 5th November. Didn't sleep too well last night. For some reason Tony was very cold and wanted to warm up by wrapping himself around me and trying to leach all of my body heat! Normally I would be considerate but I didn't feel that I should have to suffer along with him - hmm where have I heard that before - and suggested he use the other queen bed to avoid annoying me! He refused and as a result neither of us slept very well, only Tony looked better on it this morning.
We drove to Rainbow point, the highest plateau in the Canyon and did an hour long hike before making our way out of the park stopping at a couple of view points along the way. Every view is as fantastic as the next and we have taken loads of snaps which will probably never truly convey the sheer magnificence of Bryce (and of course Zion). It's certainly somewhere we could easily spend a lot more time.
At 12.30, it's time to hit the road again and we follow the Sat Nav for an hour along isolated (but always stunning) roads until we hit a dirt track. The sign alongside the track says "Four Wheel Drive Recommended". We stop, give TomTom a shake and re-input our direction. TomTom is insistant that this is the route - 46 miles and 2 hours away! It's the best we've got so we give it a go. Immediately we are sliding all over the place as the track is very sandy and we don't have an SUV (another story) - surely this can't be right? but TomTom says it is! We keep going......until we see a ford at the bottom of a steep descent and a steep climb on the other side. Our temporary bravado flees at this point and we both decide we should turn around and find another route! Fortunately we were able to ask for help and were soon driving on the right route but it was going to take us another 3 hours, 2.5 hours after we'd initially started out. After a toilet break for Tony (by the side of the road and in full view of any passing motorists), we finally reached Lake Powell but the sun has gone down so we are unable to appreciate our lake view. As we are booked onto a boat tour tomorrow and we will need to check-out beforehand, nor will we be able to enjoy our lake view in the morning. That was worth the extra cost then!