We'd already hit the half-dozen viewpoints along the five-mile drive in the amphitheater area of Bryce Canyon, but the full scenic drive is 18 miles with a number of lesser-visited viewpoints, so today was our day to check out the full drive before we tackled some in-canyon hiking.
The weather was gray and cold, so I broke out my fleece layers and ski cap. As we entered the park, we joined the other tourists who were posing next to the sign.
Driving along the nearly deserted park road, I noticed -- something -- lying down in the fields in the distance. "It's just a deer," insisted Mike. Um, no it's not. I was quite sure of that. Finally I convinced him to pull over and sure enough, not a deer. Pronghorn antelope. As it turns out, they're quite common at Bryce and all across the southwest, but this was the first I'd ever seen.
We were getting the wildlife out of the way early today; just a bit further ahead we found the park's big prairie dog town, where it was a busy morning for the residents. They're impossibly cute. I should have had the video camera.
The furthest viewpoint inside the park is Rainbow Point. At 9115 feet elevation, it was pretty cool in the early morning overcast. I donned my terrorist outfit to keep me warm on the short hiking loop.
Rainbow Point was not as impressive as other parts of the park, and the overcast made photos difficult; but we got a nice view of the landscape, including the dim and distant north rim of the Grand Canyon, where we'd been only days before.
The one-mile Bristlecone Pine Trail is named for the oldest tree in Bryce Canyon, a 1600-year-old specimen of the incredibly hardy bristlecone pine. The sign claimed that while the main trunk of this tree died long ago, a "surviving branch" has become the new tree. At least on this date in late June, I couldn't find any evidence it was going to make it to 1700 years.
Some of the formations in Bryce have names, usually based on their appearance. I don't know if the one at left has an official name, but I call it ButtCrack. It appeared to have hair on top, which the zoom lens revealed to be trees.
A famous landmark at Bryce is the formation named Natural Bridge. Or misnamed, as it turns out; it's an arch, not a bridge. Details, details.
On our way back out, another not-so-shy pronghorn demonstrated irrefutably to Mike that he (or she) was not, in fact, a deer.
I'm sorry we won't be here later in the summer to see them with full-grown horns instead of the little bumps they're sporting now.
Cannonville may not have a Walmart or a Home Depot or even a grocery store, but they do have some outrageous sunsets.
And bunnies. Don't forget the bunnies.