Bryce Canyon / by Brian Beck

Bryce Canyon has been on my bucket list for years.  On my post-bar trip, the last time I went Kerouac, I made it as far south as Arches before heading back north.  On that 5,000 mile trip, Bryce was just a bridge too far.  This time, it was right on the flight path so it was a no-brainer that we would check it out.  

The original plan was to drive out here on Monday and spend all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday exploring the park.  When we got back from Hawaii though, I looked at the weather and Las Vegas had a high in the low triple digit teens.  After the roast-trip we endured in the Central Valley two weeks ago, I knew the only way through was to drive at night.  After all, that's how the dust-bowl migrants crossed the desert.  They were people accustomed to adversity and this was a risk they didn't take.

So on Sunday night at 7pm, with the temperature in Las Vegas still well over 100, we were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, our only faith in this tired 55 year old machine.  In that heat, you can feel the moisture leaving your body, the salt accumulating on your skin despite a pronounced absence of sweat.  I passed the gatorades to the kids in the back seat and there were no pee breaks all night.  At 3:15am, 530 miles later, I pulled into Cedar City, UT.

Bryce Canyon falls into the "giant hole in the ground" category of national park (a sub-category of the two types of national park: "pretty land with no economic use" and "freak of nature").   That said, it's pretty stunning, and more comprehensible and accessible than the Grand Canyon despite the similarity.  On day 1, we hiked the rim trail, grabbed some dinner and then set up our tent.  

That's when the show really started.  Bryce sits on the Colorado Plateau, between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation.  It's bizarre because there are no mountains, so the height is deceiving.  There is also no appreciable civilization for hundreds of miles, so it's one of the truly dark spots in the west.  And dark it was.  As the sun went down, the stars pressed down from the inky sky, the Milky Way dividing the heavens like a great crack, revealing an ancient, inner light.  So beautiful.  At Bryce Canyon, it turns out that the most spectacular view is not down, it's up.