About WDFloyd

Dave Floyd is a lawyer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He is a candidate for Austin City Council District 5.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Highlights of 2012: Bryce Canyon



I went on several fun road trips in 2012.  One of my favorite stops was a pit stop I made at Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah.   Like the mountains of Zion National Park and the expanse of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon is part of the massive and layered sedimentary Grand Staircase formation which covers much of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

I reached Bryce Canyon at the end of the sightseeing portion of a road trip which had begun in Phoenix.  I was scheduled to attend the spring Association of Government Risk Pools conference as representative of Prism Risk Management (appropriate, as the company was operating the Texas Schools Property & Casualty Cooperative and Oklahoma Schools Property & Casualty Cooperative) the week before SXSW.  Since I was flying to Arizona anyway, I moved the flight back a couple of days to allow for a short road trip.  Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park went on the list immediately   Bryce was a last minute decision.
example of hoodoos
Dixie Nat'l Forest

 Northern Arizona and southwestern Utah are amazingly beautiful parts of the country.  I'll hit a few of the trip highlights later in the month.  Bryce Canyon was definitely the right way to end things.  In order to get there, I left Zion and drove north toward the Dixie National Forest.  The most prominent feature of this area was the bright red sandstone with little hoodoos popping up on the top of pine tree covered ridges.  This was a good prelude to the geologic features of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Once you leave the most scenic parts of the Dixie National Forest, the road seems non-descript without the contrast of the oddly formed red rocks to the evergreens.  At the edge of Dixie, you turn north on Highway 89 and then turn onto Highway 12.  Within about 30 minutes you'll arrive at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, which the National Park Service as:

Bryce Canyon, famous for its worldly unique geology, consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos".     
 There is more to the park than the main amphitheater, but that's the feature which upstages everything else and really forms the basis of making the decision to drive deep into an sparsely populated region of Utah.
Hoodoos in the Amphitheater
"Amphitheater" is what best describes the principal attraction at the park.  If you take a look atthe (kind of low quality iPhone) video to the left, you'll see that the amphitheater area gets its name because it looks like a bowl carved out of sandstone with hoodoos jammed in like music fans with standing room only (to me, anyway... I can see how they might look like chairs).  According to the Wikipedia, Bryce Canyon has one of the largest concentrations of hoodoos in the world (The photo to the left is a closer shot of the hoodoos in just below the rim, note the concentration).  Apparently, the geologic formations of Bryce Canyon are 100m years younger than those in Zion.  The rocks which form hoodoos tend to erode quickly, thus we are able to enjoy the hoodoo stage of the rocks which form Bryce Canyon as they are relatively rapidly (geologically speaking) dissolving into smoother formations.
Bryce Canyon was a pleasant and unexpected surprise built into the March road trip.  It took me about eight hours to drive from Bryce Canyon National Park back to Phoenix; however, the route involved a lot of back roads and was rather indirect until I hit Flagstaff.   If you want to take a more direct route to Bryce Canyon (or to Zion National Park), your best bet appears to be flying into Vegas and then driving up I-15 into Utah.  You could also fly into Salt Lake City, but then you wouldn't be able to play craps at the end of your wholesome road trip.
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