Bryce at Zero Degrees

At over 8,000 feet, Bryce Canyon National Park is quite different than much of southern Utah.  In early January, that means it’s COLD.  It was especially a shock after the warmth of Death Valley.  Thus began week two of my “see-the-desert-again-before-returning-to-Alaska” road trip.

After a great time in Death Valley and a fantastic show at Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, I dropped my new friend Tammy at the airport and headed straight to Bryce.  After a sunset drive through Zion, I arrived at night.  My intention was to camp, but with overnight lows going below zero, I’m not afraid to admit that I wimped out.  I booked myself into one of the hotels just outside the entrance.   Ahhh…. bliss.

I used to be all about winter camping, regularly spending 2 nights camped solo at 10,000 feet, and I once spent Christmas to New Year’s camping at Capitol Reef National Park.  But I’m too old for that now!

For those who care about such matters, Bryce is not actually a canyon.  It’s technically an ampitheatre.  No matter.  What’s important is that it is ridiculously beautiful.  And for those into industrial tourism (“I don’t like to get out of my car”) it’s a delight, because the best views are from the road.  Which is heaven when you are a photographer trying to get pictures in zero degree January weather and you want to rush back to your warm car!

My first trip to Bryce was in 2000.  I was on a 11 day road trip vacation through southern Utah, and I planned to hit Bryce at sunset, then drive through to northern Arizona.  But I was so enchanted that I stayed two nights.  I always intended to go back, but from my home in Colorado it was just a little bit too far to easily hit on most road trips.  And as we all know, life has a way of interfering sometimes.

Getting shots like this was a test of determination. Hauling myself out of a warm and extremely comfortable bed before sunrise, then standing in below zero weather waiting for the light qualifies as unpleasant at best. But the early morning light at Bryce is magnificent.

Just a too-short two nights; time to leave Bryce and head to Canyonlands to meet up with my best camping partner ever, Sandy.  I do plan to return to Bryce (yes!), and hopefully it will be before another 12 years goes by.  It was heartbreaking to rush through Escalante and Capitol Reef, but I did manage to grab a couple of decent shots.

Highway 12, between the towns of Escalante and Boulder. Perhaps the most beautiful 30 mile stretch of road in the U.S.

Ahhh… Capitol Reef.  In this digital age it makes me a bit sad that most of my trips here (and my best photos) are from before I went digital.  If you haven’t been to Capitol Reef – go there.  Actually, don’t.  One of it’s charms is that it’s basically ignored by tourists.

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