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  • Friday, October 10, 2008

    The Grand Staircase, Part Ten
    - Numbers 27, 47, 93, 111, 130, and 131 on my life list.

    Saturday 
    Click Here for Part One

    On our final day, we drove out of Zion through two long tunnels carved into cliffs. We passed a herd of big horn sheep and pulled over. Since my point-and-shoot camera can’t zoom in any closer than the naked eye, I slowly moved toward them for a picture. The largest and clearly dominant male never averted his eyes away from me. A stare I didn’t want to get too close to. I got back into the car and we went to Bryce Canyon to finish our Grand Staircase tour, but first we stopped for breakfast at Ruby’s Inn, a western diner near the entrance of the park.

    The waiter covered our table with plates of mouth-watering breakfast foods. After eating, we stopped at the Sunrise point trailhead and filled our hydration packs for a long hike into Bryce Canyon. 

    The early settler, Ebenezer Bryce, called it “a helluva place to lose a cow.” He was right. It certainly would be. We wandered through a labyrinth of multi-hued and impossibly thin pillars of rock called hoodoos. Some of which, it seems, a stiff breeze could knock over.  

    We meandered over miles of curling trails slowly towards the canyon floor. Storm clouds moved in an out. For a short time, cold raindrops came down and a chilly breeze forced me to put on a sweatshirt. Quickly as it came, the rains were gone and it warmed back up. 

    Shadows and colors at Bryce change between sunrise and sunset, making it look a little different every hour of the day. It was so beautiful that no matter where your camera pointed, you could get a great shot. This meant I had a hard time putting my camera away, taking well over three hundred pictures on this day alone.

    We hiked a few miles back out of the canyon, then along the rim to the car. Number 131, Hike at Bryce Canyon, was off the list. I successfully crossed off all six of the plan items on this trip, a very productive nine days. We began our drive north to Salt Lake, neither of us ready to see it end. My plane would leave in the early afternoon the following day.

    Sunday 

    Randy dropped me off at the SLC airport in the late morning. It was busier and more chaotic than my arrival, but everything went smoothly. As my plane lifted me out of the Salt Lake Valley and back towards home, I again stared out at the view from above. As usual with these trips, no part of me was ready to be leaving. I hadn’t been away from Indiana long enough to care to see it again so soon. 

    I have to find a way to have more weeks like this one. We did a lot, in such a short number of days, yet I still have over a hundred things to experience on my list. We walked down the Vegas strip and saw one of the great engineering marvels in all of human history, but as impressive as those enormous human endeavors are, they pale in comparison to the things created by nature. You only have to think of how you feel in both places to know what I mean.

    The action and thrill of Vegas can’t compare with the feeling you get perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon gaping at a forever-long landscape, stumbling upon wildlife on a trail, looking up dizzying cliff walls from the canyon floor, or to the thrill of riding on top of a powerful uncompromising river.

    We knew our planned destinations would be incredible, so we had certain expectations on the trip. One of the best things about it, however, was all the small details we hadn’t really thought of. The early morning drives passed sunrises, a bumpy ride into an infamous canyon in an old elementary school bus, a beaver dam holding back the emerald waters of a canyon sculpting river, waking up under bright starlight to a silent and peaceful night, the delicious food at never before seen restaurants, experiencing the day in the life of interesting strangers, laughing and conversing with an old friend, and just seeing anything, no matter what it was, for the first time.