We checked out of the Zion Lodge and headed towards Bryce, bright and early Sunday morning. The skies were brilliant blue as the rocks shifted from deep reds to rust oranges and dark yellows.
When I see a road side attraction, especially one boasting a collection of over 1,600 butterflies, i slam on the breaks. In this case, I had Dan slam on the breaks and we went to the Bryce Museum, located on byway 12. We really didn't know what to expect, except they said that they had a deer petting zoo. I saw plenty of deer, but none that you would want to pet.
The place looked nice enough from the outside, almost like a persons house. In fact, we found out that they curators of the museum, do live on the top floor. This is very much a home grown operation and we met the husband/wife team that owns the museum. What we didn't realize until we paid our admission, is that this was a museum of taxidermy animals, all shot and prepped by the husband.
I love animals, live ones, but I also have a bit of a morbid curiosity with taxidermy. I fail to understand why anyone would want to shoot and stuff animals, but I find it interesting all the same. The husband was really nice and happy to answer all of our questions about the taxidermy process, including how he preserved little lizards..it's like quick drying fruit or jerky. Really, a lot of it is like jerky.
Love it or hate it, it is impossible to escape being overwhelmed by this guy's personal collection. If you don't mind taxidermy, this really was on par with other Natural History museums that I have visited. There was a lot of care with the exhibits and making it an educational experience.
Our next surprise stop occurred when we stopped to get gas in the town right outside of the canyon. We saw a sign for ATV tours and decided to go. April is still considered the off season and we lucked out by being the only people on the tour. Dan used to own a ATV and is experienced, so since I was riding with him, the guide let us go a little nuts. The guide was actually really awesome, stopping to let us take pictures and to point out grazing deer. LIVE GRAZING DEER!! He also gave us a bit of advice that would send us on a mega drive through Utah, more on that next time.
We didn't go straight to the resort, Dan took me up to the canyon view points. He made me close my eyes on the drive, so that I wouldn't be spoiled before we got to the optimum view point. My first impression of Bryce, was that it looked like a scene from a Science Fiction movie. It looked other-worldly and just plain bizarre. I learned that the sand castle like structures are called hoodoos.
Just as with Zion, Dan had visited Bryce and knew where to book our stay. We stayed right at the Bryce Canyon Lodge and lucked out with getting one of the first cabins open for the summer season. The cabins are clustered in the woods, a short drive from the main lodge. They were not as fancy as the lodge at Zion, more rustic, like camping.
We decided to try to save money and buy picnic supplies from the camp ground store. This was probably not a savings over eating in the lodge, as the prices were grossly inflated, however, it was definitely more fun to "rough it".
Just a two minute walk from our cabin, was a walk at the edge of the canyon, an over look with benches. We went out shorty before sunset and watched the colors change with the light. Bryce is a completely different experience at different times of the day.
We went back out around nine at night and it was pitch black with stars everywhere. A creepy incident happened when a car way off in the distance flashed its lights at us several times in a communication attempt and we messed around with our flashlight. They suddenly stopped and everything went black, prompting us to hightail it back to our cabin. That's how horror movies begin.
The next morning, we woke up early, still achy from Observation Point, but determined to do a hike down into the canyon. Looking down into the canyon, you really can't see trails or hikers, but they're there. Hiking Bryce is just as amazing as Zion, but in a completely different way. First, the hike was shorter and less intense, only about 1 1/2 hours and not quite as much uphill. Second, Zion looks like Earth and Bryce is like landing on an alien planet. It is so saturated with color that it's overwhelming and the ground looks like it should be soft, like you could crumble it in your hands or bounce off of it.
Just like Zion, Bryce Canyon is a must-see, add it to your bucket list destination. I think that our pictures are pretty darn good, but they in no way can show how truly magnificent the canyon is in person.
Stay tuned to find out what adventure ensued when we listened to the advice of our ATV Guide.