Friday, September 22, 2017

BFFRVV Day 8 - Bryce Canyon, Hiking the Hoodoos

Tuesday morning was busy, getting food, snacks, water, extra layers and hiking gear packed for our biggest single hike of the trip!  Our plan was to complete the Figure 8 Hike which combines four different trails (Queen's Garden, Peek-a-boo Loop, the Wall Street leg of the Navajo Loop and a tiny portion of the Rim Trail) for a great view of the highlights within the Bryce Amphitheater.  It's actually two circles connected by a line in the middle.

Headed for the shuttle



Family shot at the trail head near Sunrise Point

Some views down over the Queen's Garden Trail... so, so beautiful!!






We bought hiking poles for this trip, and this hike was the first time we had used them.   They proved to be super helpful to Philip, Keenan and me, a little tricky to master for Moriah...and useless to Caleb at this point. ;)

The "spire" type things that stick up are called "hoodoos


I named this hike "The Hike Where A Lens Cap is Unnecessary", because it was almost Always off because there was always another picture to take! )



I love this shot



The thing that is so amazing about this hike, as opposed to hikes along the rim of the canyon, is that you get a Totally different experience, being down in, among these magnificent structures!!


At a rest stop, I got some great shots of this cute little Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

His cuteness did not succeed in getting us to feed him, however =)



This hoodoo on the left is called Queen Victoria (it's her garden after all)
(Do you see how it looks like a queen, facing left, with her dress trailing behind her... possibly riding on a dragon?)

Collecting more signs for our "Hike the Hoodoos" challenge





A nice couple from Holland took this shot for us.   We continued to see each other for the rest of the hike, and they are in some of our final pictures! =)

In the background you can see "The Silent City" structures - so beautiful!!

As the day wore on, it got pretty hot at points where there was no shade

One of the bigger "tunnels"



One of several beautiful Steller's Jays we spotted in the park!

The "bathroom stop" was halfway through the Peek-a-boo Loop and lunch break area finally arrived...we were SO ready for a break!   The bathroom (a single pit toilet) smelled HORRIBLE, but it had toilet paper and hand sanitizer, so we were very grateful!  I'm getting a good calf workout on this trip "squatting" in these sorts of situations because I refuse to touch any part of the toilet!  =)

A Cliff Chipmunk that flirted with us during lunch =)

We could see tiny people at the very top of this picture at Bryce Point

The Wall of Windows

My love and I

Fun shot of the kids


This shot was Philip's idea and I love it!   Each of them on a different switchback

This is one of my favorites

It makes me So happy when people take family pictures for us!

Caleb and Moriah with the Junior Ranger caps they bought

Cool narrow spot

After passing through there we could see the Cathedral formation


I love this one that Keenan got of us on a rest break

The Peek-a-boo Loop is a shared use trail with horses trail (and so we were dodging their poop for half the day), and finally got to see one of the horseback groups on the trail after we finished that loop!

Entering a really cool part on the tail end of the hike ascending the Navajo Loop through "Wall Street"

Wall Street is closed in the winter due to snow and ice and often closed in the summer due to rock falls.  Philip was thrilled to see that it was open and we would be able to finish our hike on that portion of the trail.

Look how narrow this canyon is!

A shot straight up at the sky

Philip and I

The "Beginning of the End"

This is where we began the final ascent, with a TON of steep switchbacks!  We didn't count but one site says there were 28 switchbacks.  Most of the reference materials say to go up this section to reduce the risk of ankle injuries because the sand and rock make for a very slippery descent.

Me and the narrow canyon before we continued on up out of the depths of the earth

A set of brick switchbacks
(Philip in the foreground, Moriah at the top - the couple between them were our friends from Holland) =)

Getting back near the top where we could look Down on things!


Four of us by a very windy "window" near the top

Looking back down the way we had just come up
(We were So grateful Philip had decided to have us come Up this instead of Down!)

Finally arrived at the top, Sunset Point!


Another angle back down in


After this day, I decided I was in the "Bryce is my Favorite" camp too (unless something changes in the next week!) =)

After a bathroom stop at the top (at Real bathrooms), we decided to do an additional half mile along the rim from Sunset Point back to Sunrise Point to officially "close" the Figure 8.  It was worth it =)

Phew

On top of the world!

Some fun jump shots


Caleb wanted to "pose" like this - what a NUT!!  =)

One last shot of beautiful Bryce

Here is a map of the Figure 8 hike we completed (the only difference in the arrows is that we did both loops clock wise so Joia said we did a "3" and an "E"):

It's was a total of 6 to 6.5 miles with over 3,500 feet of elevation change because on the Peek-a-boo Loop you are constantly going up a down with rare (wonderful) flat sections.  It was a real challenge for all of us and Caleb walked the whole way without a single carry!

That evening, Keenan snapped Another deer shot!

Philip planned our trip to Bryce to coincide with the new moon which results in optimal stargazing.  It was kind of cloudy during the day but had totally cleared by evening.  The park also puts on a special astronomy presentation during the new moon so we decided to attend that one to help the kids earn their Junior Ranger badge.  The talk was about Saturn and the end of the Cassini mission (which Philip remembers launching back in 1997).  We learned that just a few days prior the Cassini probe had completed its "Grand Finale" mission with a final orbit into Saturn's atmosphere where it burned up after 20 years in Space (7 years in transit and 13 years in Orbit):


Here are some images that Cassini collected over the years:
Saturn's shadow on the rings

The rings' shadow on Saturn

The North Pole of Saturn (each side of that hexagon is larger than the diameter of Earth)

After the Ranger Program ended Philip and Keenan took the camera to the edge of the rim and tried to capture some of the incredible views of the night sky from one of the darkest places in the country.  The ideal lenses for astrophotography are really expensive and so to compensate he used fairly long exposures which result in star trails because the stars visibly move over the course of the photo since we also don't have a system to slowly move the camera and track the stars!

He thought the ones of the Milky Way came out the best:

10 mm, f/4.5, ISO 800, 240 second exposure

10 mm, f/4.5, ISO 1600, 134 second exposure

Our 50 mm lens has a wider aperture setting which should have allowed for shorter exposures and less motion artifact, but the longer focal length seems to have canceled out most of the benefit.  He tried to get just the top of a tree in this one:

50 mm, f/1.4, ISO 800, 10 second exposure

Websites with astrophotography tips recommended a daylight white balance to best capture the different colors of the stars and that was one of the most amazing things to Philip.  The differences in the colors were readily apparent with no image processing!

We then drove over to the visitor center where they had multiple telescopes set up in the employee parking lot.  We don't have any pictures since it was dark and a flash would have really annoyed everyone whose night vision was just ruined but it was really cool to actually see Saturn with our own eyes.  It was a great angle and you could not only see the planet and the rings, but the gap between the planet and the rings on one side!  There were some other telescopes pointed at nebulae and clusters.  The kids were really impressed but it was a late, late night by the time we got back to the park and off to sleep.

The next morning we headed south toward the Grand Canyon.