Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bryce Canyon National Park

These pics were from about end of December and first week of January 2015.  My brother Tommy, his wife, Laurie, and their son TJ (Thomas John III) drove up from Brea, California to spend the New Years with us.  We decided that we should take a winter trip to Bryce Canyon.  At that time it was snowy and cold.  At Brianhead Ski Resort in Utah, there was about two feet of snow.  About a week before that there was a large snow storm that brought in a good three to six feet of snow to Brianhead, and at least two or more feet of snow to Cedar City.  It was very cold, and at night when some of the snow has melted to liquid, the snow freezes and becomes ice.  Sometimes on the roads there is a thick spot of ice that is so subtle in color it turns to black ice.  Plus when the sun comes up along the tall evergreen trees, it melts the snow and creates a reflection and fog.  Visibility for driving is terrible. It makes the roads icy and dangerous to drive.  We were determined to go ahead and make the trip to Bryce Canyon National Park anyway.

Earlier that morning my brother and his wife and son went sledding.  The snow at Brianhead was powder.  Everyday at Brianhead they have something new going on.  There was a section set out for people to inner tube down the steepest black slopes, some of the highest and most treacherous slopes.  Some of the people that go inner tubing are so vertical that they virtually are flipped over out of their inner tube and wipe out on the snow.  My brother and his family picked the hills that were easy, still breathtaking to go sledding.  It depends what you're looking for.  Brianhead has a variety of inclines which makes the area ideal for learning to ski or snowboard and also great for experts.

We started out a little late.  We usually like to do that and allow the sun to come up and melt the ice down some before we drive on it.  My mom picked us up in the Range Rover and we drove from Cedar City to Brianhead to meet up with Tommy and Laurie.  It took a good half hour to forty-five minutes to get to my mom's condo in Brianhead.  My mom knows the every corner of the roads and drives pretty fast.  It's not a good idea to do that though because all it takes is a patch of ice that could send a car to the bottom of the mountain.  Many people have died thinking that the guard rail would keep them from going over the side.  From experience, the locals in the area know that the roadways to and from Brianhead are a dangerous drive.

We loaded up from Brianhead, and were ready to make our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.  We took Utah Route 143 through Dixie National Forest.  It was extremely foggy and icy.  Black ice laced the two way road.  Every now and then the Range Rover would slide.  The streets were still covered with frost and snow.  Some of the trees no longer had leaves because of the winter weather, and some of the trees were dying from drought or with a beetle infestation.  There were colorful red canyons and many different rock formations along the way.  It was about an hour of snowy bliss.

 After a long drive (over an hour), we passed Panguitch Lake and finally arrived in Panguitch, Utah.  We stopped at the Silver Eagle gas station in Panguitch, and took a much needed bathroom break and gassed up the vehicles.  My mom bought some Fritos and peanut butter crackers.  We still had water and drinks in the car so we didn't spend too much there at the gas station.  Then we got back into the vehicles, and made the turn off at Highway 89.  We pressed on to Bryce Canyon.  It was another half hour drive through beautiful mountain country.

We saw numerous bike trails and areas for cycling.  Of course when we went it was too snowy to go mountain biking, but in the summer, cycling is a very popular event.  There are several areas set aside for that particular activity.  Along the roadside, there are numerous hiking trails to go on that are outside of Bryce Canyon and free of charge.   For his vacation, my brother, Tommy, and his family were staying the night at Bryce Canyon's Best Western, Ruby's Inn at Tropic, Utah, located right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Ruby's Inn looked like a small lodge, but on the inside, it was rather large with a wide selection of gifts in the gift shop for tourists.  There are cowboy hats, walking sticks, handmade Navajo rugs, handmade Navajo baskets, mugs, refrigerator magnets, sculptures, postcards and other local works of art.  I was impressed because I don't typically see that much stuff in a gift shop.  In a minute, I learned why.  A large Oriental tour bus pulled in and unloaded a few hundred tourists.  In moments, the gift shop was extremely busy with all kinds of foreigners.  We went to the Ruby's Inn restaurant buffet.  The seating was very packed.  The workers were extremely busy running back and forth, and the travelers came in by the hoards.  It looked like the last tour bus had just slammed the restaurant, and the workers were making an effort to clean up.  As we were seated in a family sized circular booth, another tour bus arrived, and the restaurant at Ruby's Inn stayed extremely busy.  We ordered the salad bar buffet, and it was expensive, but the food was fresh and the pumpernickel bread at the salad bar is A+.  It was well worth it.

Ruby's Inn has an indoor pool and has a campground.  You can buy camping supplies at the gift shop, but I don't recommend it.  Many of the supplies are over priced.  Ruby's Inn also has a large indoor swimming pool.  The rooms were modest, nothing too fancy.  The main room still had a tall tree for Christmas decoration and an open fire place for guests to sit and warm themselves.  My nephew, TJ, really liked the lights on the Christmas tree.

After our late lunch/dinner, we made our way to the fireplace at the lodge, and it wasn't a gas operated, it was a real fireplace with real wood burning logs that had to be maintained.  Having a log burning fire was an enormous effort from the staff, but well worth it.  The whole room was very warm and welcoming.

 My brother, Tommy, was pulling a fast one all the time.  He said he had to take a phone call, and took the check for the restaurant and was paying it.  We had no idea he was doing that.  We looked around and saw him in line.  He had the check and was paying the money.  My mom scowled a little.  She likes being the big spender.  When we got to Bryce Canyon National Park, Tommy passed us in his vehicle, and got to the entry point ahead of us.  He took a little longer up front.  We didn't know what was going on.  When it was time to pay the toll, the ranger said, "The vehicle in front of you already paid your fee."  We got suckered again.  By then it was too late.

We were amazed by the panoramic view of the hoodoo rock formations at Bryce Canyon National Park.  It was only a short walk from the parking lot to the Sunrise Point outlook.  The sky was warm, but the wind sheer and breezes brought in a fierce cold chill.  This was a higher point in which people could hike downhill to get a better view of the hoodoos.  We did not take this walk because we had small children and Laurie was several months pregnant.  It would have been a difficult hike for families with young children.  We tried to stop at other check points, but it all seemed about the same, extremely cold wind sheer.  The last walk, Nicole and I did not get out of the Range Rover.  We stayed in with the heater on.  My mom got out to walk for a minute.  Mom pulled a fast one, and slipped some money back in Laurie's diaper bag.  So mom was the sly, and got Tommy his money back.

Tommy, Laurie and TJ stayed at the Ruby Inn for the night, and it looked like a real comfortable stay.  I would recommend it.  It looked very relaxing and comfortable.  Mom, Nicole, and I, we all headed back to the Range Rover for the drive back to Cedar City.  It was going to be a long drive and we wanted to get started before it got late and dark, before the roads would get icy again and be difficult to drive.  We continued on through Bryce Canyon that drive in which the scenic route, taking the 63 to get out of Bryce Canyon and back on Highway 89 to Duck Creek Village, that looped back to Cedar City.  We took Route 14 back to Cedar Breaks, and down past Rusty's Steak House to the middle of Cedar City.  Before we knew it, we had returned from our day trip.  I had not been on this drive since I was fourteen years old, and it gets better every time I go.  I would recommend this trip to anyone.

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