I have slept in unheated rooms before in the winter, but sleeping on snow in a tent, with nothing but a tarp, tent, thermal air mattress, and sleeping bag between me and the snow was a new experience. (Ok, yes, I was wearing thermal base layers, a midlayer hoodie, and my outer shell jacket also. And a stocking cap)
It was chilly, to put it mildly.
And it should be noted that it wasn’t just the temperature. We left Las Vegas in 70-degree weather. We arrived to Bryce in something around 16 degrees. The human body doesn’t react well to temperature deltas that big. (There is a reason why soldiers in the desert need parkas at night, even though it is still 80 degrees out.)
But it all worked out and we didn’t become geekcicles, so that’s a good thing.
We got things sorted and headed off to see the sunrise, a bit belatedly, at Sunrise Point.
I don’t know how else to say it, but the view as we walked up to the ridge line, looking down into the canyon made all the travel and general frozenness worth it.
It was amazing.
I grew up on the eastern half of the country primarily.
I moved to California in 1998 and left in 2002. On the way back east, I drove through some of the scenic areas of the Southwest, and stopped at Meteor Crater, in Arizona, but this was a whole new level of geologic splendor. When you added the contrast between the stone, trees, and pure, white snow, it was truly striking.
We stayed a while to take photos and just generally soak up the awesome that was being away from the real world for a bit.
That accomplished, we decided to head out of the park to the tiny, nearby town to grab food and firewood. The food was good, but the firewood, not so much. We’ll get to that later. In the meantime, biscuits and gravy with sausage (not sausage gravy, there’s a difference) and a fried egg to kick off the day. Health food.
Oh, that was after a few of the sour cream doughnuts we had brought along as provisions. Unlike your typical yeast (and even most cake-based) doughnuts, these have some serious density, and “stick to your ribs” as my grandpa used to say. I think we each had a couple.
We headed back into the park, and made a circuit of the open observation points around the rim.
The first day, the thaw had barely started, so the snow was pretty thick a lot of places, and getting up the short, semi-steep trails that would have only been a minor challenge, if that, at the high altitude became a test of dexterity and endurance.
I failed my dexterity check quite badly once, but I kept the camera safe, so I didn’t roll a 1 at least.
(It should be noted that this was mere moments after Cynthia making a comment about not falling over or something similar. Her prescience amused her greatly, for some reason.)
The views we saw really did make it all worth it. Even better, this is where I got my favorite shot from the trip:
Not bad for the first day out.
We took some time to better establish base camp, so that our second night might not be quite as challenging. Moving the tent to a better spot out from under trees sloughing snow, for example. Also, stomping down paths through the snow for easier trips to and from the tent.
It was a good day for unwinding and resetting before the challenges of the rest of the week.
After getting some food cooked, we headed out to check out the night sky. It should be noted here that Bryce Canyon is supposed to be one of the best national parks for stargazing, due to its distance from artificial light sources, altitude, and clean air. Being there in the winter amplifies the effect with the cold, crisp air.
We were only able to stay out for so long with our cold and fatigue levels being what they were, but the views were spectacular.
That photo was taken with nothing but natural light. Canon 6D, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4. Settings: ISO 6400, f/1.4, 30sec exposure
After completing our first full day in the park, we headed out and collapsed into slumber.