05.14.2013 - 10.14.2013 87 °F
We woke up at 6:00 AM to watch the sunrise over the rainbow peaks of Bryce Canyon. The 35 degree morning was a stark difference from yesterday's 95 degrees. After washing my hair in the bathroom sink, I felt like I was minutes away from hypothermia. T saw me and said, “Your lips are a little blue, it’s a good look for you, like an ice queen. “ How lovely. T & I's morning routine (inventory of stuff, packing up tent & loading the car) have become routine and we do it quickly with numb fingers.
On the way out, we stopped at the general store for gas, ice and hot chocolate. I spent some time reviewing our guidebook to find interesting hikes we could do at Kodachrome Basin state park, our next stop. Tom chatted with a very friendly ranger at the park's visitor center while I explored the nature center/gift shop. At the campsite, the first thing I noticed was the site's ideal location; it is situated in a valley which affords spectacular canyon wall views to wake up to...as well as some other interesting rock formations.
Well Good morning!
The second thing I noticed were the hot showers! It's our first stay at a campsite with any class of shower and we decide on the spot to extend our stay here to two nights. The packing, travel & unpacking has tired us out and we decide to take a quick power nap during the hottest part of the day before we head out for the day’s big hike. We've decided to hike the Panorama Loop and Big Bear Geyser / Cool Cave Loop trails. All together, it's an easy to moderate 6 mile round trip which winds along a red-rock basin and should take about four hours to complete.
We chose these hikes in part because of all the delightful sounding rock formations along the way! These include the alcove known as "Old Indian" Cave, the Ballerina Slipper (a graceful spire), the Secret Passage (a little nook within the wall of the basin) which led to the Cool Cave; as well as the formations collectively known as the Hat Shop (wide chunks of rock sitting atop narrower spires). We left the main path to follow the signs to each site, respectively, and particularly enjoyed the shade and intimacy the Cool Cave provided us. The soft silt trail is easy on the feet and had little elevation change. Hiking it provided many up close encounters with the native flora. T taught R how to identify many of these plants, including the Juniper tree, whose berries can be used for a variety of things, including survival food in the forest and creating gin spirits and, sometimes, both at the same time.
We had a lot of fun during this hike! Our hidden talent of speaking with heavy southern accents emerged and we began referring to one another as "ma" or "pa" while conversing, such conversations would inevitably end in laughing spells. We raced down small hills and let inertia pull us up on the other side. We passed puns back and forth and judged the other's quality of the pun. We were fortunate enough to have many bird sightings and, of course, the incredible views the Kodachrome basin provided. At one point, T remarked, "Did you know that pigeons and doves are basically the same animal?" R, "I had no idea that living in a city could so significantly downgrade one's value."
This was the second of two tough hikes that I completed back to back and I am beginning to feel like a pretty legit trailblazer at this point. After the hike, T & I relax our tired muscles at the camp site and T pours us a cup of white wine (twist off bottle, we didn't bring an opener!). We cheers'd to each other while taking in the cool winds and dusky sky of the evening. The temperature dropped significantly, down to 40 degrees, that night. T & I pulled our sleeping bags outside of the tent, snuggled up and took advantage of the clear night sky to stargaze. R, “I can see the curve of the universe.” T, “You mean the galaxy?” R, “No, I mean the whole damn universe.”
There were warning posters about mountain lions all over the campsite. The posters advised that, if you happened come across one, to do whatever you can to look as big as possible, up to and including picking up a small child and holding them over your head. This may be the only case where having a child with you could serve to benefit your odds of survival. As soon as I saw that poster I knew I was going to have an encounter with a mountain lion, and, later that night, I did…or, at least, I think I did.
In the midst of s’more making , I noticed a large, wild cat dragging our trash off into the underbrush and quietly called to T, (later he would say that my voice sounded strange). T noticed where I was looking and took a few steps towards the beast, which compelled it to run away. At which point, T fearlessly retrieved the bagged trash from beneath the brush and locked it in the car. For the next half hour I kept the flashlight on that spot as T teases me about my paranoia.
In the past 24 hours, T & I have hiked around 13 miles and after cleaning up the campsite, putting out the cooking fire and curling up in each other's arms, we easily slip into dreamland.