Since Dennis hit the “golden age” of 62, this qualifies him for the *National Parks Golden Age Pass. The pass allows the pass holder, the vehicle and up to four people to enter all National Parks in the United States without ever paying a fee again! Yippee-skipee and a big wahoo! We thought we would commemorate such a major milestone by doing our best to see the wonders of the United States in the desert southwest. We are spending the month of April touring parks in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado with lodging as varied as the parks we are visiting - and you are along for the ride!
First stop, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
We left Indio, California April 1 and arrived in Bryce Canyon early in the afternoon on April 2. On our first and only visit to Bryce Canyon 32 years ago, we camped 1 night, and viewed the sights from the rim. It was mid-September and very hot, making it difficult to do any hiking. So, after 32 years we finally got the chance to hike down into the canyon (something I’ve wanted to do since our first visit). The day was beautiful, in the 50s with sunshine and blue skies. We had a bite for lunch then put on our hiking boots and head into the canyon for the next 3-hours of wonderment. Since we recently left an elevation -10 ft. in Indio and are now at a whopping 8,000 ft. we take our time moving into the canyon and coming back out. We knew this was a quick change in elevation and didn’t want to set off any altitude sickness issues. Besides, this is one of those places where you take a few steps then stop and do a complete 360 degree turn to take in the sensational views.
While we hadn’t originally planned a hike the first day, we knew the next morning would reveal an entirely new landscape and there would be no hiking into the canyon. We got up early the following day and went out to see the morning dawn on the snow-covered hoodoos below. That’s right, it snowed during the night. One of the perks of staying at the lodge motel - we were steps away from the canyon rim! So, we bundled in layers and walked in the dark morning with D’s headlamp lighting our way. The fog rolled in at daybreak; and while there was no spectacular sunrise, what a joy to see the canyon below. There were maybe half a dozen photo enthusiasts out so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. The snow continued to fall throughout the day.
On the following morning, it was clear skies to watch the sun rise. While the previous morning hovered around freezing, this morning was much colder at 24 degrees with a steady wind. We managed to hold our ground for an hour before we made our way rapidly back to the lodge for steeping hot cups of coffee along with a hearty breakfast.
Over the years, Dennis and I have ventured into many of the major National parks. But, here’s what D said while we were hiking Bryce, “This is the one of the best hikes we have ever been on!” Here’s my comment, “I have tears in my eyes and feel so overwhelmed with joy!” I remembered thinking back to the photos we had seen of Bryce Canyon covered in snow on our first visit. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to see something like that!
FYI: While the park and lodge motel is open year-round, the dining room closes from November 1 to mid-March. We understand that after school starts, until November 1, is the busiest time of the year here. Having been here in the fall, the spring is something to behold – fewer crowds, relaxed atmosphere, and a better chance to be blessed by snow.
*The Golden Age Pass is currently $10, but it will go up sometime soon and probably will be more like the annual pass of $80, but even at that price it is a bargain considering it is a lifetime pass and many national parks can cost $30 or more.
Thanks for joining us on our journey.