I woke up early and started my way to Bryce Canyon. I first had to get gas and ice for the cooler. If memory serves me right gas was about $2.50 a gallon. I always like to get to the parks early before the large crowds arrive. The first thing I do when I get to a park is head to the Visitors Center to talk to a ranger (to confirm my plans are solid), watch any educational video they might have about the park, get a few souvenirs and get my Passport stamped.
A passport is a book that has information on national parks and sites across the nation and has areas for you to collect stamps from each park. I started doing this in 2014 and already have about 15 stamps. I also collect stickers and pins from each park.
Luckily I pulled in and found one of the last few parking spots. The parking lot at the visitors center is really small and people circle around the lot like sharks. After talking with the ranger I decided to head off on the Navaho and Queen’s Garden Trail loop.
These two trails combined to only be about 3.5 miles but they are packed with highlights and you go from the rim into the canyon and eventually hike back out. A lot of people just come here and look out over the canyon from the rim. From here you can see hundreds of hoodoo’s (spires of rock formed by erosion). The orange, red and cream-colored rock formations are very beautiful but you really need to hike down into the canyon to get a good look and feel for the park. On the way out of the canyon I was dreading the uphill switchbacks but fortunately my body was starting to adapt to the attitude and hiking. So hiking out was not too difficult. I stopped frequently and took a number of pictures and talked to other people I encountered. Towards the end I found myself giving a number of new arrivals suggestions on the hiking paths to take through the park. After the hike I proceeded to drive around to the rest of the overlooks and filling my camera with more photos. Though a remarkable park I would not recommend planning more than a day to see this park.
Since I finished Bryce Canyon early I decided to start making my way to Yellowstone. This would take me straight north through Salt Lake City. I would have to find a place to sleep eventually but I figured I would play it by ear.
I drove through Salt Lake City in the evening just before sunset. I did stop at an REI to pick up some more dehydrated meals but that was about it. The city is surrounded by mountains and looked like a perfect setting for a city. I regret not spending more time there to get a feel for the city and Universities located there. Being so close to so many parks and mountains it might be a nice place to live somewhere down the line.
While continuing to drive the day turned into night and I kept pushing forward. Eventually I tired myself out and (maybe in Idaho) I stopped at a Walmart to sleep for the night. My friend Jeff (my other National Park advisor) had told me that they are ok with travelers sleeping in the parking lot and I quickly spotted the RV’s in the lot of the other tired travelers that had given up on driving any further for the night.
This was the first night I actually worked to convert the back of my car into a sleeping area. I had over packed a bit but with some effort I freed up half of the area behind the front seats to where I could lay totally flat and get a good nights sleep! I had not slept in a parking lot before so I was unsure if I would be woke up in the middle of the night and asked to leave. Fortunately that didn’t happen. I woke up really early (maybe 6am) after about 4-5 hours of sleep. Hiking/driving all day and lack of sleep was starting to take an effect. I remember being really tired and a little “out of it”. I picked up some McDonald’s for breakfast and continued through Idaho towards Jackson Hole, WY and eventually Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.