A beautiful day for an eclipse – clear blue sky and just a little wind!
I started the day at the park by just driving up the scenic drive again, this time capturing it in real time on my camera to compare with the time-lapse that I took yesterday. After that I parked the car at Sunrise Point and headed off to hike the Navajo Loop Trail.
The Navajo loop is a 1.3 mile trail that goes down 0.6 miles and then back up 0.7 miles if you go in the clockwise direction. Yesterday near the end of my 6 mile hike I took the 0.6 mile section up. So today I went down that side and came back up the other way which I hadn’t seen yet. On this leg which is called “Wall Street” the trail goes through a narrow slot canyon which makes for some spectacular views up the vertical walls to the open sky and also through the canyon looking at the switchbacks you have to climb to get out. It took me about an hour to do this given all the photos I had to stop and take;-)
After that I headed to the Bryce Canyon Lodge and had a leisurely lunch. From there I headed back to my car since I had seen enough of the canyon for awhile. Just did a little reading and relaxing until about 3:30 when I headed down the road to grab a shuttle ride out to Bryce Point. Turns out I should have taken that time to check my equipment – I had forgotten my tripod back at camp. I was going to be forced to take pictures of the eclipse the hard way.
Made it out to Bryce Point about 4 pm and got myself situated right on the rim across from the Bryce Amphitheater. There were hundreds of people at Bryce Point and I don’t know how many at the other sites. Chatted with a nice couple from Eugene, OR while waiting for the show to start. She’s French Canadian and he’s Czech and they had also lived in Owatonna, MN for awhile in the 80s.
It took me a few tries to dial in the settings on my camera to get images of the sun (should have had a neutral density filter…) but I finally got as best as could be. The sun was still too bright for about the first half – even though I could see through the eclipse glasses the transit, it still caused overexposure of the sun. But as the moon got a bit more than halfway across the sun, I could start to see a crescent in my images. Then at the maximum I got the image above. I then continued snapping photos through the remainder of the eclipse – all the way to sunset. I’m going to assemble a time lapse of this as well but unfortunately since I did this all handheld I’m going to have to crop a lot of images otherwise it’ll be jumping all over the place.
After that it was a bit of waiting for the shuttle ride back to my car (or close to my car anyway). Not sure if it’s always so disorganized, they also had one bus break down, but I think I waited nearly an hour. This was after also sitting through the entire eclipse – most people had headed to the busses just after the maximum. Then it was back to camp and bed. On to Zion tomorrow!
Last night was another very windy night and I didn’t get much sleep. Fortunately the modifications that I made to the rain fly during the day yesterday did go a long way in keeping additional sand out of the tent – so at least I didn’t have that flying in my face all night.
Today I had planned to be just a hiking day, but I realized that I had missed two of the viewpoints during my visit yesterday – Yovimpa Point and Piracy Point. So on returning to the park this morning I ran out to those two viewpoints and got some pictures. Then headed down to Sunset Point to start my hike.
While yesterday was a more or less cloudy day with less than optimal lighting conditions, today was absolutely perfect. The sky was clear with just an occasional lazy cloud and the most stunning shade of blue.
The hike I chose was actually a combination of three trails; Queen’s Garden, Peek-a-Boo Loop and Navajo loop. These take you down into the Bryce Amphitheater so that you are down in and amongst the hoodoos. The lower section takes you through a nice conifer forest. The total length is somewhere around 6 miles. The Navajo loop is the steepest section as far as I can tell and is completely uphill/downhill with no flat sections. After making it up one side of the loop I had the option of going down the other side and back up again (1 mile total) – or just taking the remaining half mile back to the car – I chose the car. I’m planning to do the rest of Navajo loop tomorrow morning as from the top it does look very interesting.
The rest of tomorrow will be getting ready to view the eclipse which starts at about 6:20 MT and lasts about 2 hours. I already have my snazzy eclipse viewing glasses!
After reviewing my options, I decided that today would be the day to simply take the drive up the length of the park and stop at all the scenic overlooks in the park. In 18 miles there are 14 stops – I think I hit them all…
They’re all very similar but I think my favorite was Inspiration Point which is where the above photo was taken. The day started out very nice, despite the clouds that almost made me reconsider. However as the day drew on it started to cool off and there was a brief shower of freezing rain that finally made me put the top up for good. I made it back down to the visitors center and was able to catch a presentation of their 20 minute “intro to Bryce Canyon” movie.
After that it was raining and the wind was blowing quite a bit, so I hung out at the visitor center for about a half hour or so until it finally stopped. I made it out to the last viewpoint and called it a day.
Got back to my campground about 5 o’clock and fortunately my tent was still standing. One of the campground staff said they had a 51mph gust of wind blow through and for a time visibility was virtually 0 with all the dust in the air. While my tent was still standing, I found that it was also full of sand! Unlike anything I’d experienced in the last couple of days. I cleaned out the sand and made some modifications that I am hoping will keep out some of the sand tonight – not holding my breath though. Since the wind was still blowing pretty good, I decided not to bother trying to cook in camp and went into town to try the pizza place.
Tomorrow I’m going on a 4-5 mile hike down into the canyon to get an up-close view of some of the hoodoos!