The wind blew across the canyon as the sun set in pink, purple, and orange. The crowds had left and I sat alone on the edge of the rock staring at the magnificent display of nature. There were stories in the topography of Bryce Canyon. The erosional force of rainwater has shaped the colorful limestone rock into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, and spires called "hoodoos." As I looked at one angle of the amphitheater it reminded me of the Terracotta Warriors in X'ian, China all lined up to march against the castle on the other side. I saw many castles that looked as if there were dragons wrapped around the gates. As I stared in awe of this magnificent display of nature, I felt like a child again making pictures out of clouds on a hot summer day.
I had always wanted to see the canyons of the west, but there was a part of me that thought I wouldn't love the desert. Being from New England I have a penchant for lush green landscapes and I thought of the dessert as dusty and dry. Little did I know that the high desert is far from tumble weeds and sand. My first glimpse of this area was driving into Zion National park late in the afternoon. The tables of rock met lush valleys of trees and rivers colored with wild flowers splashing the entire area with the look of autumn foliage in New England. The world looked painted in bright colors, the blue sky brighter against the red rock.
I camped in Zion for two nights, staring up at the stars under the watchful eye of the canyon as streaks of green flew across the sky in a meteor shower. During the day I hiked to the Emerald Pools seeing waterfalls. Then up to Angels Landing where I made my way across the steep path holding onto chains to come to a place where I felt like I stood in middle of the entire canyon. I had no idea when I chose to come to Zion that it was the Yosemite of the Southwest, it's greenery lush and the canyon walls deep.
My last day in Zion, I hiked the Narrows, a walk through water and narrow canyons. I bought ten dollar water shoes, grabbed a stick from the edge of the riverbed and began my journey. The rocks were slippery and impossible to see in the muddy water. At times the river rushed and I crossed class one rapids, the water becoming waist deep. It wouldn't have been a problem if I wasn't holding my camera in one hand determined to protect it from getting wet. I had journeyed into the canyon alone but quickly met up with a father and son hiking together. I decided I needed a yard stick for how deep the water became in each part and began to follow them up the canyon. For six hours we hiked to come to two small waterfalls. My new friends went further up the canyon, but I had to turn back. The waterway was slick and hard to maneuver at times, but I met up with two more men this time from Germany and we spent the next three hours chatting and walking as we stared at the beautiful canyon and slipped our way along the rocks.
My dream had only been to see these two beautiful canyons, but once again my journey became better than I could've imagined. A friend of mine had flown in from the East Coast to meet up with me. We thought we'd spend three days in Bryce Canyon, but realized that we only needed a day. We moved on to a small town called Escalante outside of Bryce. There we found wonderful restaurants and a beautiful campground. We hiked to waterfalls and spent time in the town talking with locals. Our first night we went to a restaurant that looked like a cross between a mountain lodge with stuffed heads on the wall and an Amvets hall. Our waitress was a beautiful black woman with incredible style and grace who looked completely out of place in this strange restuarant. It turns out that she was from Paris. Then there was Jay, "Who Had Come to Play", our live music for the evening. He was a one man band in a top hat with a stuffed monkey on the cymbal with a tip jar.
Sometimes I have no idea why I've chosen certain dreams to have on my list. I go in without expectation and hope that the experience will be worth my time and moneyt. With each dream that comes true, I realize that this journey isn't about checking off items, but allowing the world to unveil it's beauty in every form. Zion and Bryce, the town of Escalante is a treasure, a beautiful painting of how amazing this world and life can be.