After a morning being drawn in by the trails, we took things a bit easy, sampling this magnificent park from the road.. until our itchy feet lured us back out to the trails once more. In a place like this, we just couldn’t help ourselves!
Driving the Rim
Much of the park can easily be experienced from the road with little to no hiking. The main road stretches 18 miles into the park, and it’s sprinkled with beautiful viewpoints of the veritable playground below. We stopped at the photogenic Natural Bridge, and we continued all the way down to Rainbow Point.
My fellow photographer companions refused to shoot in the harsh daylight, but I wouldn’t be deterred. I kept shooting, and I even used the opportunity to try out my friend’s camera to get a taste of Fuji (I’m a Canon shooter, but I’m not shy about sampling other brands in case I find I like them better. Verdict: I prefer the images from and the feel of my Canon better.. but I’ll admit I could be biased). Even in bright daylight, Bryce’s beauty never fades.
Having surveyed the entire park, we were anxious to get out and explore in our own boots. Of all the hikes about which we had read, the Fairyland Loop topped the lists. However, we weren’t quite up for the full 8-mile hike, so we resolved to tackle only half of it to Tower Bridge.
Aaron and I swiftly fell behind the other two in our group (who weren’t photographing as we were), so we took our time to fully take in our surroundings (and shoot everything in our sight). The trail was comparatively unremarkable until about a mile in when we breached our first major rock wall.
I was delighted to see a hole through which I could play, espying the China Wall beyond. The sun was also just beginning to descend enough to give me some sun star opportunities.
The trail dipped into the shady valley, and we followed the dry stream bed until we saw the spur to Tower Bridge. Though we were far behind, we found our friends there waiting for us. The arch itself was on par with those we found in Arches National Park, and I happily photographed it, despite it being backlit.
Then the discussion ensued.
Tower Bridge is about 3 miles from Sunrise Point (where we started). We could either turn around and round out 6 miles total, arriving back at Sunrise Point in time for a 5pm sunset, or we could brave the rest of the trail. The latter would be an additional 5-mile commitment, for which we were ill-prepared with limited water and no snacks. But it promised some of the most beautiful trails in the park. But unless we really booked it, we wouldn’t be back up to the rim in time to catch sunset.
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you should know which I would choose.
However, I didn’t.
I was tired from the day’s early start, I was hungry, and I was out of water. I also preferred to catch sunset one last time. Photography > hiking. They frequently intersect, but sometimes, I have to make a choice.
Our friends, on the other hand, chose hiking. So Aaron came with me, and we parted ways. We’d pick them up after we got our sunset shots.
The lighting only got better as we extracted ourselves from the valley. The China Wall was even more beautiful, and I had some real fun with the sunstars through tiny holes in the rock walls. And we were back at the rim with plenty of time to spare to set up for sunset.
I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t have time for both, but time’s fun when you’re having flies!
Do I regret the decision? Not really. I got some amazing images of sunset, and it turned out that counterclockwise is not the ideal direction to do the Fairyland Loop.
While we were supposed to pick them up at Fairyland Point, the road was closed, so they walked out the additional mile to the main road, and they continued to the main park sign. When we finally caught them up, they were exhausted. They reported they had far more elevation gain than they expected, and while it was a beautiful trail, they were beyond beat.
Yeah, I’m happy having enjoyed the sunset instead.
However, I would very much love to return to complete the hike. I’ll be sure to go clockwise, and I’ll go first thing in the morning so I can hike and photograph.
Another day in the park done, we only had one more left to squeeze in what we could. It would be another early morning; we wouldn’t let a moment go to waste!