“You’ve painted up your lips an rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The Shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town”
Song lyrics by Mel Tillis (Kenny Rogers song)
These are the opening lyrics to an old Kenny Rogers song that he recorded years ago…. back when he actually looked like Kenny Rogers and not his current cosmetically reconstructed self. You know how a song sometimes gets into your head and you can’t stop humming or singing it for days? Well a few months ago, while visiting Bryce Canyon National Park I spent a nifty 48 hours warbling half remembered Ruby lyrics on a near constant basis.
Ruby’s Inn is the Grand Dame of lodging and the epicenter of Bryce Canyon City, Utah and has been an area institution for so long that prior to the 2007 incorporation of the town as Bryce Canyon City, the town was known as Ruby’s Inn. The designation as a city is misleading since the town has a grand total of 138 residents, most of whom are either descendants of Ruby herself or employees of Ruby’s Inn. Ruby’s Inn has 370 available lodging rooms and when a single hotel in your town has lodging space that is more than twice the population of your entire town…..it’s possible that Bryce Canyon Village or maybe even Bryceburg might have been a more appropriate town name.
But folks don’t come from all over the world to visit Ruby’s Inn. They come to see what many regard as the most spectacular piece of real estate in America; Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park are often linked since they are in close proximity in southern Utah. But they couldn’t be more different. Visitors to Zion Canyon view the canyon from the bottom and gaze upwards to take in the canyon walls, while visitors to Bryce Canyon view the formations from the top and look downward into amphitheatres of hoodoos. One other major difference is that Bryce Canyon is much smaller than Zion Canyon.
There was a modest snowstorm the evening I arrived at the park which was a welcome event because the famous hoodoos of Bryce look great when they are augmented with a blanket of white. This area is known as Queen Anne’s Garden. I rose at 4am to get to Sunrise Point where this photo was taken. It was early November and the wind chill was below zero. I later found out that Bryce Canyon, at close to 9,000 ft., is often the coldest spot in Utah.
Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but a set of amphitheatres set into numerous hillsides. The erosion of the rocks and resulting hoodoo formations arose from the effects of wind and water on the hillsides over millions of years. Unlike Zion canyon, there is no dominant stream or river that carved out the formations.
The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon Pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park covers 55 sq miles and receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location.
There are 50 miles of hiking trails throughout the park most of which take you down into the amphitheatres for spectacular views of the formations. The use of a polarizing filter provides the dark blue sky which sets off the rock formations.
You almost feel as if you are looking down a Paris boulevard and see a famous church framed in the distance!
Little is known about early human habitation in the Bryce Canyon area. Archaeological surveys of Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsagunt Plateau show that people have been in the area for at least 10,000 years. Anasazi basket artifacts several thousand years old have been found south of the park. Other artifacts from the Pueblo-period Anasazi and the Fremont culture (up to the mid-12th century) have also been found.
Nothing adds to the drama of an already beautiful scene than wonderful cloud formations overhead. These clouds have tinges of pink in them just over the horizon line along with lots of texture in the formations.
The formation in the upper left corner of the image is called “The Sinking Ship”. The wonderful thing about Bryce Canyon is that all of these mind-blowing formations present themselves differently depending on the time of day, angle of the sun, cloud formations and one’s viewing position. So once you think you’ve seen it all, return at a different time or with different weather and you get a completely different experience. In no other place in America, not even the formidable Grand Canyon, can you see the phantasmagorical array of pinnacles, windowed walls, pedestals, and brightly colored fins and spires that comprise Bryce Canyon National Park.
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