A recent chain of events (a record-breaking polar vortex which led to a four-day school cancellation which led to a reorganization of the photo cupboard) brought to light a long-forgotten photo album of our first Southwest road trip.  Turns out the husband and I (but mostly the husband – you’ll see his massive camera in several photos in this series) took more and better photos back then than we did on a similar road trip last summer, and I thought I would share some of them with you in a series entitled “A Photo Journey.”  I hope you enjoy them, and even more, I hope they inspire you to travel.

So orange is not my favorite color.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my least favorite colors.  Inescapable each and every Halloween, it was also the color of my childhood bedroom’s shag carpet and my grandma’s overly-firm throw pillows.  These days, the garish hue assaults my vision in the form of day-lilies so overused as a lazy gardener’s landscape filler across my neighborhood. (We ripped ours out, you’ll be relieved to hear, and replaced them with deep purple lavender, inspired by our time in Provence, whose tolerance of our yard’s particular micro-climate will be revealed this spring.)  My blatant anti-orange colorism does not, however, extend to the hues painted across the southwest U.S., and that goes double for Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce 2

There’s a lot of stunning orange rock in southern Utah, but Bryce’s rocks possess their own special brand of stunning.  They are set apart by their unique shapes.

Bryce 6


They’re called hoodoos.  I don’t know why.  I could look it up, but then again, so could you. 😉

Bryce 5

Some views include an abundance of green that Mother Nature has thrown in, daring, avant-garde artist that she is.

Bryce 1

Again, not normally a fan of the greenorange color combo, but it seems to work here.

Bryce 17

Like Arches National Park, there is a profusion of unique shapes to behold.

Bryce 3


The formation below is called Queen Victoria after, that’s right, Queen Victoria.  She was the current queen’s great great grandmother.  More interestingly, she was the great great great great great great great great great granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, making her distantly related to (though not directly descended from) the impetuous, unpredictable, tunnel-visioned, not-overly-caring, but eminently fascinating Henry VIII.


For comparison’s sake, here are a few pictures of an often dour-looking Queen Victoria from the book, The Kings and Queens of England.  This rock is a reasonable likeness, I would say, and explains the sudden burst of patriotic fervor that is known to strike British tourists like the husband whenever they visit Bryce.


I’ve been to Bryce a few times, and I’ve approached the park from both the east and the west.  The great thing about the western approach, especially if it’s your first visit, is the element of surprise.  First you drive, then walk, through forests of pine trees.  It feels like you could be just about anywhere in the northern U.S.  But then you reach the edge of the canyon and – POW! – there’s this immense, otherworldly amphitheater of orange hoodoos suddenly spread out in front of you.  It’s quite an experience, and I often wonder how this land’s First Peoples reacted to the discovery.  (To contrast, when you approach from the east you spot the hoodoos from the highway on the way to the park.  It’s not a bad way to arrive, but it doesn’t have the same wow-factor, in my opinion.)

Bryce 7
Two things Bryce has in common with Paris’ Notre Dame?  Tourists and flying buttresses.

But just seeing the sights from on high is like going on a diving trip and then spending the whole time snorkeling.  For a full, immersive experience you need to get up close and personal to the hoodoos by going down in.

Bryce 10
Sometimes you will need to crouch

Bryce 9

It can be a bit like a very tall hedge-maze down there.

Bryce 14

You may feel like an ant inside a forest of rocks.

Bryce 11

Bryce 12

Bryce 15

Bryce 16
Ugh.  This photo had the potential to be kinda cool… all angular and artsy.  If only I hadn’t cut off his head… and feet.

One of the stories I read with my students each year tells the tale of Paul Bunyan’s son, Little Jean, carving Bryce Canyon one day out of sheer boredom.

Bryce Bunyan 1

But don’t be fooled.  Bryce wasn’t the creation of some gigantic youth suffering from pre-teen ennui.  It was created by nature.  Erosion, actually, if you don’t mind me getting all science-y on you.

Bryce 4

And when you see Bryce with your own eyes, you’ll have no doubt that she did a really stellar job.

Posts in the A Photo Journey series:


31 thoughts

  1. Ahhh man, I need to go back to Utah just to see Bryce Canyon! It looks amazing. I am not a huge fan of orange either, but for some reason I love the colours in Utah (in case you couldn’t tell, haha!). I love your photos, I always just see photos from above so it’s nice seeing a different perspective of it on the hikes!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was in Bryce Canyon this time last year and it was snow-covered and snowed lightly while we were there. It sounds cheesy I know but it was truly magical. We only saw a few other people the whole day so it was so quiet and really special.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post!!! Bryce is my favorite park. It keeps drawing me back. I even have a favorite tree at Inspiration point that I keep photographing on the edge of the canyon each time I visit.

    Beautiful pictures!! I heard from someone yesterday that they are offering ranger led snowshoeing into canyon now. Sounds like a blast!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bryce is my favorite National Park in all of Utah. On our first visit, after a wonderous day of wandering and hiking we were relaxing in our room at Ruby’s Inn when an earthquake occured. It was a mild one (in the low- to mid-3’s), one of three earthquakes I’ve experienced in my 11 years living in Utah. The next morning when we woke up it had snowed – glorious! A completely different Bryce experience.
      And as long as you’re in the area I definitely recommend driving through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There I found landscapes like I’d never seen before. From Bryce head east through the town of Tropic and Escalante to the tiny town of Boulder (pop.226). There you’ll find the exceptional farm-to-table Hell’s Backbone Grill which enjoys one of the highest Zagat ratings in Utah, was voted Best Restaurant of the Rockies, and has been selected several times as a James Beard Award semifinalist, among other accolades. Warning: you’ll need reservations! Find out more here:

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We dined at Hell’s Backbone this past summer. It deserves all the accolades it has received, and the amazing drive to get there just adds to the delightful experience. And heck, since we’re giving out Utah restaurant recommendations, if you’re in the sleepy little town of Torrey for your explorations of Capitol Reef National Park, Cafe Diablo is exceptional. http://www.cafediablo.com


      1. If you haven’t made reservations for Hell’s Backbone Grill when passing through Boulder, Utah, then drop in to Burr Trail Grill which is right next door. Hip & laid back, good food, good beer, and really, really good homemade pies. Plus there’s a high quality gift shop next door called The Outpost.
        And , dear Travel Architect, I personally apologize for that orange shag carpeting, What WAS the 12-year-old me thinking??

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What amazing photos !
    How lucky to have visited this mythical park. I will not give the link to my wife because she immediately fly to Utah … and I would again eat frozen meals for a week 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t be bothered to look up why they’re called Hoodoos either so I guess neither of us will ever know. Great photos though, the place is stunning and the Queen Victoria probably has more personality than the real one did.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There are some fantastic photos here, it looks stunning! Definitely somewhere I hope to visit in the near future.

    As a sidenote, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard the term ‘shag carpet’ which had me somewhat confused given ‘shag’ has a very different meaning in England!
    Additionally I was only introduced to Paul Bunyan last summer and it’s interesting to see how much he features in American folklore. Seen his name pop up a few times since which is amusing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      Good point about the “shag” carpet. I hadn’t thought about that alternative meaning. 🙂 So for anyone else reading this who doesn’t know what “shag carpet” is, it’s just carpeting in which the individual fibers or threads are rather long.

      Yeah, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are pretty big around here. The story I refer to is the only one I’ve heard that involves a family, but there are tons of variations out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! After three solid straight months of travel last year, including a lot of spectacular national parks, we were getting a bit travel weary and worried that Bryce would feel kind of “Meh” to us. But instead its unique beauty recharged us! I love that you can get away from the crazy crowds just by driving deeper into the park. Most of the selfie-obsessed tourists don’t go beyond the first couple of scenic overlooks or the first trail down into the canyon. The rim trail is great for solitude too.

    Liked by 1 person

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