Meanderthals is a series of trail reports for many of the best hikes in Western North Carolina. Jeff Clark is the founder of Internet Brothers, producer of this blog, and passionate about hiking. He has been sharing experiences hiking the forests and mountains of western North Carolina with trail descriptions, trip reports, maps and photos.
Bristlecone Loop, accessible from Rainbow Point at the southern-most end of Bryce Canyon National Park, meanders through a spruce-fir forest atop the highest portion of the park, reaching elevations over 9,100 feet. This short and easy stroll passes by bristlecone pines up to 1,800-years-old and experiences vistas reaching into Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While still popular, this far end of the park is not nearly as crowded as the primary amphitheater area, but no less beautiful. My brother Dave and I hiked the Bristlecone Loop Trail on Sunday, June 3, 2018 beginning at 10:30AM and finishing about 11:30AM. Our plan was to start at Rainbow Point, follow the loop counter-clockwise, then finish at Yovimpa Point.
Total Length: 1 mile Hike Duration: 1 hour
Hike Rating: Easy. This is a fun stroll through the woods to several scenic overlooks.
Trail Condition: Very good. Some is paved. Some is hardpan. Likely to be muddy when wet. Can be very snowy in winter.
Starting Point: Rainbow Point along the main Bryce Canyon Road (Hwy 63).
Trail Traffic: We encountered perhaps two dozen other hikers enjoying this trail.
How to Get There: From Ruby’s Inn, UT take Hwy 63 into Bryce Canyon National Park. There is an entrance fee required. Take the park’s main road all the way to the end at Rainbow Point, approximately 18 miles. Trailhead is on the right.
Bristlecone Loop Trail is in red.
After completing the Queens Garden Loop very early in the morning, we still had the majority of the day left to do more exploring of the features at Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided to drive to the south end of the park, then check out all the overlooks on the way back north, perhaps finding a couple of short hikes to keep the legs warm.
One of those short hikes was Bristlecone Loop. Once arriving at the cul-de-sac at the end of Bryce Canyon Road, we first checked out the appropriately named Rainbow Point. Back in the Bryce Amphitheater the hoodoos are far more numerous, but there are none more colorful than those at Rainbow Point.
The trailhead for the loop is right there too, so we grabbed some water and sun hats and set out to see what we could find. Almost immediately there’s an overlook on the east side of the trail with views into Dixie National Forest down below, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument far into the distance.
Most of the trail is through healthy Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Fir. As you get near the point at the far end of the loop, the bristlecones hang on the edge of the cliffs. Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest trees in the world. In fact, there’s one at Cedar Breaks National Monument, just down the road from Bryce Canyon, that is said to be more than 5,000 years old. Many of those here are nearly 2,000.
We also found several varieties of wildflowers including balsamroot, blue flax, clematis and lupine.
There are multiple overlooks at the far end of the loop. None are as picturesque as Rainbow Point, but they do offer a wide view of the sprawling expanse of canyon country that is southern Utah. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to the four corners area, far to the east.
On the way back, there’s a gazebo along the cliff edge where you can rest for a bit, or get some shade. Inside is a wonderful Thoreau quote, “Silence alone is worthy to be heard.” It is quite appropriate for this section of Bryce Canyon, far away from civilization and the very busy parts of the national park. There isn’t much to hear here. Birds and breeze. Maybe even your own heart beating.
Once you get back to the beginning, if you walk to the west end of the parking area, there is a short paved pathway to Yovimpa Point, another major overlook like Rainbow. This one looks to the southwest.
In summary, Bristlecone Loop is one that is great for hikers of all ages. If you’re going to drive all the way to the south end of the park, you might as well take an hour to walk around this loop. This is the highest point in the park, over 9,000 feet, so it can have as much as 3-15 feet of snow in winter.
Corn is the world’s most-produced food crop. But it could be headed for trouble as the Earth warms. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that climate change will not only increase the risk of food shocks from world corn production but that these crop failures could occur simultaneously.
“Increased warming leads to global crop failures because plants are not adapted to really high temperatures,” explains Michelle Tigchelaar, a research associate at the University of Washington. “Most of our crops are really well-adapted for our current climate. There is an optimum temperature at which they grow and beyond that their yields decline. Extreme heat has really negative impacts on … the flowering of crops and also increases their water usage.”
Tigchelaar’s study looked at two warming scenarios: One in which the global mean temperature rises by two degrees Celsius, which is roughly in line with the Paris Agreement targets, and a second scenario of a four-degree warming, which is the temperature rise the world could see by the end of this century if humanity fails to change the way it currently does things.
With two degrees of warming, corn yields would decline by 20 to 40 percent in the main growing regions on Earth; a four-degree-warmer world would see 40 to 60 percent yield declines.
Critical portions of America’s internet infrastructure, particularly in New York City, Miami, and Seattle, may be submerged and damaged by rising sea levels—possibly within the next 15 years, according to research presented at a meeting of internet researchers.
The peer-reviewed study found that projected increases in coastal flooding over the coming decades—a trend linked with human-driven climate change—could have “a devastating impact on Internet communication infrastructure even in the short term.”
“The most immediate risk to the global internet is the fact that transoceanic fiber optic cables have landing sites that will be underwater in the coming years due to climate change-related sea water inundation,” said senior author Paul Barford, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of computer science.
By overlaying the Internet Atlas, a global map of the internet’s physical infrastructure, with the Sea Level Rise Inundation estimates generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the team was able to pinpoint where the most at-risk hardware is located.
One of the study’s most alarming findings is the short lead time before major communication lines will be affected. The team found that in the U.S. alone, 1,186 miles of long-haul fiber conduit and 2,429 miles of metro fiber conduit will be submerged by rising seas within the next 15 years.
It’s hard to reconcile where you are — the middle of a cool, dense coniferous forest, home to black bears, mountain lions and elk — with where you really are; that is, high above one of the emptiest stretches of arid, covered-in-cactus West Texas.
Before you drive the 500 miles from Austin to spend a few days amid the anomalous archipelago of “sky islands” that the 86,000-acre park protects, you will hear two things about Guadalupe: Most people come here to hike to the highest point in Texas. And hardly anybody comes here.
This is not well-trod ground. Guadalupe is one of the least visited of the country’s 60 national parks, welcoming just 225,257 people in 2017. By comparison, several million more people swarmed the perennially popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year than have wandered out to Guadalupe in the last 47.
If you’ve spent any time in sparsely populated, hauntingly sublime far West Texas, you know that this is D.I.Y. country. Unlike at Big Bend, Texas’s other (and larger and better known) national park about four hours south, there are no roofs to sleep under here or hot meals to order or waiters to refill your post-hike glass of wine.
If Guadalupe’s first-come, first-served campsites and RV spots are already taken — or you’d like to shower — you’ll have to drive to Whites City, N.M. (35 miles), or the tiny Texas towns of Dell City (44 miles) or Van Horn (64 miles) for lodging. Same goes if you need food or gas. As one park volunteer put it, “This isn’t a theme park; it’s a wilderness park.” He seemed slightly annoyed that you might come all this way and expect it to be anything else.
On the Utah-Nevada border, Great Basin could be called the black sheep of the region’s national park family. Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, even Capitol Reef, get all the attention — and annual visitors (Zion got a record 4.5 million visitors in 2017, to Great Basin’s 168,000, also a record). But, Great Basin gets something arguably better: anonymity. At some 77,000 acres, Great Basin has more than 60 miles of hiking trails.
Baker, the nearest town — population 68, as of the last census — doesn’t have very many rooms, or restaurants, or stores. But Baker is just five minutes from the park.
In Great Basin, you can totally wing it. you can arrive with no plan, no must-sees, no mental picture of the place whatsoever. It’s a rarity when traveling anywhere these days.
It was also free. As in, no entrance fee. No welcome gate. No traffic backup. Just a simple green-and-white roadside sign that reads Great Basin National Park.
People have no preconception of this national park, in part because it hasn’t been one for very long. Declared a national monument in 1922, it was only anointed national park status in 1986.
Golden hour is special for any place with picturesque scenic beauty, especially if you also happen to like photography. There aren’t many places more stunning during the golden hour — that time right after sunrise and right before sunset — than Bryce Canyon. There are even viewpoints named for these wonderful times… Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. So how about a trail that goes from one to the other while also diving down amidst the wondrous hoodoos and pine forest that give Bryce Canyon its majesty and character? That would be Queens Garden. My brother Dave and I hiked the Queens Garden Trail on Sunday, June 3, 2018 beginning at 6:00AM and finishing about 8:45AM. Our plan was to start at Sunset Point, crossing the Rim Trail over to Sunrise Point, arriving before dawn. As the sunrise began we would descend Queens Garden Trail from Sunrise Point, taking the loop in a clockwise direction. We would climb back up out of the hoodoos to Sunset Point, completing the loop.
Total Length: 3.2 miles Hike Duration: 2.75 hours
Hike Rating: Moderate. Climbing back up out of the hoodoos requires some exertion.
Trail Condition: Very good. Hard pan consistency. Can be muddy when wet.
Starting Point: Sunrise Point along the Bryce Canyon Rim Trail.
Trail Traffic: We were the first on the trail before dawn, so we had the descent to ourselves. The ascent was another matter. There were likely a hundred or more coming down as we were going back up.
How to Get There: From Ruby’s Inn, UT take Hwy 63 into Bryce Canyon National Park. There is an entrance fee required. Turn left off the main road at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Find parking, then walk to Sunset Point. Follow the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point. The trailhead for Queens Garden is on the left just below the overlook.
The crowd was beginning to arrive already as we walked the half mile from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point in the daybreak twilight. It’s a daily ritual at Bryce Canyon as the tourists, campers and hikers all arrive before dawn for the light show that turns the world famous hoodoos from grey darkness to bright orange.
There were perhaps as many as two dozen already there when we arrived at Sunrise Point. Mostly dressed in jackets and hats for the morning chill at 8,000′, many would go back to their campfires for breakfast as soon as the sun broke the horizon. Dave and I already had ours and we started down the Queens Garden Trail right away, hoping to beat the rest of the hikers, and to find a dazzling view spot farther down into the canyon.
Our plan worked, as we didn’t see another hiker for at least the next hour. Bryce Canyon is brilliant enough in the middle of the day. I’ve now had the opportunity to experience a sunrise amongst the hoodoos twice. It simply takes your breath away. Consider every shade of pink and orange imaginable. The shadows on the tall pines and the taller hoodoo spires are long. Everything surrounding you begins to glow during the golden hour.
The sky is a cerulean blue. The moon hangs above the cliffs of the canyon rim. The chipmunks chatter. Birds form a chorus. Deer scamper and graze. The breeze whispers through the canyon passageways. Everything is in unison as it welcomes and delights in the promise of a new day. I felt privileged just to be there.
As you plunge deeper and deeper into the canyon you are surrounded by hoodoos on both sides. If you don’t know, hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins. They are created over many centuries through slow erosion of the soft rock and dirt sediment layers. Here in Bryce Canyon their color tends to be mostly various shades of orange, but there are some with more of a whitish or pinkish hue.
The forest that grows in the canyon is evergreen. It is a combination of juniper, ponderosa pine and the ageless bristlecone pine. A few wildflowers manage to bloom sporadically on the otherwise barren dirt. When you reach the bottom of the trail after about three quarters of a mile, there are white and pink and orange and red mounds of dirt interspersed among the hoodoos and pines signalling the entrance to what is known as Peekaboo Canyon. You can hike down in there. Dave and I talked about doing just that on a future visit.
This is the scene at the entrance to Peekaboo Canyon.
Once you reach the bottom of the canyon, the trail is like a maze through a series of passageways, curling in, around, and among the towering hoodoos. In a couple of places where you would otherwise be stymied by limestone walls, the trail builders have carved short tunnels through the stone.
At 0.8 mile you reach a short spur trail that takes you to what is known as Queen Victoria’s Garden, a collection of hoodoos that are clustered together between two hills. At one time, decades ago, one of these hoodoos looked eerily similar to a statue of Queen Victoria found in England. Over time, though, erosion has continued to do its own sculpting on the hoodoo, so you really have to use your imagination to conjure the namesake.
The next couple miles of trail wanders among more hoodoos and follows a wash through the forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife in this area. There is more vegetation for them to feed on. The hiking is easy as the trail is mostly level. We found a log bench to take a brief break, and were greeted by chipmunks who wanted to share our snacks.
By now, a couple hours into this hike, we were beginning to see other folks. A few had caught up from behind, but most of them were coming down the other side of the loop. We went a bit farther and came to the junction with the Navajo Trail. It had been our original plan to take that to complete this loop hike, but it was closed for repairs. So we began the ascent of the south side of Queens Garden Trail.
As you start the ascent, the hoodoo walls get tighter and tighter. The trail becomes almost like a slot canyon. There isn’t much light. The trees are few, and the tread is dustier. We reached a feature known as Two Bridges, an alcove where twin natural bridges span a gap between hoodoos.
Soon after, the climb back to Sunset Point begins in earnest. There is a series of about a dozen switchbacks that takes you between hoodoo walls. The crowd of hikers was really coming down the trail now as we were within a quarter mile of the rim. After clearing the switchbacks, you pop out into the bright sunlight of the Bryce Amphitheater. The orange glow from the hoodoo pipes and spires seems to permeate your senses.
Across the way a lone mule deer was in peaceful repose in a gap between the towers, completely oblivious to the crowd of humans in proximity. She too was reveling in the splendor that is a Bryce Canyon morning.
We reached Sunset Point. The view over the south side into the Silent City collection of hoodoos was stunning in the early morning light. We stared at the scenery for 10-15 minutes. It wasn’t even 9:00 yet. As we sauntered back to the car, we still had nearly the entire day to look for other adventures at the wonderful Bryce Canyon.
Summarizing Queens Garden Trail, this is an excellent means of “walking among the hoodoos.” While there is some exertion involved to climb back out of the canyon, it isn’t too tough. Take your time. This entire loop can be hiked in less than three hours and offers a stimulating Bryce Canyon experience. You can make it even that much more enjoyable by checking it out at sunrise. I hope you enjoy the photos below. I especially liked putting this gallery together.
There’s a ton of misinformation about how much to hydrate and when, but the basics are actually pretty simple. Here’s what you need to know.
For easy workouts in cool weather lasting an hour or less, drinking only when you’re thirsty is fine. But if it’s at all hot or humid, or you’re going out for a long time, that won’t be adequate.
There’s an easy method to figure out exactly how much fluid you need: weigh yourself before you go out for an hour of exercise, and then weigh yourself again when you get home. That’s the weight of fluid you should be taking in per hour.
Just plain water won’t cut it for long events. Sodium helps your body regulate how much water a cell can hold. When your body’s sodium content drops to critically low levels, your cells take on too much water and swell. If you don’t like the taste of sports drinks, try electrolyte tablets.
When you drink, fluids must pass through your stomach and into your small intestines before being absorbed into your bloodstream. If your gut can manage it, it’s smarter to take a few long pulls off your bottle than tiny sips every ten minutes.
Sports drinks are a pretty simple mix of water, carbs, and electrolytes. It’s easy to DIY your own performance mix. You can dilute just about any juice in a one-to-one ratio (one part water, one part juice) and reach a nice 6 to 7 percent carbohydrate blend.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceis pleased to announce the release of the Environmental Assessment for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Reroute through the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge. The Service plans to move a portion of the Trail from where it crosses the Wallkill River via Oil City Road in Orange County, New York, and relocate the Trail within the Refuge in Sussex County, New Jersey. The National Park Service is participating as a cooperating agency for this project. The agencies are soliciting comments through July 20, 2018.
The purpose of the project is to provide Trail and Refuge visitors a safe and more aesthetically pleasing alternative for crossing the Wallkill River that is in keeping with the desired experience for those hiking the Trail. The length of the Trail proposed for realignment is approximately 1.3 miles.
This segment contains one of the longest sections of the Trail that co-aligns with a public roadway, Oil City Road, a two-lane road with little to no shoulder. As development in the surrounding area continues to increase, the number of cars on Oil City Road is likely to increase, causing additional safety concerns to hikers.
Oil City Road and the Trail also currently experience floods and overland flow, which affects the safety and accessibility for trail and refuge visitors. Further, this road walk does not provide maximum outdoor recreation potential, one of the objectives for National Scenic Trails, as stated in the National Trails System Act.
Public participation is an important element of the planning process and your comments and ideas on the environmental assessment are welcome.
Monsoonal rains are taking a toll on Zion National Park, where not only roads are being covered and blocked by debris washed down mountainsides but trails are being torn apart.
While Riverside Walk has reopened after a potent storm Wednesday, July 11, 2018 brought flooding, mudslides, and rockfalls to the park, cleanup won’t be easy. As of midday Friday, July 13 the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and several trails, including Angels Landing, Kayenta, Upper Emerald Pools, and West Rim from the Grotto to Cabin Spring, were all closed. And heavy rains were in the afternoon forecast.
Sand, debris, and small rockfalls were the issue on Riverside Walk. In one area, the sand was 3 feet deep covering the trail. Trail crews worked all day Wednesday and Thursday morning on clearing the trail. In the meantime, the Zion Shuttle turned around at Big Bend, and there was no access to The Narrows from the Temple of Sinewava. Now that Riverside Walk is clear, shuttles have resumed their full route.
Mud and debris on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway was 3-4 feet deep in several areas, overwhelming the road drainage culverts and making the road impassable. Dozens of vehicles were initially stranded in the 1.1-mile tunnel, and some were stuck in the mud flow. Roads crews were able to plow a path to the vehicles to get them out late Wednesday night. Crews made much progress Thursday and were hoping to finish clearing the rest of the road and the culverts by late afternoon Friday.
Arriving at Bryce Canyon mid-afternoon, Dave and I headed for the short Mossy Cave Trail to get our feet wet among the majestic hoodoos. This trail actually begins outside the park at the far northern reaches, then enters the park boundary on foot. The trail is a streamside walk up to a mossy overhang and small waterfall. Mossy Cave isn’t a cavern, but is a grotto, created by an underground spring. We hiked to Mossy Cave on Saturday, June 2, 2018 beginning at 3:00PM and finishing about 4:00PM. Our plan was to explore this northern portion of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Total Length: 0.8 mile Hike Duration: 1 hour
Hike Rating: Easy. Mostly a streamside stroll. Limited climbing to the grotto.
Hike Configuration: Out and back Blaze: None needed
Trail Condition: Very good. Hard pan consistency. Possibly dusty during dry summer.
Starting Point: Trailhead along Hwy 12 along the road to Tropic, UT.
Trail Traffic: There were perhaps three dozen other hikers. Pretty busy.
How to Get There: From Ruby’s Inn, UT take Hwy 63 to the junction with Hwy 12 and turn right. Trailhead is approximately two miles on the right.
Mossy Cave Trail Map
At first, as you enter the trail, this small drainage known as Water Canyon, might look like any ordinary Bryce kind of canyon. But it’s not. From 1890-1892 Mormon pioneers labored with picks and shovels to carve an irrigation canal known as the Tropic Ditch from the East Fork of the Sevier River, through the Paunsaugunt Plateau, into this canyon.
Except for a severe drought in 2002, the water has flowed continuously for more than a century, and the lives of families living in and around the nearby town of Tropic still benefit from the effort of the pioneers.
As you hike up the Mossy Cave Trail, notice how the higher elevations of this “canyon” have the lumpy, broken, and random texture typical of Bryce Canyon National Park and its hoodoos. You will also see how the lower section is without hoodoos, and has smooth angled sides looking like a ‘V’ in cross-section. Because of this little water course, it is unlikely that any more hoodoos will form here. The existing hoodoos will eventually crumble and Water Canyon will have completed the metamorphosis, becoming a “real canyon.”
Soon after crossing a small rise you see the water… the pale green water. It is readily apparent that this is a mineral rich environment, simply by the color of the water in Tropic Ditch.
You are surrounded by hoodoos on both sides of the canyon. Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins. They are created over many centuries through slow erosion of the soft rock and dirt sediment layers. While the hoodoos here at Mossy Cave aren’t nearly as spectacular as the ones in the heart of the national park, they were a good reminder to us of what we had to look forward to throughout this visit to Bryce.
There is a small, perhaps 40 foot long foot bridge over Tropic Ditch, and then as you round a bend in the trail you see the unexpected. A waterfall. That’s the last thing I expected to see in Bryce Canyon National Park. Sure enough. Those Mormon pioneers had a playful nature apparently as they took the Tropic Ditch over a 10 foot drop in the canyon floor.
The trail forks, and you can take the right fork to the waterfall. Here, the rapid trenching of the stream has been delayed by a layer of dolomite, a special form of limestone fortified by magnesium. Dolomite is not only harder than regular limestone; it also can’t be dissolved by slightly acidic rainwater. Dolomite is what has created this waterfall and it is also the cap rock for the more famous and durable hoodoos.
The young kids who were also out hiking with their parents on this day made a beeline straight for the waterfall, and could be seen splashing and playing there for the duration of our visit.
Take the left fork in the trail to Mossy Cave. This isn’t a cave in the walking underground sense. It’s more of a shelter cave. Here depending on the season, you will see a large overhang either filled with moss, or with giant icicles. The icicles sometimes last as late in the season as May. Mossy Cave is created by an underground spring. It was so dark and contrasty inside that I didn’t even try to get a picture. Frankly, the waterfall is a lot more interesting.
The trail continues along the Tropic Ditch water course for another quarter mile or so, but the Park Service has this section closed as they work on native vegetation rehabilitation. All you’re missing out on is a chance to get a bit closer to some hoodoos.
Summarizing Mossy Cave Trail, this is one that’s great for the whole family. Especially if you have little kids, they will love the small waterfall. The hiking is short and easy and a good introduction to Bryce Canyon National Park. If you’re traveling on a very limited budget, you can save some money on the national park entrance fee because this trailhead is actually located outside the park boundary.