Zion NP/Bryce Canyon NP/Hoover Dam/Mojave NP 2020

Back in 2020 my good backpacking friend was able to be out in the United States again for some business and, leaving the family back east on the beach, came out to visit. I had just gotten a new Jeep Wrangler a few months prior adn both of us were itching for a road trip. Though we had done some backpacking here in California over the last few years, it had been a long time since we were out, adn man I really wanted to drive the new Jeep. After pouring over some maps and photos, we finally settled on a destination: Bryce Canyon in the winter. I've wanted to play in the snow in Bryce for many years ever since being at an overlook one of my trips and seeing a snowshoeing trail sign, and with M&S tires and 4WD we were going to be prepared for anything.

As we were driving along to Bryce, the best path took us through Zion National Park. How can one not stop at Zion! During the winter it is quite nice as you can still drive through the park without having to take all of the shuttles. My friend wanted to do Angel's Landing which I'm not sure if he managed to hike before. I love that trail so had no problem agreeing to get on it again! I had gotten sick in Boise on a recent trip so was huffing a bit up the trail, but the views as always were spectacular. Though the crowds were nothing like in the summeritme I still didn't have the gumption to go up the chains so I stopped as I usually do at Scout Landing and just relaxed and took in the view while my friend moved on. What was unique about this trip was that now California condors apparently were released in the park! Perched up on a rock outcropping was a huge condor which would every now and then start gliding around beautifully in the air before going back to its perch. A very intrepid raven decided it wanted that little area for itself and the two had their own little ongoing aeriel battle, swooping and flying around each other. So unique!

We kept on driving with the wonderful sandstone and snow guiding us onwards and soon arrived at Bryce Canyon. It was my first time being there in the winter and it was breathtaking. Hoodoos were just capped with snow along with the hillsides white hats and capes popping against all of the beautiful reds and shadows. We stopped off at the ranger station and it seems we were going to be the only people in the backcountry! Apparently not too many people had been out but the ranger did have a somewhat recent report from one fellow who was out. So we decided to follow that path. We started at Bryce Point and started down the Under-the-Rim Trail descending into the canyon itself. We decided to forego the snowshoes and just use crampons. At the rim itself some of the drifts were so high that we were postholing all the way up to our waist! But some of the previous hiker&s tracks were still visible through the snow up there and made for a great help in navigating our way down the slopes. It would have been difficult to find the switchbacks without them! We went past the Hat Shop and then eventually towards the canyon floor where the snow was patchy but the crampons still were great for the mud. With a nice campsite next to a small creek we started to settle in and were looking forward to seeing the stars, always gorgeous in those still wild areas. As it got darker, though, suddenly I thought I spotted a satellite. But then it was followed by another, and then another. Later I realized my guess was right; these were the new "sky pollution" from the Starlink constellation that had been launched since last I was in really dark skies! The sky was still wonderul until the moon came up, but I gained a newfound appreciation of why astronomers are so miffed about figuring out how to remove them fromt their photos.

After getting back out through the snow and a nice drive all the way to the end of the road looking at all of the beautiful snowcapped views along the way we started meandering back to California. We decided to stop off at the Hoover Dam. I had been walking on the dam before, but my friend was game and we took the full tour inside of the dam itself. That was my first time seeing all of the large turbines in person and really appreciating all of the art deco style influence there. We were also able to get into one of the monitoring tunnels and look out an opening maybe about a third of the way down from the inside of the dam. The water seemed low back then, so I'm sure it's even lower now.

Well, on our way back, seeing as we had a new 4x4, might as well do a little off-roading so we turned off for a short excursion into the Mojave National Preserve. I'd never been into it before as, well, there really aren't that many paved roads at all! We got to the preserve in time (of course after eating dinner at the Mad Greek) and took a dirt road out to one of the lava tubes and cinder cone areas in the desert. It was a short lava tube, but we got there right at sunset and got to see all the wonderful colors bouncing off of the mountains and the desert. Not bad for a first little jaunt into the desert!

It was time to get back home, and while we were out on our road trip all of the Covid lockdowns had started. My friend was able to make his flight, meet up with his family and get back overseas just maybe a week before the borders were all closed down. In a few weeks my own company's office would be closed and all of the ensuing stress, overwork, bad wildfires, overcrowding of parks and trails all served to keep me away for way too long. But now with things relaxed a little and people flying again instead of RVing it's starting to be time toet out to the parks once again. I can't wait!

The Photographs

Picutres were from the a900 system with the 24-70 and 70-400 lenses and a few iPhone shots.

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