Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Postcards from Bryce National Park

Time and time again, travel for me remains to be a humbling experience.  It makes me realize and appreciate my own insignificance. Nowhere is my immateriality more palpable than when I am swallowed by wildness - so vast and fathomless - in national parks.  Yosemite, and now, Bryce and Zion, all have the same effect on me.  They all remind me that I am but a teeny cog in this universe.  A teeny cog!  My self importance and egoism are dwarfed by everything unknowable and undiscoverable so apparent in the wild places we see.  It bowled me over when I realized as we were engulfed by endless canyons everywhere that prior to that time, and even after that time, I completely had no notion of the extent of my ignorance.  It would have been unfathomable to my own imagination, creative as it may be, how astounding the world is.  And how there are innumerable places and experiences to left to see.  And yes, even the acceptance that I will never even get to seem them all in my lifetime.

I find it almost silly that some cities think they are the center of the universe (ehem, New York City?).  But stepping out into the wilderness, engulfed by cliffs, clean air you can actually breathe, pure, thin air up top, trees wildlife, gushing rivers - you become certain that nothing is absolute, nothing is nowhere nearly as powerful as nature is.  And really, that is the true center of the universe.

I have always held an immense admiration and envy towards the Europeans.  I love traveling to Europe.  Traveling to Rome, the seat of one of the world's greatest and far-reaching empires, I was fascinated by how advanced the Romans were not only gastronomically, but also historically, politically, and culturally.  I always find myself comparing Europe with America and how much more I am drawn to the history and culture of Europe, say, the Romans or Greeks, for example.  But seeing Bryce (and later Zion) National Park makes me realize that what this country lacks in history relative to Europe, it makes up for in wide, open national spaces.

We may not have architectural feats built yet in 1 AD, but these canyons formed by nature into structures that resemble temples and pyramids - thousands of them - have been around far longer.

The crowd of summer vacationers have left and it was a pleasant surprise to practically have the park to ourselves.  There would be times when we would have a view point to ourselves.  And there, in the wilderness, silence was so loud, it was deafening.  It was extraordinary.  And there, at the peak of Bryce National Park, I think I might have found the quietest place on earth.  
From afar, some of the spires resemble neat rows of unearthed terracotta warriors.
To give you a sense of scale, look over to the specks on the left of the photo below, at what looks like a viewing point on the edge of a cliff.  Those three dots you see are people.  Now tell me again if you think if we live in a small world.  Or if we are the center of the universe.
We lingered over sunset at Inspiration Point and there was no other place I would rather be at that moment.  We couldn't peel our gaze away from the mesmerizing beauty that is in front of us.  The saffron canyons glowed with subdued light, the warmth in the air quickly gone as quick as the sun.  A chill hovers, especially at the altitude (it's highest point is 9,000 feet, give or take). Silence, the deafening kind, again wraps around you, but utter a word, and it is shattered by the echo of your own voice.        
They are somewhat visible in the photo below, but there are many hiking trails around some of the canyons, especially those around Sunset Point.  I would love to one day return and do some hikes here myself.  It would be so rad to walk in such close range to these cinnamon rocks.  
I have said before in this blog that I don't adhere to bucketlists.  I don't trust myself enough to be able to contain the majesty and grandeur of the world, especially those that haven't been much written about, talked about (which for me, personally, are the most bucketlist-worthy ones).  I don't want to restrict myself to twenty or so things on a list.  I feel like I would constantly fall into the danger of passing up on spontaneous experiences not on the list in hot pursuit of what is on the list.  Or worse, that I would end up saving myself, my youth, my money for that list - and end up not doing anything at all.

I mean, there could be ten, thirty, fifty, a five thousand items on your list.  Yes, that's impressive - but how many experiences are you excluding? 

Instead, I have the antithesis to bucket lists - Reverse Bucket Lists. These are the things that make it to the list only after I have done it, seen it, explored it, experienced it.  And this majestic sunset in Bryce National Park is definitely going on my Reverse Bucket List.

If you go:

  • Go later in the day to avoid the crowds.  Unlike Yosemite, the length of Bryce is actually navigable by car.  Drive south to the Rainbow and Yovimpa Points and work your way back.  No matter what you do, plan to watch the sunset at either Inspiration, Bryce, Sunset or Sunrise Point.  
  • Take your wide angle lens!  I was too lazy to pack mine and I was stuck with the fixed-focus lens I had on. Fail.
  • We had many animal sightings, including pronghorn antelopes, which I've never seen in my life before.  Take your zoom lens and a tripod while you're at it.  Heck, take all your camera equipment!  
  • Plan to hike.  I certainly wished I did - but that just means I get to return very soon.  
  • Don't drive very fast.  There are lots of wildlife about - the most I've seen (but I haven't been to Denali either).  If you do, you either miss them or worse, hit them.  

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