As my brother came with a friend for a 2 weeks road trip around California and neighborhood states, I traveled with them for 4 days. 4 days to run on sunny roads, between deserts and mountains. 4 days, 4 posts.
Let's go for the 3rd day. Departure from Mexican Hat to reach the first daily park, Natural Bridges. It's on the road that we'll understand why this village has this name: just after exit there is the Mexican Hat Rock which really seems like a reversed sombrero -No photos, the light wasn't appropriate.
Continuing to go to an upper plateau, we're drive in an hillside road, very abrupt and non paved. When we saw the sign, we wondered where we'll go by. The road was actually absolutely practicable!
Once we were on the plateau, landscape change. Leaving the aridity of Monument Valley and it's red sand, we're now in the middle of ranch. It's not a surprise to pass cows who are around there. Cows, it was long time I didn't see one! The long straight road in the middle of these ranch goes very fast. We're arriving in the park at 8am. There is really a few tourists here. the less the better! Stop at the park information center to grab some paper and ask how long it takes for the different little hiking in the park.
There is 3 big natural bridges in this park. It's possible to go above all of them by walking: more than 1 hour for the 1st, 20 to 30 minutes for the second and only 5 minutes for the last one. Each bridge is visible from a point of view accessible from the road. The road is a one way road and make a loop to go aside the 3 bridges.
We just did a quick stop for the first. We're watching it from the far point of view. It's the biggest in the park, but it looked very small from our position. Moreover it didn't look so sexy.
At the second, we took our breakfast in backpack and walked on a well beaconed trail to reach the bridge. The meal was very pleasant in the bottom of the gorge as it's cool and there is many singing birds. A the first look we can't see how big it is. It's only once you're under that you realize! Take a look at the first 2 photos below. the small white point are really human being (us in this case).
It's possible to hike between the 3 bridges in the canyon. I decided to run to reach the third with the others. During this time, they'll go back to the car and reach the third by the road. Then I admit I'm not proud of that. In one hand because it was almost 4 miles under the sun -even at 8am, that's hurt- and in the other hand because most of the trail are in sand. Some mice surprised me by going out from nowhere and run in my legs. And at every turns I thought I was done; but I saw that the canyon go away in the wrong direction... Anyway, my brother and François waited me for a moment at the 3rd bridge. I didn't have time to enjoy it, and I felt sick. As this bridge is the nicest, here is some pictures of them:
Back to the car, hard for me, I'm still out of breath. We drove back to the park entrance for a restroom stop, and we're back on the road to the next step, Bryce Canyon.
The road will be long, almost 6 hours. It was indicate in the map with a thin line, but I asked the hotel receptionist for advice; she said this road is practicable without any trouble. She added that's a beautiful way, especially the part before Hanksville. We won't be disappointed!
There is many points of view on this road, with changing landscapes. From the green-stuff of Natural Bridges, we passed by sand desert, the, by the Red Canyon, stopping in front of a cliff with prehistoric draws, driving in 9800 feet pass with snow around there, this road was very nice.
When we stopped at a point of view, we felt the same sensation than at the Grand Canyon. This feeling of immensity, of void behind us. The landscape was exactly the opposite of the Grand Canyon. Instead of having a plain with holes, it was a plain with humps. It was also where the picture I'm sit above the void was taken. I wasn't too much reassure in this place. The 360 of this point of view in video:
In proportion as we drove, the landscapes changed to draw little by little Bryce Canyon. I didn't know at all this park before I came in, but I believe it's the park I found the most beautiful during this trip. As we arrived late, it was already the sunset. We'll enjoy it tomorrow with a great blue sky with a great sun.
The good surprise of the evening was also the hotel, the Bryce View Lodge, the cheapest of the trip. Despite of its name there is no view over the canyon; it's not even in the natural park. But for less than $25 by person, we had the right to use the swimming pool of the other hotel in the other side of the road, which should be so more expensive. Indeed the boss are brothers. We let our stuff in the room, and an half hour later of rest for everyone. Then departure for the other hotel to have a dip for an hour. We stopped quickly at the shops there is along the road in a Far West atmosphere. Damien and François made a small internet session. No need for me, I'll be back at LA the next day. I'm profiting from this time to sit in the hotel lounge, do again the bird whistle effect and took some pictures.
The swim and jacuzzi time was very relaxing. This evening we ate at the hotel restaurant with delicious meat. Back to the hotel to sleep, tomorrow will be a long day.