You can feel that we are coming closer to the Rockies and already the cycling gets even more fun by the day. Hello trails, and hello grande views! To reach our next Canyon, Bryce, we had to cross wilderness. In my diary, which forms the base for this blog, I actually marked that transfer day as "the most awesome ride ever!!"
Just like in the Sierra Nevada, we used dirt roads to short long detours on the main roads short. This time round though, we did not encounter snow but very sandy surface instead. Finally, we reached the Cottonwood Canyon Road. This dirt road leads from Highway 89 through the most amazing countryside with green flats being surrounded by canyon-like rocks in all colours. The road reminded me of a roller-coster with its ups and downs and narrow turns and it was a lot of fun to ride it.
After 113 km and 864 Wh later, we arrived at the KAO campsite in Cannonville, about 20 km from Bryce Canyon National Park. Thanks to the short-cut and our strong Haibike eMTB, we got to the National Park a day earlier than planned.
The morning was chilly but after having been in the desert for so long, the breeze was a bliss.
Our path to the entrance of Bryce Canyon leads us 20 km uphill. As soon as we get to this touristy spot, it starts pouring with rain that soon turns into sleet. We see the peaks surrounding us becoming white with snow.
This is our call to enter the visitor center. A pretty impressive building with a nice selection of souvenirs, a conference centre, and a restaurant. The setting reminds me of a skiing resort ready to cater for the masses although Bryce is one of the less visited parks compared to the Grand Canyon for example.
The centre as well as the headquarter get most of their energy from a solar powered system. This CPV (Concentrating Solar Photovoltaic) will save the park approximately 40,000 USD each year.
As soon as it clears up a little bit we continue our ride into the National Park. To our surprise and joy, the first thing we see upon entering the National Park is a perfect cycle lane, that touches upon all the view points. It roughly follows the main road but instead of going straight it runs in curves, which makes it so much more fun to ride.
On the Sunrise and Sunset viewpoints you feel like on another planet. Despite being dubbed 'canyon', Bryce actually consists of 14 giant amphitheaters that make for a spectacular sight.
The canyon is carved at least 1,000 feet into the pastel palette of limestone along the Paunsaugunt Paletau and is crowded with animated rock sculptures – pires, pinnacles, winds and arches. The skinny spires of rock are called hoodoos. The stone itself is referred to as Pink Cliffs in Utah.
Looking at this phenomenon, you ultimately want to know how it geologically developed. And here is what we’ve learned:
Beginning about 55 million years ago the lower pink layer was deposited as muds and silts in meandering streams and shallow lakes. The upper white layer represents limestone deposited in a shallow lake system. Sedimentary rocks are softer than other rocks and therefore easier prey to erosional forces. At Bryce, the principle form of weathering is freeze-thaw that occurs when water gets into small cracks, then freezes overnight and thus expands.
The numerous cracks in these rock layers are due to a major uplift that exposed the Colorado Plateau, that today stretches across four western states.
More locally, the uplifting of Utah’s High Plateaus contributed to the formation of the “Grand Staircase” that stretch south from Bryce Canyon through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon. The geologic story of Bryce Canyon is inseparable from that of the other National Parks on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The sedimentary foundations of Bryce Canyon rest on the Gray Cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The aridity preserves this layer-cake effect and provides clues for the traveler as to the relative age of a rock layer.
While we are cruising around the viewpoints - we clocked almost 70 km that day - lots of people get excited about our Haibike ePerformance bikes and our Sand to Snow adventure. It feels great to get so much positive feedback from visitors that come from all over the world.