Twisted spirals towered above me as I half slid down the switchback trail. High up, racing toward the sky is a ridge of fins whose silhouette imitated that of a castle keep. Next to the fins a tall, bulbous form stood as a sentinel frozen in time. In the fading daylight I had to convince myself I was still on planet Earth, and that the grotesque forms around me were merely rock formations…or were they? I’d been hiking down along the Sunset trail at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah amidst a forest of colossal evergreens and a city of red rock. Bryce is one of the most fascinating national parks in the United States to explore because it is the only place filled with peculiar structures known as “hoodoo.” The hoodoo are rock formations created by erosion, but in the ever-changing light at Bryce, they created another world. At the beginning of my descent an entire landscape of fiery orange and sunset red totem poles look down upon the trails. From this vantage point, the rocks outnumber the trees that created an eerie atmosphere. Although the best view of the hoodoos was from atop Bryce’s canyon topography, I decided to trek down into Bryce’s valley along one of its most popular trails. Kids, mules, and large groups covered the asphalt-to-dirt trail running and sliding their way down. I wished for more quiet, so I quickened my own pace to create distance from the throng. As the trees thicken and the trail diverged into multiple paths, I was able to leave the tourist packs behind and experience Bryce’s tranquility. Deeper on the trail, this came at a price as the setting sun cast long, dark shadows and the hoodoos transformed from geologic creations into supernatural shapes. I hoped for a sizable crowd of hikers to appear around the bend, their loud voices cutting through the ominous hush.
The Paiute, a tribe of Native Americans who first settled the area, have an old myth that the hoodoos are really ancient people who were turned into stone by the Coyote god for their greediness. I was convinced of any folklore about these misshapen spires, as they again overtook the thicket of green on the trail. I was slowly ascending back towards the rim with hollows, hoodoos, and arched bridges of stone surrounding me. This was a breath-taking experience filled with some suspense and anxiety, but somehow I still was enjoyably mesmerized by the hoodoos at Bryce. Perhaps it was because they had cast a spell over all who walked amongst them.
Have you visited Bryce Canyon National Park? Let me know what you thought about it!