Trip Report: Bryce Canyon

Getting a jump on the spring hordes
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Getting a jump on the spring hordes

Ahhh, the cusp of spring, when days are warming, mountain snowpacks are safer, and the legions of tourists who descend on Canyon Country every April haven't quite worked up the courage to deal with the occasional remnants of winter. It's one of my favorite times to punch into the desert. Water's still readily available. Nights are barely freezing, and by 8 or 9 a.m., the sun is deliciously warm.

There is a downside to this season of anticipation, however, and that is mud. The way to avoid that downside is to stay on snow. And hence, in order to balance all these factors, I punched out a thru-hike snowshoe trip on Bryce Canyon's 22.16-mile Under the Rim Trail.

Well, it was almost a thru-hike anyway. I set out loaded for three nights and four days on the trail, figuring I'd finish it in three days with a little safety margin. But I tried to cut some weight by only taking one fuel canister. The strenuous trailbreaking and warm temperatures were seriously dehydrating, so I melted a ton of snow and ran out of gas early. I hiked out the very, very strenuous Agua Canyon Connecting Trail, and then went back two days later (after some day hikes) to finish up the last section.

For those who wish to visit Bryce, I highly recommend going in winter. The photos are more spectacular since snow outlines the features of the redrock, and noooo-body is out there except the occasional kindred spirit. If you're not into winter camping, motel rooms in nearby hamlets like Tropic are cheap in off-season. And you can always find lower, warmer throw-down camping on BLM land south of nearby Cannonville.

So, to paraphrase an old Nike ad campaign: Just Do It. Now.

Hike safe. --Steve Howe