Manners, Hoodoos, & Detours

Phooey. Drat. Fiddlesticks. Those were Sonia’s words. It would be better for the blog if I don’t print my words. To paraphrase Tim O’brien, we had a detour on the road to Paris. Not awful, but not on the itinerary. Time to devise the infamous back-up plan.


Surrounded by chipmunks at Bryce Canyon NP campground.

Our children were pretty wiped out the day after hiking the NKT. Sonia was pretty shot. Come to think of it, so was I. We spent our last day in Jacob’s Lake trying to get our legs back under us. Other than taking two hours to look around the lodge at the north rim, we didn’t try to schedule too much. The big takeaway from the lodge was that they had a free ice machine for your water bottles. This will be another point to write about, but our family was disturbingly excited about the prospect of having ice for our beverages. I made myself (somewhat foolishly) get a nine-ish mile run after returning to camp; dehydration at 8,000 feet is about as much fun as it sounds.

Andrew had some money he wanted to spend, and he asked Sonia if she would take him back to the Jacob’s Lake Inn to buy some cookies for the family (and a milkshake for himself). She obliged. They were about to take their turn at the counter when a grandmother with several grandchildren cut in line and started ordering like mad. They must have ordered $50 or more in baked goods, leaving several items empty in their wake. According to Sonia, the kids not once offered a “thank you” to the grandma. She gave a somewhat dismissive “put it on our tab” to the worker. Sonia and Andrew were left more than a tad aghast. Spoilt rich people; we need another one of those like I need a hemorrhoid. I’ve got money 2:1 that the next Bernie Madoff was in that group. Andrew happily shared the cookies he did purchase with all of us.

The cookie counter.

We left the following morning to head to Bryce Canyon National Park. Heading to Bryce, for me, was a placeholder before seriously heading back home. I was happy enough to camp and hike there, but in the planning stages of this trip, I wasn’t highly interested in the destination. I can’t even offer a reasonable explanation as to why. I just wasn’t.

We set up camp around 1pm and laid low for the afternoon. Our kids had great fun talking to the chipmunks. One managed to jump into the driver’s seat of our vehicle. Bold move. They were looking for any free meal they could find. One asked for our credit card number.

We couldn’t see the canyon from our campground. Once we got to the rim, and could see the Bryce Ampitheater, I realized how wrong my assumption had been. Bryce is otherworldly and magnificent. It is not as deep and imposing as the Grand Canyon. The numerous hoodoos looked like worn statues of people; almost like imposing kings, queens, and rooks on a chessboard.

Bryce Canyon, from the rim.

We hiked from Bryce Point to Sunset Point staring at 5:30 PM. Bryce was awash in shadows, sunset level lighting, and colorful reflections off the rocks. One could easily see the plateaus that consist the Grand Staircase in the distance. Unlike the Grand Canyon, there was a lush, green valley just east of Bryce that is an interesting counterpoint to to stark beauty of the dry, red-orange hoodoos. It was a 4+ mile hike; five plus if counting the trek to and from our campground. The last 0.6 miles back to the rim consisted of the most brutally steep switchbacks that I have ever had the pleasure of hiking. It was worth every step.


Back at the rim, we noticed that the smoke from the semi-nearby forest fires. It wasn’t too thick at that point. We went to bed and slept well. We were to break camp in the morning to drive to Moab so we could see Dead Horse Point State Park (the name really disturbed Allison). I told her at least it wasn’t Dead Guinea Pig Point; sometimes my parenting methods aren’t appreciated by my kids.


We woke up in the morning, and the smoke had settled in over Bryce Canyon like a THICK, barbecue-esque fog. We were really glad we hiked the night before. We felt bad for the rangers working in the park, and doubly so for the people still trying to live in the area. It’s probably not reassuring for the residents of southern Utah to know that, for the dry season, they live amongst very beautiful kindling.

We went to our vehicle, and it started making horrible squeaking noises while the engine was running. It started earlier in the trip, but would come and go. We had agreed to get it checked out when we returned to St. Louis, but Bessie (our Toyota Highlander has a name) had other ideas. I drove to the dumpster to empty trash before leaving the park. Some late-middle aged prick with a California license plate pulled not behind me with two inches between our bumpers, when he had a large parking area. He blasted his horn when I tried to back up in order to pull out of the dirt lot. Since I’m never one to generalize, here’s a Venn diagram of how elitists such as my new friend conceive of the world (their numbers are increasing, and I hope that guy had a case of the trots like I did after my run in Jacob’s Lake two days prior):


We drove in to the only garage in Bryce Canyon City. Fingers were crossed for a minor repair or a report of “you’ll make it home and get it checked out.” The mechanic told us the problem was the water pump. He advised against driving across the Utah desert without getting the part replaced. If the pump shot craps, the engine would overheat and the vehicle would die.

The good news was that it wasn’t a terribly difficult nor expensive repair. The bad news was that the part wasn’t in stock, and would have to be ordered from Salt Lake City. It might get there tomorrow, or maybe the day after that. We were stranded in Bryce Canyon. Having said that, there are worse places to be marooned. The Mojave (which was probably responsible for ruining the water pump in the first place) comes to mind.

Phooey. Drat. Fiddlesticks. Those were Sonia’s words. It would be better for the blog if I don’t print my words. To paraphrase Tim O’brien, we had a detour on the road to Paris. Not awful, but not on the itinerary. Time to devise the infamous back-up plan.

In Bryce Canyon, looking up.


Author: Jason Kesselring

I am a 44 year old high school chemistry teacher (and former pediatrician), happily married, and a father of two wonderful children. I blog sporadically, and if there's a theme in here, please tell me what it is!

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