Saturday, Sept. 29
Left the GC North Rim by mid-morning (separate trip report to come in AZ forum) and made my way to Bryce. Once again stopped in Kanab at the same gas station and next door grocery store for supplies and made my way. Not a lot of memorable scenery from what I remember from Kanab to Bryce, until I arrived at the distinctive and highly recognizable arch that you drive through on Highway 12 in Red Canyon. There's a pull-off right here, and it is really beautiful, but a shower passed by and limited my photo-taking abilities. At this pull-off I was talking to a couple of mountain-bikers who were raving about the Red Canyon area, and in particular a trail that they had just ridden on. The turn-off was back down the road on Highway 12 a couple miles, and then a few more miles on a paved road to a short section of dirt road to the parking lot. If someone here wants to chime in with a guess as to the name of this trail, I'd remember it if I heard it. It indeed was beautiful - and there was not another soul around - so I went for a leisurely run to check it out.
Then made my way to Bryce, where I checked in at the Ruby's campground office just outside the park and then made my way into the park, where I was greeted by a herd of deer right by the road (got some great close-up shots of them). Went to the main amphitheater, which - despite countless photos and videos I saw leading up to the trip - still blew me away. I'd have to say that of everything I saw on the trip - Grand Canyon, Mount Hood, Pacific coast, Lake Tahoe, southern Utah, Yellowstone/Tetons - I think the amphitheater at Bryce was the most uniquely spectacular individual site. Only problem was that it was late afternoon/early evening on not only a Saturday but a free national parks day, so there were people everywhere. Not the most enjoyable intro to this beautiful place, but I knew I'd be back in the morning for sunrise. I also got some instant inspiration for my Gump film right there at Sunset Point, looking down at the switchbacks at the start of the Navajo trail. Remember in Forrest Gump when he's running up the switchbacks on Grandfather Mountain in NC with people running behind him to Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way?" Well, I had planned to shoot that scene at Grandfather Mountain since it's right there in my neck of the woods, but one look at the Navajo Trail and I said, "This is it!"
So as the sun continued setting on the eve of a Harvest Moon, I did the scenic drive until running out of time - and daylight. Didn't make it all the way to the end, but the views from Bryce Point were beautiful, as you can see forever to the mountains out yonder with the moon shining brightly. Once it got completely dark the moon was incredible, like you could reach out and touch it. Anyway, I drove to the main Ruby's complex and actually used their public computer (even though I wasn't a guest of the hotel) to download photos and post to Facebook. It was a zoo in there, so I headed back to the campground, found my cabin (which just had a linen-less bed and a heating unit) and started on a few hours of broken sleep as I was not comfortable at all (but the price and location were right).
Sunday, Sept. 30
Arrived at the main amphitheater just before sunrise and, man, it was cold. Waited in my car a little while and got out as the sun rose - hardly anyone around. Stood on the rim a while with a few others and then made my way down the Queens Garden trail at Sunrise Point. Again, there was hardly anyone around (think I started the hike around 8:30-9:00) and it was fun being able to relax and talk to people from around the country and the world on the trail rather than squishing past hordes of people. The hoodoos were simply stunning as viewed from up close, and I thought they lit up and shined like glass even more so during sunrise than sunset, getting more and more pronounced the later it got in the morning (a couple hours after sunset seems to provide the best color for these areas as the sun gets a little higher and works its magic). This was one of my favorite hikes of the entire trip - the hoodoos are awe-inspiring and the Wall Street area is really unique. It was also a gorgeous day with blue skies as the cold early morning quickly warmed up. There also was a little bit of leaf-color changing going on with a few aspens, which only added more beauty to the place.
However, by the time I arrived at the Navajo trailhead at Sunset Point by late morning, it was a zoo again with people everywhere. This is where I tried to recruit some people to film them running behind me coming up those steep final switchbacks. Ironically, I ran into a group of people from right here in my home town who I had met the evening before at the Ruby's hotel, and they turned me down to be in the film! So did many others, which was rare on this trip, but I finally got two young guys from Belgium, and they helped round up several more people for the shoot, which turned out amazing! One of my favorite scenes in the movie, with the added bonus of one of my "followers" coming up the trail being a gorgeous young European woman with a tank top and tight hot-pink shorts! LOL. Somehow, I only noticed her after seeing the footage back home, even though I rounded everyone up to give them instructions during the shoot. Anyway, I actually got volunteers to stand there and block the trail on both ends to prevent people from coming through while we were filming, so it was quite a sight at Sunset Point that day.
Went back to Red Canyon in the afternoon to shoot another running scene for the film (me running toward the arch on Highway 12), which was shot by an Asian man who spoke no English except for an enthusiastic "Oh, Forrest Gump!!!" when I put my costume on ... :-)
Returned to the main amphitheater at Bryce in the evening with a cold beer to watch the sunset and the rise of the Harvest Moon. Another much older Asian man was there taking photos, and he said he was inspired by the sight of me from behind drinking my beer and watching the sunset, and after my trip actually sent me an email thanking me for the inspiration and wishing me "happy life." Very touching.
Crashed in my "exotic" (ha ha) gutted cabin again at the campground and looked forward to one of the most anticipated days of the entire trip the next morning - the drive on Highway 12 from Bryce to Torrey.