Tuesday, August 23
Recovering from yesterday took a couple of hours – groceries to track down, photos to download, emails to send – and we took off again around noon. Our first real stop was a pullout that offered a short hike to a mossy cave and a waterfall.
Red cliffs, a stream, and a few small stone arches added to the appeal. The stream was fed by a 2-mile long canal that had been hand dug in the rock in the 1860s by some settlers trying to get water into their otherwise perfect valley. We enjoyed the view, the boys got to run around, and we kept an eye on some gathering dark clouds.
Just as we pulled up to the fee booth, the clouds broke and it started hailing with a vengeance. Michael flashed our National Parks pass under the agent's nose, wincing and getting pelted, and then grabbed the park map and RV Restrictions notice that was shoved at him with a mirroring wince. Windows were rolled up, bounced 1/4” hail collected, and we sloshed to a corner of the parking lot to wait it out with everyone else.
Ten minutes later it subsided into rain, and Fynn and I dashed into the Visitor's Center to retrieve a better map and some more info on turnaround spots, pushing past steaming wet crowds of fellow tourists who were trying to take selfies with the shoveled pile of hail right outside the front doors.
Bryce has one 18-mile road that's an out-and-back deal, with a side loop that's off limits to rigs our size. We did most of the pullouts, shivering and damp, but loving the deep oranges and hoodoos and rainbow rocks.
At the end-of-the-road stop there were two viewing spots, one being a short hike down the promontory from the parking lot, and we remarked on the path to it on the way to the nearer one. We took in the view, increasingly cold, and Michael agreed to start his sciatica-hobble towards the second viewpoint, while I went with the boys to the bathroom and then caught up with him.
The crowds were getting to me, as was the cold/wet thing, and we were all getting tired. A fearless raven distracted me while waiting for the boys, and then we set off down the ¼ mile path, expecting to see Michael at every turn.
Got to the end, lovely view, no Michael.
We tossed a few pebbles over the edge to see how long a drop it was, took a few pics, and headed back … maybe he'd decided to go to the restroom too? Turned back due to pain?
Checked the restrooms. Checked the first lookout again. Checked the shelter.
Muttered, grumbled, shivered.
Looked into the truck and camper, but both were still locked, and Michael had the keys.
Muttered some more, and got a wee bit uneasy. Where could he possibly have gone?
A man with two kids saw us wandering, and must have seen us together with Michael earlier, as he pointed along the edge of the tree-lined cliff, and said “He's down there!”
“How far?” I asked.
“50 yards or so …” was his answer.
Off we went, tramping noisily down the sorta-path along the edge … no Michael. Then Douglas spies his hat … the ever-present-felt-fedora-ish thing he wears … perched neatly just a couple feet from the dropoff. He picked it up.
“Well, here's Dad's hat …” he offers, his tone bemused, with a dash of hesitation.
I look at it, and the spot where he'd found it, run an instantaneous Michael-over-the-cliff scenario in my head, which about 2% of me thinks is possible … and I've just gotten to the part where my brain says “but if he'd gone over in the 90 seconds since that man told you he'd seen him we'd definitely have heard it” … when he pops up from behind a bush 15 feet down the path, and cheerfully says “Here I am!”
I stare at him … ready to punch him and then maybe toss him over the cliff. Really?!
He'd spent 25+ minutes waiting for us, on the wrong path (at least not the paved path that said it went to the viewing point, which I'd commented on earlier) … assuming that we'd been delayed at the bathroom, and concocting what he thought was a funny prank to play on us. The fact that we'd already been hunting rather urgently for him for 15 minutes already rather took the last shred of potential humor out of it for me. Ha ha.
It was a rather chilly ride on the 18 miles back to the entrance, despite the truck's heater.
Predictably, Fynn needed to pee as soon as we left the park. We stopped at the tackiest souvenir shop yet seen, begged the bathroom key from the dour and very shop-worn proprietress, and after failing at small talk with the woman I tried to be interested in dusty shot glasses, bad wood carvings, and made-in-China-we-don't-even-pretend-to-be-authentic treasures while Michael and Fynn disappeared around the back. When Fynn returned, he bought himself a bandana before we all scooted out the door just as another carload came in asking for the key. I heard her voice drop another level as she eked out her answer.
Relieved to be back outside in the bit of remaining sun, we headed to the truck … only to discover that Michael had left the keys in it, and someone's elbow must have bumped the lock button on the way out.
It wasn't a happy moment. I let Michael tackle it, still smarting a bit from the hat incident, and yes, sulking. I joined the fray when it was suggested we try to break into the trailer to get a coat hanger, and helped force a window open to boost Fynn in through the slit. After the hanger was bent and I watched him try to press the unlock button with it, I realized that maybe the back window of the truck would be easier to get into as it had no electric lock. A screwdriver twist later, we were in!
Light fading, we made for another patch of Dixie National Forest on Rt 12, assuming we could find a boondock spot. We did come across one pretty quickly, though the access to the site was a bit rutted and dicey … and we'll just gloss over the fact that there was the decision to unlock the bikes and go rambling off on the back roads to see if there was a better site back in there somewhere … before bumping our way to a nice level spot with a turnaround, and plenty of dead wood for a campfire. Whew. Very glad to finally be at rest!