Everyone gets excited when their grown children visit, right? Well, I was no different when my daughter and her boyfriend from California came for a cold January visit. After a discussion, we decided to go for a birding/wildlife/Bryce Canyon National Park adventure!
Why We Chose Bryce Canyon National Park
Where I live here in south central Utah isn’t far from some great National Parks and National Forests to visit. Fishlake National Park practically surrounds the valley I live in. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that my Bryce Canyon National Park pass expires in March and we could still get in the park.) My daughter’s boyfriend is from Wisconsin and had never been to a National Park and was particularly wanting to visit one. She (my daughter,) had been to Bryce Canyon National Park with her sister years ago and suggested he might enjoy seeing the “hoodoos” and the breathtaking scenery it has to offer.
According to the Bryce Canyon National Park web page, the Park has the most “hoodoos” of any place on earth. I’m not exactly sure what was going on in southern Utah millions of years ago, but let’s just say it had it going on. Bryce Canyon, about 50 million years ago, was “an ancient lake and floodplain system, which first appeared around 50 million years ago.” Weathering and erosion from ice and acidic rain have sculpted the canyons into the most amazing pieces of nature’s art. As a result, the hoodoos each have their own look.
At the Park
Just after going through the check-in gate, off to the right is the fantastic visitor center. We stopped there to go in and see the many items about the park you could buy for souvenirs. It was way cool to walk through the informational museum-like science area. They found it fascinating how old the area of the park is and the history of the land itself, fossils and wildlife. Their favorite area was where you could walk in and get a video experience of light pollution. In fact, they “experienced” this twice!
We kept hearing birds, but it was hard to see them. I was hoping to get the opportunity to see and hear the Stellar’s Jays that live there. However, I did not. We went on to Inspiration Point, which has an elevation of 8100 feet and over to Sunset Point. Still, we saw no birds. It was getting lunch time so we all tore into our lunches we had packed for some nourishment. They enjoyed seeing all the views and then we left the park.
Stop at Ruby’s Inn
While we were already out and about, we decided to go up to Fishlake so they could see the beautiful aspens. The drive back there turned into a birding/wildlife/wild weather adventure! They wanted to stop at Ruby’s to add to one of their favorite travel souvenir habits. (Ruby’s is just outside of Bryce and has an inn for accomodations, an RV Park Campground, ATV and mountain biking excursions. Their dining is great and they also have a shuttle to get you to and from Bryce Canyon National Park. Inside the store, there are souvenirs, books, rocks, clothing and a grocery store. You can grab a hot coffee there to warm you up!)
They were interested in a machine there where you can take pennies and smash them smooth. It then imprints various Ruby’s and Bryce Canyon scenes on them. Hanging in their apartment is a long stranded together strip of them from their various travels. What a cool idea!
And There it Was!
I had started a bad sore throat on this trip and they were all going into Ruby’s. I was going to stay in the car. When they were getting out, I heard it! There is all its glory in an aspen tree with Christmas lights in the parking lot was my Steller’s Jay! Sore throat or not, I picked up the camera and shot out of the car like a bullet. With the stealth of a spy, I crept forward towards the tree using the parked cars as cover. The jay squawked the language of his people and I clicked and clicked the camera shuttle. Little did I know, my family was watching this unfold behind me.
Meet the Pronghorn
After leaving Ruby’s, we were driving down the road a few miles away. My daughter says to us, “Hey…what’s that?” I knew I had sure never seen what I was looking at standing off the side of the road before. We pulled off the road further down to check it out. What we were looking at was a herd of Pronghorns. All in all, we saw two herds of them.
Pronghorns look like an antelope and their scientific name is “Antilocapra americana”. They are not true antelopes like you see in Africa. We learned at the museum in the visitor center at Bryce Canyon National Park that the Pronghorn lived there during the last ice age. As a result of the predators they faced at that time, evolution made them run faster for preservation. They have horns, not antlers. Horns are not shed and they have them for life. Not only are they fast, but their keen eyes can detect movement up to four miles away! They are about three feet tall and weigh about 120 pounds.
On to Fishlake!
We continued out trip back towards home and then decided to go up to Fishlake in Fishlake National Forest. This time of year, the lake is frozen over solid and people are out in ice huts fishing on the lake. However, the weather decided that was NOT going to happen! When we were riding up, there was an area where they were no snow fences to catch the drifts of snow made by the wind. The wind was blowing the snow across the two lane highway and it was looking dangerous. It was time to make a decision at that point.
I was glad we turned around. The snow was definitely getting deeper and we were on a car, not a truck. My daughter was still in “spotting wildlife mode”. Not long after turning around she said to us, ” Look at that big bird!” She spotted a beautiful Golden Eagle feeding on a dead deer carcass off the side of the road. It was easy for me to just take photos with a zoom lens from the window of the car of the eagle without bothering it at all. Eventually, however, it flew off.
What a Day Trip!
For a day trip, we certainly had some adventures. We got to see Bryce Canyon National Park, “A” Steller’s Jay, Pronghorns and a beautiful Golden Eagle. My daughter and her boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed their adventure on this day trip. Sadly to say, I kept feeling worse and wound up at the doctor sadly to be diagnosed with Influenza “A”. They had gotten over Influenza “B” at Christmas and I guess it was my turn to get sick so I wouldn’t feel left out. Sometimes birding trips “evolve” into adventures of all sorts and this was DEFINITELY one of them!