Part One: A Feathered Friends Tour of the Southwest
Hoodoos. Ladies with hairdos. Fairy Chimneys. Whatever you call them, the incredible rock formations of Bryce Canyon are unlike anything else in the world. The towering spires, vibrant colors, and chromatic vistas were the first stop in a road trip to celebrate the National Park Centennial.
Last month I went on a month-long road trip to explore the parks that are arguably one of “America’s best ideas” in relation to conservation and recreation. It was also the perfect opportunity to put some new Feathered Friends gear to the test in a cold and arid climate.
The National Park Service was created in 1916 “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Over the last 100 years, the National Park system has grown to include 58 parks across the United States, which receive tens of millions of visitors each year.
Bryce first captured my imagination when I visited it as a kid; the colors, rocks, and hikes were about as different as you can get from the greens and greys of the Northwest. Returning as an adult, these same formations re-awakened my sense of childhood wonder and a new feeling of gratitude that Bryce is protected. In practical terms, this means that although the park sees millions more visitors and has more amenities than when I first visited, the natural features are exactly as I remember them.
A testament to the splendor of the park is that people visit it from around the world. Walking on the rim of Bryce at peak travel season (which starts right about now) immerses you in a melting pot of languages, cultures, and experiences. One of my favorite things to do is sit on the rim and paint. Often the painting sparks conversations and inspires interactions with people thousands of miles from home.
This was also my first time visiting the southwest in spring, and I was surprised at how COLD (and windy) it was. Each night temperatures hovered right around or below freezing, and it even snowed the day we left Bryce.
It turns out our founders and owners were at Bryce the same time I was, doing some product testing of their own. They hit the cold and snowy conditions as well, and I think we were all glad to have lightweight down jackets like the Eos and Hyperion stashed in our packs.
Pro Tip for exploring Bryce: The canyon is structured in a tiered system. Layer one is the rim, which is the most crowded, and has expansive views down into the rock formations and to the mesas beyond. Layer two includes the shorter hiking loops that drop into the canyon, such as the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden. These trails still see a lot of people, but allow you to get up close and personal with Hoodoos of all shapes, sizes, colors, and heights. Layer three is the Under the Rim trail, which is primarily used by backpackers, and is the place to go to find solitude.