Bryce Canyon National Park 2000 Revisited

Article & photos by Jack Olson

Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop Tr.
At the bottom of the canyon on Navajo Loop Trail

In June 2000 RMOWP congregated at Bryce Canyon for an annual conference which we planned some years before. We wanted to choose a location which would be spectacular, and memorable, for this auspicious year. For those of us oldtimers who attended that one it turned out to be one of the most exciting conferences in our history. Let’s return to that conference to show you a bit of what you can expect at the 2016 conference.

There are some national parks, such as Yellowstone, which reveal their attractions bit by bit, due partly to their vast size. When you get to the rim of Bryce Canyon it knocks your socks off. I guarantee. If you’ve been to Bryce before you know to watch out for your socks. But that’s just the beginning. As in 2000, this year we will descend into the canyon to meander among the stunning eroded red features called hoodoos.

The year 2000 was significant for another reason. It was the first time we offered a sunrise photo shoot. It’s a chance to photograph a remarkable location in the best light, as well as to gather with your friends in the dark. The leader chosen to introduce this significant activity to the conference was, well, me. Not a problem. We only had to stroll a couple hundred yards from our cabins to the rim. Sunrise was at 6:00 a.m. so I suggested a time to arrive at the rim well before that to pick out a good spot and to capture the early pre-dawn light. Members might rise at 5:15. Not a problem.

Sunrise over Bryce Amphitheater
The sunrise that almost didn’t

There was just one problem. When we arrived at the rim we found the sky totally filled with clouds. Totally! Grumbling began. Inappropriate expressions were uttered which included my name. I edged back into the trees, anticipating an insurrection. Just when photographers were calculating the hours until breakfast a few rays of sunlight miraculously pierced invisible holes in the clouds and bathed the hoodoos in welcome light. Immediately forgetting their animosity, our group raced to the rim, unlimbering their tripods. Thus, the sunrise photo shoot was saved and survives.

A program feature, then in its growth process, was the writing forum. Led by our dear late member, Anne Sullivan, the critique has now been dedicated to her. We have members who create a short written work and read it for a panel of writers and other members who attend the session. The writing forum has grown to become a popular element in the conference. Panelists and audience members offer constructive comments.

yucca - Mossy Cave Tr.
Yucca along Mossy Cave Trail

We enjoyed guided walks into the canyon, along the rim, and out to the ancient bristlecone pines. You come across some few trees scattered amongst the hoodoos but forests spread on and on back from the rim. There was even a short side trip to Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest, located on nearby Utah 12, one of America’s most beautiful Scenic Byways.

The park has an abundance of trails; there are numerous opportunities for hikes on your own. One organized hike, led by an RMOWP member, followed the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trails. You drop down into the sculpted hoodoos, winding around dramatic features, squeezing through a tunnel, threading Wall Street and then ascending a corkscrew to the rim. We had a thrilling time on this loop hike.

But there were significant differences between the 2000 conference and the one we will hold this year. For one thing, the conference attracted 32 members, not an unusual number for early conferences. Our Ouray conference welcomed a record 66 attendees. And look at one of our featured programs on the final morning in 2000, right after the general membership meeting. “Workshop: The Digital World – Is It Time To Trash Our Nikons And Canons?” Anyone for film?

All of the above is completely true. Verified. But our executive director and newsletter editor has brought to my attention a disturbing, and questionable, charge. Cabins were paired at Bryce. My side joined that of Don and Barb Laine. After a long hike I luxuriated in a hot bath. Aaah! Don claims they were left without hot water on their side. A likely story. But such are the tales we’re certain to weave after Bryce 2016.