Fairyland Loop Trail (Bryce Canyon)

Bryce Canyon NP

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We started this hike early, about 8:00am. Early for me anyway. From the North Campground we caught the Rim Trail past the General Store to the Tower Bridge Trail. We followed that trail, which generally went down, to a short side trail leading to Tower Bridge, then back to the Tower Bridge Trail which turns into Fairlyland Loop Trail. At that point, the Fairyland Loop Trail becomes a 4 mile roller coaster with lots of steep ups and downs. This trail ends at Fairyland Point where it intersects with the Rim Trail. From there it’s a “mere” 2.5 miles back to the campground, with a well earned detour to the General Store for pizza, ice cream, and brownies.

This loop (Tower Bridge Trail, Fairyland Loop, and the Rim Trail) circumnavigated Boat Mesa. It does look sort of like a boat, doesn’t it? But I wouldn’t book passage on it if I were you. For one thing, the captain obviously can’t tell the difference between land and water.

Boat Mesa

Boat Mesa

It was very cool when we started but we were ready. Note that Holly’s wearing a rain jacket (used as an additional layer for warmth and as a wind break), turtle fur (I didn’t know turtles had fur) and gloves.

Here's Holly perky, energetic, and rarin' to go

Here’s Holly perky, energetic, and rarin’ to go

The trip to Tower Bridge was easy – mostly downhill – and we made it in good time.

As usual, my head swiveled like a bobble-head doll as I tried to look at everything from every angle. I saw what looked like an abandoned castle, looking forlorn. Maybe it was once inhabited by the Legend People who were turned into Stone People by Coyote.

Castle

Castle

On the way to Tower Bridge we ran into another couple who were only going to be in the park for one day. Holly suggested that after they reached Tower Bridge they should backtrack to Sunrise Point and hike the Queen’s Garden Trail and the Wall Street half of the Navajo Loop. While the scenery along the Tower Bridge Trail and (as we discovered later) the Fairyland Loop Trail was very good, it couldn’t compare with Queen’s Garden, Navajo Loop or Peekaboo Loop Trails.

Tower Bridge looks like something you might see in London. Or maybe in Arizona – one of the London Bridges (there’s more than one) was bought by an American and moved to Lake Havasu City, AZ in 1971. I’m not making this up.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

After marveling at the bridge, we backtracked to the main trail and began our roller coaster walk along the Fairyland Loop Trail. The ups and downs were tolerable until the sun started rising over the top of the canyon. Then shade became more scarce, the stops more frequent, and the sweat started pouring out of us.

While hiking in fits and starts, we saw a feature called the Sinking Ship. If you look closely it does look likea  ship lying hull down and sinking by the bow. I wonder if it was captained by the same guy who commanded Boat Mesa? I think he should find another line of work.

Sinking Ship

Sinking Ship

As the sun rose, it got even hotter, shade became even more scarce, and our pace slowed. We stopped in a wash shaded by some trees to rest, drink some water, and eat lunch. It was a well-deserved break.

On every hike in the park, I always saw something about nature that amazed me. In this case it was this tree which desperately grips the side of the cliff for dear life. Even without a brain, its will to live is astounding. How can you not “root” for this tree? (Bad puns are free on this site.)

Gnarly tree

Gnarly tree

Once we started hiking again it took a little over an hour to reach the Rim Trail at Fairyland Point. While the view of Fairyland Canyon from the Rim Trail is great, I don’t think it compares with the views from some of the other overlooks.

View of Fairyland Canyon from Rim Trail

View of Fairyland Canyon from Rim Trail

While hiking back to the Trading Post (for our treats), we got a good view of the Fairyland Loop Trail. And this was the easy part of the trail!

Fairyland Loop Trail from Rim Trail

Fairyland Loop Trail from Rim Trail

J

John waxes poetically about the hikes and it was a wonderful hike but it about did me in, for the rest of the day at least. In my defense, we met a much younger couple (younger by 20 years or more) hiking the loop in the opposite direction. When we first met they had just started at Fairyland Point and were all bright eyed and bushy tailed with a few miles under their belts (mostly downhill miles). We crossed their trail again up on the rim when they were about two miles from the finish and they looked beat. They sat on a rock with a glassy eyed look and an air of exhaustion.

So, as for me, I was doing well for most of the hike. We took our usual shade and water breaks and had two snack breaks thrown in. John kept asking “How are you doing?” and I could honestly answer that I was good. It was a nice cloudy morning, cool, and good hiking weather. We hiked down the canyon under cloudy skies, we hiked up the canyon with the sun starting to peek through, we hiked down the canyon in full sun (who designs these trails anyhow?), we hiked back up the canyon in full sun (much more slowly this time), we took one more break at Fairyland Point (food only, for there is no bathroom there). THEN we headed out on the “easy” portion of the hike along the Rim Trail.

I’d like to comment on the trail design. I don’t know about everyone else but I really would be OK if the rim trail went AROUND a few of the higher areas. It doesn’t have to be right on the rim all the time. A nice level trail skirting the backside of a few of the “bumps” would have been just fine with me, but noooo, they have to go up and over every chunk of rock that sticks up in the air.

OK, back to the story. So we had 2.7 miles of Rim Trail to hike and we’ve gone up and down and up and down some little bumps and now we have one last elevation gain of about 200 feet. It is steep, it is gravelly, and my legs have gone on strike. They were fine a mile ago. Now when I put on the push to truck up that incline I get two steps, maybe four. This is not good. I look up the hill, I look down at the ground, and John waits patiently on the trail ahead of me (probably wondering just exactly where he could stash the body if I keel over because he is certainly not carrying me out of there). I finally drag myself up the hill, using my arms and trekking poles as much as my legs with the elegant form of a decrepit mountain goat and we hit the downward home stretch… and hike right past the turn for the campground. Seriously, you think I’m going back to camp when a few hundred feet farther is a General Store with pizza, and lemonade, and ice cream, and brownies? We’re pushing nine miles of trail by now, another quarter mile isn’t going to make a difference… and they have a bathroom there. By the time we are done munching, I am rejuvenated and can hike somewhat normally, albeit slowly, back to camp. The stupendous surprise is the lack of pain or muscle soreness the next day. Woohoo! I figure that by the time we hit Oregon (and sea level air), we will be buff hiking fools! I’m ready.

H

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