Travel Stories

“The Hoodoos”

Bryce-Canyon-NP

"The Hoodoos"

“Effort is the Best Indicator of Interest”

Paul C. Brunson

We were hiking at Capitol Reef National Park, my new favorite National Park, soaking in all the colors of the rock formations and canyons. As we made our way up some rock steps, a couple passed us, and Sam’s Junior Ranger hat with all her badges caught the lady’s eye. “Wow! How many badges do you have?” Sam took off her hat and started to count.

capital-reef-national-park
Capitol Reef NP

“Thirteen, and I am working the the 14th right now.” Sam proudly stated.
“Can’t you just buy them?” said the lady.
“No. But if you do the work, they are free.” Sam matter of factly informed the lady as she continued to climb the steps.

Yes, you must do the work to be a Junior Ranger, and some national parks require more work than others. Sam has learned about geology, archeology, the power of water to transform a landscape, the Indians, the pioneers, plant and animal adaptations, and wilderness safety and respect. We have watched videos, attended ranger talks, taken hikes, and perused museums and historic sites. It is real life education, but earning a badge does not come without effort - for both Sam and also Mom and Dad.

Junior-Ranger-Oath
Junior Ranger Oath

A few days prior, we were visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah and working on the Junior Ranger packet. A hide-and-seek activity was part of the badge requirement. Benchmarks were located on certain trails. You were supposed to hike enough to find three benchmarks and make a rubbing of the symbol when the benchmark was discovered. It sounded like a great way to promote hiking in the park. Bryce Canyon is known for spiral shaped odd rock formations, called hoodoos, that resemble large fingers reaching towards the sky. Not only are the shapes magnificent, but the reddish pink color pallette leaves many speechless, including myself.

Bryce-Canyon-Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon Hoodoos

Road rule #18:  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,

but by the moments that take our breath away.”

(Hilary Cooper)

Bryce Canyon takes my breath away, but it also affected the Piute Indians living in the area years ago. They believed that if they committed a bad deed, they would be eaten by a coyote and turned to stone as was the fate of their ancestors. The mere sight of these strange finger like rock formations scared the Indians. They would voice their fear with the words “ooo-doo”, and thus the modern name hoodoo evolved.

After a few hours at Bryce Canyon, we had yet to hike, find a benchmark, or see a hoodoo due to rain. To pass the time, we ate lunch in the van, played a few games of Sorry in the Lodge, charged our phones and attempted to take a walk to the canyon rim only to get wet enough to be uncomfortable and ultimately see nothing. Deciding the day was a loss, we headed back to Big Blue. Suddenly there was a momentary break in the clouds. We made a quick dash to the canyon rim hoping for one glimpse of the magnificent hoodoos before the day ended. WOW! They did not disappoint, and they did not frighten. The sun broke through the clouds and lit up the hoodoos. As if on stage, Crayola’s finest colors were in the spotlight - rust, crimson, gold, sienna, pink. We were hooked. We consulted the trail map and decided on an early morning two hour hike to find at least two of the benchmarks.

Bryce-Canyon
Bryce Canyon

At 7:30 the next morning, without my daily coffee or breakfast, we started our descent into the canyon. Two hours later, we had easily found two benchmarks, made the required rubbings, marveled at the mysterious hoodoos, snacked on bananas and dry cereal, and we were feeling good. Before starting the steep ascent back up to the top of the rim, I consulted the trail guide. It appeared as if we could take a short joining trail to reach the Peek-A-Boo loop where Sam could get her 3rd and final benchmark. I estimated perhaps an additional 40 minutes of hiking. We were all up for it.

Two hours later, we were still hiking, working our way around the Peek-A-Boo loop in search of benchmark #3. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I had read the trail map incorrectly. This came as no surprise to my husband whose energy was now starting to fade. We hiked through arches, hoodoo tunnels, and up steep switchbacks. We were passed by horses and mules carrying riders deeper into the canyon. Up we hiked. Down we hiked. Breathtaking views around every corner. The snacks disappeared. One foot in front of the other. The water disappeared.

bryce-canyon-hike
What a long hike!

Ironically, not once did Sam utter the familiar phrase, “Are we there yet?” Behind me, Sam continued to move at her own pace, looking around and maintaining a constant chatter. In front of me, in stark contrast to Sam, Nick struggled. Dehydration and the heat were taking a toll on Pop. He hiked in silence, and we left him alone.

Five hours and 15 minutes after starting our hike and with four benchmark rubbings in our possession, we finally returned to the van. Overachievers? Yes. Tired? Yes! One of the best hikes ever? Definitely YES!

After a big lunch and a few bottles of water, Sam proudly presented her benchmark rubbings and the completed Junior Ranger packet to the park ranger. As she raised her right hand and recited the oath, I glanced down at a very detailed hiking brochure on the counter. The Peek-A-Boo loop was described as a “5.5 mile strenuous loop”. My eyes did a double blink as this was only part of our adventurous hike. Upon describing our morning to the ranger, he responded with shock in his eyes and said we had completed the “Figure 8 Combination” loop, one of the more strenuous hikes in the park. So, that explained my extra tired feet and headache. For her hiking efforts, Sam received a “I hiked the hoodoos” bumper sticker. “Excuse me?” I asked the ranger. “Can I have one too?” The sticker is proudly displayed on my computer today.

hike-the-hoodoos-trail
I hiked the Hodoos trail

We all definitely worked for the Junior Ranger badge at Bryce Canyon National Park. Was it free? It cost us some sweat and fatigue, but in return, Sam received badge #12, we took countless mental pictures, lost our breath with the views and made new memories. It was worth every cent of the effort.

6 thoughts on ““The Hoodoos”

  1. Great story. I know this adventure was several months ago, but I pictured myself there to day.

    Love Jason

  2. I can just picture little Sam proudly telling that lady that you could earn the badges, just as she told my husband the day that we met y’all in the Mohave Desert. I love reading about your adventures.

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