Panguitch, where we’d stayed the night before, is mostly a base for Bryce Canyon, and we decided that, even though it was a short detour from our route up to Yellowstone, it would be a shame not to pay Bryce a visit. And I’m very glad we did – although Bryce is nowhere near the size of the Grand Canyon, it is absolutely stunning and completely unique. The most notable features are the ‘hoodoos,’ which are improbably eroded rock forms. The rock here once formed the bottom of an ancient sea and the different types of rock erode at different rates, causing a variety of precariously shaped columns.
The Paiute tribe native to the region believed that the hoodoos contained the spirits of those who had angered the coyotes, and many were certainly humanoid in shape – we were picking out children, an old man with a hat, and all sorts of other forms within the structures. It was beautifully sunny when we arrived, casting a golden light on the rocks, and the view was simply gorgeous. Sadly, the weather did not last, and as we wandered down into the Canyon (as it’s a lot smaller, it’s simple to get to the bottom) we felt the clouds gather and the heavens open, meaning that we weren’t able to stay down there too long – luckily the hoodoos provided a little protection from the rain, and the lightning stayed at bay.
We left Bryce around lunchtime and drove north through Utah, once again impressed by the sheer majesty of the landscape. We were ultimately headed for Yellowstone, but knew that the drive would take a couple of days, and decided to aim for a well-reviewed motel in Coalville, around 50 miles north-east of Salt Lake City.
I did have a moment of rage at the sat nav when she (we’ve taken to addressing her as ‘Lori,’ which is the name of her impatient-sounding American voice setting) directed me onto a six-lane each way interstate near Provo simply because the settings judged it SIX whole minutes quicker than a beautiful route through the mountains. Needless to say, the instructions were soon disregarded, and plans for a ‘sat nav with soul’ formulated. A range of the following (which tend to coexist) would get a route avoided on my dream sat nav:
- Three or more lanes in each direction.
- Presence of concrete walls at the roadside.
- Sudden lane changes and lanes abruptly turning into exit-only lanes.
- Concrete overpasses
- Heavily frequented by trucks
The following, on the contrary, would get a road recommended:
- Two or fewer lanes in each direction.
- Twisting and interesting OR quiet and fast
- Beautiful scenery unobstructed by concrete walls.
- Labelled ‘scenic byway’ or anything similar.
- Few other cars.
Could someone get on this? It isn’t as simple as clicking ‘avoid motorways,’ as some American interstates fulfil all of the second set of criteria, whilst others, like the carbuncle in Provo, are simply hideous.
Having found my preferred road, which turned out to be beautiful, we mooched up to Coalville, a tiny town in the mountains, making it there by about 8pm only to be greeted with what was indubitably the best motel of the trip so far. Not only was it cosy and cute, but it had a 24 hour indoor pool complete with hot tub. Given that the next few days involved camping, we decided to indulge, and wandered into Coalville to buy some beers.
Highlights: Bryce, the scenery, the hot tub.
Lowlights: that ghastly Provo interstate.
Up next: mountains, a swim in a namesake lake.