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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Brilliance of Bryce

The USA is home to no fewer than 59 national parks, stretching from Alaska to Florida and from California to Virginia, as well as taking in the Pacific island chains of American Samoa and Hawaii, so there's undoubtedly plenty of choice for those planning singles adventure holidays.

While each has its selling points - Yosemite's towering granite mountains; the snow-capped peaks of Denali; the spectacular lookouts of Zion - none of the 59 is quite like the geological marvel that is Bryce Canyon in Utah.

The prime reason folks make the trip to this remote part of western USA is to gawp at Bryce's magical forests of stone - huge swathes of red rock that have been shaped into thousands of gnarled pillars called 'hoodoos'.

It's hard to believe the scene in front of you - a sea of jagged rock fingers standing sentinel under an endless sky, with not a hint of human interference as far as the eye can see.

This must have been how the first astronauts on the moon felt, you ponder, as you survey the lunar-like landscape and take the photographs that will confirm that it wasn't all a dream.

Amid the interminable vista sit fantastically named landmarks. Thor's Hammer, a ten-storey-high club-shaped rock fit for the Norse god to wield and the park's tallest hoodoo;  the Wall of Windows, a precipitous cliff shaped by Mother Nature into the form of a mighty Gothic cathedral; and Natural Bridge, a giant archway so massive that a highway could pass beneath it.

Although these forms were carved out by natural processes over many millions of years, visitors need only stay for the sunset to watch the landscape change before their very eyes, as the sedimentary layers morph from bright red and orange into deep purple.

Even as the sun disappears, the wonderment is only just beginning, for once the last vestiges of yellow light have slipped beyond the horizon, the bright white of 10,000 stars turns your attention from the terra firma to the heavens.

For many, this is the first time they've seen the majority of these stars, obscured as they are from most locations by the nuisance of light pollution. The sparkling ribbon of the Milky Way forms an arch just as spectacular as Natural Bridge - the heavens mirroring the Earth like the reflections in a great lake.

Other rare sights in the national park include the three wildlife species which live in Bryce that are listed under the Endangered Species Act - the Utah Prairie Dog, the California condor and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Alongside these threatened creatures are 100 other species of birds, dozens of mammals and more than 1,000 plant varieties, all of which are thriving in the lofty park's three distinct climatic zones.

Some of the most majestic of these include the elusive mountain lion - North America's largest cat. Naturally wary of humans, you'll be extremely lucky to spot one of them in the vast expanses of the park, but you may well come across their huge paw tracks.

From hoodoos to galaxies and from rare cats to rare dogs, Bryce Canyon has much to tantalize and tease the visitor. It's a unique place, where you'll create unforgettable memories and if you visit only one of the USA's 59 national parks, make it this.

"Interested to come to the US? Getting a visa is not easy, especially if you are based in some parts of Europe, as there are good options to get a 'ESTA' online".



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