Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 11.29.15
Just Outside Washington

All photos by author and Kathy Cavanaugh

American Desert Days Part 2

Sunday morning we had some leisure time before we set our bags out to be loaded onto the coach. Julie, Jon, Kathy, and I had a nice breakfast in the Red Cliffs Lodge and made sure we had our necessities in our small bags; Kathy and I had small back packs.

Our itinerary called for us to fly from Canyonlands Field to Bryce Airport, which was about an hour and a half flight, "weather permitting." John drove us by coach to Canyonlands Field, the small airport north of Moab. The planes that we were to fly in were nine-place Cessnas , so we were distributed by weight. Heavy people up front and light people in the back; Kathy was in the back and there was not a lot of room and we had to leave even our small bags in the coach; purses and camera bags were allowed.



Our itinerary said that this was "a dramatic flightseeing excursion" and it was. We flew over the Canyonlands National Park where the Colorado River doubles back on itself several times, as shown in the "Badlands." In a moment of geologic time the river will break through the low spot in the picture center and change course once more. We dodged the peaks of the Escalante and Henry Mountains, and had a great view of the Waterpocket Fold and other sandstone formations. Without oxygen our planes had a height limit of 10,000 feet and the mountains were over 11,000. The terrain was varied to say the least; changing every minute.


plane view

Much of this Spirit of the Desert tour is about the land in the American west. This land varies from high mountains to deserts below sea level. The scenery of this land is beautiful, interesting, and illustrative of the history of the earth. Approximately 28 percent of the land in the U.S. is owned by the federal government pursuant to Article Four, section 3, clause 2 of the United States Constitution. As the map shows, most of the federally owned lands are in the west and managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or another agency.

Many residents of the western states, some of whom we heard from, believe that they should have the rights of ownership to these lands by virtue of the fact that they, or one of their ancestors, had moved there. I think these lands are the heritage of the American people including future generations and should be managed as such. During the federal government shutdown in October 2013, Utah paid $1.6 million to keeps the national parks in Utah open. Gov. Gary Herbert estimated that this was worth $100 million to the Utah economy.


In some areas the land was totally flat with a single track road going who knows where, then there was a small oil well pumping into green tanks where the oil had to be picked up by trucks, and sometimes a small farm identified by the green circular irrigation area.


oil view

Most of the mountains were covered with green trees, Fir and Pondarosa Pines; the yellow color was provided by the Aspen trees, which were changing for fall. We had a bumpy ride due to turbulence as we snuck through the mountain passes with peaks higher than the plane and then we dropped down to the valley to land at Bryce Airport.


air view

We found John waiting for us with the coach and had a nice lunch in the airport lounge. On the ride to Bryce, our guide Paul gave another dissertation on the geology of the area. Then we made a stop at Bryce Point for short walks and some views. Again the views were spectacular with sandstone formations that almost looked like statues, called hoodoos.



We then had a short ride to visit the Visitors Center of the Bryce Canyon National Park and then to the historic Bryce Lodge to check in. We attended a presentation about how the railroads helped develop the national parks, including building a number of the historic lodges to attract tourists to the parks. The tourists that frequented these lodges arrived by train. Bryce Lodge (Picture 11), with its surrounding cabins, was one of these. We were assigned a cabin (Picture 12), got settled and had dinner at our leisure in the lodge. It was a foggy, drizzly evening. The gift shop had a unique selection of Indian jewelry, so we bought a pendent and earrings for Kathy.



After breakfast in the Lodge, we had time to explore. Julie went on a mule ride into the canyon. Kathy, Jon, and I went for a short walk on the rim. We had planned to hike the Navajo Loop trail --1.75 miles and 500 feet down and up. We canceled due to the rain. Picture 14 provides the National Park Service warning at the trail head.



We returned to the Lodge for lunch. The food at the lodges was all good but not great. The variety good and featured western dishes including beef and some unique -- elk medallions, mountain oysters, venison chili, venison meat loaf, and more. We tried several and venison meat loaf was the favorite. After lunch, John whisked us away in his magic coach to Zion National Park.