Two days 250 miles

From Las Vegas, we head northeast on Interstate 15, making abrief stop to view Zion National Park's Kolob Canyons. At Parowan we break awayonto the two-lane roads that are to be the essence of this journey.Cottonwood seeds drift through the truck's windows as we head upthe 13 percent grade on Utah 143 toward Brian Head. Aspen trees,green with their new spring leaves, marble the spruce forest. Atop11,307-foot Brian Head Peak, we look southeast over the ColoradoPlateau. The torn cliffs of Cedar Breaks National Monument create a splash of red in theforeground. The Paunsaugunt Plateau stretches to the horizon, itsmost famous landmark, Bryce Canyon National Park, concealed to the east.

At Bryce, Tom and I take the 8-mile hike that starts fromSunrise Point. While the Grand Canyon and Zion have an almostdivine grandeur, Bryce feels more mercurial. Instead of formal,templelike bluffs, the forces of erosion have produced a complex oftowers and turrets. The Paiute Indians thought that these hoodooswere humanlike creatures turned to stone by an angry coyote god.Despite the fierceness of its creation legend, Bryce is burdenedwith cutesy place names more appropriate to Disneyland: the hikewe're taking is the Fairyland Loop.

To be fair, this dreamlike labyrinth of color and shape is notthe easiest place to put into words. When asked what Bryce waslike, early settler Claude Sudweeks kept it simple: "Oh, just ahole in the ground ― but you should see it."

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