Welcome to the third installment of our blog series on Joel and Patty Anderson's exciting trip to the Grand Circle!
To prepare for the upcoming book: The Illustrated Guide to Exploring The Grand Circle, Creative Director Joel Anderson, his wife Patty, and researcher/writer/collaborator Dan Pierce spent eight adventure-filled days exploring the National Parks, Monuments, and natural wonders of Utah and Arizona.
Today we dive into Day #5 and Day #6 of their journey as the trio canvased Jacob Lake, Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend State Park, Toadstool Hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Calf Creek Falls.
Jacob Lake Inn
After four days of hiking and intense exploration of the Grand Circle, Joel, Patty, and Dan (JP&D!) decided to spend Day #5 exploring the Grand Circle from the comfort of four wheels rather than two feet. The team started with a hearty breakfast at the famous Jacob Lake Inn, a nearby diner and accommodations attraction that services much of the Grand Circle area.
JP&D bought 21 of the best cookies they'd ever had, the Jacob Lake Inn being well known for its world famous cookies. The Inn also sells handmade Indigenous Navajo jewelry, souvenirs, and trinkets.
Upon departing Jacob Lake Inn, the group headed to Navajo Bridge, an impressive structure that spans the width of the Colorado River. The extreme height of the bridge and the stunning green water of the river below made for some spectacular views.
Navajo Bridge is the name for two almost identical bridges, one for pedestrians and the other for vehicle traffic. There are rafting excursions in the area, and the incredible emerald green water results from fresh, cold water released from the bottom of nearby Glen Canyon Dam.
Located in Paige, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend State Park was the next stop on JP&D's scenic tour. A bucket list view and a social media darling that's worth the stop, Horseshoe Bend offers on-site parking, a short walk to the viewing site, and guardrails for protection.
JP&D were able to see the impressive bend in the Colorado River while avoiding crowds, but be sure to visit this site in the early morning or late afternoon to dodge the bus tours that make frequent stops here.
On the way back from their scenic drive, our trio stopped at Toadstool Hoodoos, an attraction located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. As Joel said, "Toadstool Hoodoos looked like a set from a sci-fi space alien movie. The chalky-white hills and red mushroom hoodoos gave us a foretaste of stranger things to come in Goblin Valley."
The hoodoos are kind of funny-looking and perplexing all in one. They look as though a giant placed rocks on top of each other and left them there, though we know the hoodoos were formed by countless years of water and wind erosion.
Bryce Canyon National Park
You know a park holds a special appeal when travelers venture back into it for another hike! And that's exactly what Joel, Patty, and Dan did on Day #6, stopping a second time in Bryce Canyon National Park for one last hike while enroute from their first base in Kanab to their second base in Escalante.
The team hiked a portion of the Peekaboo Loop Trail, pausing around every turn to enjoy the colorful tower-like rock formations that the park is so well known for. From the almost alien-like nature of the canyon rock formations to the hardy alpine trees that grow in the canyon, a hike through Bryce Canyon feels like stepping off this world and into another one.
Calf Creek Falls
A somewhat challenging hike, (though absolutely worth the effort), the Calf Creek Recreation Area offers a beautiful 6.5-7.0 mile round trip hike through Lower Calf Creek Falls. The hike sent JP&D along the creek bed of Calf Creek for about 3.5 miles. As the hike winds through a creek bottom, the surrounding vegetation, trees, reeds, and abundant greenery present a stark contrast too much of the colors typically associated with the Grand Circle.
At the end of the hike is a beautiful waterfall, plenty of shade, and a crystal clear pool to swim in; a welcome reward for hikers.
Joel's Two Cents
Shortly after they got back from their trip, I interviewed Joel about the adventure. I was particularly interested in what about the trip inspired him as an artist and what advice he might have for travelers to the Grand Circle. The following is an excerpt from our interview where Joel gave me some great insight into Bryce Canyon, Lower Calf Creek Falls, and Horseshoe Bend:
Ren: Joel, you've said Bryce Canyon National Park is one of your favorite National Parks. What sets it apart from the rest?
Joel: Bryce Canyon is so surprising, colorful, and unique. The shapes and hues of the stone are unlike anything I've seen before. When visiting the park, you drive in on a mesa where the parking lots are. Then you take the trail down into the canyon. As you descend, you feel like you are leaving planet earth and delving into a strange, delightful new world. Because the elevation is about 7,000 feet above sea level, some water and snowfall allow for trees in the canyon, making for some incredible color contrasts.
Ren: As an artist, what was most inspirational about Bryce Canyon?
Joel: Each time you see another mesmerizing stone formation, you just have to keep walking because you intuitively know there's going to be another one. The park draws you in, much like a great piece of artwork does. The trails wind and work their way down, and before you know it, you've descended another 100 feet into the canyon. It's more than easy to kill several hours in the canyon without really noticing the passage of time, which in its own way is quite artistic. Good art should transport you from one world to another, which is exactly what Bryce Canyon does.
Ren: What are some tips for enjoying Bryce Canyon?
Joel: Bryce canyon tends to be cooler in temperature than other Grand Circle attractions, partially because of the elevation. It's certainly hot in July and August, but bring layers if you visit in any other month. Also, Bryce is a great dark sky park. Be sure to check it out at night!
Ren: Moving to a different natural attraction, you mentioned Horseshoe Bend State Park can get quite crowded. When do you recommend folks visit that iconic site in such a way as to dodge the crowds?
Joel: There's a frequently updated tour bus and shuttle schedule for Horseshoe Bend, which you can view on the City of Page's website. Check that out before you visit Horseshoe Bend. I'd also recommend a sunrise trip to the lookout spot, as the view is stunning at that time and the crowds won't have arrived yet.
Ren: The Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail seems like it often gets forgotten when visitors travel across the Grand Circle. Do you recommend folks stop and check it out?
Joel: Absolutely. If you're up for a 6-7 mile hike over a sandy trail, the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail offers good exercise, plenty of unique flora and fauna in the creek bed, and a stunning waterfall and swimming hole as your reward for the hike. Bring plenty of water, some good hiking shoes, and a towel!
Day #7 saw our trio head into Capitol Reef National Park, Fruita Orchard, and Moab. From their third and final base in Moab, the group explored many attractions like Bears Ears National Monument, Mule Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park.
Check back next week to follow along with Joel, Patty, and Dan as they venture out on the final leg of their Grand Circle trip!
In the meantime, you can see plenty of poster art of the National Parks our group visited in ADG's 63 National Parks Collection. Furthermore, there's plenty of vintage poster art and travel art of other Grand Circle wonders in the National Monuments and Natural Wonders collection.
See you next week!
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer