Named after the Mormon Pioneer Ebenezer Bryce, Bryce Canyon became a national park in 1928. Small by National Park standards, the 56.2 square miles of Bryce Canyon National Park is an awe inspiring example of the geologic process. Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) can be found around the world, but found here is the largest collection of hoodoos in the world!
These famous spires are formed when ice and rainwater wear away the weak limestone that makes up the Claron Formation. Tinted with marvelous colors too numerous and subtle to name, these whimsically arranged rocks create a wondrous landscape of mazes, offering some of the most memorable hikes imaginable.
I highly recommend everyone get out on the trails when visiting Bryce Canyon. Even though I have been to Bryce before I had never hiked deep down into the hoodoos and was eager to do so this trip. Being a bit of an overachiever I defaulted immediately to the strenuous hikes and chose the Figure 8 Combination which included the Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop. It was a great hike (challenging with much up and down elevation) but gives the hiker views of the park not seen from the roads.
National Park staff was busy out in the park keeping the trails safe and in good condition. A great office for these NPS folks!
Climbing back out of the canyon (and yes, it was a climb) I came across a Ranger led walk along the rim and stopped to listen in. The Ranger talked about the history and discovery of the park and drew in his audience as he challenged them to explore their feelings when they saw the view the first time. This park is truly an example of the power of “awe” and it is obvious as you watch park visitors approach the view. It is visible in their faces, body language, hushed conversations and verbal expressions.
Reported in the Huffington Post:
“How Awe-Inspiring Experiences Can Make You Happier, Less Stressed And More Creative”
Spending time in nature has a number of health benefits — including a calm and focused mind, lower stress levels, higher vitamin D levels, and health improvements resulting from physical activity — and can also be one of the most surefire ways to inspire awe.
Feelings of wonder and amazement are common responses to nature — a powerful storm, a mountaintop vista, or a sweeping ocean can inspire us with a sense of the majesty of the world around us, and of just how small we are, in comparison, as individuals. Nature-inspired awe involves a “diminished self” and the “sensed presence of a higher power,” according to Keltner and Haidt — which, as we’ve seen, can contribute to well-being, creativity and happiness. But of course, cultivating an appreciation for and connection to nature can provide a sense of fulfillment and improve our quality of life.
It seems that negative memories make the biggest impression on our psyche. People remember with clarity where they were and how they felt in stressful times such as 9/11 and Kennedy’s assassination. I challenge each of us to make sure that we create at least twice as many positive “awe struck” memories as those negative ones. As long as we have access to these beautiful places it should be easy!