In my last post I said I might have some good news to share.  Well here it is: I have been accepted to the NYU in Madrid graduate program for next fall.  So the Spanish adventures will continue next year! In case you forgot, I’m a Spanish major and I originally started this blog because I was jetting off to Malaga (in the south of Spain) a year and a half ago. So in late August/early September, whenever I leave, I will be able to continue blogging about la vida en Espana.
The NYU in Madrid program has an undergraduate component but there is a grad. program as well.  I chose the Spanish Language and Translation track but there is also a Literature track.  Some people may be surprised I didn’t go for Lit because I love to read.  But honestly what am I going to do with a MA in Spanish Literature? I don’t want to teach, despite what the world seems to be trying to tell me.  I can barely do a presentation in front of a class of 15 other students and one professor.  If that terrifies me, imagine me in front of a class of 20 something high school/college students? Or middle school or elementary school?
The program lasts a full year (12 months) and after that year is up and I have completed all the necessary course work, I will have my Master’s in Spanish with a concentration in Languages and Translation.  And to be honest, I was not expecting this acceptance.  In fact, in the past few weeks, I have been scouring job websites for internships and jobs. When I got the call from the program director, he started speaking to me in Spanish and I got super confused because I wasn’t too sure whether I was accepted or not.  Turns out she called me to ascertain what level of Spanish I spoke.  Well I guess I did alright because the next day I got an email telling me I had been accepted into the program.  I have to say, it feels really good I know what’s going on in my future–for the next year at least.  I’m trying not to get too excited about it because I still know plenty of people who have no clue what they are doing after graduation and I don’t want to be seen as rubbing it in that I have a plan and they don’t.  To be honest, I applied to two grad programs and that’s it.  I didn’t really do all that much planning.

Alright so I just wanted to share my good news.  Now we can move on to Bryce Canyon.

Alright so this is still Wednesday, March 17th–St. Patrick’s Day.

After the sand dunes, we headed towards Bryce Canyon.  As we got higher into the mountains, we were surprised at how much snow there was.  Bryce has a higher elevation than Zion so that explained why there was no snow back in Zion.  It is not unusual for this part of the country to have this much snow during this time of year.  However snow in mid-March in NY/PA is not a common occurrence.  We should have foreseen this but we didn’t so when we got to Bryce Canyon, it became very obvious we would not be able to go hiking.  Most, if not all, of the trails were snowed over.  The few trails that were hikeable required hikers to buy crampons to strap onto hiking boots.  We saw some people hiking up a particularly steep trail (probably super steep due to to the angle the snow piled up) and it was very clear there was no way we could hike unless we bought the expensive crampons that allowed the hikers to move unimpeded over the snow.

So hiking was a no go.  However we did do the scenic drive and stopped at each overlook to take in the view from different angles.  Bryce Canyon is famous for what is called the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, 12 miles long and 3 miles wide.  In the amphitheater, there is an army of menacing looking hoodoos.  What are hoodoos? Yeah I didn’t know what they were either before this trip.
A hoodoo (also tent rock, fairy chimney, earth pyramid) is a tall thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos are composed of soft sedimentary rock and are topped by a piece of harder, less easily-eroded stone that protects the column from the elements.
Hoodoos vary in size and shape and are shaped by erosion.  Eventually, the thinner part of the spire breaks off and the hoodoo becomes some other sort of rocky shape.  If you really want to know how hoodoos are shaped and the geology of Bryce Canyon, be my guest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Bryce_Canyon_area

Indeed, a view full of angry looking pointy hoodoo spires is certainly a strange sight.  A lot of them were capped with snow or had snow on the ground between the hoodoos.  Quite the contrast between the white of the snow and the pale orangey red of the hoodoos.  It was really too bad we couldn’t go hiking between them.
Besides the hoodoos, a lot of the viewpoints provided overlooks over the fir tree forests blanketed with snow.  One of the most picturesque views I’ve seen.  I’ve definitely fallen in love with Utah’s scenery and I can’t wait to go back and visit the other parks out there we didn’t get out to.  Not too sure when that’s going to happen since I will be heading to Spain in the fall…

Besides the amazing vistas, just driving around the scenic route was hilarious.  The snow on the side of the road was so deep, it covered many signs and we sometimes had to guess where to turn.  At one stop, the snow reached over our heads.  I’m not too sure if that was the actual snowfall for the season or if it’s simply that the snowplows pack the snow really high on the side when they clear the roads and parking lots.  At one point, I think we saw a Utah prairie dog, a species that is endangered.  We also saw some beautiful blue birds, I think they were some kind of blue jays? Whatever they were, they were stunning.  In addition, we spotted the common raven that kept nearing the human visitors in hopes of food.

After we finished the scenic route, we headed on over to the new cabins we would be sleeping in for the next two nights in Tropic, Utah.  The cabins were cute enough but we got no sleep the first night because a) the farm guard dog barked all night to ward off predators from attacking the sheep in a nearby pen 2) the cabin got overheated easily which caused us to open the front window… meaning I felt all the cold air seeping in.  However the friendly cat who greeted us as we signed in slightly made up for the bad’s night sleep.
Oh and I forgot to mention there are just as many stores in Tropic as there were in Mt. Carmel Junction.  We ate in another kitschy diner for dinner with more cowboy heartbreak songs blaring over the radio.

The next day, Thursday, March 18th, we got a late start to the day because of our bad’s night sleep.  Once we got going, we had to figure out what to do with the day.  We couldn’t go back to Bryce Canyon to hike so we decided to check out some other nearby parks.  We tried to go to Kodachrome Basin State Park, a state park not too far from Tropic.  However we somehow missed the turnoff so we just kept driving on the “highway” (single 2 lane highway) until we happened upon the Grand Staircas-Escalante Visitor Center.  (Yes there are a lot of parks in southern Utah!)
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument contains 1.9 million acres (7,571 km²) of land in southern Utah, the United States. There are three main regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante. President Bill Clinton designated the area as a U.S. National Monument in 1996 using his authority under the Antiquities Act.

Who knows what part of the Monument we were actually in.  The park ranger advised us on the Calf Creek trail, a 6 mile hike (3 miles to get there and back) to the Calf Creek Waterfalls.  Sounded nice and we were told there wasn’t that much snow, so off we went to find the trail head.
The drive to find the trail head was absolutely beautiful.  Hard to describe the mountain ranges out here but I guess it’s supposed to look like a staircase of some sort? It was more arid out here than at Bryce Canyon so we noticed the lack of snow which made us all happy.

Once we found the trail head and registered and found a bathroom, we were off on the trail.  We had a trail guide with us that made us stop at various points and explained the different kind of plants and trees that surrounded us.  At some of these stops, I really couldn’t see what the trail guide was talking about since most of the descriptions had no pictures.

This hike turned out to be my favorite of all the hikes we did that week.  The hike had a lot of variety to it.  It would go uphill, then downhill, be flat, was rather arid at some points when we got close to the rock walls of the canyon we were in, got snowy when we reached a shady part… I saw some more of the purple cactus that I had seen in Zion.  Which is weird since we were nowhere near the desert.

The different layers and strata of the rock walls of the canyon we were in were gorgeous.  The plants and trees were so different from the ones back home.  And to top it off, we had a great blue sky with not too many clouds.  In fact, the weather was pretty great all week.  Except for the rough take off back in NY and rough landing in Las Vegas, the weather in Utah held up nicely for us.

When the trail hit the snowy part, it wasn’t too bad.  We had to be careful as we crunched along it since some of the trail went downhill and was rather narrow.  Luckily no one slipped and fell flat on their faces.  The snow wasn’t deep at all so we didn’t have to worry about getting our hiking shoes too wet.

I wish I could describe the scenery better for this hike because during the entire time I kept marveling at how beautiful the scenery was.  Since I live so close to NYC, I sometimes forget how exotic looking the outdoors can be.  You get  used to the suburbs which are not tree-less by any means but there aren’t any canyons or mountains and waterfalls and streams are not as common.  I mean, W. County gets more woodsy looking the further north you go.  We have the Catskills and Adirondacks at our disposal and Niagara Falls beckons all the way at the American-Canadian border.  But the Utah mountain range is so different from the grassy and tree-y Appalachians.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the rocky looking Rockies.

As we got closer to the falls, we neared the stream (Calf Creek) that acted as its run-off.  There were some kind of fish in the stream which were hard to take pictures of since they blended in so well with the silt and sand.  And finally, we heard a low roaring and the falls came into view.  We were at the end of the trail.

Calf Creek Falls is a perennial waterfall in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that totals 214 feet. The lower tier is a 126 foot cascade and is very popular, because it can be reached by an easy hike on a 5 1/2 mile roundtrip trail. The upper tier is a 88 foot plunge and is much less known, as it requires a 1-mile scramble past the lower falls.

The waterfall was striking.  We had seen many in Zion but the distance the water fell into the creek was higher than any waterfall we had seen back there.  It wasn’t exactly a massive waterfall in terms of the water cascading down the rocks.  But it was a rewarding treat after hiking 3 miles, part of it in the snow.  We ate some snacks, took some pictures, and we headed back where we came from.  In all, it took us about 3-4 hours to hike the 6 miles.  We did come across people once in awhile but the trail was mostly empty.  Towards the end, we came across a bunch of high school girls being led by some park rangers and ran into their teachers who opted to wait for them instead of hiking the whole 6 miles.  We also ran into a family who knew Dickinson, which they read on Papa’s baseball hat.

On the way back to Tropic, we stopped a few times on the side of the road to take in the vistas of Grand Staircase.  We even found the turnoff to Kodachrome and briefly drove up to the entrance just to see what it was all about.  After, we ate at Ruby’s in Bryce City and went back to our cabin.  Unfortunately, we got no sleep thanks to the ridiculous wind blowing all night.  Towards morning, it was the cars on the highway (our cabin hotel place was right on the main road) that kept us awake.  Ugh, needless to say we were not fans of this place at all.

And that’s it for now.  I have only Las Vegas left to cover but this is pretty long already.  I’ll update soon!

Amelie