Our next stretch of trail took us into Bryce National Park and to elevations above 8,500 ft. We headed into the park via a dirt road in National Forest. Looking at our maps we realized that there were several canyons that led from the National Forest into the National Park. We didn't have permits to be camping in the Park so we found a route through a side canyon that stayed in the National Forest longer allowing us to camp outside of the Park boundary. The off route canyon we chose was appropriately named Ponderosa Canyon with large trees towering above us. As we climbed up the canyon we came across patches of snow and then entire hillsides covered in snow. Just before the Park boundary we found flat spot to string our tarp between two trees and while I set up our beds Goose made a small campfire for us to cook our quesadilla dinner over. The small fire kept us warm until we extinguished the coals and had to run from the icy air to the warmth of our down bags.
We awoke the following morning to frozen water bottles and had to melt chunks of ice to brew our coffee. We then headed of to rejoin the Hayduke Trail for an entire day of hiking through Bryce amongst thick forests of tall trees and towering cliffs red and orange striped hoodoos while walking over snow covered trails in a silent wilderness.
Although we began to descend in elevation after we left the southern Park boundaries we still experienced two more below freezing nights and days where we welcomed the sun on our skin to warm us from the cold winter air that blew through the blue skies. Although colder than we had experienced the days were gorgeous and we were enjoying the easier hiking on the trails and flat washed canyon floors.
We camped at one of our water caches just outside of the town of Kanab and in the morning we hiked about six miles to the highway where after about thirty minutes we were finally able to catch a ride into town. Goose had some new shoes to pick up (he had been walking the past 150+ miles in shoes that were a size too small) and we were both planning on grabbing a few additional warm layers to get us through the colder weather ahead. And of course we were thrilled for the opportunity to stuff ourselves with town food!