Bryce Canyon Lodge & Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim

Bryce Canyon's theatre for giants

The Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon are tied to together by the necessities of tourism. These two natural wonders may have held the cult fascination of Existentialists, but it would take an architect's rustic imagination and a railroad capitalist to bring flocks of visitors to these two splendid sites.

The 1920s introduced an era when railroad companies, wishing to increase ticket sales, were on a
frenzy developing “destination resorts”. Passenger traffic was a profitable arena, and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) was one of those companies in hot pursuit of giving concessions to popularize local parks. The rail was designed to loop through parks and monuments around Ceder City, Utah. It just so happened that The National Park Service (NPS) was striving to improve national parks and monuments, but it vitally needed funds. Thus UPR fused with NPS. Each would profit, as appropriations for running the parks were based on the quantity of visitation, and passenger traffic was only profitable with-- passengers. They sought for and found an architect who was sure to etch a strong image and sense of place into the structures. Indeed they hoped his designs would inspire visitors to recommend the resort to others. Master architect, Gilbert Stanley Underwood would abide to the wishes of his employers. He would build in harmony with the environment, and make the structures look like they were built with primitive tools. His goal was to be rustic. The scale of rocks and logs would be scrutinized to match the environment's rock outcroppings and forests. Bryce Canyon Lodge and Grand Canyon's Lodge at the North Rim would each become a product of this “parkitecture”.

These lodge complexes have rightfully been declared National Historic Landmarks. They were granted this award because of these structures' architecture, recreation, and their domestic function as both hotel and resort. The lodge complexes received an enormous amount of attention. Tourist sprang on the new opportunity to cross into the magic of nature while still receiving the comforts of a lodge. Today tourists may have adapted different routes to get to these national wonders; but they are still flocking into the gates to play with mother earth's fun side. After playing, guests look forward to having a lodge to rest, where they can dream under the crystal clear skies that these parks offer.

Bryce Canyon Lodge looking majestic
It was early evening when we entered Bryce Canyon National Park, a perfect time to hike the Navajo loop. Fortunately, Bryce's complex sits just a somersault away from the rim of the canyon. We set our bags down and zoomed to the trail. We met a hodge-podge of tourists and I can tell why. This place is fascinating. Enormous pillars bolt from the ground claiming their own air-space. In fact Bryce is considered an amphitheater rather than a canyon. It was no challenge to imagine a few giants performing games and entertaining in this natural theatre. Tourists have been astounded with Bryce for over a century. When lodging was made available the place became a “go-to-destination”, especially now that guests could stay over night to stargaze into the sparkling sky.

Night fell upon us and we headed to the famous Lodge for dinner. It sits just above the cabins, commanding full attention. Upon entrance, a colossal fireplace made of natural, rough stone welcomed us. The room was dimly lit. You would have thought they were using the old candle method to light the place. Its rustic burgundy colors gave my eyes a rest. Logs, the same size as the pines that surround the park make the Lodge as handcrafted a log cabin as one could rest in. In fact, bark still remained on them. The Lodge was authentic, imperfect, and solid. I could have wrapped myself up in a bearskin blanket, hugged a book, and let the roaring fire lull me to sleep, especially after the hefty elk chili I had for dinner. Cozy is my one word for this place. Underwood definitely prevailed in giving this complex a handcrafted feel.
Just one of the perks at the North Rim

The next day we were off to another wonder of the world, Grand Canyon National Park, where we would meet Underwood's other work of “parkitecture”, Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim. Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon are on opposite ends of—wow! Make no mistake, the Grand Canyon is a Canyon, and the North Rim is the cherry on top of the masterpiece. One-thousand feet higher than the South Rim, the North Rim is considered to be the “Canyon jewel”. We chose to hike the famous Kaibab Trail, a ten mile round trip trail! I only hiked four miles and quickly understood why more tourists were hanging out in the Lodge than in the canyon. The hike was rough, and I was lucky enough to get altitude sickness combined with dehydration. So I got to spend lots of time in the famous Lodge and my quaint cabin. As sick as I felt I was able to appreciate the magnitude of Grand Canyon Lodge. Underwood was consistent in his style because Grand Canyon Lodge is humongous and sits at the head of the cabins, which are only smaller versions of it.

Grand Canyon Lodge observation deck
I felt small around it. The logs and stone seemed bigger. This is the king of log cabins! Instantly upon entering, an observation room lined with windows, greets the guests where they are then able to gaze over the canyon and feel small. It is a magnificent place, but does not possess the same comfort as Bryce Lodge. It is less rustic and irregular. Logs are glossed and the bark is manicured. My word for this place is exactly what it has already been deemed—grand. Everything about it shouts, and it is a heck of a place to just be small.

These two complexes were a thrill to witness. Thank goodness an American imagination captured nature's spirit and to shared it in his Lodges for us to revel in.

-Beau Lemoine

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