April 5, 2008

Monument Valley - Four Corners - Natural Bridges

We decided to head over to MV to kill a couple of days while waiting for the trailer work. The RV Campground there has some "cabins" (really small trailers made to look like a cabin), right outside the Park.

We took the scenic route over and decided we just both had to be in 4 states at the same time??? It took a few minutes of contortions & gyrations, but we did it!

A little further down the road was another interesting landmark, Mexican Hat... seated in an awesome array of nature's textures & colors, this huge balance rock seems to defy gravity, perched atop that tiny spindle!

We arrived at Monument Valley late afternoon. Since the trailer was being repaired, we rented a small cabin at MV RV Park, it was nice & quiet. We got over to the Valley overlook about 4PM and were treated to this fabulous backdrop for an arrival photo!

I haven't figured out yet exactly what camera one needs to represent the incredible landscapes out here. I guess it just really doen't exist! We took a drive to the back side of the park on the Loop Road. There are great views at every turn in the road. And the scale of things, wow!

We returned to the entry overlook just as the late afternoon sun lit the entire valley before us!
The next morning, we headed North for Natural Bridges. As we drove back up Hwy 64, one couldn't help but notice the subtle colors along the San Juan River off to our right....

Kim noticed an interesting road through the Mesa Pass and some BLM lands, so we decided to "go for it".....hey it's another adventure. The entry sign gave fair warning to the tight steep serpentine path ahead. The road up was quite a trip!

I guess those reaching the top considered it "a conquering" as evidenced by this sign plastered with decals & stickers of all flavors from everywhere...
But, the views back towards Monument Valley from the top of the Mesa made it all worthwhile!

As we traveled further North, we came across a sign that almost beckoned abandoning our plans, and heading off to see another canyon...

But, we persisted on our original mission, and shortly beforenoon we arrive at Natural Bridges Monument, where no less than three huge arching monoliths have been carved out of the canyon, by the river (of tens of thousands of years ago) cut short it's path. This "cutting short" and bypassing large "loops" in the river is evident in the last photo below. For more info on the history & geology of this area go to http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/cacvgeol.htm

After a nice picnic lunch, we started on the 9-mile Loop Road and arrived at the first overlook...

We found it a bit hard to spot the bridge at first, but focusing our attention far below, moving to the side a bit and wahlah, it appeared!

It's almost 200' high and over 200' wide.... our original plan was to drive the Loop, but after seeing this from high above, we decided we just had to make the 6+ mile hike down the Canyon, and under the first two bridges, then back up (a few miles away) and hike back to the truck across the mesa (top). I wouldn't say it was on a scale with Mt. Katahdan or Washington, but from the very beginning, it was fun and challenging. The Anasazi style ladders and ancient ruins on the trail added interest to the descent.

I must say, after reaching the floor, that one misses the awe & wonder of these marvelous creations when viewing from hundreds of feet above....

Halfway down the canyon towards the second bridge, we noticed some ruins high above and to the right. Scaling the 300-plus wall to get to them proved to be a bit more of a challenge than desired. After getting way out on this steep ledge, and loosing my jacket, which slide quickly & straight down about 100feet , I knew I had to abandon this route. It wasn't until I turned around and started back towards Kim that I really felt the sheerness of the rock face. (yep, pretty stupid!)

After searching behind us a bit, we discovered this vertical "tree ladder". It looked very, very old, making us wonder if the Indians may have placed it there a few hundred years ago? Kim found the stretch to the second step almost impossible considering I taking the photo from a 2ft wide ledge below her, with a 200ft drop straight down!

But the climb was worth it. The ruins sheltered and tucked away high up here were in excellent shape. (many others have been "raided" and destroyed by vandalist over the years).

The roof was still intact on one dwelling, holding the camera inside with the strobe on revealed a kiva-like firering in the center.

Back on the canyon floor we found several pieces of petrified wood, including this large hunk. Kim found a unique rock triangle just past an area where ice remained along the shaded side of the canyon floor.

The second bridge wasn't quite as large as the first, but was much thicker, bolder, truly a different appearence...

The climb back out of the canyon was not near as dramatic as the descent, or the climbs to the ruins in between. I guess what really made it all worth it was this spectacular view of the "horseshoe" when I turned around and looked back behind.
Three more miles and one more climb at the end of the mesa (see Kim way up there), and a long day brought us back to the truck where we drove to the third (& final!) bridge. Smaller than the rest, we were happy to see this one "from the above".

The next day, we decided to head to Farmington via Bluff, Utah, a quaint little town on the San Juan River. Our treat for yesterday's hard work was the fish taco special at this one-of-a-kind "resturant" at an abandoned service station.