Natural Bridges NM

Natural Bridges National Monument

Monday, July 3, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

Hot but dry, threat of t’storms, mid 90s.

Monday was a catch-up day. Sandy walked with Tanya in the morning before she and Fred headed off to the Visitor Center. Meanwhile, Bill started in on finances, catching up on e-mail and writing this website. Though the houses in the compound don’t have private telephones, the complex does have WiFi, so we have access to the internet. Bill got a couple of week’s worth of web pages assembled and Sandy proofed the work before he finally published it to the web late in the day.

Bill prepared a dinner of grilled pork tenderloin and a veggie stir-fry for dinner.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Tuesday, July 4, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

Very pleasant up on Bear’s Ears plateau, low 70s, another threat of t’storms.

It seems strange to talk about a monsoon season in this arid climate but they are getting into that season about now. There seems to be a threat of storms nearly every day but we rarely seem to get much, if any, rain.

We explored an area called Bears Ears near Natural Bridges. Bears Ears refers to twin peaks that look like .. yeah, you guessed it. A dirt, switch-back road leads up to the peaks and continues onto the plain beyond. What’s neat is that the plain beyond the twin peaks has an almost completely different climate than the area below. This area is forested in Ponderosa pine and aspen trees instead of desert shrubs. There are lots of free range cows grazing the area, too. There are a few cows down below, too, but the grassy meadows up above can support a much higher density of cows.

View Of Bears Ears From The Back Side
Horny Toad Gives Us The Evil Eye

We walked two trails, one around the east side of Bears Ears and one to Wooden Shoe Overlook. Along the way we found a few super campsites, some among aspen trees and another with a beautiful overview of Archway Canyon. We also saw several new-to-us wildflowers, several mule deer, two horny toads, a ground squirrel and lots of antelope squirrels.

Back at the compound we participated in a pot luck dinner with park staff to celebrate the holiday … no fireworks here! It was a really pleasant evening.

Celebrating The Fourth With The Staff

Natural Bridges National Monument

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,218

Pleasant morning, 97 degrees mid PM, bright and sunny

Fred and Tanya sent us out on another grand tour today. This time we headed north.

Our day started with the obligatory 40 mile drive through Blanding (seems Blanding is on the way to nearly everywhere) to the little town of Monticello for breakfast at the Peace Tree Juice Café (recommended). Then we continued north, stopping to see Church Rock (yup … a huge rock that looks like a church) and Wilson Arch, a huge arch right along the road. We climbed it, of course.

We should mention that we attended one of Fred’s patented ranger talks our second night here. Among the far-ranging subjects he covered was the difference between a bridge and an arch (plus a few other related structures). The difference is that a bridge is formed directly by flowing water. A sunken, meandering river changes course and cuts through a meander loop to do so. If the rock above the layer being cut is hard enough, the river cuts a tunnel instead of a channel, forming a “bridge”. As a bridge ages, the span gradually becomes thinner as rock slowly erodes. Eventually, every bridge will collapse. An arch, on the other hand, can form when a thin ridge of hard rock covers a softer layer. Freeze/thaw type actions wear away the softer, underlying rock, eventually forming an opening we call an arch. Like bridges, all arches will eventually fall, too. (Did I do good, Fred?)

Wilson Arch

Utah, like any other state, has it’s share of “off the wall” tourist stops … well, maybe more than it’s share. We actually stopped at one, Hole in the Rock Trading Post. We declined the pay-for tour of the 5,000 square foot home carved into this solid rock. We did stop to admire the crazy junk-metal sculpture display including a formidable looking bull and a “rebuilt” Jeep and patronized the shop.

Off Road Jeep Sculpture

Moab was our next stop. This rapidly developing town is situated on the banks of the Colorado River and adjacent to Arches National Park. Our objective, here, was several rock art sites along the river. We started on Potash Road and stopped at the huge panels along the road. We were going to look for the panels on the other side of the river but the gnats were really bad.

Instead, we headed to Arches National Park. For the visitor in a hurry, and we were, today, there you can see many of the sights with only short walks from your car. We drove the southern loop road, walking up to most of the Arches. They are awesomely beautiful. Especially neat was a double arch along he loop. We saved the northern loop and a few nice-sounding hikes for another visit.

Double Arches In Arches NP

Returning to Moab, we decided to spend some time wandering the shops. It seems the town is half about art and half about adventure. It is a Mecca for mountain biking, hiking and river running. After getting our fill of gear shops, we stopped in a couple of galleries. One of them was packed full of stunning photography, all by the same photographer, Tom Till. Bill was taken aback when he spied a portrait of Tom and his wife. It was the guy he’d seen just a few days earlier taking a photo of Twin Rocks in Bluff; the guy who modestly declared that he’d like to make a living with his photos some day. Yeah, right!

We stopped for a few groceries in Monticello on our way back to Natural Bridges. Remember what I said about empty monsoon rain threats? Well, they ain’t always empty threats. We drove through heavy rain much of the way back to Natural Bridges.

When we finally got back, Tanya had dinner ready for us. She’d used nearly all of our exotic leftovers from the past few days. Delicious!