Natural Bridges, Canyonlands and Arches, Utah

July 31st: Leaving Mesa Verde, I continued my drive west, into Utah, where my first stop was at Natural Bridges National Monument. There are three natural bridges in the park, Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu.

This is Sipapu Bridge:

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Sipapu Bridge

A view from underneath:

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Sipapu Bridge

And another angle:

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Sipapu Bridge

This is Kachina Bridge:

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Kachina Bridge

And Owachomo Bridge:

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Owachomo Bridge

The park also includes a nice view of Bears Ears Buttes, in the southwest corner of adjacent Manti-La Sal National Forest (La Sal District):

Bears Ears Buttes from Cedar Mesa, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Bears Ears Buttes from Cedar Mesa, Natural Bridges National Monument

Instead of camping at Natural Bridges, I continued driving for another hour. Even outside of the park, the countryside was bizarre but beautiful:

Sandstone Pillar, Utah

Sandstone pillar in Utah

West of Monticello, Utah (elevation 7070′), I drove up a gravel mountain road to the Dalton Spring campground at 8200′ elevation in the aforementioned Manti-La Sal National Forest. I wrote an actual letter home, instead of a postcard:

7-31-94 P.M.
Dear Mom,
The Mesa Verde campground was $8, plus 75¢ for a shower. On the way out I met a nice couple from California. His name was Jose Schwartz. They were going to see Mesa Verde today, as they arrived late last night. I told them they might see both ticketed sights despite the park only giving one ticket/day per person, as I had seen both thanks to no-shows. They are going to Arches tomorrow, & so am I, so maybe I’ll meet them again. There was a laundry @ Mesa Verde: $1/wash, 25¢ for 8 min. of drying. I wore shorts & washed everything else. Pants were still a little wet, so I kept shorts on & now my legs are sunburned, so I feel dumb.

Today I went to Natural Bridges. It was very hot, & I drank about 3 quarts of water, or at least two. My new glasses are loose, & I think they warped from leaving them in the car. Hopefully they can be bent back. Maybe in Aspen I’ll look for a store. I wonder if my old glasses (now new sunglasses) would have warped, or if they are better quality. My old sunglasses never warped. I don’t think it was hotter there than it gets in Alabama, but maybe I’m wrong. I didn’t like the Natural Bridges as much as Mesa Verde. I walked down to one bridge, & coming back up was very hard. I had to stop a few times & drink water & pour some on me. I met a nice French couple there. They spoke excellent English. We were eating at the same picnic table, so I didn’t get to talk too much, & later thought I should have complimented their English and expressed a desire to visit their country & mentioned that my favorite artist was French. But I did learn this was their 5th trip to the U.S., & they haven’t toured much in Europe. I expressed surprise, & he said he wondered why, also, so I wonder if he didn’t like this trip as much, or if his wife demanded the U.S. I played ambassador & told them we were happy they came & that it’s a big help to our economy. They said there’s high unemployment in France.

Tonight I’m at a Forest Svc. campground maybe 60 miles from Nat’l Bridges & the same distance from my next stop, Arches. Here it’s $5, but there aren’t showers or flush toilets or electricity. There are cows, mooing noisily. On some of the smaller roads, they have cows grazing to the sides, & the people who own the land on both sides of the road didn’t put fences in, to save money & allow the cows to cross from one side to the other. So it takes cautious driving in case cows are in the road. They have fences at the borders of their land, & to keep the cows from leaving via the road they put cow guards in the road, which are grates with bars spaced widely, so the cows can’t or won’t cross, but they are noisy & bumpy for cars. Going faster seems to help.

I’m using my fluorescent lantern to read & write in my tent, & it’s great, very bright. Flying bugs are banging against the tent because of it, & that bothers me a little. At Mesa Verde, I set up the tent in the morning, & when I returned in the evening, there was some water inside from rain, which I mopped up with my camp towel. But I had left the rain flap open & only closed the screen, so I don’t know if the rain entered that way or if it leaks at a seam. My hat & jacket worked well in the rain, though my pants got a little wet. My tent had sagged @ Mesa Verde but it’s o.k. now, so I must have set it up a little wrong. Last night & also now it’s cool, so I’ve closed the rain flaps & that eliminates most of the breeze. The sleeping bag is nice: warm, but not hot. I guess I can wear warmups, sweatshirt & hat if it is colder in Aspen. I guess the altitude does make it colder @ night.

I’ve already used 2 rolls of film, so I guess I need more. Part of the problem is that there were only 24 & not 36 per roll. I think all slides are like that, but I may be wrong. (That’s what I’m using, slide film). I’m also trying to buy & keep a postcard or two from each site.

* * *

August 1st: Leaving Monticello, I drove north, first to Arches National Park. I registered for a ranger-led hike the next day, but upon checking into the campground I discovered that the ground was too hard to penetrate with the cheap stakes I was using. I may have had a hammer with me, but I was using a very inexpensive A-frame tent, and the stakes that came with it were easily bent by the hard ground. So instead of spending the day exploring Arches, I instead relocated a few miles to Canyonlands National Park. The soil was softer there, and I was easily able to set up my tent. I then began my exploration of Canyonlands.

While Canyonlands is named for its canyons, and Arches is named for its arches, there are also a few natural arches at Canyonlands:

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Utah

Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Speaking of natural arches, what is the difference between natural arches and the natural bridges that I saw at Natural Bridges National Monument? They look similar, but the different terminology reflects that natural bridges were formed by flowing water, whereas natural arches were formed by weather erosion (freeze and thaw cycles.)

Mesa Arch is another example of an arch found in Canyonlands National Park:

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch

The highlight of the park is the canyons, though:

Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

It was quite warm in southeastern Utah in late July and early August, and I was remembering to drink a lot of water. After exploring Canyonlands, I drove to adjacent Dead Horse Point State Park. This park primarily only has one view, but what a view it is, overlooking a bend in the Colorado River, 2000′ below!

Overlooking a bend of the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Overlooking a Bend of the Colorado River from Dead Horse Point State Park

I returned to Canyonlands, remembering to write a postcard home:

8-1-94
Dear Mom,
I got to Arches this a.m. early enough to get a campsite, but before I paid my $8 I discovered the ground was too hard for my tent stakes, & left w/o seeing anything. I drove to Canyonlands, where camping is free & the ground softer. Unfortunately there are 3 college boys drinking beer & belching next to my site, & with my luck will continue all night. So today I saw Canyonlands & the adjacent Dead Horse. Saw a group of a dozen Israelis @ the latter, but didn’t talk with them. Tomorrow maybe I’ll backtrack to Arches & again camp here, or stay @ a motel. I think I came too early. We were supposed to arrive in Aspen early to acclimate, but I think it will be boring. I just read that the Nat’l Forest I camped @ last night was @ 8200′. I didn’t notice.

* * *

August 2nd: In the morning, I woke to the sound of birds nearby, and I was able to photograph these raven a few yards from my tent. I am fond of this image:

Morning view at campground, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Morning view at campground, Canyonlands National Park

Packing up my tent, I returned to Arches, getting there in time for my scheduled ranger-led tour of the Fiery Furnace.

Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Fiery Furnace

Skull Arch:

Skull Arch in the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Skull Arch in the Fiery Furnace

The tour was led by interpretive ranger Cathe Kusher from Chicago:

Interpretive Ranger Cathe Kusher leads a tour of the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Interpretive Ranger Cathe Kusher leads a tour of the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park

Balanced Rock:

Balanced Rock in the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Balanced Rock in the Fiery Furnace

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Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Fiery Furnace

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Balanced Rock in the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Fiery Furnace

8-2-94
Dear Mom,
When I entered Arches & before I discovered I couldn’t camp there, I signed up for a ranger-guided 3-hour hike today. So I left Canyonlands this a.m. & returned to Arches, which was only about 5 or 10 miles away once I made it back to the main road (Canyonlands entrance was about 20 miles down a side road). So I enjoyed my hike there. Then I drove to Colorado Nat’l Monument, where I’m camping for $8. I haven’t looked around here too much, but I think the canyons & formations @ Canyonlands & Arches were better. I hope some of my slides turn out well. Not many men are traveling alone. It’s strange that fees for camping vary so much from one nat’l facility to the next. Only Mesa Verde had showers, so I’m bathing in a bathing suit, like the books said.

Next: I visit more parks in Colorado, and volunteer for trail maintenance with the Sierra Club.

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