Natural Bridges National Monument

April 4 – April 8, 2021

We left Fruita, Colorado for our southerly jaunt into Utah on this day, Easter Sunday, 2021. We decided last night that Natural Bridges National Monument would be our destination. The journey took us along I-70 for a few miles to exit 204 towards Cisco, a town which might no longer really exist as I have never seen it. This drive is one of our favorites in this part of the Utah as it takes you the slower, less travels route into Moab through steep red rock cliffs, passing the Fisher Monument, and follows along the Colorado River for much of the way. 

Moab was busy with folks jeeping, ATVing, hiking, mountain biking, and enjoying the hot sunny day paddling the Colorado river in kayaks, rafts, and SUP’s. It has been a few years since we spent time in Moab and the place is enjoying a building boom with new franchise hotels and other amenities having popped up along the main drag.

We left Moab as quickly as we entered heading south toward Monticello and Blanding. The steady flow of vehicles decreased after Blanding and the drive along highway 895 was slow steep rollers tough on the old truck pulling lots of weight. Slow was good though as the scenes for the team were spectacular, hills lined with pines and junipers and the occasional deep rocky gorge. We took the right turn on highway 275 that lead us another 6 miles to the Natural Bridges National Monument visitors center and campground. The campground has 13 first come first serve dry camping sites and all reviews say they fill up early. Not expecting to find one as we arrived late afternoon, we quickly circled the full camp and moved back to the visitors center. There was a nice ranger out front offering maps and whatnots to include information. He kindly and without thought answered the question of where to boondock. He pointed out that we passed two roads about 4 miles back that are lined with camping spots and there should be plenty available. We made the short move to the first county maintained red dirt road with a sign stating 15 miles to Deer Flats. He was correct in that there were plenty of spots and about a mile down was the one we chose.

The campsite sat along the road and was incredibly dusty with red fine dirt. Toohey quickly went from rich chocolate lab to dusty dull dirty dog and could not have cared less. We, however, developed and executed a formal Dust Control Plan which included not opening the windows unless necessary, wiping feet twice, once on the mat on the ground then again on the step up into the camper, and then cleaning them when entering with wet wipes. The last step usually only occurred before bed when we removed socks.

The evening included a beer, some walks up and down the road with good conversation, and some pretty incredible star gazing once the sun went down. I have often mention noise as a thing that I am acutely aware of and this place is quiet. So quiet was the evening that I doodled a couple of haiku poems that make sense to me and hopefully you’ll enjoy, or call me names, your choice, but either way, have fun!

Humming in my ears,
Arousing the soul within,
Loving the silence.
 
Crows gawk some weird song.
Winds wisp through juniper leaves.
Happy silence here.

Morning came and Toohey was like a puppy in an old dog’s body. He woke us up and was ready to eat and once outside was chasing his stick and running in a method we describe as “cracker dog”. It was good to see his spunk back but also remaining cautious as to not let him hurt himself by doing too much too quickly. 

Natural Bridges was the first Utah national park designated by President Theodore Roosevelt. It’s adjoined to Bears Ears National Monument and includes a series of three rock bridges created by years of water erosion from beneath them. To see them requires steep downhill hikes, the use of ladders and handrails where appropriate. The result is the bottom of a mostly dry river bed where you stand to view these massive arch structures. You can hike to each bridge by following the river bed or drive to each hike along a 9 mile loop road. There are also old pueblo ruins located between the first two bridges which we hiked another mile down the river bed to see. There is Indian rock art along the way combined with loads of interesting rock features. We hiked up and down each of these getting almost 7 miles for the day while Toohey got to see the area from his place protecting the assets as dogs aren’t appreciated here, which is good based on the ladders.

We left the monument and drove past our camp to see what was further down the road. We parked at a place where an arroyo passes over the road to do a short hike with Toohey. This dry arroyo provides a natural trail to follow while displaying interesting rock features and are full of plant life. Early on in the hike, Toohey spotted a pile of snow sitting on a north facing river bank under a rock outcropping where he got plenty of good dog time there to roll, wiggle, scratch, and eat snow. 

The rest of the night was hanging around the camp, exhausted, taking wet towel baths to clean all the red dirt off and doing a little old school map planning for tomorrow’s move. 

Update: We are currently sitting in the Mathers Campground in the Grand Canyon where we’ve spent two full days enjoying the spectacular. We spent time in Homolovi State Park near Winslow Arizona, toured Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, and Winslow Arizona. We leave today for Lee’s Ferry which has a campground along the Colorado River that is first come first serve. From that camp we hope to camp somewhere in the national forest on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and then will move north through southern Utah. April 29th is our only scheduled date in Grand Junction for our final vaccination. Until then…

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