We left Monument Valley the next morning, and after a short drive, arrived at Mexican Hat, about 20 miles north. We’re overnighting here so we can refill the water tanks and dump the waste. While here, we will spend the afternoon driving the Valley of the Gods road which runs off of Highway 261 aka, Trail of the Ancients. We’ve done this a couple of times before, but it is a pleasant little divergence. It’s a gravel road, but easy to drive, and dips into a couple of washes and winds around some really nice formations.
Next day we drove to Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah where we planned to stay for a few days. Most of the rest of out trip will be here in this state. There is a nice little campground at Natural Bridges. Only 13 sites with a maximum combined vehicle length of 26 ft. Our rig is 26.5 alone, but many of the sites still can accommodate us, and the park is not too strict about exceeding this restriction. Limited water and pit toilets and no dump station make this a less popular destination. But for us it makes it more desirable. We arrived around 1:00 PM but were shocked to find all but one site taken. Well, it was Friday, and we learned later that two large groups showed up earlier and took 6 sites alone. We do tend to dislike the weekends. We were happy to get what we got – although it was the least desirable site – it was still quite nice. Mary made the wise decision to head directly for the campground, bypassing the visitor center until later. A good thing she did. Just as we found the last site, another camper drove up behind us looking for a space. Had we stopped in to the visitor center to check in as the park prefers, we would have lost this site.
Natural Bridges is located on a mesa top around which a canyon runs. Natural sandstone bridges have formed through the actions of wind and water. What distinguishes natural arches from bridges is the primary element that forms it. If it’s wind, it’s an arch, if it’s water, it’s a bridge. Water flowing through the canyon has formed three massive bridges that we intend to hike to. This requires hiking a 5 plus mile loop trail which starts by going down the steep mesa top 600 ft. to where the canyon floor, through the canyon to visit two of the three bridges, then of course, back up and over the mesa top to where we park the car. It’s a difficult hike and on this day, a little more difficult because we took one wrong turn into the wrong canyon and had to backtrack a bit. Not too bad, just a little longer of a hike. But knowing showers and beer awaited us – we soldiered on.
As is often the case with our photo-centric hiking, the most interesting parts are usually the early portion of the hike. Here, the light is usually better in the canyon early, before the sun can eliminate all shadows and becomes too harsh and flat. We dawdle early on, then trudge the rest of the way. It gets hot later too, which adds nothing but sweat and thirst to the experience.
The next day, we hiked back down to the canyon to photograph what looked to be an interesting dry waterfall called the “Kickpoint Dropoff”. We saw from the trail yesterday, but it was in the opposite direction we were going, so we decided to leave it for today. Once there, we found a large pool and a water formed sandstone chute. The sun was reflecting off the water in places, creating patterns on the sandstone walls around it. We spent a good hour there before heading back up to the mesa. That was enough for today. The weather, which has been spectacular is supposed to turn cold, wet, and perhaps snowy. Or not. It may peter out before we get wet, but it is getting colder with clouds moving overhead. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.