Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moki Dugway/Valley of the Gods, UT

Had another Jeep adventure today. Drove down the Moki Dugway, a 3 mile gravel section of Hwy 261 just south of where we are camped. The road drops 1100 ft in 3 miles, and is a series of steep switchbacks. The scenery was so beautiful, I wasn’t too worried about going off the road, and Don is a great tour guide and driver.


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The scariest part was seeing the wreckage of this semi and car that were never cleared away due to the difficulty in getting them out.  Dorothy heard that the drivers survived, but it sure doesn’t look like they would have.

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We made it down and continued on to Valley of the Gods, which is sort of  a miniature Monument Valley. There is a 17 mile dirt road running through the park, and very few other people on it. There were lots of interesting rock formations, and Jim took many, many pictures.

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We then went to Mexican Hat, a very small town, for gas, and proceeded to drive along a dirt road below Cedar Mesa, which we can see from Muley Point. These were some colorful mountains we saw from there.

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It was another fun day, it’s Sunday, and we don’t have to get up and go to work tomorrow. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Muley Point, Utah

Saturday, we went on a Jeep ride  with Don and Dorothy up the Elk Mountain dirt road to Bear’s Ears,  2 little mountains we could see from our campsite. The views were great, and we saw 2 elk and a couple deer on the drive.P5290099 P5290096 P5290097 P5290098

Don was getting antsy and was ready to move on yesterday, so we took the Lazy Daze and drove 30 miles south off 161 to Muley Point, an overlook with views of the San Juan River  and Monument Valley.  There was a 4 mile dirt road we had to drive to get there, and it wasn’t too bad as long as we went really slow. You can camp anywhere there for free, so we found a couple of spots near the rim, and here we are. Definitely our best campsite yet!P5300008


Here are some photos of our views.P5300011 P5300005 P5300006

And these shots were taken on a hike along the canyon rim. What a great place, and we are the only ones here.

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We did have an exciting dust storm last night, which we could see coming from miles away. The wind got pretty intense and we were rocking and rolling for awhile, but we didn’t roll off into the canyon, so we are happy!P5300046 P5300044

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Road Canyon Hike, Utah

P5280115 Don bought a great book on photographing Utah last week, and found this supposedly easy hike to some ancient Puebloan ruins called House with Fallen Roof. I was a bit skeptical when he read that once down in the canyon, hike “a while” until the junction of the next canyon, then turn right. It turned out to be a much more difficult hike down, possibly due to erosion from recent rains, and it was quite a long while until the turn. We finally made it to the point where you could see the ruins, and then had to climb up the slickrock to get to them.


It was fascinating to imagine how anyone could actually live there, and how uncomfortable their lives must have been. We went on another quarter mile or so and there was another set of adobe ruins, fairly well preserved also.  P5280123 P5280131

P5280128Don and Dorothy usually do less technical hikes, but they made it back without too much trouble, so maybe they will feel more confident doing some more difficult hikes in the future. They do keep referring to it as “The Hike from Hell”, though, so I could be wrong.


We had a great time since this was our first chance to see ruins up close.  After dinner, we went over to their place and shared photos of the hike and other places we’d been. A good day, as usual.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

We met Don and Dorothy at the Natural Bridges BLM overflow campground on Wednesday and have been here since. It is just a gravel lot off a short dirt road but it’s free, the views are lovely, and we’ve just about had the place to ourselves.P5280135

Except for this crew that came to say good morning yesterday. This is open range country, and we’ve had several run across the road in front of us. Jim took this picture out our front windshield.P5290086

We hiked the trails to all 3 bridges in the park, and though they are fairly short trails, they are pretty steep and strenuous. In fact, the trail to Sipapu Bridge had many stairways and 3 ladders made of tree limbs to climb down. I almost turned around at the first ladder, but Jim managed to talk me down it, and the other 2 were fairly easy. Going back up them was not a problem at all.

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Here are some photos of the bridges and some views from the trails. This is another beautiful Utah park, minus the big crowds we saw at Zion, Bryce and Arches.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fiery Furnace Hike, Arches NP


This is a beautiful area of the park, and you can either take a ranger-led hike or get one of the 75 permits they issue each day, and go in on you own. Since we hadn’t been before, we heard it was hard to find your way around if you weren’t familiar with the area. So we sprung for the $10 hike, with 25 or so other people.


When you sign up at the visitor center, they show you several glossy photos of people squeezing through narrow rocks and walking on high ledges. If you don’t think you can do this, they advise you not sign up.  We were fortunate to have a great ranger, Patrick Harris, and a fairly good group of fellow hikers.


The first part of the trail was sandy and out in the open, and the ranger stopped the group a few times  to talk a little about the geology, plants, and animals in the park. Then we got into the maze of sandstone, and the hike got really interesting. P5250105 

We only walked 2 miles and it was mostly flat, but we did quite a bit of scrambling on rocks, jumping over large cracks, scooting on our butts, and squeezing through tight spaces.



This part was optional, and Jim and Debbie opted out, but I crawled under this arch, along with probably half of the group, just because it was there. P5250089

P5250092  It was really a lot of fun, and we got to see several arches that most visitors to the park don’t get to see.

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And lots of  interesting rock formations, which we haven’t tired of seeing yet. And yes, I’m sure we would have gotten lost had we gone on our own, but if we go back to Arches, we will try it by ourselves next time.

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Since it was our last day in the park, we also went to look at Landscape Arch, one of the more famous arches. A giant slab fell off in 1995, so the park service closed the trail that used to go underneath it. It is the longest natural arch in the world at 290 ft, and quite impressive.


Our friend and traveling partner, Debbie, left us today to make her way to Minnesota to visit family for the summer. We will both miss her company, but I especially will miss my laundromat buddy!  We hope to meet up again this winter.

We are in Blanding, Utah tonight, and will head off to Natural Bridges National Monument tomorrow to meet up with Don and Dorothy, our Lazy Daze friends from Birmingham. We may be  out of touch for several days or so, since they like to hang out in the wilderness. Should be fun!