This is a long, photo intensive post detailing our whirlwind, five day travels around southern Utah.
We left our campground in Moab UT on December 1st — our nine-month wedding anniversary. We headed south on Hwy 191, jogged east into Colorado (yes, really, Colorado) to swing around thru New Mexico (woo hoo, another state), to finally approach the Four Corners Monument from the Arizona side (whew — I’m tired!). Thankfully there were only a few other couples/families visiting so everyone took turns getting their photos taken standing on the exact spot where UT, CO, AZ, & NM meet. Any weather systems from this area that reach the Plains states is usually fierce, so seeing the area was memorable.
** No dogs were allowed in the area so Kira wasn’t included with us [she attended our wedding so is a big part of our relationship now].
Then we headed west to Monument Valley (near Kayenta AZ although the park is actually entered from UT). The rock formations are SO huge, they’re easily seen (& photographed) from Hwy 163. We opted to enter the Navaho-run park tho for $10, & trucker-Jeff (bad choice Jeff) drove our 4x4 truck AND Casita onto the red-dirt, extremely rocky trail off thru the monuments. I got sea sick just from all the jostling & bouncing around. OMG, I am just NOT comfortable on this rough of a road — especially pulling our home behind us! Besides, I can already see the monuments without this abuse! Although we turned around as soon as possible (maybe ¼ mile in), one trailer tire dropped down HARD off a rock & bent our new double step sideways. Jeff still has to try to straighten that out!!!!
From there, we continued north (once again in UT) to Gooseneck State Park, north of Mexican Hat UT. WOW — talk about a VIEW! From the observation point, the Colorado River snaked around four times below us, but I could only get three passes in a photograph.
We were going to boondock there (for free) but there was NOTHING (short of a few riggity picnic tables) along the dirt road around the edge — not even a little bush. So. . .we decided to head on up Hwy 163 toward Natural Bridges NP. However. . .the road ran right up to the base of a huge cliff & then turned to dirt as it round right up the side (somehow) to the top of that cliff. UH. . .I’m still not recovered from our recent rough road experience, so hanging off the edge of a dirt road up a mountain was NOT going to happen today! We returned 4 miles down the road to a little RV park still open in Mexican Hat UT. At least we had electricity & accessed DirecTV for the night. I had a few Bailey’s for supper that night just to get my breathing back to normal! However, cell fon service was real scratchy so my daily call to my parents didn’t last long. (Later I realized my smart fon needed more signal than we had, but Jeff’s dumb fon would have worked normal.)
This rock formation north of town looks like a huge Mexican hat, thus giving the town it’s name.
The next morning, we took the long way around to get to Natural Bridges National Monument, going north on Hwy 191 (back where we were yesterday) to Blanding UT, then west on Hwy 95.
Along the highway, we stopped to view Mule Canyon Ruin, an old Anasazi ruin. This was the walls of a central living area.
We learned at Natural Bridges National Monument the different in an arch and a bridge — it’s whether or not flowing water creates the opening. We took the scenic drive thru the park & viewed two of the three natural bridges seen from the road. Surreal landscape!
The afternoon sun is reflecting off the bottom of the bridge surface across the top in this picture.
Continuing NW on Hwy 95, we crossed the Colorado River in Glen Canyon at the upper end of Lake Powell. Topping the canyon from the east was awesome. . .but crawling up the mountain on the other side was almost beyond words. Unfortunately the water level was so low the marina was closed since it was so far away from actual water.
The bridge over the Colorado River is barely visible in the lower left-hand corner beyond where the road turns left.
The scenic view was fantastic!
There’s that same bridge over the Colorado River going toward the upper right from the foreground. The cloudy skies almost intensified the scene.
Crawling up Hwy 95 out of Glen Canyon toward Capitol Reef NP, we could see the top of a distant mountain covered by clouds. Hmmm — snow maybe? Little did we realize we’d be traveling up & over that mountain the next day. And yes, that was definitely snow clouds!
We took Hwy 24 then west from Hanksville UT for Capitol Reef NP. This Park is basically a very old frontier settlement in a glorious canyon where 18 original orchards are maintained in the valley along a river. A large local mule deer herd is overseen by an 18-pt buck. We boondocked at the Park for the night for $5. Sweet!
The next morning, we took the driving tour of the Park, winding along the base of a long line of huge rock formations. We went to the end first so the early morning sun was shining on the mountains on my side of the truck.
We headed west after touring Capitol Reef & picked up Hwy 12 going south. This is supposed to be the most scenic highway in the world (possibly), & it really was definitely fabulous. We went UP & OVER that mountain in the Dixie National Forest that we saw the day before, over the summit of 9600 feet elevation. The road had snow on it but was never totally covered as the sun was already busy melting it.
We went thru Boulder Town UT which is supposed to be the most remote town in the US. It was 1948 before receiving daily mail by vehicle instead of by a 3-day mule trip. They didn’t get electricity until 1980!
We finally reached the little burg (560 population) of Tropic UT & found a campground still open where we spent two nights. Whew — this daily traveling & sightseeing is exhausting! We had electricity, cell fon svc, campground internet, & DirecTV reception. Tuesday morning, we first drove east to visit Kodochrome Basin SP & it’s Shakespeare Arch,
then farther east, Grosvenor Arch (part of the Grand Staircase National Monument up a 20-mile dirt (well gravel sort of) road that was fairly smooth,
& after lunch at the trailer, west to Bryce Canyon. It was a l o n g day!
Snow on some of the more protected northern slopes.
One big natural ARCH (mistakenly named Natural Bridge) &
a number of unnamed arches — both small
Bryce NP is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen (or heard about). Just unbelievable colors, shapes, & expanse!
Wednesday, Dec 5th, we packed up (once again) & headed off to Zion NP — FINALLY! After such a busy, intense five days on the road, we’re pooped & in need of some serious downtime, so we’re staying put at the Park Campground until after the first of the year.
We have the most perfect campsite: electricity, DirecTV access, 3G cell fon w/internet, babbling river running next to large, perfectly level site, shade trees, fire ring, metal picnic table, corner lot with shrubs separating neighbors, & glorious mountains on both sides of our canyon-floor campground. One of these days after letting our brains catch up with our bodies, we’ll actually venture out to investigate the Park.
We’ve been parked now for over a week & finally getting caught up with this blog & photos. I’ll publish another blog post shortly after this one.