Capitol Reef to Natural Bridges National Monument & Tour
Apr 15, 2012
|Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - Capitol Reef to Natural Bridges National Monument
It got cold (35) in the early morning hours, and I shut the window at the head of my bed, but that still didn’t stop the screams of joy from the little ones camping around me. After taking Zack out and preparing my morning coffee, I took a last look at the map and got ready to leave.
Luckily, this campground has a dump station and potable water to fill my fresh water tank, so we did that before leaving. By 11 O’clock, we were on the road and headed down Hwy 24 to connect with 95 heading south.
We stopped at a couple of photo opts (petroglyphs and a settlers cabin) and then drove to Hanksville, where I stopped at the only gas station between Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, filling both the motor home (@4.09 a gal. for a 180.00 total) and then the Jeep (another 62.30). We continued on, as the sky became increasingly grey and stormy looking. Strong gusts of wind would take me by surprise and almost knock us off the road, but I managed to hold on and we arrived at Natural Bridges by 2 O’clock. I stopped at the Visitor’s Center and watched a short video, perused the displays and then got directions to the BLM dispersed camping area, outside of the park. I knew that the area wouldn’t have any restrictions, other than staying only 14 days, so I can run my generator anytime I want/need to.
I left the Monument without driving in, and drove back out to Hwy 95 and then east to the intersection of Hwy 261. The directions said to turn off and drive the dirt road to the camping area. There are no signs anywhere, so I probably wouldn’t have found it without asking. I was happy to see that it was a large, fairly level, dirt/gravel area, with room for several big RVs. I was even happier to see that it was completely empty and I had it to myself. I parked, with a view to the south, and set up the motor home and satellite dishes.
I just checked with NWS, and it seems that a storm is moving in, with the most likely chance of rain being for Saturday. I may stay here through the weekend, catching up on a rest from the traveling and sightseeing. Right now, I just plan on relaxing for the remainder of the day.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 -
The weather is cool and cloudy, with it feeling like rain at any moment. I decided to stay at my site and catch up on research, writing and just plain relaxing.
Friday, April 13, 2012 - Natural Bridges National Monument Tour
The weather hasn’t changed and is still overcast with dark clouds and wind with gusts. The overnight low for last night was 27 degrees, so my propane is almost on empty, using it throughout the night so the inside temperature stays around 58 degrees.
Due to NWS predictions of rain and possible snow for this afternoon, and through the weekend, I decided to try and see the park today before the rain starts. I had some breakfast and played with Zack, leaving the motor home around noon. I had planned an earlier start, but can never seem to get out of here until noon.
Before I begin the tour, let me pass on some information I gleaned from the Visitor’s Center. While the Indians have known about and lived in these canyons for over a thousand years, white settles only discovered them in the later 1800s. A prospector named Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon in search of gold and found the water carved bridges in 1883. In 1904, the National Geographic Magazine published photographs of the bridges, bringing it to the publics attention. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Natural Bridges National Monument by a Proclamation. Unlike a national park, which requires an act of Congress, monuments can be created by presidential proclamation. That proclamation and the formation of the National Monument protected it for future generations to enjoy.
While the names of the bridges were first called Augusta, Caroline, and Edwin, they were later changed to the Hopi Indian names; Sipapu, meaning “the place of emergence,” Kachina, for the rock art symbols on the bridge, and Owachomo, meaning, “rock mound.”
The creation of the bridges were caused by twisting rivers, which wore through the sandstone at oxbows to find a shorter path, causing the formation of a bridge, unlike arches that were formed by rain and wind wearing areas on fins of standing sandstone until a window, or arch was formed between two towers.
Zack and I headed back to the park and stopped at the Visitor’s Center again, as I had forgot my map in the motor home. I also inquired as to the closest place to fill my propane tanks and was told that Blanding, some 35 miles away, was the closest. I thanked them, took another map and then started the self-guided driving tour. The loop is all one-way, single lane and well paved. Aside from two unmarked pull offs, all of the others were marked, with parking spaces and signage of what was there.
Using the map, I had planned to see the only four sights there are in the park: Sipapu Bridge, Kachina Bridge, Owachomo Bridge and the Horse Collar Ruins. The Bridge View Drive road takes you close enough to see all of the sights, with short hiking trails to view points.
The first stop was Sipapu Bridge, which has a short concrete walk that leads to a viewpoint, which allows a clear view of the bridge. I had to leave Zack in the car, as no pets are allowed on the paths and trails in the park. I took several pictures and read the information plaque before returning to the car. With the temperature only being 49 degrees, and a moderate breeze, it wasn’t comfortable to leisurely stroll, so I made it back in quick time.
Next, Horse Collar Ruins trail. I parked and read the trail sign, telling that the hiking trail was over solid rock, with railing provided in some areas. It was a .3-mile hike, which seemed like 3 miles by the time I climbed back up to the car. The trail was moderately difficult, but only due to some steep solid rock drops and climbs. It ended at a viewing area of solid rock, with railing, that allowed a downward look across the canyon to the ancient cliff dwellings made of rock and mud. This viewpoint was the only way to see the ruins and even the longer canyon bottom trail to all three of the bridges did not provide any access to these ruins.
Back in the car and some water revived me, so on to the next site, which was Kachina Bridge. This stop had a bathroom. Again, there is a path (600’) to the viewing area, as well as the trail that goes down to the base of the bridge. I took the path and snapped my photos, and as I returned to the car, I noticed mini-arches and bridges in the rocks along the path (see photos). My fingers were stiff from the cold and I wished I’d had on a pair of gloves, but they soon warmed up.
Next stop; Owachomo, the last of the natural bridges. The path here was just a couple of hundred feet and the viewpoint gave a nice view of the bridge. Again, I took plenty of photos before returning to the car and driving on. I made two additional stops at turnouts with signs. One was an overview of the area and the last one was an informational plaque and view of Bear Ears, which are two distant mountain formations that got their name from Indian lore (I’ll post that information in photos, if I have enough room).
The entire tour, including the hiking time to the viewpoints, took just over two hours. This is one of the smallest areas I’ve been to so far, but was worth the trip to see. We returned to the motor home and I prepared it for travel. I left the Jeep there and drove the motor home to Blanding for propane, planning on spending the weekend here. With my propane gauge reading near empty, and nights below freezing, I didn’t think I could last another night. The trip was just over 35 miles of up and down grades, so took longer than I thought it would.
I got to AmeriGas only to find that it was CLOSED, just a little sign on the door with no reason or directions to another supplier. I was fuming after driving that distance to find them closed, so continued on; hoping one of the gas stations in town would have propane. None did, but I filled up at a Shell station and got directions to a tire shop in the next town that they thought had propane. I drove another 21 miles and found the station, which did have propane and filled my tank.
By the time we drove all of the way back to the Jeep (104 miles), it was 7 PM. There was enough daylight left to get everything set back up and get comfortable for dinner a shower and some television.