Friday, April 18, 2014

A bridge too far?

Thursday morning it was sooooo cold!  I got up around 6 am to turn on all three gas heaters, and then quickly jumped back into bed.  How cold was it?  It was so cold I thought my feet were going to stick to the floor kind of cold.  It was don't put anything metallic near your lips or it might stick to them kind of cold.  The inside temperature was 46 degrees.....about the coldest we have ever experienced inside without heaters on.  Normally we are able to maintain a 20 degree differential between outside temps and inside temps without using our heaters, so that would mean it must have gotten colder than the forecast 30 degrees.

We had it in our minds to drive over to Natural Bridges National Park which was about 45 miles from our camp, but we were not budging an inch until it warmed up to at least 40!  Around 10 am it reached 40 degrees.....I guess that is one of the hazards of camping over 7,000' so early in the season.  At any rate we were on our way to see what we could see Thursday a little after 10 am.

One side trip almost everyone we met had almost insisted we take was SR 261 down to Muley Point Overlook.  Two days before we had been at the base of this overlook when we drove into Valley of the Gods, but didn't want to drive the 5 mile switchback dirt road to the top, and then another 5 mile dirt road to the overlook.  By coming down to Muley Point from the north on 261 we drove a little further, but it was all pavement until the beginning of the dirt road out to Muley Point, but was worth it.  The views were gigantic, and long.

Standing on the edge of Muley Point Overlook

 What we saw.....

I'm amazed TLE got this close to get this is a long ways down!

Surprisingly, for such a heavily used dirt road, the road out to Muley Point Overlook was in good condition, and we averaged about 26 mph.....there were only a couple of mildly rough sections.  The other surprising thing was we were actually getting a cell signal out here in the middle of no where.  As I pulled my phone out of my pocket to take some pictures I noticed I had an e-mail from very good friends David and Denise.  We first met David and Denise at our Austin, TX Newell mini rally back in April of 2009, and had an immediate connection.  We have since met up with them in Creede, CO (2009), Santa Fe, NM (2010), Denver, CO (2012), and Spearfish, SD (2013).  The e-mail said they would be in Moab, UT Sunday and Monday and would we be able to hook up with them?  That's exactly where we plan to be Sunday and Monday!  As if things couldn't get any better!  I replied that we would meet them in Moab Sunday afternoon!  Miss Serendipity I'm beginning to think you like us more than a little.....

From Muley Point we next headed back to SR 95 and up to Natural Bridges.  I knew just from the name of the park that there must be more than one "natural bridge", but I had no idea there were actually 3, and that you could hike to the base of each of them if you chose to do so.  The actual distance for each of the three hikes is not great, but the elevation loss and gain is least for the two of us.   Total elevation loss and gain for all three hikes was about 700' for each trail.

Once again our Golden Age pass paid dividends once again granting us free admission to the park.  Once you leave the visitor's center you turn on to a one way 9 mile paved road that takes you to each of the vista points, and trailheads for each natural bridge.    

The first natural bridge you come to is "Sipapu", which means "place of emergence" in the Hopi language.  Just past that vista point is a picnic this time it was after 12 pm and we were both getting hungry.  We stopped there and ate our lunch before continuing on to the Sipapu trailhead.

Then it was time to start hiking.  The round trip distance for the trail down to Sipapu was about 1.2 miles.  There were numerous stairways they had built, along with handrails here and there, plus three ladders you had to negotiate to get to the bottom.  

 2nd of 3 ladders

1st ladder

Almost to the bottom

It took us a little over an hour to do this first hike, and it was strenuous, but it was nothing compared to the hike down to Kachina natural bridge....the next one up....this hike was 1.4 miles round trip.  There was only one short ladder, but there were hundreds of sandstone steps with a lot of hair pin turns that kind of leave you hanging out in space, or so it seemed......a lot of high consequence places......if you fall the consequences are deadly.

Kachina natural bridge

The final bridge, Owachomo (rock mound in Hopi) for me anyway, was the most spectacular of the three....the round trip hike was only .4 miles, but after the prior two hikes out the canyon our tanks were on empty as we climbed back up for the third time.  Nevertheless, we loved this bridge the most.

Owachomo natural bridge 

Still smiling before we start our hike out

The hike back to the top from Owachomo was a grind and seemed much longer that the advertised .2 miles.  "What a day!" we both repeated over and over again as we drove the almost 50 miles home.  In all we covered over 150 miles, but it was well worth it.  We are so grateful for our little VW Bug that gets such great mileage, and drives so well!

We arrived back home totally spent energy wise.....the first thing we did was change clothes, grab a couple of cold ones and enjoy the view....a great way to wind down after such an amazing day.

Thanks for stopping by!

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