Today was another day when we woke up not knowing which direction we were heading. We kind of intended to backtrack west to the Grand Canyon, but Colorado was also beckoning. I left it up to Dawn Adele, because she had been the one who really wanted to see the Grand Canyon. She contemplated, but decided that we had seen some really nice canyons the day before, at Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands. We knew that the Grand Canyon would have more impact than either of those, but probably not enough to backtrack half a day or more to get there.
So, it was off to Colorado. But, being who we are, we couldn’t take the direct route there. On the way out of Blanding, we saw a sign that said that the Natural Bridges National Monument was only 30 miles west. Yes, the opposite direction we were planning on heading. Still, 30 miles each way to see another National Monument? Sign us up. About a third of the way into that detour, we saw another sign that pointed us down still another 12 mile road to Butler Wash Indian Ruins. Sign us up again. We are nothing if not spontaneous.
When we arrived at the spot, we discovered, not Butler Wash, but a sign pointing to a trail and the promise of Butler Wash a mile away. It was mid-morning, but it was already getting warm. “What’s a mile?” we thought, and we were off.
There’s a mile at home, walking on sidewalks, then there is a mile walking up, down, and across a wash. There was the general makings of a trail, but we lost it for stretches of time. Finally, about the time Dawn was certain that the whole thing was a con, designed to get us in the middle of nowhere so we could be kidnapped, we saw a viewpoint ahead.
And you know what? The whole hot, uncertain, semi-lost hike was immediately worth it. Here’s a couple of pics of what we saw:
These were cliff dwellings built by the Anasazi Indians about a century before Chris Columbus set sail for the Americas. Here’s a couple more shots up close:
On the hike back to the car, we managed to lose the trail altogether as we were crossing the wash. Dawn panicked a little bit and I made the mistake of telling her not to panic, which is about as smart as telling her to calm down when she is mad at me. It did not go well. 🙂 Moments later, I saw the trail and we worked our way back to the car, another crisis averted.
From there, we went on to see the Natural Bridges. That was the point where I knew I had seen enough stunning southern Utah scenery. After seeing the Arches and Canyonland the day before, Natural Bridges National Monument just didn’t move us that much. Yes, they were cool, and I got some nice shots, but I knew it was time for us to move on. Here’s one I grabbed there:
Finally, we threw in the towel and made our way to Colorado. We only had one more stop for the day – at Hovenweep National Monument. On the way up to the first Indian Ruins, I had tweaked my ankle a little bit and told Dawn that I thought I was going to lay off hiking for the rest of the day. When we got to the Hovenweep Visitors Center, there was a park ranger there who I think was about twelve. As she was handing us our map of the monument, she pointed out the various hikes. As she looked at me – slightly sunburned, graybearded, overweight, her pen hovered over the 60 yard walk out to the observation deck, as opposed to the two mile walk around the entire perimeter, including hiking down and back up the valley. That was probably the only thing that could have inspired me to hike those two damn miles at that moment, but it was enough.
Hovenweep was amazing. The remainders of the structures we saw today were about 800 years old, Anasazi again, but there has been evidence of First People being here as far back as 8,000 years BC. Here’s a couple of the shots we took on our hike:
On our last section of the trail (did I mention it was in the 90s by this time of day?) we spotted this little jackrabbit on the trail ahead of us. Instead of sprinting away from us, he took shelter under a bush directly ahead of us.
By the time we were finished with the hike, I was also finished. Two hikes that were ostensibly two miles each in 90+ degree temperatures, and I was done. Perhaps just a few points to the wrong side of done. We also realized that in our haste, dashing from one place to another, we hadn’t eaten a bite all day.
So, we drove to Cortez, Colorado, found lodging and food. We also did our laundry, which is good, because my jeans were ready to stand on their own.
What’s up tomorrow? Mesa Verde and a whole lot of “I have no idea.” That’s the fun of this trip, right?
Cheers, and safe travels!