A Travellerspoint blog

Desert Wanderings-Natural Bridges,Valley of the Gods, Moki

sunny 40 °C

Epic days are rarely planned that way. At the beginning of the day, around the breakfast table, we were thinking of having a quiet day. Maybe doing a short drive up to see a viewpoint and then back to the trailer for lunch and the afternoon, and then possibly a drive out to see the stars along the dark highway scenic pullouts. That quiet day turned into a 13 hour long, sightseeing-packed adventure. Hint: Always bring everything for an adventure day, ‘cuz you never know where you’ll end up.

We began our day with our aforementioned drive to the view point. The Moki Dugway is part of the road named The Trail of the Ancients. It’s an unpaved road sends you up 1200ft over 3 miles at a grade of 11%. The road itself was very safe to drive with our truck in 4-wheel drive but, boy, was it steep!

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At the top, our plan was to turn around and come back down, and then back to the trailer for lunch. We decided, however, since we were so close to Natural Bridges National Monument (only 40 min) that we would keep going. We were glad we brought lots of snacks and water since there was not even a single house on top of the mesa we had climbed. The entire 40 min drive to the National Monument we saw 3 other vehicles and not much else. Beautiful wilderness.

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Our America The Beautiful pass got us free entry into the park. I think there were 4 cars of people that we saw in the entire place and by the end of our time there, we were the only ones there. The natural bridges were formed by water erosion over millions of years. Unlike Arches NP which were formed by wind erosion, the swirls of rock ledges and pockets for water whirlpools were evident. It reminded us of Banff and Jasper, Alberta, where you can find the same rock formations that are continuing to be carved out by water today.

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We saw several bridges from the overlooks at the road. You were able to hike down to the bridges which would be an estimated 10 mile hike to see them all. In better weather, we would have done it. In 104F weather, it was not in the cards. We did walk out to a few overlooks which were .2 and .3 miles and that was enough in the heat.

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We also saw a cliff dwelling ruin from Pueblo people abandoned about the same time as Mesa Verde, ~1300. There is evidence there in the architecture and pottery that they traded with the people from Mesa Verde.

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The park takes you on a loop drive to see the bridges and the last one on the drive was Owachomo Bridge. The hike was only .2 miles right down to see the floor of the bridge and so were took lots of water and headed down. We dropped 180ft down by way of stairs carved into the rocks. We had the place entirely to ourselves. This natural bridge is the oldest in the park and formed more than 240 million years ago. It is massive and the temperature change was noticeable under it. It is a safe haven for wildlife and it even has some water in puddles at the bottom. We spent 10 min down there just sitting and listening.

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By this time it was 3:00pm. We decided to head back a different way, not down the Moki Dugway, and headed instead into Blanding, Utah, to get some dinner. Not many places to choose from, but the dinner we had at a steakhouse was very good. The road to Blanding was not as epic as the Moki Dugway but was a neat drive too.

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On the way back to our trailer we visited the Valley of the Gods. The Valley of the Gods is a 17 mile road that is all on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) It is mostly flat but is very rocky. Disperse around the area are rock formation, not unlike the ones in Monument Valley. It is awe inspiring and the scale is really hard to conceive. There are no restrictions about hiking, but being a more wild place you’ll also have to watch for rattlesnakes and scorpions in the rocks.

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This is where we had planned stay a few nights boon docking but without AC that was really out of the question. We had thought about staying a few nights ago but when we came in with the trailer, we bottom out the trailer jack and bend it.

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A few swear words and worry later, we used some problem solving skills and fixed it ourselves, cut our losses and headed out to the KOA in Monument Valley. This evening, we drove back up the unpaved road, with its bumps and rocks, before sunset. Bud got his drone out and, since we are on BLM land, he was able to fly it and get some amazing pictures and video. (I’ll post that when we get home and I have the time to edit it).

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Drone footage and pictures are amazing!

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When the sun goes down in the desert everything comes alive. We saw bats, heard coyotes in the distance, even saw a jack rabbit run across the road. We saw this little speckled lizard in the Natural Bridges Monument.

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We stayed past sunset and into the dark to see the stars.

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We stopped a few places along the road on the way back into our campsite to get some Milk Way pictures.

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Back at our trailer, we had left our new friend Miguel in charge of things and he did a fine job.

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Time to put things back in order in the trailer and leave the Monument Valley area, but not before a bath for the truck and trailer!

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Posted by blgracey 22:21 Archived in USA

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Comments

Once again, wow, wow, wow! The photos are stunning. Great job on the Milky Way photos.
(BTWJim says the truck photos from the last post should be a Chrysler ad😁)

by Helen

Absolutely amazing!! Your pictures are so incredible

by Kristi

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