Not a bad little Memorial Day weekend adventure considering it was an on-the-fly plan C.
Plan A was to camp with some folks from work near Capitol Reef National Park, but some stuff came up and it wasn't going to work out. Plan B was going to be an epic canyon hike near Lake Powell topped off with an ascent of the Henry Mountains.
Heading north out of Cedar City early Saturday morning, everything was going according to plan. Then it started to rain. Somewhere near Circleville it started to pour, and by the time I was to Torrey I knew any slot canyons, dirt roads, and high mountain climbs were out of the question.
Below: Rain clouds smother the top of North Cainville Mesa east of Capitol Reef.
I found myself at Hanksville, with a full tank of gas and absolutely no plan on what to do next. I called Susie and told her I'd probably just head back home. I wanted to at least drive home a different way, so I pulled out my maps and started to plan my route.
And that is when plan C materialized. It required a lot more driving and less biking and hiking, but with bad weather conditions it was just going to have to do. With renewed enthusiasm, I pointed the Civic southward and headed out.
The first stop was Hog Canyon. This is a tributary to North Wash near Lake Powell. The rain had stopped just long enough for me to run up the trail to a nice little water fall and plunge pool. Its clear waters were inviting, but it was still a little too cool for a dip.
A little searching around near the mouth of the canyon revealed a nice pictograph panel, albeit a bit spooky looking.
From Hog Canyon, I continued to head south, crossed Lake Powell at Hite, and headed toward Natural Bridges National Monument which I had never visited before.
Above: clouds flow from the top of Jacob's Chair on the way to Natural Bridges.
Above: Sipapu Bridge - the second largest natural bridge in the world.
The main attractions at Natural Bridges are 3 huge bridges that span the White River and Armstrong Creek, all within a few miles of each other. Most people just drive around the little paved loop and take pictures of the bridges from the rim. I had heard of an unmaintained route that linked all of the bridges via the canyon bottoms so I stopped by the Visitor Center to ask the rangers about it. They said something about a group the previous day that tried it and barely made it out having to ford the river several times in chest-deep water, and that they were recommending everyone stay out of the canyons. This of course, was just the sort of stuff I wanted to do.
A nice little trail takes you from the rim and Sipapu Bridge Overlook to the canyon bottom. Douglas Fir trees grow large in the more shaded areas.
Above: making my way down from the rim to the bottom of the White Canyon Gorge.
Below: some of the more exposed sections have ladders.
Above: once at the bottom, you simply walk down the wash. Normally dry, this day it had a decent flow but the deepest water I had to get into only came up to my waist.
Above: hiking down canyon with the massive Sipapu Bridge behind.
If you carefully scan the cliffs as you hike down, some very well-preserved Anasazi dwelling can be spotted on the north side of White Canyon.
Above: hand prints of the Ancient Ones.
Above: approaching Kachina Bridge.
Above: passing below Kachina's massive span.
From Kachina, the route goes up Armstrong Canyon where flooding of a nick-point had created a nice waterfall.
Below: taking a bubble bath in plunge-pool froth.
The last and smallest bridge is Owachomo. Much thinner (and therefore older) than the others, this one wont be around too much longer.
Leaving Natural Bridges, the clouds began to break setting a beautiful scene while driving down off of Cedar Mesa.
I got to Goosenecks State Park just as the sun was setting and set up camp right on the rim.
The view from my tent:
The next morning, the rain had stopped and only low clouds and non-threatening fog patches remained.
Above: view to the north at Cedar Mesa.
Morning light on one of the Gooseneck meanders.
Leaving Goosenecks S.P., I made the relatively short drive to Monument Valley.
Above: the "Rand-McNalley-Atlas-cover" shot.
The recent rains had really helped pack all the sand that typically makes riding in Monument Valley a chore. Conditions were perfect this day for a quick loop on the Tribal Park Scenic Drive.
Above: the Three Sisters.
Above: a quick Google-Image search brings up 100s of pictures of John Ford Point, one of the most photographed places on Earth. If you pay a Navajo a couple of bucks, he will ride his horse out to point for the classic western shot. Well, I didn't have a couple of bucks on me, so when no one was looking I got Shven or Svenn, or whatever-his-name-was to take my picture as I ran out. I thanked him afterwords and all he could say in broken English was, "vour cam'ra hazzeen better days."
Below: me and my own trusty steed at John Ford Point (photo by Svenn).
Taking a break at Artist Point.
I must say, I packed quit a bit in just two short days.
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