Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bridges & Needles

Well - this week-end has been spent in and around the cute little town of Monticello in the southeastern part of Utah. The town may be small but it is the entry way to some of the most beautiful scenery in two National Parks/Monuments - Natural Bridges NM and The Needles district of Canyonlands.

Before we pulled up stakes in Moab Friday morning, we again wore ourselves out with a 14 mile bike ride into more beautiful red-rock country. This made the 56 mile trip to Monticello tolerable, as we needed a little rest time;-)!! After finding a charming little RV park run by locals (Mountain View RV Park with a sweet little cat who liked to get to know the visitors and make itself at home!!) -

RV Park's cat made himself at home and took over Gary's chair!

-- we made our usual trek to the Visitor Center. We came away armed with brochures and returned to Magic to plot out our next two days.

Saturday we enjoyed our morning - watched a little college football, had the treat of cinnamon rolls and then were off on our adventures for the day.

Our first stop was the Edge of Cedars State Park and Museum. This museum is small, but well worth the visit. It is a world class research facility with the archaeological repository (it has an outstanding collection of prehistoric ceramics and other artifacts and a mural reproducing some of the region’s major pictographs) for all of Southeast Utah containing exhibits relating to the Anasazi, Navajo, and Ute Indians.

Just outside the museum is the Edge of the Cedars Pueblo - inhabited by the Anasazi Indians (ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians) between A.D. 850 and 950 and again between 1025 and 1125.

Remains of a Puebloan structure at Edge Of Cedars State Park

At its peak, their pueblo consisted of six residential complexes, including ten kivas (a circular room used for ceremonies) and one great kiva. One kiva has been excavated and restored and may be entered by means of a ladder descending through the roof -

Elizabeth checking out the Kiva.

Time to get moving to Natural Bridges National Monument, which sits high on Cedar Mesa at 6,500 feet above sea level.

Intermittent streams have cut two deep canyons and three massive bridges in sandstone formed from what was once the shore of an ancient sea. (Bridges are formed by rivers where the Arches such as those in Arches NP are formed by erosion.) Each of the three bridges has its own personality and age.

First on the trail is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (only Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon is bigger) and the ‘Mature’ bridge of the three.

Here is what Sipapu Bridge looks like from the overlook.
Let's go down and check it out.

Each of these bridges has had several names over time. When the park was expanded to also protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned Hopi names. In Hopi mythology, a “sipapu” is a gateway, or place of emergence, through which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this world. The trail to the canyon bottom below Sipapu is the steepest in the park with staircases and ladders to aid in the descent -

Yikes, maybe we should have stayed up top. I'm not so good with high places.

The shadow people are back, checking out Sipapu Bridge.

The ‘Young’ Kachina Bridge was next on our agenda. It is considered the youngest of the three because of the thickness of its span. White Canyon floodwaters still work to enlarge its span as do rock falls, such as one in 1992 when approximately 4,000 TONS of rock broke off the bridge!! It is named for the Kachina dancers that play a central role in Hopi religious tradition. (Notice who is in front of this ‘young’ bridge!)

On the left hand side here you can see the 4,000 tons of rock that fell 19 years ago..

A view from the backside of Sipapu Bridge.

Last, but by no means least, is the Ancient - Owachomo Bridge. The streams that made this bridge no longer erode it, but frost action and seeping moisture do. The bridge may now have a fatal crack;-( Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, and is named after a rock formation on one end of the bridge. (Notice who is in front of this ‘ancient’ bridge!)

A couple of old timers. The Owachoma Bridge and you know who.

Well - the hikes to all of these wonderful sights wore us out yet again. BUT - when the sun came up on Sunday, we were ready for more! So - off to The Needles district of Canyonlands. We, of course, took one of those scenic roads - Harts Draw Road - to get there. Along the way we enjoyed deer, lots of wild turkeys and the changing leaves of the Gambel Oak.

On the way into the Park, one has to stop at Newspaper Rock - perhaps a newspaper from over 2,000 years ago! This rock art panel is jam-packed with petroglyphs on the darkly patinated slab of sandstone from several Native American cultures - Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont, Anasazi, Ute, and Navajo.

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs.

And, finally, The Needles district of Canyonlands, named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. The area covers a lattice of canyons, flat-bottomed valleys called grabens, arches, and spectacular sandstone walls notched by rocky spires and columns. A 6 mile round-trip hike to Chesler Park took us along ridges into the canyons where we walked among the ‘needles’ -

Heading out on a 6 mile hike over, under, around and through the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

Beautiful sights.

This grouping reminded Elizabeth of Russian stacking dolls.

The only arch we spotted on this hike.

This was the turnaround point on our hike.

Tomorrow is a golf day at the local muni course - the Hideout - rated the top muni course in the state!! Then we are on the move again.

So - more from Mesa Verde in a few days - E&G

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