So we found our campsite by a tiny little sign on the side of the road, in the dark. We were tired after a day of the desert sun, made camp quickly and passed out. Unaware of our surroundings in the night, we awoke to this sight. A mere 10 feet away from the tent and we could have walked off the top to the valley below.
We made our way to Santa Fe, on a gravel backroad that sometimes acted like it was going to consume my Nissan in the +foot-high depths. We drove thru the Valles Caldera National Preserve and into the back door of the famous Los Alamos. In Santa Fe, we found a local restaurant to taste the local flair and plan our attack. Chris and I both had to be back at work Monday. It was Thursday afternoon. We said “screw it” and decided to drive the entire 24-hour ride back home without stopping. It hurt us to be in Tennessee, driving by all these great caves, without stopping!
Spent the night camping at Mesa Verde National Park and then started the day on a self-guided tour of the Far View Tower.
Then we paid for a guided tour of Balcony House (below). It was a very exposed hike to get there and I was surprised at all the fat, out-of-shape people that were on it. I was thinking the whole time that it would suck to be a ranger doing the tours, as you’d be fearful all the time of someone slipping and falling to their death.
Here is the Cliff Palace, another paid tour. This place was so beautiful . . . I wound’t mind living there myself!
So we had to leave since we could only get a campsite for one night. So we packed up in the evening and mushed on towards a campsite I found in my Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds, western edition, for the night. We had to travel about 60 miles south to a $5 BLM campsite, no running water, of course.
En route from Capitol Reef, Utah, to Mesa Verde, Colorado. Made a few stops along the way, like this view looking down at the Grand Gulch from atop the mountain. Next stop: the Navajo Rez to show Chris the impressive Monument Valley.
The last time I was in Monument Valley was in 2002 (click here to see my old Visual Journal post). And man, the place has really changed!! They built an air-conditioned monstrosity and a huge paved lot where the old campground used to be!!! I was saddened to see this vulgar display of “progress.” But I guess if the Navajo Nation wanted to develop their tourism, it’s their right. But my heart was truly broken to see it like this.
They even improved the dirt road so cars could drive down in the valley!! No more 4-wheel drive needed.
So our pal Kelton Russenberger took us to Capitol Reef National Park for some hiking and camping on his day off from Bryce Canyon National Park. This was one of the many beautiful view while driving into the park on the gravel road towards Cedar Mesa.
Hitting a trail.
So this hidden treasure that many overlook for the sexier nearby parks (like Zion, Bryce, etc.) is pretty neat. Being a geology and geography nerd, I was simply astonished to be in a waterpocket fold, which is a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth), that extends almost 100 miles in the park!
So we left San Fansicso, after a couple of days of city life for the pavement on the road. We spent the day doing laundry and taking our time in all the little towns we got into. Made it as far as Porterville, Calif., before deciding to camp in Sequoia National Forest. This was our view for the evening.
We checked for an open campsite for the night at Arches . . . they didn’t have one. So we found this outside the park along the Colorado River. Yeah, there were a lot of mosquitos.
But we were camped right next to some awesome petroglyphs!
Arches National Park, Day II
Chris and I spent the entire day hiking the rest of the trails in the park to see all the obscure arches in Arches National Park. Above is me standing in an unnamed arch we found while hiking to Sand Dune Arch.