Natural Bridges and Canyonlands

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Thu 17 Oct 2019 22:38
After three chilly nights in Vernal it was time to move on.  We drove east into Colorado, through a small settlement called Dinosaur and on to another called Rangely where we hoped to have breakfast.  But it was the Saturday morning rush hour and this was the only diner for miles around so we faced a wait of 1 hour.  Unwilling to hang around we continued south on a minor road that went on for miles and miles of nothing but pleasant scenery with a dramatic winding ascent and decent at the Douglas Pass.  By the time we got close to the east-west going Interstate 70 our tummies were seriously rumbling.

The first eaterie we found was on the outskirts of a town called Loma, at the cattle market.  We entered the Cattlemen's Bar and Grill unsure what to expect.  Off the beaten track we were often greeted with curiousity and, like here, welcomed as if long lost relatives.  They served up an excellent brunch.  Rachel excelled herself not only sampling their corned beef - delicious and nothing like the stuff in tins - but also pancakes.  Suitably fortified - and vowing to return if we were ever in the area - we continued on the I70 heading west for a while before taking a minor road southwest and cross-country towards Moab.

At some point along this road the scenery stops being just fascinating and becomes very exciting.  As we were to discover, most of south east Utah is extraordinary, not just with scenes reminiscent of western movies but much, much more.  Here we were in a vast area of desert, winding our way along the Colorado river, surrounded by steep and sculptured red rock cliffs in the distance, zig-zagging around isolated table top mountains, then passing through narrow canyons as far as Moab.

Reaching the Colorado River

Moab is the tourist hub for the area and not a very appealing place apart from the shops and restaurants.  We continued south to a small town called Blanding where we'd booked an Airbnb for a week.  It was a large basement apartment which suited us just fine with good wifi, a well stocked kitchen and even a laundry. 

The weather was noticably warmer as we set off the next morning to visit the Natural Bridges National Monument, to the west of Blanding.  It's a small and less popular park but well worth a detour.  As usual the Visitors Center and signage is really good so we had an informative and healthy day learning about the geology, seeing a cliff dwelling and doing a bit of hiking.

Sipapu 'bridge'

a 'zig-zag' canyon

A cliff dwelling in Natural Bridges NM

Intrepid explorer on the edge

Another intrepid explorer under Kachina 'bridge'

Owachonmo 'bridge'

Our next stop was Canyonlands NP, which along with Arches NP is the big tourist attraction in the Moab area.  There is no road through the park so to get to the north entrance we had to drive back through Moab, a journey of over 2 hours.  To make matters worse there were delays caused by roadworks. 

At Canyonlands the  'Island in the Sky', a high plateau with panoramic views of a vast area of red rock canyons, the Green and Colorado rivers winding their way through, is a spectacular place.  We were there on a sunny day but it was also hazy so our photos didn't do it justice.  

Looking south-ish from
Grand View Point overlook, at the tip of the Island in the Sky,

Looking west from Grand View Point (that is the Green River again)

Upheaval Dome - possibly the result of a meteorite impact 60 million years ago?  

Mesa Arch (the geological definitions of 'arch' and 'bridge' differ from those used by Civil Engineers)


Maze of canyons - Canyonlands NP certainly does what it says on the tin!