Natural Bridges

Wednesday, May 28, 2003: My first stop was at Butler Wash. Even though it was only 7am, it was hot, hot, hot in the sun. (It got to at least the mid 90s today...15 above normal.) Butler Wash has a short (1 mile round trip) trail that leads to some Anasazi ruins. It also provided my first look this trip at a Black-throated Gray Warbler (I've heard them almost every day). In fact, I saw them in several locations today.

[Mule Canyon Ruin] After Butler Wash, I crossed Comb Ridge. Didn't have to stop since I got my photos yesterday. My next actual stop was the South Fork of Mule Canyon. This is BLM land and there is a $2/person fee (my park pass does no good here!). This also had an Anasazi ruin, but you could walk up to this one. It's about a mile down the trail. I continued farther down the wash to see what was there. I caught up with a Virginia's Warbler (I've also been hearing them) but a good look at a Canyon Wren continues to elude me (this one flew just as I got my bins focused).

Stop #3 was Natural Bridges National Monument, which was happy to accept my pass. I hiked the trails down underneath both Sipapu Bridge (1.25 miles + 500 ft) and Kachina Bridge (1.5 miles + 400 feet). (PHOTO) It was so hot I then didn't feel up to doing the easy one! I did photograph it from above. The most notable bird was a Golden Eagle that flew over Sipapu. All the bridges are in White Canyon, which the highway passes through on the way to Lake Powell.

The plan was to cross Lake Powell near Hite, where the Dirty Devil River empties into the Colorado/Lake Powell, but the water level was so low that I actually crossed the Colorado River there instead (i.e., it was a freely flowing river rather than a placid lake). I stopped at Hite Overlook on the other side. You could see that the lake was well below normal level. The regular boat launch site was some distance from the river. You could also see how much silt has accumulated in the last 40 years since the Glen Canyon Dam was finished.

Northwest of the lake the road rises though the canyon of North Wash. This closes in and becomes very pretty around Hog Spring. Further northwest, the road goes through the Burr Desert, which is less visually interesting. I had planned to take the road to Burr Point, overlooking the Dirty Devil, but there was no sign. I saw what might be the road, but was not interested in getting lost in the desert on some unknown road.

My last stop of the day was at Goblin Valley State Park. The park is about 30 miles from Hanksville (the turnoff is about 20), and I would have to retrace my steps later. The goblins are rock formations (hoodoos) in the Entrada geologic formation. This is the same Entrada formation that makes the arches in Arches National Park. However, the Entrada at Goblin Valley is brown while the Entrada at Arches is red. I walked around the goblin area for a while taking photos. (PHOTO)

Then it was back to Hanksville and on to Torrey. Utah 12 passes through some outstanding scenery starting near Capitol Reef National Park. The road passes through the park, and my hotel was a few miles on the other side. No breakfast, no lunch, it's time for dinner!

Torrey UT

Capitol Reef National Park

Thursday, May 29, 2003: I got an early start today. I took a quick look at Goosenecks Point (the Goosenecks of Sulphur Creek) and Panorama Point. Then I headed to the orchard and picnic area to do a little birding. The birds were not particularly cooperative, although the Mule Deer and Yellow-bellied Marmots were happy to be seen. I then headed down the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. A jay flew across the road. I think it could be a Pinyon Jay. Then #2, #3, #4 and 5 and 6. Yep. Pinyon Jays. I drove into the Capitol Gorge, with its towering cliffs and then returned.

[Red Cliff] Again, it was getting pretty hot, and I decided to forget about hiking any today. Instead, I took the scenic drive around Waterpocket Fold (like Comb Ridge, Waterpocket Fold is a monocline). This involves taking the Notom-Bullfrog Road (dirt) to the Burr Trail (dirt east, pavement west) and following the Burr Trail until it mets U-12 in Boulder, then return on U-12. What can I say, there's lots of great scenery including the semi-hidden Peekaboo Arch near the Notom/Burr intersection. After climbing switchbacks, the Burr Trail crosses Capitol Reef and becomes a paved road at the western park boundary, when it passes into Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. There was one particularly beautiful canyon in Grand Staircase/Escalante portion. I think I recognize it from photos! If not, there are a number of published photos from a very similar area.

I had lunch at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder. Besides hummingbird feeders (Black-chinned), they have a little pond which had 4 species of swallow, ducks, baby coots, etc. The food was quite interesting. I might stop again for dinner in a couple of days (once I am in Escalante).

The drive back on U-12 goes up Boulder Mountain in the Dixie National Forest (sounds like it should be in Alabama). I tried birding in few spots, but the birds were fairly skittish. One place I stopped was the Wildcat ranger station. I got information about hiking trails (in case I need a cooler environment). They had some hummer feeders too, but these were dominated by Broad-taileds. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Red-breasted Nuthatch were heard.

It was cloudy at the ranger station and it turned out that it clouded up in mid-day in Torrey, so it didn't get so brutally hot today. Wish I had known ahead of time....

Dinner was at Cafe Diablo in Torrey, which is quite good. Since I'd eaten lunch, I didn't go for the kind of full dinner I had at the Desert Bistro, but if I had, it would have cost about the same. As it was, I got out for $35. Might go back.

Torrey UT

Grand Wash and Cathedral Valley

Friday, May 30, 2003: I again got an early start today. I checked out the petroglyphs, then headed up the trail to Hickman Bridge (a rock bridge). It's about 2 miles round trip + 400 feet (not counting my excursion up a canyon to see what was there).

Next was Grand Wash. At the trailhead, I heard what I thought might be some Chukars up-canyon. Scanning with bins did not reveal them, so I started on the trail. Something scurried across the trail. I didn't get a good look. It was gray, without a tail evident (not a Rock Squirrel). Could it be a Chukar? I quietly approached and found two Chukars! They seemed accustomed to people going by early in the day and I was able to get some photos. (PHOTO)

I hiked from the Scenic Drive to the end of the Narrows, using up a roll or so of film in the process. The towering cliffs are an impressive sight as you walk Grand Wash. The narrows close in to about 16 feet. If you study the sides, you'll see plenty of evidence of erosion. This is no place to be if there's rain! (PHOTO1, PHOTO2)

By then (10am) I'd hiked about 5 miles total and it was getting warmer. I didn't know if it would cloud up (or even rain) again, so I planned to drive the Cathedral Valley Loop. This loop requires a high-clearance vehicle, and you'll feel better on the sand if you have 4WD. At times the road is rocky, sometimes with loose cobbles, or even boulders. It crosses a couple of areas of bentonite clay, which you cannot drive on if it gets wet (it's like ice and they claim you can't even walk on it when's that slick). (PHOTO) To start the loop, you have to ford the Fremont River which involves a short drive downstream (in the river).

[Temple of the Sun] It took about 4 hours to complete the loop, and I didn't go on all of the side paths nor did I hike the longer trails. Rain was threatening much of the day. At first it was only over the mountains, but it gradually started to spread. A couple times I was in the wind field of the storm and decided to hurry along rather than stopping for more photos or to follow the side roads. The wind was particularly strong when I got out to take a few photos of the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. I cut the photography short and made tracks for the pavement rather than get caught on the bentonite clay. It did rain, but only after I was back on pavement.

Torrey UT