the Trail of the Ancients

As I left home, all I really knew about my destination was that it was a few hundred miles south of the middle of nowhere.

Goose neck campground overlooking the Colorado river

Six driving hours later, I arrived at Goose neck primitive campgrounds to set up my base camp for the next couple of days. I pitched my tent, gathered firewood, checked my water supply, and marveled in the scenery around me. Solo travel is one thing, solo camping is quite another. I felt like an original pioneer, the bravest of souls that first set eyes upon this open landscape.

I awoke the next morning to start exploring. With no map, I followed a sign pointing me to Natural Bridges National Monument. The sky is overcast and threatening rain, with the wind cutting across my bare skin, chilling me to the bone. I grab my hoodie and camel pack, and hike down into the canyon to escape the wind and see my first bridge, Sipapu.

I as hike down, a lone crow follows me, hopping from tree to rock, curiously cocking it’s head back and forth, it’s black eyes ever steady on me as I progress further down the rock canyon. I come to a man made ladder, and descend…..

Halfway down, I see markings in the rocks from past civilizations, small shelters built into the walls. The trail has narrowed, with a great towering rock wall on one side, and a sheer drop off on the other. My heart is pounding as I make my way lower to the base of Sipapu Bridge. It does not disappoint.

*****
Next I enter the Valley of the Gods. Vast open space of red earth and rock formations that have an otherworldly feel to them. As I sit to listen to the desert, the harmony of the creatures that inhabit this land make their voices known in a chorus of sounds.
*****
Driving next to Monument Valley. I’ve read about how this land is infamous for being in more movies than any other landscape, from John Wayne westerns to Mission Impossible 2 and Vertical Limit. But nothing compares to seeing it for yourself. Everyone pulls off to the side of the road as they approach, the beauty is so mesmerizing that you do not want to concentrate on driving while looking at the landscape.

As I arrive to the park entrance, I discover that there is a seventeen mile loop that you can either drive or bike through. It is a dirt road, and the park is not too crowded, so I get my mountain bike out and decide to see the park by biking through it. I always prefer looking at the world from a bike whenever possible.

Monument Valley does not let me down. I drink liters of water to keep hydrated, and push past monoliths and formations that inspire.

halfway through the 17 mile journey

The park offers jeep tours for those that prefer to see the park with a guide. Each group would cheer me on as they passed by ( I was the only person biking the trail that day) keeping my spirits up as I dug deep and pedaled in the red sand.

Three hours later I make it back to the park entrance, sweaty and satisfied. Time to head back to base camp to cook dinner by the fire,enjoy the sunset, and sleep under the stars before I head back home in the morning.

Feel the majesty at the Arizona/Utah border, in the land of the Navajo.

6 Comments

  1. Great blog post. It really is the backdrop for 100s of movies. I’m so jealous that you have those sort of open spaces to explore.

  2. Ahhh! That is SO CLOSE to my hometown and where I have spent SO many amazing camping trips. So beautiful. The 5th picture down from the top is absolutely amazing. I think I have to print it up.

    See you soon!!! I can't wait!

  3. @Suzy – I hope you make it to the Park, or at least to Valley of the Gods ( hopefully both!). let me know what you think if you go, and thanks for stopping by!

  4. This just got me excited as I will be driving through that area on my way back home after my sister's wedding in California. The landscapes really do appear otherworldly. I hope I can check out the park.

  5. That last picture (the still shot) is amazing. Absolutely beautiful.

    I live by the principle that in 'the wild' you don't have to outrun the bear/coyote/rapist. You just have to outrun the slowest member of your group. Camping solo shuts that door in a hurry. It's just you, wits against the world….that's an awfully scary scenario.

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?