Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Needles and Monument Valley 3/10/10
Had a day of rest next day downloading the blog and just sorting things out. Felt like we had had a good holiday in Moab and were refreshed for our onward journey. So the following morning woke to a wonderful sunrise over the La sal mountains which cheered us while we packed up. Heading south down the 191 we turned off to visit another part of Canyonlands called the Needles. What Utah has to offer the world is the most amazing rock formations which are all different depending on what part of Utah you are in. Here at the Needles it was sticking up rock with canyons cut into the softer underlying sandstone. These formation had offered shelter to people over the centuries and at Cave Spring an old cowboy habitat was still present, with grain store and fresh running water. There was evidence of much older inhabitance who had left their mark. The trees and shrubs of this arid area are low lying and herbie in nature. This is a Utah juniper with it's amazing bark. But a thunderstorm was brewing to the west and we thought it prudent to try and miss it so we headed off back into the 191 after one last look at the Island in the sky that we visited a couple of days ago. Filed up with petrol in Blanding and decided as Monument Valley was only going to add 70 miles to our desired route we should go and have a look so we joined the 163 to Mexican Hat named after a rock (this is Utah after all). Carried along the 163 to get the usual picture of the valley, where John Wayne made a lot of his movies, before doing a U turn at the Arizona border and retracing our path to join the 261 going north. Along this primary road there is a bit called the Moki Dugway. It is described as gravel with 10% grades and switchbacks for 2.2 miles. At the bottom we were stopped by a group of Gold wing and Harley riders who were in a state of survival euphoria having just descended the gravel. Jill, very anxious by their tales and myself confident (if a Gold wing can do it a G/S should have no problem) we set off on a well graded road that presented great views of the valley as we ascended. Making it to Natural Bridges National Monument just as it was getting dark to find that the camp site was full, but luckily a very kind couple let us share their space and fed us home grown tomatoes that were gorgeous.