Sand Island Campground (outside of Bluff, UT)

Natural Bridges Last night we awoke around midnight to thunder that rumbled so loudly that we weren’t positive what it was at first. The second batch of thunder was accompanied by lightening… then our trailer was pummeled with hail! Wow! It was so loud! The next morning, the hail was all gone. We went to Natural Bridges National Monument, but unfortunately I sprained my ankle that morning and we weren’t able to do the steep hike to Sipapu Bridge. We both wish we’d had more time, no injuries and better weather when we visited here. The difference between bridges and arches is that bridges are formed by flowing water and arches are formed by rain and frost. Other than that they look fairly similar to me.

Hovenweep Last night we went outside to take Avery on a walk and as we opened the door we realized sheets of snow were coming down! All of our blinds were closed so we didn’t notice this until we opened the door. It was quite a surprise! Avery loved it of course. She was born in Bend, OR in the winter and has always loved the snow.

Now, on to Hovenweep. This National Monument is extremely overlooked, in my opinion. I was impressed by it and by how close you could easily get to the remains of the ancient structures. There is an easy 2-mile loop near the visitor center that covers a concentrated area of structures. There are several other sites that are a part of the monument, but in different locations, and a few of them are off dirt roads that aren’t passable year-round. We were fortunate enough to go to both the main location where the visitor center is and to one of the satellite locations (Cajon). The 2-mile loop at the visitor’s center is very easy with the exception of the portion where you go down into the canyon and back up to the other side. The satellite location that we went to had a nicely graded road until one of the spurs you had to take to complete the journey to it. We were in our 4x4 and were glad about that because we agreed we wouldn’t take a regular clearance vehicle down that road. But if you have a high clearance vehicle, it is definitely worth it. Another plus about this Monument for dog owners is that dogs are allowed on the trails. Avery enjoyed the experience as well!

Monument Valley I had thought this to be a National Monument or Park but it is actually owned and operated by the Navajo, so we drove by it the first time, looking for a typical National Monument sign. There is a 17-mile drive that costs $20 (for up to 4 people in one car). Allow 1.5-2 hours to complete the drive because it is on a “rough road”. I would definitely not take a low clearance vehicle on this road, nor an expensive coupe or sedan, as the road is beyond “rough”; but many people did take it on in their “regular” cars. By the time it was over both of our necks hurt from the jostling. Was it worth it you may ask? If you have the right vehicle, the time, and a resilient neck, it is most definitely worth it. We are glad we did it, but we were also glad when it was over! The monuments were spectacular though! If you are short on time, you could probably take in the essence by driving by and looking at the vista, but if you have an extended visit like we have, it’s worth the more in depth experience.

Mesa Verde The amazing thing about Mesa Verde is how quickly (relatively speaking) it was built and by such few people. The Cliff Dwellings and some of the other structures like Mummy Lake (reservoir) were built in a relatively short period of time (i.e, it took about 20 years to build the Cliff Palace which is the largest cliff dwelling in the US) and they were built by (approximately) hundreds of people. When compared to the pyramids in Egypt which took 100,000 people (slaves) to build, these structures are truly amazing. Since we were here off-season, we were unable to do any of the guided tours, but we plan to come back for the tours some other time because we were very awe-inspired by what we saw and thinking about the dramatic accomplishments of these people. The museum is also impressive and well-worth a hour or more visit.

When we return to this area we’d like to do Canyon of the Ancients National Monument (north of Hovenweep, but in Colorado) and Valley of the Gods (in Utah and on the way to Monument Valley).