Well, we all made it back, physically safe and sound. There were a few mechanical difficulties that we will reserve for a later discussion but overall, it was a fabulous trip. A few preliminarily details:
1826 - the number of total miles traveled (both on pavement and dirt.)
6 - the number of campers
7 -good weather days (more to this story below)
One preliminary note. Preparing for any trip involves more than just “pre-departure” planning, and that includes knowing the weather as you travel. At exactly the half way point in the trip, we realized (by listening to the NWS weather reports on our Ham radios) that a huge storm was due to hit central and southern Utah - exactly in the location we where we planned to be. At that point, we were three hours from civilization, and given the NWS high probability of rain, the decision was made to get to paved roads as quickly as possible, as the dirt roads we were on would become impassible with significant rain. In the latter pictures, you can see cloudy skies which were the front edge of the storm.
In an uncharacteristic turn of events, the NWS prediction actually came true, and the storm hit with massive wind, rain and lightening. Before the storm hit with all its energy, we had decided to bag the second half of the trip, and the wisdom of this decision became quite clear as we approached St George.
We ended up with a total of 6 campers, and down to the very last one, they were all great chefs, campers, off road drivers, and friends. The food on this trip was some of the best of any trip, including, Volcano Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie, steak and potatoes, Beef Stroganoff, Korean BBQ, Chicken Adobo, and more.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Alstrom Point (overlooking Lake Powell)
Water Holes Canyon
Navajo National Monument (Betatakin Anasazi Cliff Dwelling)
Valley of the Gods
Natural Bridges National Monument
Hole in the Rock
TRIP REPORT AND PICTURES
1. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, (https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/coral-pink/)
One of the many planning challenges this year involved finding a detour around a closed road which we had planned to use to access Alstrom Point. The detour we located took us by Coral Pink Sands State Park in Utah, and while we didn’t stay overnight, it is definitely a destination for future trips. Both the scenery we observed from the road and the park’s description, were incentive enough to see more.
This is what the Utah Parks Department says:
From the Road, it actually appeared that trees were growing from the dunes.The geology of the sand dunes is an intriguing subject. The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period call Middle Jurassic. The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand.
Sand dunes are created by three factors: Sand, high winds, and a unique influence upon the wind. The notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains causes this unique influence. The wind is funneled through the notch, thereby increasing wind velocity to a point where it can carry sand grains from the eroding Navajo sandstone.
This phenomenon is known as the Venturi Affect. Once the wind passes through the notch and into the open valley, the wind velocity decreases, causing the sand to be deposited. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes support a diverse population of insects, including the Coral Pink tiger beetle that is found only here. Melting snow sometimes creates small ponds in the dunes that support amphibians such as salamanders and toads.
Dunes without trees
2. Alstrom Point (overlooking Lake Powell)
Alstrom Point is situated on the mesa above Lake Powell. The road to the point is long and bumpy, occasionally traveling over solid rock, making it difficult to actually see where the trail went. Good navigation by means of the Topo! Program kept us on track. At camp, the views were spectacular, and so much so, that we spent two days.
One of the surprising sights on the point was the water level of the lake - down by over 120 feet, despite a very wet winter (well over 100% of normal.) The reason appears to be bug related, see: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/gcd.html . Regardless, the scenery was as good as it gets!!!
On the way
3. Water holes Canyon
Water Holes Canyon is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and specifically, on the Navajo Nation land. See: http://www.summitpost.org/waterholes-canyon/716826 . Waterholes is very similar to Antelope Canyon but without the crowds. There are essentially, 2 different levels of difficulty, the easiest being the most spectacular. The other level requires some form of canyoneering (rapelling) skills and the equipment to go along with the skills.
We selected the easier level. The Navajo have established a great tour, which is about 2 miles in length, and requiring about 2+ hours to complete. Our tour had about 10 people and we were allowed to spend as much time as it took to soak it all up and take pictures. By comparison, as we passed the Antelope Canyon area, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people, and parking lots filled with cars. Bottom line: Water Holes = a good choice.
4. Navajo National Monument (Betatakin Anasazi Cliff Dwelling)
From the National Park Service:
Today, there are three sets of ruins at the Navajo National Monument - Betatakin, the Inscription House and Keet Seel. Inscription House is closed to the public due to its advanced state of deterioration and unsafe condition. Betatakin and Keet Seel however, are spectacularly well preserved and both are open to the public. Both are located in a deep canyon and require a significant hike. We did Betatakin this year as we didn’t have reservations for Keet Seel, as well as the hike to Keet Seel is 18.5 miles and requires a 1000 foot descent into the canyon. The 5 mile hike to Betatakin was a little disappointing, as the Park service no longer allows visitors into the site itself. Despite this, we got very close and were able to get a good sense of what the structures looked like. Anyway, I have posted pictures from our visit a few years ago, when we were allowed to actually walk in the ruins as well as some from this trip.Navajo National Monument represents a long cultural history. The monument was first created in 1909 to protect the remains of three large pueblos dating to the 13th century, viz., Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. In addition to these large pueblo villages, archaeological evidence documents human use of this region over the past several thousand years.
The earliest people to live in the Tsegi and Nitsin Canyon regions were hunters and gatherers, who relied on hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants for food. These early people were highly mobile, and moved around a large region to gather food with the changing seasons. Their archaeological footprint is limited.
The Ancestral Pueblo culture emerged as these early farmers began to depend on farming for most of their food. They built above-ground masonry houses, farmed the canyon streambeds, and interacted with far-reaching communities across the Colorado Plateau.
Make no mistake about this however, even though we did not get to walk the ruins, it was worth the 5 mile hike and I would do it again.
One important note: The campsites at the Navajo National Monument were some of the best I have ever seen. All were situated in a dense forest of Juniper and Pinyon pine trees, the tables and BBQ stands were in great shape, and the scenery was terrific. In addition, the restrooms were very clean and well maintained, and to top it off, it was all free. They also had a more primitive campground which had a great view of the canyon.
5. Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods (VOG) is a true anomaly in Utah. It is not part of the Navajo Nation, and thus not subject to restrictions of travel and exploration, and it is not a national park or monument, and thus there is no charge to visit. Just so there is no confusion, these are all good things.
As you view the photographs below, you will see why it is often regarded as a smaller Monument Valley. The scenery is spectacular and looks like it would have been the perfect location for a John Wayne movie (look him up if the name is unfamiliar.) In past visits, I had scoped out one location that offered a primo camp spot, and our luck held out - we got it. The VOG should be on everyone’s list of exquisitely scenic places to visit.
We woke up the morning of our departure and were treated to a most unexpected thrill, as the pictures below show.
Here is a little known fact - in this vast area of scenic land, there is but one parcel of private property, and upon it sits an incredible B&B, which is actually in the VOG. It is an absolute certainty that we will be visiting the VOG again soon, and staying in the “Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast,” See: http://valleyofthegodsbandb.com/. A spectacular place to visit, with all the amenities of home.