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Southwestern Winter Deserts

Blanding Utah

Macaw feather belt

We are finally and really on our way home. At Moab we enjoyed the wild scenery and hiking so much that it precluded us from thinking about returning home. However, as we leave today, we are overwhelmed by thoughts of home. We have been away from home a very long time.

Then we arrived in Blanding, Utah for a lunch and electron fill on our return journey. We hadn't spent any time researching this place as it seemed “bland” and uninteresting on the map. Boy how we were wrong.

We discovered that the University of Utah has a campus here. And then there is the “Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum”. It is filled with archeological relics and conducts research supported by the University. Their collection of Pueblo people's artifacts is second to none. The jewel of their collection is the Macaw Feather Belt, which proves that the Puebloan's trading routes extended to Central America. Of course, they also had one of the best excavated Puebloan sites just out the back of the museum.

Westwater Creek

Before we left this lovely little town, in the middle of nowhere, we visited the Westwater Creek. It's just another amazing example of the stunning geology of the area and another excellent Puebloan village. It is situated just behind Blanding and we would never had known about it if it weren't for a very friendly man in the Blanding visitor center.

With a belly full of electrons, the next part of our journey took us through the famous Monument Valley. All the geology in the four corners area of the western deserts of the United States is unique and spectacular, none more so than the mesas and rock formations at Monument Valley. I can see why so many movies were filmed in this amazing place. Giant rock monuments surround you and look down at you from every direction. Thank you to the Navajo People for allowing us to share their magnificent space.

Page Arizona

It was another long day of driving, but also another wonderful day filled with enriching experiences. When we finally arrived in Page, Arizona we were ready for a quick dinner and sleep. We had no idea what to expect from Page and as we fell asleep, we mulled over the glorious visions of the day. We wondered what the next day would hold.

In the morning we discovered the “Glen Canyon National Recreation Area”, which is a huge dam somewhat like the Hoover dam. In fact, both dams are on the Colorado River and the upstream Glen Canyon creates the vast Lake Powell behind its towering concrete walls.

At the dam we stumbled on another excellent example of fossilized dinosaur footprints. We had no idea any of this was here, which made their discovery even more rewarding.

A short drive down the road that follows the mighty Colorado River we came upon the Horseshoe Bend park. A short walk through the dry flat Arizona desert and we arrived at a cavernous gorge, carved out of the sandstone by the unrelenting river. The chasm formed an enormous bend, which did indeed look like a horseshoe.

We continued driving south of Page and stopped, by the side of a cliff, at a viewing spot to eat our lunch. The vista from here was the beginnings of the vast Grand Canyon. The massive sandstone plateau that is eroded by the Colorado River begins its sculpting at this spot. It seems everything must start somewhere.

We followed the lonely road that now dropped down from the top of the mesa into the etched sandstone plateau below. It was here we came to the enormous Navajo Bridge that crosses the immense river. Imagine this experience as being able to drive down into Grand Canyon from its rim. One can walk across a foot bridge that runs along side the road bridge.

We did this and were blown away by the view of the river and its Navajo Red and Entrada beige sandstone canyon.

We continued to drive across the bridge and soon arrived at Lees Ferry. This is a stopping off point for boat trips down the Colorado River. Lees Ferry seems to be the only direct access to the river for many miles around. It is extremely remote, but there were a group of people preparing to raft down the river when we were there. Given how remote this place is, and normally how diligent Julia is about always using her turn-signal in the car, it was extremely unlucky that she was pulled over by the Arizona police for not using her turn-signal as we drove the scenic road that follows the river here. Yes, Julia is now a criminal.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We said goodbye to Page and continued our journey home. Our westerly course had us drive through the edge of the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area. We came upon the Toadstools Trailhead where we walked a short trail to the oddest-looking rock formation we had seen to date. Keep in mind we have seen some very odd rock formations on this trip.

Zion National Park

At the end of this day we finally arrived at Zion National Park. This is our third visit to this wonderful place, and we are looking forward to a good night's sleep in the warm cabins at Zion lodge.

Next morning, we were up early and ready to hike. We crossed the quiet road in front of the lodge and then walked along the side of the Virgin River until we came to the Sand Bench Loop trail head. We climbed up towards the towering Navajo red and Entrada beige sandstone walls of the gigantic and timeless patriarchs.

Climbing even higher we entered a wonderland forest of Pinon Pines, Manzanitas, Yucca, and Prickly Pears. We ate our lunch high on an escarpment overlooking the beginning of the Zion Valley drive. Here we watched the many long-weekend travelers darting back and forth in their cars pouring carbon dioxide into the air and slowly destroying this beautiful world. Will we ever learn?


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