Blanding/Natural Bridges/Cedar Mesa - Grand Junction to Durango 1991 - CycleBlaze

April 17, 1991

Blanding/Natural Bridges/Cedar Mesa

Today was the perfect counterpoint to yesterday's drudge against the headwinds.  The entire day was satisfying, and the hike in Natural Bridges was the high point of the trip so far.  

I began the day in the same plain cafe at which I nightcapped on pinto bean soup and onion rings last night.  Ready for a change from my standard breakfast fare, I substituted pancakes for the usual hash browns.  I enjoyed this cafe - it has an interesting social life.  Last night, seven men entered the restaurant in three separate groups, within about five minutes of each other.  All casually canvassed the dining room and then proceeded to the rear of the building - an apparent card game is underway, I imagined.  This morning, a floating group of working men occupies one of the tables, each wearing a baseball cap.  There is a constant and lively conversation to be overheard.

By eight I am on the road, on my way to Natural Bridges.  To my great joy I find beautiful biking weather - cloudless and windless. My progress to the monument is much faster than I had anticipated, and even though it is quite taxing terrain I arrive at the monument by 11. The ride itself is quite pretty, as it passes through a steady progression of washes and ridges flanking the Abajo Mountains.  The rock formations here remind me of the outcrops east of Zion.

Natural Bridges is indescribable.  I spent about five hours here, hiking a loop that includes Sipapu and Kachina bridges.  Both are spectacular, but so is the entire region.  The hiking trail follows White Creek, the stream that created the bridges - it meanders through stunningly beautiful cliffs and overhangs, all of which are gloriously hued sandstone.  The trail itself is delightful - it is very lightly maintained, being no more than a streamside dirt path.  It constantly shifts sides of the stream, requiring careful rockhopping to avoid slipping into the milk-chocolate hued water.  I didn't meet another person on entire hike on the trail, and only two couples at Kachina Bridge.  A very remarkable experience.

I had planned to hike the nine mile loop, which includes all three bridges (Owachomo is the third), but got confused and lost the trail at Kachina.  After following a very poorly marked and faint path along the same stream for about a half mile, I came to an end and a signpost that announced "this is not a trail".  I found the right path on my way out of the canyon (it follows a different streambed altogether), but by that time I was low on water, it was starting to get late, and I decided to take the shorter way back instead.

The return trip is along the top of the mesa - again, it is a primitive trail.  It is marked by small cairns and is not always easy to follow.  I am reminded of the trails in Acadia National Park (ed: from our first wedding anniversary loop trip through New England and eastern Canada) and wish Rachael were here to share the day with me.

The remainder of the day was spent pedaling the first twenty miles on the road to Mexican Hat.  The wind has picked up and is blowing strongly by now, but it is generally at a right angle to the highway so I'm not held up by it.  I am held up though by an endless succession of ridges, each having steep ascents and descents.  They crest at about two mile intervals (I later learn that this area is known as the Cedar Mesa)..

By about 6:30 the wind shifts more to the south, helping me to decide I've had enough for the day.  I pull off the road into a piñon / juniper forest to relax for an hour or so until dark.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument
Heart 1 Comment 0
White Creek Trail. Frustratingly, nearly all my photos from Natural Bridges have serious exposure problems. They don't really give a sense of what a special spot this is.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Kachina Bridge
Heart 0 Comment 0
In Natural Bridges Natural Monument. Someday it would be great to be here again, but earlier or later in the day when the colors aren't so washed out.
Heart 0 Comment 0
In Natural Bridges National Monument
Heart 0 Comment 0
Approaching the edge of the world
Heart 1 Comment 0

Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 405 miles (652 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0