Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Blanding, UT - Fun in Blanding

Our next stop was Blanding, UT. The last time we were in this area was when the government was shut down in 2013 and our trip down to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon was cancelled. As a Plan B, we stayed in Blanding, UT and explored in this area. We enjoyed this part of Utah then so decided that, if we wanted a short trip after working in our house this summer, this would be fun. Blanding? Who in the world comes to Blanding? Well, judging by the campground here, lots of people do. RV’s have been rolling and out ever since we came. And, truly, there are lots of things to see and do here. As you know, Blanding is central to Hovenweep, the Natural Bridges NP, Arches and Canyonlands NP’s, a new Monument (soon to be changed) is Bear’s Ears, a cool overlook called Goosenecks, a wonderful drive through the Valley of the Gods, the Moki Dugway cut out of the side of a vertical cliff and other things. But, not a gastronomical center. Bluff, a bit further south has the restaurants. Blanding has the stores, Bluff has the restaurants.

        There are grocery stores in many of these small towns but, if you’re a picky eater, you might have some problems. You want what kind of cereal? What kind of peanut butter? What kind of bread? On the other hand, I’ve always been surprised at how much they do have and we can always fill our refrigerator. This morning I went in for some bagels and English muffins - none to be had and actually, lots of the shelves in the bread section were empty and in the milk section, and the yogurt section and probably other sections of the store. Big weekend. This afternoon, we went in and they were full. Wow, the Western Family Delivery Man had emptied his truck.

        We, of course, come for the hiking and there is lots around here, especially to see petroglyphs, pictographs and ancient cliff dwellings. We took a South Mule Cyn hike yesterday which, when we could find the trail (which has been somewhat washed out by all the rains and the small pools that hadn’t dried up yet) took us by a spectacular cliff dwelling called the House of Fire. It is accessible from the trail but it looks as if most of it is intact and not ravaged by vandals. At certain times of the day, the cliff walls above turn yellow and orange. Beautiful. This dwelling was build between 900 and 1400 AD.


The last time we were here, in 2013, we got on the trail at the same time as a busload of tourists. Oof-da. Today there were just a few other intrepid hikers: several from Europe, others from Vermont and Oregon. Here’s a picture up close to show you the careful artistic construction. No wonder this house is still intact after so many years.


Note the large flat rocks over and below the windows. So much fun to see things like this and try to imagine the lives of the people who lived here. What did they think? What were their amusements? Many of these dwellings are on high ledges and we’ve always wondered how kids played around here. As we were walking away from one dwelling, we met 2 young men with 3 young boys. And, sure enough, one of the young men echoed our thoughts when we remarked how scary it would be to let your kids play on these high cliffs.

        We also like to see all the petroglyphs and pictographs. Here’s on we saw on a nearby wall, etched into the black ‘desert patina.’


And, that’s what we’ve been doing these days. We got the biggest projects in our house done and it’s time to play. We’ll be on the road for the next 6 weeks and back on the 29th of Oct..

We head to Hanksville, UT on Thursday. Tomorrow another hike.

Blanding, UT - Monument Valley and Goosenecks

We have finished lots of work on the Park Model home we bought in June and now are on the road taking a 2-month trip through orthern AZ and southen UT. We first stopped in Flagstaff to visit some friends we’ve known for a long time. We actually went to High School with one of them. Both have had some recent health issues and are looking forward to 2018. We had lunch with them and then went over to their home for more chatting. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them and lots has happened. It was nice to get together to share recent news and it was as if we had seen each other last week.

When we left them in Flagstaff, we headed up to Monument Valley. where we stayed for 3 nights and two days. Beautiful setting. We had seen the museum before when we visited here in 2013 but toured it again. Phoebe (Mike) and Harry Goulding sure built a comfortable existence out here in the middle of what I might call nowhere back in the 40’s. I liked the kitchen with the wash tub on the counter, the phone on the wall (I actually used one of these when I worked at a camp on Catalina Island off California back in the 1960’s), the kettle and the iron on the stove, and the fresh veggies on the counter. She must have had quite a garden.


Beautiful setting. Below is our RV with the red rock cliffs around us.


And, the view from our RV was this. Luckily we had 2 nights with no RV next to us. On the 3rd night we got a tiny little tent camper which didn’t block our view. Sweet.


But, we were there to see the Valley itself. The first day we took an all-day tour and the second day we took a hike around one of the most famous structures: the West Mitten. Most of the tour was great but we did learn that an all-day tour was a bit too much. My butt got tired from sitting and I just got tired of being on a tour. Even the two 20 somethings on our tour weren’t talking at the end of it. They were bushed too (they did Arches one day, Monument Valley the second and were heading on to Grand Canyon for a third day. No wonder they were tired). Must be kids.


On our hike we saw some wild mustangs who were looking for a shady place to stand beside a sheltered cliff in a wash. Not too much shade, but better than none. Our guide told us that there were plenty of wild mustangs around and if we wanted to take one home, we were welcome. Here’s a rope. Just a joke, of course, but we did see several as we toured.


On the afternoon tour though what the tour operators call Mystery Valley we saw this cliff dwelling high up on a steep wall. Imagine climbing this daily to get to your house - without vibram-soled hiking boots.


As we drove out of Monument Valley we stopped at iconic MM 13 where Forrest Gump stopped running. We were not the only ones stopped here to take the picture. There were quite a few others standing in the road dodging the cars going to and from the Valley. Every time a car came close, they rushed for the side of the road.


Next we stayed in Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah with its view of the San Juan River 1200’ below. The river curves so much and so sharply that it travels 5 miles but only goes 1 1/2 miles west. ‘Deepest entrenched meander in North America.’


At night, we could see every star in the heavens. The Milky Way went from horizon to horizon. There were no lights around here, just dark sky. I even recognized some constellations. Though it was just a rocky dirt parking lot, it was a glamorous place to stay.

Of course, when I heard that there was a trail down to the River, I put it on our schedule. Silly me. Here’s the view from the top with that brown ribbon the San Juan at the bottom. Look at that canyon wall. How in the world are we going to get down that cliff? Originally, they built the trail in 1894 to be a road by which they could get gold down to the river for easier transport to other areas. The first horse with a load died and no pack animal ever completed the round trip. And, soon, the mines played out. Some of the sections on the trail were quite bouldered and steep and I can see how a horse or mule would have trouble, especially laden as they were.


But, here is Gary, standing next to the San Juan River. We made it. Oops, now we have to get up back to the top. As the old saying has it: ‘ down in optional, up is mandatory.’ Lots of rafts cruise down this part of the river but we saw none today. I was looking for the Starbucks raft and the Coldstone Raft. Not a chance. Funny, we were not the only two hiking here today. Another couple accompanied us. 4 certifiable nut cakes.


We also traveled up the Moki Dugway, a road carved into the side of the cliffs so that logging companies could get their logs from the top of the cliff where they were to the bottom where the people who wanted them were. This sign greets you at the bottom and you can see the cliff you’re going to climb.


It’s a well graded dirt road and wider than you might imagine. The last time we were here, we saw two Class C motor homes and a 40’ Class A motor home climb up. Not what we would do but the motor home owner says he goes everywhere in his motorhome and doesn’t need to tow.


Our GPS showed the route thus. Looks like a praying duck to me. Praying he’s going to get down safely.


We drove up, took a sandy dirt road to Muley Point with its view over 3 states and then back down Moki Dugway and back to our RV to ready it for travel tomorrow.

On to Blanding, UT.