After my backpacking trip, I still had some time to explore a bit.
Part of the reason why I chose that particular trip is the easy access to Natural Bridges National Monument.
The park would prove to be a perfect full day outing and a great way to cap off the weekend.
I arrived at the park before 10 AM. I was on the fence about getting a campsite or hiking and then returning to USFS land for dispersed camping.
The allure of a ranger led astronomy talk swayed me.
Plenty of spots available at this earlier hour.
Camp was quickly made.
And then my hiking started in earnest.
There is only one hike in the park, really. A nine-mile long loop hike that takes in all three bridges.
Mile-for- mile, it would prove to be a very scenic hike.
The bridges of course were a highlight. But the lush canyon bottom and a feeling of solitude between the two easily accessible bridges were also both wonderful.
The descent started down to the Sipapu bridge. The first bridge encountered on the driving tour and easily the most popular bridge to hike to in the park.
The arid rim was left and the 500′ descent into the canyon was made.
This area was fairly busy, but hiking on a few minutes more brought a surprising amount of solitude in a lush canyon.
A few miles later, I encountered the second bridge: the massive Kachina Bridge.
I ate a small meal of an apple, cheese and some good German chocolate that was courtesy of my in-laws.
It was quite, peaceful and lovely. I could not be more content.
The hike continued in the lush canyon.
Lots of late spring wildflowers were to be found.
I soon encountered the third and final landmark of the Owachomo Bridge.
I climbed out of the canyon and made the two-mile hike across the mesa to complete the loop.
I continued on the road and did a very short stroll to the Horse Collar Ruins overlook.
The dwellings had a square kiva which is found in northern Arizona. Different than the ones I am familiar with from previous explorations.
The drive continued and I made my way back to the campsite.
Dinner was consumed. A book was read. I relaxed.
Soon it was time to make my way to the star talk. A very short stroll brought me to the visitors center. The sunset on the way was exquisite.
The sky was cloudy and the moon was full. But the star talk was still a treat. A high-powered telescope showed us the Moon, Mars and Jupiter.
Jupiter in particular was a treat. The four Galilean moons could be seen along with the bands of this gas giant.
Well worth staying the night in the park just to see this wonderful sight.
The following morning I made my way back home. I stopped at some easily accessible dwellings just off the road and enjoyed some more spring time wildflowers.
A large breakfast was had as a treat in Monticello. I find these family style restaurants do OK dinners and lunches, but the breakfasts almost always seem to be fantastic.
My chicken-fried steak, hash browns, toast and eggs proved this theory once again. And a lot of coffee to wash it down with was welcome.
I made my way to the zoo that is Moab. I briefly thought of stopping in Arches National Park, but the long line at the entrance station dissuaded me. My memories of the park in November six years ago were of a quiet and beautiful place. I suspect my experience would be different this time around. I simply drove on and made my way to the interstate.
The Utah border was crossed and I was back in Colorado.
An uneventful drive was had at this wonderful time of the year. The time that is post-ski season and pre-summer traffic. In a month or so? Interstate 70 would again be a parking lot on weekends.
A great trip was had.
And I am already looking forward to one this weekend.