Southeastern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 15 – Natural Bridges, Hovenweep & Four Corners

The Spanish Valley is south of Moab, and our initial scenery leaving in the morning.  As we made our way down US 191 we passed a natural bridge arch before coming to a giant rock with ‘Hole In the Rock‘ painted in 30’ letters on the side of it. Apparently it is a 5000 square foot house someone carved into this giant rock, but we were too early in the day for them to be open, so we continued on our way.

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South of Blanding we reached Utah 95, a narrow state highway  that runs out through the desert up and down small hills. As I turned onto this road a dirty old 4 wheel drive pickup passed me, which of course I took as a challenge to keep up with. It is 38 miles from Blanding to Natural Bridge National Park, and according to the GPS should’ve taken us 45 minutes to make the drive, but following Deliverance Boy I did it in 30 minutes.

Once we did land at the park headquarters we received instructions from the ranger on the best option for a couple of hours of time that we had. As with many parks they have a auto tour loop that we took, providing views of three natural bridges and as well as a view of Native American ruins. The trails were steep and strenuous so we skipped the longer hikes and soaked in the view from the overlook. The first natural bridge named Sipapu was large and had a lot of rock above it with trees and a river below it.

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Our next stop was at the Horsecollar Ruin overlook. Here pottery was once found that dates these ruins between 1 AD and 13 AD. The ruins were well preserved but accessed was denied to them. These ruins are considered to be the best preserved ancient Puebloan ruins ,mostly due to their isolation. Horsecollar Ruin earned its name because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago.

We moved on to see the Kachina Bridge where the White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon meet. Kachina Bridge, known as the middle bridge which spans the canyon equally from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges, is named for the petroglyphs of dancing figures resembling Kachina dolls. Kachina Bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge 180 feet high and spans 106 feet across thin stone and is older than any other bridge. Erosion through the years has thinned the span of the bridge. It was beautiful and we were happy to see it since it will not last forever.

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Leaving Natural Bridges we continued south on Utah 261 another nondescript highway across the desert – for about 30 miles – then you come to the Moki Dugway, a dangerous road to drive made of dirt and gravel carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods. A nerve racking but really cool drive down the mountain side.

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Just beyond Moki Dugway we arrived in the Navajo Nation to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille. The town is named after a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people We had a burger and vegetarian taco on Navajo bread. The Navajo bread was delicious.

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Just south of Mexican Hat is the Monument Valley, a place of mammoth rocks in the desert with beautiful thin spires on the Arizona border. The rock formation resembled a city from a distance and it is also the site where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie of the same name, which of course I needed to recreate, much to the amusement of the European tourists parked along the road. Returning back through Mexican Hat we had gone just a few miles before we were stopped by the Sherriff’s Department while a Toyota commercial was being filmed on the road ahead.

By mid afternoon we arrrived at the Hovenweep National Monument. There are Pueblo ruins of a culture there that thrived from 1 AD to late 1200 AD. A variety of structures, including multistory towers are perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. We hiked the Little Run Trail to tour the ruins at Little Ruin Canyon which is made up of Square Tower, Tower Point, and Twin Towers. Towers at Hovenweep were built in a variety of shapes- D-shapes, squares, ovals and circles.

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These towers had different purposes, including tool and grinding work areas, kivas (for ritual/social functions), living rooms and storage. We started at the overlook to see the stronghold house which is the upper story of a large structure with well-shaped stones. Then we climbed down the trail for a close-up view of more buildings. The Holly group is at the head of Keeley Canyon. The five buildings at the site are known for a rock art panel that has been interpreted as a summer solstice marker.

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The Hackberry group was a medium sized Pueblo III village in the east fork of Bridge Canyon. The Horseshoe House is a D-shaped structure containing three rooms surrounding a possible central kiva. The architectural style suggests ceremonial or public use

As we hiked the loop we saw Rim Rock House that had peepholes built into the walls; the purpose of these peepholes is unknown. We continued down the trail to Hovenweep House which is one of the largest structures in the community. Next we saw Hovenweep Castle in the Square Tower Group. The Cajon Group is at the head of Allen Canyon, is primarily a remains of a tower, estimated to house 80–100 people, that was constructed on a boulder that sits below the rim of the canyon

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Cutthroat Castle group is in an offshoot of Hovenweep Canyon. Cutthroat Castle, the largest of the remains, is on the north side of the stream. Cutthroat is unique among the units due to the lack of a spring, the numerous kivas and the fact that much of the architecture sits below the rim.

Goodman Point group contains small and large clusters of pueblo buildings built partially underground.

Finally the Square Tower group, with the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. These towers still have lintels showing that these were some of the most carefully built structures in the southwest

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Leaving Hovenweep we passed Palomino horses roaming freely on our drive to the Four Corners. We arrived at the entrance to the Navajo Nation being required to pay the $5 entry fee per person to enter their tribal lands to get to the Four Corners monument. Prior to the trip I had read that with modern survey techniques the actual marker is really not at the point of the four corners, the original surveyor, using 19th century tools, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet. The marker was placed in its current position and accepted by the U.S. Congress. From that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider among the four states.

We took turns standing on the spot of the Four Corners at the center where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah meet, contorting ourselves to place a body part in each quadrant of the circle. After our Twister exercise we strolled the booths of vendors with their souvenirs that surrounded the monument. There was no food available here so we went to headed back onto the road to Cortez, Colorado, where we came upon the Sky Ute Casino on a suggestion that someone had given us. The large casino had a restaurant but it was an hour wait before we could eat so we drove on to Cortez to spend the night.

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Checking into our hotel we found a nice casual restaurant called Destination Grill next door. We sat on the deck in the cool evening and enjoyed a very good dinner.

Phoenix – March 2012 – Arizona Baseball Spring Training

I am as much of a fan of stadiums and architecture as I am baseball, so when I had the change to spend some time in Phoenix in March during Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, I was overjoyed.

Some time in the warm sun, couple with a plethora of places to go.

Glendale, Arizona – Camelback Ranch – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Kansas City Royals

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Peoria, Arizona – Peoria Sports Complex – Seattle Mariners vs. San Francisco Giants

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Surprise, Arizona – Surprise Stadium – Kansas City Royals vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Goodyear, Arizona – Goodyear Sports Complex – Cincinnati Reds vs. Cleveland Indians

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Phoenix – Municipal Stadium – Oakland Athletics vs. Chicago Cubs

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Phoenix – Maryvale Baseball Complex – Milwaukee Brewers Practice

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Mesa – Hohokam Stadium – Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox (and cold weather)

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Arizona & California – March 2012 – Route 66

I had enough spare time on my spring 2012 trip to Arizona and California to join the European tourists who come to America to drive what is left of Route 66.  I did however, do this backwards of what is the traditional direction (I went West to East).

My trip started by leaving I-15 in Victorville, California. Just after leaving town I reached the dusty crossroads ‘town’ of Bagdad  (although the address is listed as Oro Grande) where there is a Bottle Tree Ranch.

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The bottles are hung from metal poles with ‘branches’

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After admiring the bottles for a while I continued east to Barstow, a railroad junction in the middle of the desert. The highlight of Barstow is the old rail station.

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After spending the night in Barstow I got an early start the next morning, stopping before dawn at the Ludlow Cafe.

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Driving east from Ludlow I was able to enjoy a great sunrise.

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Just  east of Ludlow is the vacant town of Amboy, although Roy’s is being restored.

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Also near Amboy is the Amboy Crater.

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Continuing east was another vacant gas station with an amazing amount of graffiti.

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As I continued on the original route I reached Goffs. The re-routing in 1931 bypassed Goffs. It remains a spot where constant rail traffic passes by.

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Just beyond Goffs is the Arizona border. Because Route 66 doesn’t go completely through, I detoured onto the interstate, and took a brief side route to Lake Havasu City to see the London Bridge in the middle of the desert.

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Returning to Route 66 I continued on to Oatman. This town is famous for the wild donkeys that roam town.

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Leaving Oatman to the east takes you through some nice mountain scenery.

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Once I reached the valley I arrived in Kingman. Kingman was easily the biggest town I had seen since leaving San Bernardino.

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I stopped at the Powerhouse Visitor Center, a nice center with a museum inside.

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Lunch was Mr D’z – a small diner.

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Kingman has a nicely restored rail stations as well.

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Just east of town is an airplane boneyard.

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As the trip continued east I reached Hackberry, which in reality is a tourist spot with an old gas station.2012 03 14 Route 66 Road Trip 146 Hackberry Arizona.JPG

 

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This entire area has experienced a tourism resurgence since Cars was released, none more so than Peach Springs.

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By mid afternoon I reached Seligman, home of the Snow Cap Ice Cream stand, as well as a plethora of kitschy businesses. It is a favorite stop since it sits where Route 66 comes back close to the interstate. Seligman is worth a number of photos!

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As I continued east from Seligman I started to leave the desert look, and began to see more evergreen trees. By the time I reached Williams I was in a forest of trees.

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As evening approached I reached Flagstaff, where I spent the night. While there wasn’t much to see along Route 66, just knowing that I was able to spend a couple of hundred miles on it made it all worthwhile.

I look forward someday making the entire trip from Chicago, starting in the east.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seligman, AZ – June 2005 – Route 66’s Best Spot

Since the interstates went in across the country in the 1960s, Route 66 was delegated to a secondary status. Now it is mostly European tourists wanting to see America.

Seligman, Arizona is the epitome of a kitschy tourist stop along Route 66. The business that are in the small town live off of the folks who are passing through.

The highlight is Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Ice Cream Stand. Among their numerous highlights is an old car that they have modified to bounce up and down as you go down the street, and they were more than happy to give us a quick ride through town.

Anytime I am anywhere near Seligman, Arizona I make a point of stopping in, it is touristy and hokey, but well worth the visit.

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Boulder City, NV – June 2005 – Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam is a massive dam that blocks the Colorado River on the Nevada/Arizona border. Built during the 1930s at the cost of over 100 lives, it has provided electricity and water to the southwest ever since.

The dam’s upstream reservoir is Lake Mead, one of the largest reservoirs in America by volume.

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