Friday, May 18, 2012

Natural Bridges, Hite, Lake Powell

We woke up on Monday with the intention of driving to Dark Canyon to do an intense backpack down into a remote canyon, then back out the next day.  We started driving southeast.  By the way, my car was getting 30mpg, which made me extremely happy.

We stopped at Natural Bridges National Park.  This is the smallest park EVER, but it is super cute.  There are three main natural bridges that you can walk to, or simply view from the viewing area.
A natural bridge is different than an arch in that it was carved by a river of water wearing through the rock to create a bridge.  See it there in the middle? 
Natural Bridge... 2nd largest in the world?
Midway through our scenic drive to see the bridges as fast as possible, my body decided it wasn't very happy with me.  I get this really painful spasm that usually happens in the middle of the night once a month or two.  I have meds for it next to my bed since it only happens there.  Nope, this day it was going to happen between natural bridges 2 and 3.  Ouch!  Excessive amounts of advil and a bit of sitting got me back to normal an hour later.  Note to pack meds next time!  During these episodes, I usually do a lot of complaining and trying to hold back waves of nausea so I don't barf.  Of course we had to decide then if we were going to try to do Dark Canyon or not, the intense backpacking trip that Dave had planned to do by himself a few months ago, but work got in the way.  I waddled into the visitor center in search of any alternative.  The nice ranger suggested we drive through Hite and go see Lake Powell, then take it from there.  Dave gave up on his plans to do the ultimate hike since I was in no condition to be backpacking 1000 feet down a 50% grade in a few minutes.

We drove along Hwy 95, a scenic byway, which was indeed quite scenic.  We reached Hite and Lake Powell and went and put our feet in the water for a while.  The water was warm!

Flowers at Hite.

Campgrounds at Hite on Lake Powell. 

Me on Lake Powell, the huge reservoir that is held back by the Glen Canyon Dam.  It's the second largest reservoir in the US and holds very valuable water that allows places in the southwest that shouldn't have large populations to have large populations.  I would only expect this reservoir to get lower and lower over time.  Good luck with that, southwest!
Dave on Lake Powell.
We moved on to the Dirty Devil campgrounds, which had the Dirty Devil River running through it.. and by running I mean trickling.  Pretty awesome, but very warm!
Dirty Devil Campground.  I'm quite dirty in this picture myself! 
A scenic overlook on the way out put us on top of the cliffs overlooking Hite and Lake Powell.  See the bridge in the background going over the Colorado River? 
Looking down Lake Powell.  I'm curious what water levels are usually like this time of year.  The Rockies had an extremely low snowpack this year and a recent paper predicts snowfall to be less and less into the future. 

Dave standing a little too close to the edge of a cliff for my taste.  Hite is in the background and Lake Powell below.
We thought we'd stay in Dirty Devil, but it was still early and there wasn't much to do there with no boat and no fishing pole, so we moved on down the scenic byway to Capitol Reef National Park.  We arrived at the visitors center around 5:30 only to find that the campgrounds were full.  This always happens, but national parks are known to have lots of free camping spots just outside their boarders, as long as you are fine without a toilet.  We'd head to the west side of the park after killing some time on the small trails.

We did the Goosenecks Overview (1/10 mile), which is this curvy part in Sulfur Canyon.  It is one of those overlooks where there are fences everywhere so no one accidentally plunges to their death.  Not my favorite.  You can see Sulfur Canyon below.  We then walked to Sunset Point (1/3 mile) and enjoyed the views just an hour before sunset. 

Looking east(ish) with the Henry Mountains all the way in the back, the Waterpocket Fold, then Sulfur Canyon in the front. 

Intentional shadow picture at the bench at sunset point. 
We checked out a few more informative signs and then headed west to find a place to camp.  We ended up going a mile too far and found a city of motels and restaurants.  Super lame!  We backtracked towards the park and found a turnoff into a maze of free camp sites.  We grabbed the one with the view and made dinner:  hamburgers with muenster and pepper-humus topping plus potatoes for the second night in a row. 
Camping spot night two west of Capitol Reef.  Dave is cooking on our camping stove that we found at the recycler for $5.

Not a bad view!  The Capitol Reef Waterpocket fold is off to the right in the distance.  It is insane how shiny my car looks in this picture, it basically has a red dust film all over it.
The night was extremely cold and I woke up shivering a few times until I overdid it an put on my winter coat only to wake up sweating in the morning.  I'm the queen of zipping myself into my mummy bag and not being able to get out.  I probably woke up the whole campsite trying to get out of the darn thing.  Day 2 comes to a close with a nice campfire and some amazing views of the stars.  I have to thank all of the people who leave wood behind.  We left the house with 3 pieces of wood and managed to make a fire every night just using people's leftovers.

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