• Driving 14 Hours from Byng, Oklahoma to Monticello, Utah
I had a nice breakfast with Abby, a tradition of ours, then hit the road.
I only stopped to shoot a few items. I talked to some good friends on the phone, listened to satellite radio, and called Abby at least half a dozen times.
Coffee always tastes different on the road, and the first sip always brings a pristine rush of memory, the taste of adventure ahead.
I arrived after dark in Monticello.
• Devil’s Pocket loop in the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park
I was initially hesitant about the day early because of rain and high wind in the forecast. For much of the day, the sustained wind was over 40mph.
I photographed Monticello’s Mormon Temple for my Mormon friends.
I made my way up the Hart’s Draw road west of Monticello only to discover it was closed at the first campground due to heavy snow. Someone later told me Monticello had about 200% of their normal snowfall for the winter of 2010.
I drove to Elephant Canyon and hiked the Chesler Park/Devil’s Pocket loop trail for a total of about 8.1 miles in a little less than six hours. The actual Devil’s Pocket loop is pretty rugged, and I didn’t see anyone else on it.
On passes and benches, the wind was funneled into ferocious gales.
I came upon two friendly Park Service rangers who were on their way to examine some vandalism along the Chesler Park trail.
For the first time since I have been hiking in the desert, I got back to the trail head with zero water.
I had a blow-out coming out on the Elephant Hill access road, and I assume I struck a sharp rock or other obstacle. A nice couple of guys came from Sandstone Tire in Monticello and got me going after I discovered I didn’t have the key to unlock the wheel.
I was back in Monticello after dark.
• Natural Bridges National Monument
Abby and I hiked to the Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges on The High Road in 2003. On this trip I wanted to hiked down to the other two, Kachina Bridge and Owochomo Bridge.
I had breakfast at PeaceTree Café on the north end of Monticello. I’d seen it on several other trips. It was one of the best breakfasts I have ever enjoyed on the road.
I was quite cold when I got up in Monticello, and not much warmer when I arrived at Natural Bridges National Monument. And again it was crazy windy, though only on exposed areas like cliff tops.
Hiked down the steep but relatively short trail in White Canyon to Kachina Bridge. I found the bridge itself to be larger and more impressive than I had imagined it would be.
I continued up White Canyon for several miles exploring and hunting for native ruins, which I found but did not photograph. I hiked back up to the trail head and drove to the Owachomo trial head. A different option if I had more time would be to hike the canyon between the two, which is about three miles.
The trail down to Owachomo Bridge is short and easy. I made some decent images despite somewhat subdued light. The Bridge itself is fairly impressive. The obvious temptation is to climb on top of it, but this must have become a problem because signs say it is expressly forbidden.
• Driving Home
I drove home with some sense of urgency due to a crisis with Abby’s father becoming critically ill. I didn’t stop much and only shot one photo. Despite rapidly turning around from Utah, I was able to make a couple of excellent hikes, and I had a good time in the wild.