2019 Almost Home

We stopped in Hanksville, UT after leaving the San Rafael Swell area for some aluminum foil. We cook a lot of our vegetables in an aluminum pouch on the grill and had run out. The key to perfect pouch grilled vegetables is avocado oil, which has a very high burn temperature. With a little avocado oil and even butter, the vegetables always come out roasted to perfection over the coals, never burnt or welded to the aluminum pouch. It may take longer to cook them over the coals, but it’s worth the wait.

Our next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument to do a hike and see the sights. I was wondering how a park within a park was going to work because Natural Bridges was inside Bears Ears National Monument when it was first defined. The redefined Bears Ears park boundaries no longer encompass Natural Bridges so it no longer makes we wonder how it will work – lol.

There is a pretty drive around the Natural Bridges park with many places to stop and hike or just look at the many natural bridges there. We typically pick one for a hike to stretch our legs. This time we picked Owachomo Bridge.

We continued south to Muley Point, another of our favorite camping spots. Muley Point sits at the end of Cedar Mesa in the Grand Gulch Wilderness Study Area at an altitude of 6,400 feet. From the mesa, the ground drops 1,200 feet to the top of the San Juan River canyon, and then another 1,000 feet into the canyon to the river itself. You can just see Monument Valley on the Utah – Arizona border on the horizon 10 miles to the south. It’s a pretty awesome spot.

Pam and I were once again the only folks there when we arrived. We grabbed a nice spot on the rocks and enjoyed happy hour while taking in the breathtaking view.

A family stopped by to look over the edge and one of the guys said that the last time he was here there were a lot of our campers parked on the mesa. It was in 2013 and we were one of the campers. It was just a month after we bought the Roamer and it was the last day of the yearly owner’s rally. This blog’s header picture of our rig was taken on Muley Point at that rally.

We sat there for a while and watched a beautiful sunset and the Milky Way appear.

Other campers showed up at sunset, so we didn’t have the entire mesa to ourselves, but almost. One couple snapped photos of the area in the golden hour of sunset light. Another guy came into our campsite to discuss his proposed website that would let folks know where good places to disperse camp are located around the country. I’m not sure he had a good understanding of his business model, or his proposed users. Dispersed campers tend to be very frugal. If they aren’t going to pay for a campground site, then chances are they aren’t going to pay a website to tell them where they can camp for free. He seemed to be having a good time traveling around the West in his jeep recording camping locations so best of luck on the website.

The moon was a couple days past full, so it lagged the sunrise by a couple of hours. The next morning, we watched the moon set to the west in the glow of the morning sunlight on the horizon.

We dropped down the Moki Dugway, a narrow dirt road with many switchbacks that drops you the 1,200 feet on the face of the mesa to the valley floor below. Pam caught a picture of some wild burros as we climbed out of Mexican Hat, UT towards the Arizona border.

Because we didn’t plan on travelling far that day, we stopped into Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park for lunch. I had the green chili and pork soup, and Pam had an assortment of Navajo tacos. Both were delicious and the view was spectacular.

I had to laugh that we could not drive the Roamer into the park on the dirt roads because it was classified as an RV. You could drive a two-wheel drive Prius, but they were worried about the RV getting stuck in the sand – lol. It was very crowded at the visitor center and a lot of traffic along the dirt road kicking up dust, so I didn’t try to negotiate a better decision. Besides back in 2013 we not only drove back into the rock formations but camped in some beautiful box canyons with the permission of the Navajos. We continued south into Arizona after lunch to Navajo National Monument and camped there the night.

We wanted to do the backpacking overnight hike to Keet Seel (Broken Pottery) ruins, but it’s closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day. It will have to be a next year trip. We did sign up for the morning Betatakin (Ledge House) ruins hike that drops over 800 feet from the visitor center at the top of the canyon to the canyon floor. It’s a totally different ecosystem in the canyon, where pinion pine and scrub juniper trees on top are replaced with huge aspen, oak and Douglas fir at the bottom of the canyon. The aspen and oak where showing their fall colors.

Archeologist have been able to date the Betatakin village construction from their tree ring database to between 1267 AD and 1286 AD using the structural support trees in the village. The farming based Ancient Puebloans that lived here left the village due to drought and moved south. Their descendants became the Hopis.

We drove to Flagstaff, AZ after the hike and had a great lunch at Proper Meats + Provisions, a butcher shop along Route 66. From there we headed on home to finish our Summer Trek #6. The 36-day trip covered roughly 4,000 miles. The eight-year old Roamer has over 96,000 miles on it now, but still looks and runs great.

We had 19 stops along the way which included camping at four national monuments and seven state parks. Five of our camp spots on this trip were new places that we’ll probably hit again, like the San Rafael Swell area. We visited a total of ten national parks and monuments during the trip, easily paying for the yearly parks pass that we renewed again.

It’s cooling down in the valley so it’s time to complete some wintertime projects before our next road trip adventure. Stay tuned.

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