Cedar Mesa and Goodwater Rim

Cedar Mesa and Goodwater Rim

We did two hikes and a bike ride in the final week of our trip this spring. A cold front moved in as we were leaving Mesa Verde, so we chose to stay in Blanding rather than camp off-grid. Our first hike was at Natural Bridges National Monument, less than an hour drive from our RV park. The bridges were discovered in 1883 and proclaimed a National Monument in 1908, creating Utah’s first National Park system area. They are also part of the larger Cedar Mesa area. There is a paved scenic drive that allows easy access to the three bridges, and most people view the bridges from the overlooks or wander down the short trails to the base of each bridge. We wanted to travel the “unmaintained” trail from the first bridge (Sipapu) to the middle bridge (Kachina). We took the advice of the ranger and parked our truck at the Kachina Bridge Overlook and walked about an hour on the mesa trail to the trailhead for Sipapu bridge. The feature photo of this blog (on the website) is a slick rock portion of the mesa trail. Here’s a photo of the beginning of the descent into the canyon.Canyon_overlook

We worked our way down the trail, down steps, both metal and cut into the rock, and down wooden ladders to the base of Sipapu Bridge.

We had the trail to ourselves within five minutes along the canyon trail to the next bridge. The only other hiker we met was a ranger, until we got to the base of the Kachina Bridge. The photo on the left is the trail in the canyon. The photo on the right is taken below Kachina Bridge, a much thicker and younger bridge than Sipapu.

The trail up out of the canyon was well-graded and with not much effort, we were back at parking area at the mesa level. Our leisurely hike took us about four hours.

For our next adventure, we wanted to go back to a hike we did the first year that we came to Utah. It was our first foray up slickrock by ourselves, following written descriptions of the route. Back then, we got off route, following cairns that were leading us away from our destination. We poked around and found a way up that worked for us. When we set off this time, we wondered if we would find our old route or if the “standard” route would be more appealing. We had no trouble following our old route, and within 45 minutes we were at the “Procession Panel,” a petroglyph panel of 179 figures in a procession (we didn’t count them, but that’s what the guidebooks say.)


We ascended slightly higher, to the crest of Comb Ridge, for an amazing panoramic view.

We wanted to get one last mountain bike ride in before heading home, so we packed up and drove north and northwest, through Moab and Green River towards Price, turning south to Huntington State Park. The park was almost deserted because it was mid-week, but the park warden was telling us that the day-parking lot fills up by 10:00 on a nice weekend. It’s a great place to stay, with lots of trees and open lawns, as well as good birding opportunities.


Our biking destination was less than an hour away, by highway to Castledale, then by good gravel road to “The Wedge.” It’s here that the San Rafael River has cut a huge canyon, known as “The Little Grand Canyon.” The Wedge Recreation Area features a mountain bike route that travels along the edge of the main canyon, along to a side canyon – the Goodwater, hence the name, “Goodwater Rim.” We rode about fifteen kilometres on the single-track winding trail, often just a few metres from the edge, before heading over to the main road for the ride back to the truck. We were on our bikes for about two hours.

Here’s a few photos of Doug on the Goodwater Rim Trail.

Here’s one of Wendy, closer to the edge than she thought was possible.


We took another couple of days to get all the way home. Now at home, the spectacular red rocks that we enjoyed so much throughout our seven week trip have been replaced with the gorgeous green of spring in the Rockies. “The Fox” is being cleaned and put away until the next trip. So long until then.


Mesa Verde and Huevos Rancheros

Mesa Verde and Huevos Rancheros

We chose to stay at the Mesa Verde RV Resort that is just outside the national park and half way between Cortez and Mancos, Colorado. The Whethams joined us in our adventures here. The RV park had plenty of grass for Tali and plenty of birds to enjoy.

We wanted Gretchen and Bob to experience the thrill of riding the “Rib Cage” at Phil’s World, a mountain biking trail system only minutes from our RV site, so that was first on our agenda. The trail we took climbs gradually up two washes and up to a ridge-top where a cow-skull is the focal point of a bicycle art display. The “Rib Cage” is a series of descending whoops that start off intensely and mellow as you continue downhill.

We rode in the morning, regrouped at lunch and headed up to Mesa Verde National Park for a hike on the “Knife-edge Trail,” a trail that follows the old roadbed to some fantastic views of the valley below. We had a great time looking at the birds as we wandered: turkey vultures nesting, a golden eagle being chased away, a black-throated gray warbler, some towhee or sparrow scratching in the undergrowth and the continual song of a few yellow-rumped warblers that wouldn’t show themselves.

The next day was our tour of “The Balcony House” in Mesa Verde National Park. The Balcony House is the most strenuous tour that the National Park puts on because it includes climbing ladders and squeezing through tunnels. Doug was a bit concerned about going through the tunnel on his knees, but he managed to “bear walk” through the tight bit. The guide was really good at answering questions, so it didn’t seem scripted.

After the tour, we had our lunch at a picnic site, where a pair of white-breasted nuthatches visited us. No-one had a camera ready; we will just have to remember them in our minds.

We then headed over to the Museum and Ranger station, then to a short hike to “Pictograph Point.” We chose to go down into the canyon and across to the petroglyphs (yes, the trail was misnamed), and then back over the mesa to a good view of Spruce House. (Another misnaming; there are Douglas Fir around the ruins, not spruce.)

The weather was deteriorating so we chose to do a road trip to Durango, with a stop in Mancos (10 mins. away). We had breakfast at a funky bakery/restaurant called “Absolute Bakery,” that we had heard about from a woman that we met in the parking lot of the bike trails in Fruita. Doug and Bob distinguished themselves by making it through their huge orders of “Huevos Rancheros.” In Durango, Bob looked at trains, Wendy and Gretchen looked at fabric and Doug visited three brewpubs (with company.) Wendy, Gretchen and Bob also fitted in some bird-watching while Doug was checking on a problem with the truck (not serious). The photos below are of our breakfast in Mancos and a shot that Gretchen took of the Durango-Silverton narrow-gauge train (with Wendy’s phone, just steps from the quilt shop).

The weather improved for our last day together, so we drove out to Hovenweep National Monument, about an hour drive from our RV park. It’s an enjoyable hike around the canyon viewing the spectacular ruins and worth the second trip for us. To top off the experience, there were also some interesting birds. Below is a picture of Gretchen and Wendy with the Square Tower to their right and the Hovenweep Castle behind them. The feature photo of this blog is of Hovenweep Castle.


Here’s a couple of photos of birds we saw; a Bewick’s wren and a Common raven preparing dinner for the young ones that we saw in the nest just below the cliff top.

Only one more post, then our spring trip south is complete.