Natural Bridges National Monument: Day One | Lake Powell, Utah 🍃
June 11th, 2017
Let’s see how far I can get today on four~five hours of sleep. 😊
I spent the majority of last night staring at the beautifully breathtaking sky instead of actually sleeping, which I didn’t think I would regret the next morning.
Do I regret it now?
A little 😊
I thought I would be able to power through the day running on just my excitement and motivation, but I didn’t take into account how tiring five days of nonstop camping and driving could be on my physical state. Therefore, when I woke up on the morning of June 11th, 2017, I felt like I had just face-planted into a pile of sand 😯 (a result of wind blowing grainy bits of dirt onto my face throughout the night), sprinted a mile in over hundred-degree weather without changing my clothes afterwards 🏃♀️, then proceeded to not shower for several days.
…Probably because I actually hadn’t. 😁
My dad and I packed up our gear and talked to our neighboring campers for a bit before we hopped in our car to check on the wash. The couple said they weren’t going to drive the complete White Rim Road this year because of the flood, and told us they highly recommended us driving to Natural Bridges National Monument in Lake Powell, Utah. The monument was already on our Option B list anyways, so when they told us that Natural Bridges was even better than Arches National Park (😱😮) I felt my excitement flare up again.
Before we left Canyonlands for good, we checked the wash one more time. Just in case the flood had suddenly receded during the night.
… stayed the same height.
I wasn’t even sad about it, though, because the wash being impassable opened a plethora of possibilities and experiences that I didn’t expect to be able to go through for this trip. I definitely will miss out on what the White Rim Road could have offered me, but I can’t miss what I haven’t experienced. Once my dad drove the car out of Canyonlands National Park, any disappointment I felt the day before dissipated with the heat radiating off the ground and was replaced with a growing anticipation for what was to come that day. 😉
We realized we used up some of the materials we packed for the trip that we needed to refill by going to a civilized community (gasp! 😮), so for the first time in days I walked into a grocery store to get some tissues and fresh fruit…
And oh my goodness, that felt like the weirdest thing ever.
Air conditioning had never felt so unnatural against my skin; the orderly lines of yogurt, milk, fruit, cereals, and kitchen supplies stacked on top of metal racks on faux-marble floors took me a few minutes to get adjusted to seeing; and having so many people condensed in such a small space after becoming accustomed to solitude and peacefulness made me feel like an alien in that grocery store.
I walked up to the dairy section of store and grabbed a yogurt cup just because I hadn’t had yogurt in nearly a week. It’s something I have every single morning at home, and it reminded me of my quotidian life that was so separate from my life in the now. I eventually bought the lime-flavored yogurt to eat in the car, partly because I was hungry and craved something sweet, but also because I wanted to remind myself how amazing this camping trip was. It was a reminder to be grateful for everything that had already happened, is happening, and will happen on this trip, simply because nothing at home could compare to my experiences during camping. 🙂 😝
Continuing with the story: la dee dah, we drove 115 miles from Canyonlands to Natural Bridges National Monument, which took a little more than two hours, and the craziest thing happened in between those two hours:
I needed to pee.
Oh, well, that too, but I was actually thinking about something else…
Anyways, because I am a human being, I needed to use the bathroom in between driving from Moab to Natural Bridges. I could not hold it, but nor could I just set up the portable bathroom on the side of the freeway to do my business. That would be ridiculous. Therefore, my dad and I decided to stop at this recreation center that we found in one of the small communities that we drove past. I don’t remember if the recreation center was in Monticello or Blanding — I’m pretty sure it was Blanding — but I was a little creeped out when I used the bathroom there.
Well, because the entire town seemed deserted when we drove into it. 💨
There were children’s bikes and toys and signs of life everywhere on the front lawns of the neighborhoods we drove past, but the entire time I was there I didn’t see a single human being. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and the recreation park was completely empty. I sat on some mini gray bleachers that overlooked a baseball field, and I could just imagine this recreation center being filled with people playing sports and having picnics on the lawn if I moved this entire plot of land back home. It was a little eerie walking through this place to use the bathroom and only hear my footsteps, my breathing, and the wind slicing through the metal cage of the baseball field, but at the same time, though, it felt really peaceful.
What kind of community would feel so empty on a Sunday afternoon as beautiful as this?
I knew beforehand that Mormonism is very common in the state of Utah, and it wasn’t until my dad and I talked about how eerie it felt walking through that empty recreation center that it hit me — don’t most churches worship services on Sundays? 🤔 After some research and listening to some podcasts discussing aspects of the Mormon Church, I found out that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does indeed have church services on Sunday, and the entire service takes up quite a large chunk of people’s Sundays. That might explain why I saw no one in Blanding that Sunday because most people — if not all — were probably at church.
Being able to get a glimpse of what that community feels like on a Sunday afternoon as a passerby definitely has made me more interested in studying how religion impacts peoples lives. This entire camping trip has made me so more much open-minded — the U.S. is a huge and diverse place, and every time I drive deeper into the country I realize how different other people’s lives are in other parts of the U.S. when compared to my own. As someone who just wants to know more about the world, there’s really not much more I can ask for during a camping trip. 😊
After using the bathroom + more driving, we arrived in
Natural Bridges National Monument!!!
Of course, we went to the visitor center to pick up some maps and ask for recommended things to do. I stumbled upon some beautiful national park postcards and some other ones specific to monuments, state parks, and national parks in Utah, so I decided to buy that as well. I won’t show you all of the postcards, but I’ll show you the ones of the locations that I eventually went to by the end of this fantastic camping trip below.
Enjoy these lovely pictures with roadtrip-themed stickers, colorful rocks, and patterned paper atop a wooden garden table 😊:
Because we were quite tired and weren’t sure whether we would go to all three bridges, my dad and I decided that today we would only hike one bridge: the Sipapu Bridge, which represents a gateway for souls to pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology (National Park Service Visitor Guide for Natural Bridges). The total mileage out and back was only 1.2 miles, so we figured we could hike out, witness the grandeur of the second-largest natural bridge on the planet Earth, then head back to the campsite we just reserved to get some rest.
Spoiler alert: The hike wasn’t quick at all. It felt like it took us two or three hours. And I needed to pee the entire hike, which isn’t a pleasant feeling to deal with while hiking the steepest hike in Natural Bridges National Monument in searing hot weather. Just saying. 😶
The hike passed by some pretty breathtaking views, though, and it definitely was an adventurous one.
The hike was so steep it felt more difficult hiking down than back up the trail. On the parts of the trail where there were no stairs, I had to spend more mental and physical energy making sure I didn’t slip off the trail and go tumbling down the cliff edge or something hazardous of that sort. 😂
Every time the trail passed by a spot that had shade, I felt ready to cry out of gratitude. It seems strange to feel grateful for something as mundane as shade, but when the weather is as hot as it was during that hike, even a few seconds spent in shade felt like the most wonderful, soothing thing.
In addition to stone stairs, I also had to go down wooden ladders, metal stairs (so out of place in nature!), and a clutch a metal ramp as I skid down some rocks to Sipapu Bridge! Yay! 😆
The bridge was cool, but at that point in the hike I really, really, really needed to pee and it was hard to appreciate the nature around me when I was sweaty, hungry, tired, and in desperate need of access to a toilet. So we took some pictures…
…appreciated the beauty of the bridge, then hiked back up. I also took a picture next to a sign to show what a good, rule-abiding hiker I am —
— and proceeded to drive back to the Visitor Center to FINALLY use the bathroom. I was so so tired by the end of the hike. I knew I wouldn’t last another hike to one of the other two bridges in Natural Bridges that day, so we decided to call it a day and go back to our reserved campsite to have dinner, set up our tent, and rest so that we could continue our wonderful road trip in a more well-rested manner. 😄 The campsites had sand for us to put our tent pegs in, which was definitely more convenient than the rock-solid ground at Labyrinth Campsite, but it wasn’t as luxurious as Labyrinth — the campsite was part of a pretty populated campground, so I constantly saw people walking around and could hear a couple playing guitars a few sites away. The mood was still joyful, though lacking in the silence and solitude I had enjoyed just 24 hours ago; nevertheless, it was nice to be surrounded by people who shared the same passion of camping and also see a few parents bring their children along to the campsite. I hope those children realize how lucky they are to have experienced camping when they’re older. 😊
I pulled out a camping chair from the back of the car and sat outside of the tent for a while, changing out of my hiking boots into flip flops. My feet were throbbing from hiking that brutal path down and back up from Sipapu Bridge, and my skin was cracking and breaking from the dirt, dry air, sweat, and heat of the environment. I wrapped up the day by cleaning myself up with some baby wipes and listening to some more podcasts.
It was a difficult and tiring day;
but, as always
I fell asleep feeling
very, very happy.
And before you go —
Did you shower today? Wash your hands? Drink clear, clean water? If you did any of that, then I hope you’re grateful and happy.
The entire experience of washing my hands has never felt more luxurious than after this camping trip. 🤣😂
Thanks for reading, and I will cya in my next post continuing my adventures during the Summer Road Trip of 2017! 🤗😋🏕
The Next Post Will Feature:
Harry the Hare
Will We Hike It? Or Will We Not?
Brushing My Teeth (Finally, Dude 😄)
Makeshift Shower in the Visitor Center Bathroom (?) uhhh 😶
CYAA NEXT TIME!!!! 😝🤗😊
Oh, look — I’ve found another one
another piece of me
that’s so far from home
Now it’s mine,
and I plan to take it with me
Another puzzle piece found
after years of not realizing it was lost
Now I’m finally bringing it home
to store within my heart:
This post is the eighth post in the
Road Trip of Summer 2017 travel series
on Whisked Away By Words!
If you want to read more about my adventures road tripping and camping throughout
California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona,
head on over to the Travel Archive to view a list of all the posts in this series.