Natural Bridges National Monument: Day Two | Lake Powell, Utah 🌵
June 12th, 2017
I’m so tired I don’t even know if I’m going to hike today.
Then again, seeing that this is an
adventure of a lifetime…
Is tiredness even a factor I consider for making decisions now?
Will I hike the other two bridges today? Will I not?
Let’s see. 😉😋
The morning was lovely, as expected for camping. I will admit, though, I felt really gross after not showering for the past couple of nights. I wouldn’t mind not showering for the same amount of days if I were camping up north or in the mountains, but the thing is, it was summer in Utah and I had been hardcore hiking everyday. The sweat, sunscreen, and dusty red soil that comes with camping in Utah adds up despite using baby wipes to clean myself up every day before sleeping.
So, I decided to solve the problem — if you don’t have a shower, what the closest thing to a shower that you can use?
The Grand (with the r’s rolled) Natural Bridges National Monument Visitor Center bathroom sink! 🎉🎉🎉
*the crowd goes wild* 😮
Indeed: Before eating or drinking water, changing clothes, or anything else, my dad and I went straight to the Visitor Center during the crack of dawn to use the bathroom there. I got my own spacious handicap bathroom to use because no one was up during that time, so I 1) brushed my teeth for the first time in two days, 2) washed my face (which felt very refreshing), and 3) wetted some towels at a sad but realistic and practical attempt to clean myself up and compensate for not having a ready shower at hand.
Huh… now that I’m sitting down and writing about how I cleaned myself up after two nights of not showering or brushing my teeth, I realize how anticlimactic this all sounds.
But you don’t understand — that feeling of splashing water on your face and using wet towels to wipe the dirt off your legs felt like the best thing in the world. I actually would consider that makeshift shower in the Visitor Center handicap bathroom to be one of the pivotal moments within my summer camping trip. I haven’t lost that feeling of pure bliss and overwhelming gratitude of feeling so clean since that trip, and whenever I’m feeling down, all I have to think back to during that trip is that moment in the bathroom and how grateful I should be to have access to clean water, a shower every night, and actual towels instead of paper ones.
Also, it’s kind of a hilarious moment for me to think back to. How many people can say they’ve had a makeshift shower in a national park Visitor Center bathroom — specifically, Natural Bridges National Monument’s Visitor Center bathroom?
Not anyone that I know of. 😊
(Also, side note, if you type in “makeshift shower in national park visitor center bathroom” in Google, the sixth website that pops up is my Day 1 post for Natural Bridges National Monument. See? This proves my experience was very unique. 😂)
After that wonderful clean-up session, my dad and I went into the Visitor Center again. I ended up buying a puppet hare because as a child, I had this tradition where I would buy a stuffed animal every time I saw an animal. I did see a hare, and I have this lovely puppet owl named Owly that I brought to many camping trips; thus, I thought it was only fitting to name my new puppet hare Harry the Hare. 😇
After that, we headed back to our campsite, took down our tent, and had breakfast (I had an apple 🍎, a brownie 🍫, and a slice of coffee cake ☕️ — it’s typical that I crave more desserts as camping trips go on 😅). Surprisingly, it actually was a little chilly during the morning, so for the first time in a few days, I had to pull my jacket out from the bottom of my clothing bag to warm myself up.
As we set our gear into our car, my dad and I acknowledged that yes, we were indeed extremely tired and yes, it’s totally alright for us to not hike the last two bridges in Natural Bridges. We can just go see them on the drive out of Natural Bridges and have a nice day driving to and through Monument Valley and/or Valley of the Gods.
There was absolutely no shame in that, we agreed, nodding our heads.
I looked at my dad.
He looked at me.
And I just knew that we were both thinking the same thing:
Of course it would be shameful to just hike to one bridge when we were literally in Natural Bridges National Monument! I mean, we were there, so why not just hike to another bridge?
But we were tired… and we still had a few days left in our trip. We really shouldn’t burn ourselves out or the rest of the trip would simply be awful.
With many thoughts swirling through our minds, we drove to Kachina Bridge.
Huh? What were we doing? I suddenly felt like I wasn’t in control of my limbs anymore — I found myself suddenly packing my water bottle, jacket, camera, hat sunglasses, and food into my backpack; I had opened the car door and jumped to the ground. I could see the arch of Kachina Bridge in the distance.
I looked at my dad.
He looked back at me.
“I’m really tired,” I said.
“Me too,” he replied.
And I guess we both interpreted that as “Yay let’s hike this thing and not think about how fatigued we are!” because in five minutes I found myself hiking on the 1.4 mile round trip down to Kachina Bridge?
What in the world just happened? 😯
We made our way down and down and down, and luckily, this time, I was able to appreciate my surroundings much more because I didn’t have struggle with the awful feeling of not being able to pee (*ahem* like during the hike down to Sipupa Bridge). Thus, I was able to take many pictures of the beautiful flora I saw throughout the hike!
A lot of the pictures I’ve taken throughout this trip — and my descriptions of the places I’ve been too — have probably painted much of Utah as this searingly hot landscape with flame-colored rocks and dry air whichever way you turn. That really was the majority of what I experienced in Utah, but once in a while, like during this hike down to Kachina Bridge, I’ll come across a lovely shaded area with a pool of water next to it, and plants will sprout in abundance. I saw my first flower in a few days during this hike, which was really nice. They added a nice touch of color to the red soil they were growing out of, and so did the green of the bushes, trees, and foliage.
After viewing Kachina Bridge for a long time as something far in the distance —
— we finally arrived at the base of it!
The bottom of Kachina Bridge was like a whole new world. It was shaded, slightly chilly, and bright green shrubbery was everywhere. There was a pool of water near the bridge, next to where a trail ran through this portion of the terrain that was so heavily covered in shrubbery and trees that walking through it felt like walking through a miniature forest.
Exploring the area around that bridge was actually more fun than looking at the bridge because there was just so much going on at the base. I found animal tracks near the pools of water because clearly, desert animals have to take advantage of spending more time in places where water collect.
Within this particular pool of water, I found shrimp-like/bug-like creatures that were lying on the bottom of the pool. I tried doing some research online to find out what these creatures are called, but I couldn’t find anything on them. They were huge, though, and were quite hard to tell apart from the water pool floor — see if you can find them in the pictures. 😊
In addition to gaping at those bug/shrimp/whatever-those-things-are creatures, I also…
Climbed Some Rocks!
consequently getting sand in my eyes which really hurt but it was totally worth it 😁
Found a Lovely Spider!
it kept disappearing but eventually I was able to get a slightly unfocused picture of it 👍
Found Some Petroglyphs on the Walls!
which took an embarrassing amount of time for me to find 😅
After spending much longer than intended down at Kachina Bridge, we hiked back up and oh my goodness.
We were very tired. 😪
After eating some food and sitting in the car for a bit, we concluded that
we had simply reached the maximum we could take for hiking that day.
I wanted to leave and spend the rest of the day driving so I wouldn’t have to get up and move again, but it didn’t seem reasonable for me to to leave Natural Bridges without seeing the last bridge out of the three total within the monument park: Owachomo Bridge.
Thus, with throbbing feet, sweat-soaked clothes, and faces grimy with sunscreen and dust, my dad and I drove down a few miles down towards Owachomo Bridge. We got out of our car with no backpacks and just our cameras (because there was no need for gear if we weren’t going to hike anymore), and walked a little bit down a nicely-paved path to the bridge overlook.
Owachomo Bridge certainly was beautiful from afar.
And, I think, if something looks beautiful from afar… wouldn’t you feel naturally inclined to get closer to it to see if it’s as grand and majestic and lovely up close as it is from a distance?
NATURAL BRIDGES VISITOR CENTER INFORMATION
The total distance was 1.2 miles, estimated hiking time 1 hr in the Visitor Guide.
The hike took us a total of about two hours.
The total distance was 1.4 miles round trip, and estimated time of 1 hr hiking time in the Visitor Guide.
The hike took us about an hour and a half.
The total distance down and back is 0.4 miles, and the estimated hiking time is 30 minutes.
For the third time that day,
I looked at my dad,
and my dad looked back at me.
Owachomo Bridge stayed still and grand in the background. Our cameras were still raised from taking photographs of the bridge. The landscape was empty, silent, and devoid of any movement.
There was no one else there to influence our decisions — just us.
Our minds and motivation and willpower
The knowledge that a trip as life-changing and wonderful as this won’t last forever?
The fact that the hike is less than half a mile and we should totally be able to handle that? 🤔
But alas, we knew what was best for us.
We got back into the car, headed out of Natural Bridges, and drove off into the blazing afternoon sun that was neither rising nor setting. 🌞
Just kidding! 😁
We ended up hiking down to the bridge. It hurt, but that feeling I got when I hiked back up and got to the car can not compare to getting a good grade on a test, or getting a good night’s sleep, or even reading a wonderful book.
It was like… a moment that could be even better than the most motivating and touching scene I’ve read in a book, because it was so real and so present in my life.
And in the end… isn’t this entire travel series just that? It’s a written collection of moments in my life that have impacted me; in a way, writing this makes me feel like a character in a book. Even when I reread my previous posts on the beginnings of this camping trip, I feel awed and a little detached from the story. Did I really experience that out-of-this world experience? How many people can say they’ve had the same experiences, and do I realize how much these experiences have shaped me as a person?
So, yes — I’ve hiked to all three bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument. For some, me saying that doesn’t bring a sense of wow! in them. From an outsider’s point of view, it’s just three hikes, a combined total of three miles. And they’re just bridges. Just rocks, just the feeling of sweat dripping down my back and sand falling into my eyes as I’m trying to climb over a rock to see what lies beyond it.
But it isn’t just just. My experience in Natural Bridges National Monument has revealed to me that I posses something very empowering and special. Sometimes this aspect of me is buried beneath schoolwork and quotidian stresses, of contemplations on how I should best spend my time and whether I really should be more sure about my future. This aspect of me is such a core of who I am, but it’s taken such a long time to reveal itself to me:
I can’t do things with passion, love, or joy if I know I’m not going to get something out of doing it that will teach my something about the world. I don’t form relationships with people if I’m not going to be enlightened about something through talking with them about their life, experiences, and thoughts, and I don’t travel just for sake of ticking off a list of places I’ve visited around the world.
My motivation doesn’t stem from material rewards, others’ approval, or numbers — my motivation stems from my desire to experience more moments like the one I had after hiking back up from Owachomo Bridge. It’s that feeling of success, of passion, of pushing myself to limits of what I can physically and mentally take to reach a point in my life where I can look at myself, the people and space around me, and nod my head as I think, yes, the world is beautiful. Life is beautiful, and I’m simply…
so glad I exist. 😊
That’s The Last Experience I Had
at Natural Bridges National Monument
before we drove off to our next destination.
Thank you, Natural Bridges, that nine-mile loop, those three hikes, for finding your way into that lovely and brutal day of my Summer Road Trip of 2017. 😘
And thank you, dear reader, for coming along with me as I remember and write about the best camping road trip of my life thus far. I appreciate you taking your time to read my story, and I hope you were able to gain something positive from reading this post. 😊
Cya next time! 🤗 *waves*
The next post will feature…
insane winds 💨
and, of course,
a lone cow happily jaywalking across a highway. Yay! 🐄
The thoughts that float across her mind when she’s alone
feel much more different
than the thoughts that skitter frantically around when she’s at home.
It makes her wonder…
what could she do
to make her thoughts at home
feel so calm, collected, and as lovely as they are
This post is the ninth 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.