Southeast UT Fun Stuff

This post covers our transit to Blanding UT and the first two days there of Fun Stuff©…after that we took a break day and are doing nothing on Saturday…but we’ll be off Sunday without the house on an overnight trip over to southwest CO for a couple more monuments and parks.

Last Tuesday we checked with our next destination…Blue Mountain RV in Blanding UT “Gateway to Adventure” according to the Welcome to Blanding sign on the way into town…to make sure we could get in early and as our site was unoccupied they said sure. So we were on the road by shortly after 1000 for the 80 mile or so trip down. Turning left out of Archview we continued on US-191 south through Moab then it was pretty clear sailing going south. We did get stopped once for maybe 10 minutes for single lane/road construction/flagman/pilot vehicle but then were quickly on our way. Blanding is the next town south of Moab and is located at 4,872 feet above sea level so a bit lower than our last stop at Archview. We pulled in and were quickly directed to our site 15…a nice pull through looking west…with a request to come back later to check in as nobody was in the office right then. We got setup, checked in and did nothing the rest of the afternoon. Round about 1730…we decided we were hungry. Neil gave Connie a choice of spaghetti with bacon and cheese…or a burrito from Pop’s Burritos which is a UT chain similar to Chipotle only better as we found out. He suggested that…since we were headed off the next day for Fun Stuff© and would need lunch that if we got 2 burritos and ate 2/3 of each one of them we could take the remainder for lunch the next day…burritos are just fine cold from the cooler was his reasoning and there was no other possibility for lunch on our planned route other than taking it with us.

She agreed and we headed off…1 Steak Burrito for Connie and 1 Sweet Pork Burrito for Neil and we were back at home with dinner and a brew.

The guy in the office had recommended to us that we visit Bear’s Ears National Monument in addition to all of our other stuff…but on doing a bit of research we found out that it was only established by Executive Order last year and was currently under review by the new administration’s Department of the Interior. Apparently the locals here…at least the cattle growing locals…didn’t think much of the largest National Monument (1.4 million acres) being established basically without local input or any local management oversight…particularly as most of it is Indian Reservation land. It’s currently being reevaluated to include less acreage (which will satisfy the cattle ranchers), will be managed jointly by the BLM and the Indian nation whose land it is (Navaho nation), and most importantly of course it will allow the current administration undo one of the “executive over-reach” orders of the previous administration…because we all know that making the other guy look bad is the most important thing the useless bums in Washington DC have to do. Anyways…since it was recently established…there is no visitor center, no web page, no hiking trails…essentially it’s a National Monument on paper at this point. Since the only thing worth really seeing is the Bear’s Ears…and since you can see them from Blue Mountain RV…we decided it wasn’t worth a 40 mile round trip down a dirt road to see them.

Here’s a shot of our setup in site 15…looking eastward here.

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And a shot of Bear’s Ears looking west…more on these later.

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Our plan for Thursday was to arrive at Hovenweep National Monument about 30 miles southeast of Blanding when the visitor center opened for the movie…then a short hike around it to see the pueblos then head about 30 miles west of Blanding for the Natural Bridges National Monument. With that in mind we headed out around 0800…with some directions of the “turn left at the dead tree and right at the rock” variety from the Hovenweep web site…it claimed that GPS would do you wrong and lead you astray but I’m guessing that was some old stuff on their website as our Garmin Nuvi 770 took us on the same route as the web site directions. The only problem was the road names and numbers…between Google maps, the GPS, and the NPS website directions each of the roads except US-191 which we were on for the first 10 miles or so had at least 3 different names and or numbers. I can understand a different name but one would think that state road whatever and county road whichever would be the same no matter what navigational source you used. There was another minor problem in that the website claimed all the roads were paved which wasn’t quite true…about 5 miles was under reconstruction or widening or something…anyway there was heavy equipment pushing dirt around.

We arrived at Hovenweep and watched the movie. Essentially there were ancient Puebloan people living in these parts of southeast UT and back around 1200 AD they started to combine into larger communities around canyon heads of Cajon Mesa and the associated springs. They built villages of up to 300 or so people between the early 1200s and about 1270 when they were abandoned for an unknown reason. The ruins were discovered again in 1854 by a Mormon expedition and then named Hovenweep…which is a Paiute/Ute word meaning “Deserted Valley” in 1874. The National Monument area was surveyed by the Smithsonian in 1917 and designated as such in 1923. All that remains are some tall towers and other living quarters known as kivas…the towers are thought to have been religious in nature originally but eventually evolved into defensive works for the spring each village was centered around. The current Indian nations Navajo and Ute are thought to be the descendants of the Puebloans.

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Juniper Tree.

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Wildlife sightings were slim…here’s some sort of lizard we saw. We think he is a Sideblotched Lizard.

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Looking down into the canyon.

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Our second wildlife sighting…different kind of lizard than the first one…much bigger as this one was about 12 inches long vs 4 for the other one. We think it is a Yellow-headed Collared Lizard. Sorry they’re both lizards, but hey, you take what you can get.

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Wild horses…we think…at least there were no visible brands on them and we could not see any sign of human habitation anywhere around.

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From Hovenweep…we retraced our path through the road construction area back almost to Blanding then turned west to head towards our second goal for the day…Natural Bridges national Monument. Shortly after turning off of US-191 we spotted this road sign…and were taken aback as usually a ferry implies a water crossing and there are few to none of those in southeast UT…it’s a desert. Nonetheless…the ferry is temporarily closed…but we never saw it so either it’s further on towards Mexican Hat than we went or something else. We passed no water on our trip out to Natural Bridges.

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The bridges of Natural Bridges National Monument were discovered in 1883 by a prospector searching for gold who instead found 3 naturally formed stone bridges…they were chronicled by the National Geographic in 1903 and designated as Utah’s first National Monument in 1908. The bridges have had multiple names over the years but are now known by the Hopi names Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo…these mean (respectively) “Place of Emergence” where the Hopi believed their ancestors entered the world, Kachina dolls made by the Hopi, and Rock mound which is a feature just above the bridge.

Now in the photos below…you’re going to say “those are arches, not bridges”…but that’s becuz I ain’t edumacated ya yet. Arches ya see…they’re formed from sandstone out droppings that are eroded by wind power and by the action of ice expansion during the winter first into a fin and then the center of the fin wears away forming an arch. Bridges…on the other hand…are formed somewhat similarly but by erosion due to flowing water. Way back when…the canyons weren’t there yet but were flat lands with streams running across them. Now…as streams are wont to do…the streams meandered as directed by gravity and have many S-shaped bends in them. Over time…the water erodes the relatively soft sandstone and pretty soon (at least on a geologic time scale) then you have a canyon with many S-shaped bends in it and flowing water at the bottom. More time passes and the long fingers of high ground between the meanders get worn away by the action of the stream until it forms a new hole through the now fin-shaped high ground and then the water takes the new shorter route and the old meander route gets raised a bit by collapsing or eroding rock from the sides of the canyon and the stream abandons the old course. Bridges have a much shorter lifespan than arches do…they’re eroded more quickly by the water flow and eventually collapse. They start with small holes and massively thick bridges and then the hole gradually erodes larger due to both the water flow that formed the bridge in the first place and the same mechanisms that erode arches. Eventually they look more like arches than bridges…except they’re at the bottom of the canyons…and then eventually they collapse.

After watching the movie…we drove around the 9 mile one way road to see the three bridges then headed home.

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Kachina Bridge…the youngest of the 3 as it’s the most massive. All 3 are in the are of 200-300 feet in span and 106-220 feet in height

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Owachomo…the middle aged bridge…it’s really hard to see from the viewpoint as the best views require a hike down into the canyon…which at 6,500 feet we didn’t have enough energy left to do. The bridge is just behind the green area in the middle of the photo and you’re looking at it sort of sideways…the direct view through it you would be in the canyon bottom just past the green area looking to the right.

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Sipapu…the oldest and thinnest of the 3.

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On the way back we spotted Bear’s Ears…which is what the Bear’s Ears National Monument is named after…they’re two small mesas that supposedly resemble the ears of a bear sticking up from the horizon…I guess they maybe sorta kinda do if you had enough brews. But my ears certainly don’t look like that!

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Dinner was pepper steak that Neil grilled outside and some roasted ‘taters, onions, and green peppers…along with some left over zucchini Connie had from the other night…along with a nice glass or three of Malbec.

Friday we had a single goal…to visit the Four Corners Monument which is about 50 miles southeast of Blanding…it’s the only place in the US where four states meet…Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Now there’s some controversy over the location of this monument…so a little more edumacation is in order I s’pose.

Way back when…the borders of what would become these four states were sort of roughly defined…but after the Civil War they were surveyed and markers set to delineate the 32nd meridian and the 37th parallel which were the legally defined borders…and I guess by the standards of 1868 they were actually pretty good. In any event…they place a monument at the intersection and a court case decided back in 1925 by the Supreme Court ruled that the markers placed in 1868 were the actual border even though they were admittedly wrong based on the parallel and median locations…they were ruled as accurate when they were surveyed by the courts. Today…the monument is off by 1,807 feet to the east as admitted by the US National Geodetic Survey based on where modern surveyors using modern techniques including GPS would place it. If you google it then the monument appears to be about 30 feet south of the actual location…Neil’s GPS in the phone agrees with this but in any event the monument…by court decree…represents the actual borders regardless of what it says on your map.

Screenshot of Neil’s GPS app standing on the marker…about 40 feet off according to GPS.

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Google maps agrees.

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Standing on the actual…according to GPS…spot.

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Looking southward toward the marker…the guy with his back to you in the green shirt is standing on it.

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Connie standing on the marker and pointing westward towards where the modern surveyors would locate the marker…the GPS one Neil was standing on in the above shot is just the other side of that fence. States clockwise from top left…Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona.

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Obligatory tourist shot.

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After paying our $10 to the Navajo nation for entry, doing the tourist photo thing at the monument, buying a couple of T-shirts we headed homewards with a planned stop in Bluff UT for lunch were we ate at the Twin Rocks Cafe…had some pretty good bacon and cheese stuffed Jalapeño peppers and split a BLT…along with the obligatory brew of course, Evolution Ale for Connie and Polygamy Porter for Neil (both from Wasatch Brewery in Salt Lake City and both just 4% beers…this is Utah home of the Mormons who don’t like alcohol after all) we headed the last 30 miles or so home. Dinner was leftovers from the night before and then TV until bed.

This is why they call it Twin Rocks Cafe…both of these shots were taking looking up at about a 40 degree angle from immediately in front of the cafe…I sure hope they don’t eventually fall when the cafe is occupied.

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Interesting things found on the net.

Why they drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK…it’s because they rode their horses on the wrong side of the road so you could whack anybody you met with your sword.

Why UK Drives on Wrong Side of the Road

Toyota Corolla with a selfie stick and smoking a cigarette.


More garage door art.



How to pose with a statue.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
This entry was posted in RV, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Southeast UT Fun Stuff

  1. OMG. Gunther and Kara, your Mom and Dad had me laughing so hard when you were talking about the Burritos I thought I would piss my pants. Your parents are the funniest people I have ever met. . This whole story is so fricking funny. I just discovered I am alergic to Strawberries and If I could stop scratching I would be able to tell you more about your email. Well I won’t be eating anymore strawberries and thats that. Loved everything , the pictures are great. Thank you so much for including me in your travails, oops travels.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      I think that Gunther thinks of so more as staff than parents. We are just here to serve his requirements.

      Don’t eat no mo strawberries…dem thangs ken make ya brake out. Sent from my iPad mini


  2. OMG! So far behind on blog updates! Steen and Moi had a great time in GS; took me 10 hours to get back home; I-65 b/w Montgomery and B’ham/I-59 took at least 2.5. Will read more tmrws to keep up my record! HFD!!!!

  3. I wonder how the Pueblo Indians managed to live in the desert . They sure did know how to make a building with insulation. Those double stone walls at least kept out the wind and dust storms Enjoy your travels. I am graduating from my frozen shoulder therapy today. So I am going to go to Publix and buy some of those teeny cupcakes and take them with me when I go.

    God bless and have fun. (like I know you are).

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Yeah…I didn’t talk about it in the blog writeup…but they had numerous water reservoirs…albeit small ones… and constructed small dams to direct the flow of the rainfall into them. Even some up on the top of the mesa with rudimentary irrigation systems to help distribute the water to their crops…beans, corn and squash. There’s not much rain here…something like 15 inches a year and it all falls in the late summer/early fall.

      The stone walls…both single and double…along with the underground nature of their buildings helped keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

      Get big cupcakes…why think small.


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