Day 11: Hovenweep to Bryce Canyon
Hovenweep, Utah—Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona—Bryce Canyon, Utah
Hovenweep is actually closer to Mesa Verde than Arches and very close to the Colorado border. We visited the Square Tower Group. There are several other groups nearby with similar historical backgrounds. The word Hovenweep is an Ute word meaning "deserted valley." These buildings were occupied by the same groups who were at Mesa Verde. It was very hot this morning and again, no shower. After our "dunking-the-head-in-the-sink routine" we went to the visitor center. There was some guy in there, not too friendly though.
We walked over to the structures lining the small canyon. There was one large building above the canyon and several inside the canyon. There were more people there than I expected here. The castle was all right. Nothing too impressive, aside from the astronomical significance. The Anasazi used the site as a calendar. Windows in the side of the structure marked the solstices and equinoxes by the position of the sunlight coming through these windows at sunset.
Driving out the way we came in, we passed by only a few houses (which didn't appear to have electricity or running water), plenty of windmills with water tanks below, and the Hatch trading post. Thirty miles later we were back on the main road, US 191 south. We took this down to Bluff, UT where we turned on US 163 southwest to Monument Valley. The next town after Bluff was Mexican Hat, named for a large stone in the shape of a sombrero that rests on top of a stone tower, like the South of the Border sombrero on that large tower in South Carolina, except this one's natural. After this tiny, dusty town we crossed over the San Juan River and into the Navajo Indian Reservation and Monument Valley, passing many trading posts.
The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation and seems to be the most organized as far as government goes. They have their own signs for buckling seat belts - IT'S NAVAJO LAW, and there were Navajo construction crews on the roads. Monument Valley was nice, not as large as I expected, but it was cool. Passed through Monument Pass (5,209 ft) and drove into the town of Kayenta, AZ. Picked up US 160 which goes by Navajo National Monument and then turned northwest on AZ 98. Along this road were many power lines that seemed to go on forever. Big huge towers that are shaped like people, two legs and two arms holding up the lines. The towers had to be over a mile apart holding up the sagging lines. This road goes to Page, AZ, another larger town. I guess the towns had to be larger out here because they are much farther apart, in the last 175 miles we've only passed through 4 towns.
Page actually has an airport and it is situated above the Colorado River. In Page we picked up US 89 in a westerly direction. Once you've gone through Page, you pass over the Glen Canyon Dam. We crossed over the river on a large steel arch bridge, the kind you always see in car commercials. The bridge is attached to the smooth, steep canyon walls that shelter the river. On crossing this bridge we were leaving the Navajo Indian Reservation and entering the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We did not drive over the dam, the dam, and Lake Powell, were to the north as we drove across the bridge. Jim, the ranger from Arches, called this lake a large evaporation pit and added that enough water is lost there each day from evaporation to water the entire Midwest.
The dam was started in 1956 and supplies power to the surrounding states. The water began to back up behind the dam in 1963 and reached its full pool in 1980, filling Glen Canyon. The dam is 710 feet above the bedrock, took 7 years to build, and cost over 200 million dollars. The bridge is the second highest steel arch bridge in the world at 700 feet above the water. The water of Lake Powell was very blue and contrasted beautifully with the white and orange layered sandstone that surrounded the lake. The length of Lake Powell's coastline is over 1,900 miles which is more than the western coast of the U.S. if you can believe that.
We crossed back into Utah and the road became even more barren. The first town in Utah was Big Water and 56 miles later is Kanab. Big Water was a no-horse town, nothing there. We passed over some hills, the Vermilion Cliffs, which extend north and south to the Grand Canyon. As we were driving through the car started doing weird things. I pressed on the gas and nothing would happen and the speedometer was going down, down, down. I thought we were going to be stranded, I asked Andy how long ago we passed through Big Water. It had been a while, the town was at least 20 miles behind us. The next town on the map, Kanab, was at least double that. I was very worried because there is nothing out here, nothing! Luckily, when we were struggling around 30 miles per hour, the gas came back and we made it to Kanab without having to pull over. I talked to this guy at a service station who provided a little confidence, but not enough to overcome the thought of being stranded somewhere.
Outside Kanab is the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, we did not stop here but it gives one a mental picture of the area. Actually, one major difference between here and eastern Utah is the lack of vegetation. The eastern part of the state has much more vegetation on the ground than the parts we've traveled through today. We followed US 89 up to the turnoff for Bryce Canyon. From Kanab we traveled northwest to Mt. Carmel Junction where the road veers north. This part of the road is in between two mountain ranges and parallels the Sevier River. Both the Ranges to our east and west are in the Dixie National Forest and have peaks over 10,000 feet. This was a more populated area. We were higher up and there were more trees and plants making things a bit more hospitable.
We decided to camp at this privately-owned campground, Bryce Canyon Pines Campground, about six miles away from Bryce. We arrived around mid-afternoon. This place had showers and as soon as we set up the tent and unpacked everything we took showers. It was lightly raining and this produced a double rainbow, soon after which the sun set. The elevation here is 6,000 feet plus, which makes the temperature much more pleasant. Talked with a truck driver in the bathroom. It's interesting to find out what other people do with their lives. This was the first shower since Colorado and it felt great. We started to do laundry today too. I was running out of clothes. We talked to an older woman who seemed to know about everything in the area. She was a bit preachy but that was all right, she was just trying to pass on the lessons that she learned years back. The laundry was full and a line had formed so we'll do laundry tomorrow. We went back to camp to hit the sack early tonight. Andy wanted to be at Bryce Canyon early tomorrow and we may even get up early to see the stars.