After jumping forward to write about the CSP Mystery Ball here in Bisbee, I’m picking up the trail after my previous post about Lowry Pueblo. After leaving the ruins and crossing back into Utah from Colorado, I approached Monticello from the east, only to find snow falling on the high country just to the west. Any plans I’d had for camping up in that area were abandoned. Checking out the sky in each direction, I decided that it looked better up north toward Moab, so turned the van and headed that way.
I’m quite accustomed to encounters with odd rock formations in the southwest, but the sight of Church Rock practically brought me to an abrupt stop (see above – click on all images for larger views). Fortunately, there are turnout lanes in each direction as this is one of those places where just about everyone feels compelled to stop and snap a photo. Knowing nothing about the history of the rock, I later learned that the hole at the base is alleged to be the work of a group of followers of Marie Ogden who had led them to Utah to form a utopian religious colony north of Monticello.
A few days later, while driving along a nearby road, I photographed a cabin (see above) which was posted with a sign Marie’s Place, or something to that effect. Thinking it must have been some kind of abandoned B&B, I gave it no more thought until looking for information on Church Rock. There’s actually quite a history to Marie Ogden and her group. If curious, you can read more about Marie and the Home of Truth colony here and here.
This signboard with a map of the Moab area should help to orient some of the places which I visited and camped. Arriving in Moab, I dropped by at the visitor center to ask about camping in the area. Originally, I had hoped to stay at the Devil’s Garden campground which is situated within Arches National Park, but the person on duty said that there was probably no chance of getting a site there as it is always full. From other posts on this blog, I’m sure it’s become apparent that I avoid any place where there are more than a handful of people – the less the better – so camping at Arches was completely out. I asked about other possibilities and was handed a page with a list of other sites in the region – most being small BLM sites along the Colorado River. With the list as a guide, I drove us out of town to explore upriver.
The first site I came upon (Goose Island), was about half filled, mainly with large RVs, so I kept going, on past a couple of smaller tent and camper sites until I reached Big Bend. It looked pretty ideal – there appeared to be no one there other than the camp host. I chose a site off on its own along the river. It was about 3 p.m., so the tall canyon walls were casting long shadows over most of the campground. I got to work setting up camp as I knew that the light would soon be lost. Our campsite was terrific. In one direction, there was a high formation with castle like columns (see above). Just below us flowed the Colorado River, the river banks illuminated by the last rays of sunlight on golden willow leaves (see below). All around us, birds darted through the bushes, stopping to sing a few phrases before moving on. No doubt, at a warmer time in the season, these river campgrounds must be crowded, but at this time of the year, they are all but abandoned. Perfect.
After a short walk with the dogs, I began making our dinner. Sage found herself a perch on one of the large rocks near the picnic table. The dogs and I had such a pleasant evening, sitting eating our dinners, listening to the rushing of the river over a set of gentle rapids. I thought of how lucky we were to have chosen this place rather than ending up in a busy campground. So many times in my travels, I’ve passed by busy spots, thinking that if I just drive a little further on, maybe we’ll find a quiet place. Fortunately, this has almost always proven to be the case.
We had a quiet night and rose early, ready to set out for a day of touring through Arches National Park which actually lies just above where we had camped, but is accessed by driving back downriver toward Moab and then on north up Rte 191. I’ll be writing a post about Arches, so keep watch for that in the next day or two. However, I’ll end this post with a couple of photos taken along the Colorado River canyon.
The sandstone walls of the canyons are a deep red, often streaked with dark desert varnish. Here and there along the roadway, there are hiking trails going up through steep side canyons. I did not do any exploring on this trip as I would have had to leave Sabrina in the van. In many places, there are the beginnings of arches cut into the canyon walls. They will gradually change, eventually wearing away to create the kinds of arches that will be seen in my next post.