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Published: November 3rd 2012
Nearby to Mexican Hat is Goosenecks State Park, which overlooks part of the San Juan river. From here, the depths to the river below reach over 1000 feet as the river snakes sharply back and forth - giving the place its name. Or perhaps it was discovered by John Goosenecks. I forget. But make sure to check out the panoramic photo I took below.
At this point the route went off the beaten path somewhat. I had done quite a lot of research for this trip and browsed a lot of travel forums. Some insiders suggested we take the road from Mexican Hat up the Moki dugway. This turned out to be a dirt trail, right up the side of a massive cliff, climbing 1,100 feet in just 3 miles! The beast didn't enjoy it so much, but it ploughed on stoically to the top. The views from the top were spectacular to say the least.
Next up, we took another sandy dirt track out to another hidden gem - Muley Point. We initially missed the turn-off, such is its obscurity. However, once we got there we were greeted with even more other-worldly views, stretching right across to Monument
Top of Moki Dugway
View of Valley of the Gods in the background
Valley in the distance. It was freezing and windy, but we stayed around for quite a while. We couldn't believe such a place existed and that we had the whole thing to ourselves.
After our fresh shot of life-adrenalin we drove a relatively short distance to Natural Bridges National Monument. There are 3 major naturally formed rock bridges which can be hiked to. We only hiked to one, but luckily it was probably the best. Natural 'bridges' are formed from erosion by rivers or streams, as opposed to 'arches' which are not formed by rivers. You'll see some examples of these next time.
Our town for the night was Monticello (Pop: 13,000) where we had our first real wildlife sighting. The deer thought it was cold enough to wander right through town (-4c). We also had our first introduction to hunters, as they wear bright orange hats and cruise along a 65mph highway at 10mph hanging out the window with their binoculars. Apparently this is quite normal. We found a local steak house for dinner. Jamie decided he would get 'chips' with his burger, while I had 'fries'. We were unsure what the difference was between these two
Natural Bridges National Monument
apparently similar options but it didn't take long to find out. While I was relatively unimpressed with my slivers of fried potato, Jamie was even less impressed with his Smiths Thins. Plain chips from a packet. On his plate. With his burger. He still ate them.
Our route continued east into Colorado the next day - our destination being the mountain town of Ouray (Pop: 982). We were quite impressed with this friendly little town, nestled 7,800 feet above sea level in the San Juan mountains. For those interested, this is around 50 metres higher than Mt Kosciuszko. We managed to locate some outdoor hot springs, which made for a very relaxing soak while surrounded by snow-capped peaks in every direction. If only we were able to get hold of some beers to make the picture even more perfect.
We had our best meal of the trip so far in Ouray, consisting of steak and veggies - which are considered an endangered commodity it seems. We spent our evening at a local brewery which was established all the way back in 2010. They had an entire corner of the bar devoted to merchandise proudly displaying the fact. Well
The next day our drive traversed what is known as the 'Million dollar highway'. This is considered one of the most scenic drives in America. There are plenty of steep cliffs, narrow lanes and minimal guardrails. We also crossed an 11,000 foot (3350m) summit and breathed some ultra cool, fresh air.
We ended the day in the adventure sports town of Moab, back in Utah. We would be spending our next 3 nights here checking out Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Our minds would be freshly blown once more in these parks.
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