Friday, April 17, 2015

A Canyon's Northwest Forest

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah #2

The wind howled all night but Thistle, sheltered in the pinyon-juniper forest, was protected. We only felt, from time-to-time, slight sways. The morning's warmup was slow coming. At 9:30 it was sunny and warm-looking outside, but still only 30 degrees. The slight breeze added to the chill factor. We hung out in heated Thistle. I even indulged in a second cup of coffee. Most mornings I have only one cup of coffee, in hopes of finding the perfect coffee shop for my second cup. Mostly, with this strategy, I'm only having one cup of coffee a day.

Once we finally get going, we hike Sipapu Bridge Trail, the second largest natural bridge in the world. Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon is the largest.

The trail to Sipapu Bridge is steep, with a staircase and three wooden ladders to aid hikers. The logs you see in the first photograph provided access to the fir tree that visitors climbed down to reach the canyon. At age 10, I would have loved shinning up and down the tree. Now, not so much. I'm grateful for the stairway.

At the bottom of the canyon, after a series of switchbacks, is a grove of Gambel's oak.

But, also, making me feel like I'm back in Washington, the canyon had serviceberry shrubs, in full bloom; a grove of small maples, similar to our vine maples; Douglas fir and ponderosa pine hugging the north walls of the canyons; groves of aspen; and clematis clambering around the boulders.

The make up of plants was fascinating as it included the few northwest favorites mentioned above, as well as cactus, pinyon pine, oak, juniper, willow, mahonia, lupin, manzanita, sage and grasses. Quite the geographic spread and a fascinating overlap of plant species between the mesa and the canyon.

We continued our hike from Sipapu Bridge to Horsecollar Ruin, for a cliff dwelling viewing.

The temperature high for today was 43 degrees. The same is expected tomorrow, with night time temperatures in the 20's. Earlier today there were snow showers; more expected tomorrow. We're happy we're not tent camping as winter has returned to Utah.

"The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom."

- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

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