PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
After spending the night in a primitive campsite at Gooseneck Lookout (imagine four parallel stretches of the river with two tight 'gooseneck' curves 1000' below) overlooking the Colorado River we continued traveling from Mesa Verde National Park to Natural Bridges National Park. The most direct route was on north on Hwy 261. We noticed that the map indicated a short gravel section midway along the road but we weren't bothered by the thought of a short section of gravel road -- especially after the last part of the route to Chaco!
As we rolled across the desert we noticed that the road was heading for the base of a long line of red sandstone cliffs. We began to suspect where the unpaved section of road was. Sure enough, the blacktop ended just as the road turned sharply to the right and started to ascend along a niche in the cliff face. As we climbed, we were only barely able to negotiate the switchbacks. If our coach had been any bigger, we would have had a lo-o-ong way to back down! As we neared the top, the cliff face on the upward side gradually began to overhang the road, forcing us to the outside shoulder. As we crested the grade a sign was clearly posted: "Caution - 1,100 foot drop"!
The rest of the drive to Natural Bridges was a relaxing scenic drive though the high desert with mild weather and a beautiful sky filled with puffy, cirrus clouds.
Natural Bridges is another small National Park. There are three major natural bridges in the park. All three bridges are visible from a loop road. To really make a visit to this park worthwhile, you need descend into the canyon to hike along a trail that follows the stream that carved these spans of solid rock. The bridges are much more impressive when you are looking up at them with sky in the background than they are when viewed from above.
The trail along the stream is a delight! The sounds of gurgling water resonate between the canyon walls and the way is sprinkled with wildflowers.
Near the middle of the three bridges, the stream passes over an area of exposed sandstone. Boulders hide a small waterfall at the head of the area, but it's sound echoes throughout the area. All in all, it's a delightful place.