I arrived to my BLM camping spot after dark last night... so I was pleasantly surprised to see a big, pretty mountain mesa outside my window when I woke up this morning! I love those kinds of surprises. :)
Mesa Verde National Park didn't make it on my initial to-do map... but since I was within a mile of the park entrance, I figured 'why not?' I didn't even know anything about the place. As it turns out, it is the only national park dedicated to preserving Pueblo cliff dwellings. I spent 3 hours on the park roads and checking out the overlook areas. There was so much more to do, given the time...
From there, Narural Bridges National Park in Utah was my next intended destination. A fairly small park, I stayed about an hour and explored some of the shorter trails which led to the... wait for it... natural bridges! ;)
My last goal for the day was to head to the one location that was a little out of the way compared to all of my other points of interest, Monument Valley. Outside of Natural Bridges NP, I hopped on a mellow 2-lane state road - Utah 261. Little did I know this road would go from flat and uneventful to Thelma & Louise in an instant! No joke! The paved road turned into narrow gravel switchbacks to get off of the mesa that I was apparently on. Crazy, and beautiful. The valley below... was Valley of the Gods just outside of Mexican Hat, Utah. Fortunate for me, there was also a scenic dirt road through the valley that I simply *had* to take! What made it better was that I was coming into the area near sunset and the red rocks were on fire with evening light. SO many photos... :) On the drive through, I learned that I could camp here too! So I quickly stopped into Mexican Hat for provisions, and then came back to spend tonight.
This is one of those dark sky areas that simply don't exist at home - where you can physically SEE the Milky Way with the naked eye. More stars than you ever knew existed. Problems finding the constellations you know because of ALL the other stars. There are no words... so instead, I spent the better part of 2 hours trying to make photos. Rookie astrophotography at its finest.
G'night all from Valley of the Gods!
*selection of today's phone images*