Orion Under Owachomo Bridge
Some places reward the extra effort it takes to reach them. Tucked in the middle of nowhere in southeast Utah, Natural Bridges National Monument is fifty miles from the nearest town, making it a destination not often traveled to unless explicitly targeted. In fact, for many decades since its establishment in 1904 as Utah’s first National Monument, it was almost inaccessible, with the only route to the Park a three-day ride from Blanding, to the east. While a state highway passes near it today, it’s easily bypassed, though doing so would be a huge mistake.
Its isolation makes it one of the premier places to gaze at the night sky, as the near total absence of light pollution led to its establishment as the first International Dark-Sky Park in the world. One of the highlights is staying up all night, turning off your headlamp or flashlight, and watching the galaxy slowly rotate above, beneath the impressive spans of one of the three namesake bridges.
I knew nothing about the Park my first time passing through, when I took this photo. I was looking for a place to stop between Monument Valley and Canyonlands, and saw the little green spot on a map indicating a National Monument, and decided to stop by. What I found there imprinted it on my mind as one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations. The one trail through the canyon is long, and not the easiest of trails, but the experience of wandering alone through the creek bed that carved these amazing bridges is a truly special one. Combined with the beauty of the night sky, and it’s absolutely worth the trip.