AfterMex 4, 9th September

I started out late, drove around Monument Valley, quite an interesting drive,

and stopped for the night at the start of the Valley of the Gods.

The morning drive was superb. For me the Valley of the Gods is way more spectacular than Monument Valley, it is also quieter, more special, and much more natural in a way. The next four pictures were taken from exactly the same spot, moving around clockwise.

It was whilst driving around here I thought to myself, that instead of doing all this stuff, I could just be sitting in the park, on a bench, talking to the other old men.............

After an amazing (I've done it before but it's still amazing) 1000 ft climb out up of the valley I stopped to admire the view then continued on to Natural Bridges. Three bridges viewed, a walk down to one,

and a quick look at the following array, which produces 50 kW and was the largest in the world when installed in 1980,

then stop for the night just outside the park.

Disaster nearly struck. Little cat was on his regular evening run around outside and I was working on transferring my AfterMex letters to my website when I suddenly realised it was dark. Now little cat is always desperate to get outside in the dark and of course I won't let him. He could get lost, I can't see him in the dark (he's mostly black!), and there is danger of some cat catching animals being around. I've been writing how he comes to calls, but in the dark there was no answer. No response to calls of "Little Cat", no response to calls of "Dinner", no response when I started the van engine - he always comes when he hears the van start. I walked around for over an hour with a torch, calling, found nothing, heard nothing. I was sure he'd gone, or got lost, or been eaten, and I sat in the van with a brandy, heartbroken, then walked around again, calling and thinking about this little cat which has been having such a great time travelling, sleeping and eating, especially when I think of what a poor starved waif he was when I found him, or he found me. And maybe now he was going to be starving again, or maybe he had already been eaten. Again I heard nothing.

Then around midnight when I was out miserably searching, again, I heard a small thundering and little cat dashed across my torch beam. He then had a great game running away from me, I couldn't catch him or persuade him to come back. I tried for over 30 minutes then went to bed around midnight and left the back door open.

Around 4 am I was awakened by a scrabbling. It was little cat coming in to use his litter box. I dived, and missed him. I threw on some clothes and finally managed to grab his tail under a bush. That's the last time he goes out at night! My main worry is that he doesn't know the local area, as he would if he had a permanent address, he could easily get involved in chasing something and lose his way.

After a late start (another one) I headed slowly in the direction of Blanding, looking at a couple of ruins on the way and deciding not to visit a third after getting stuck halfway down the track leading to it. It's not a bad average really, I've only been stuck 6 times in my 40,000 miles driving the van. I'll give full marks to Wal-Mart for their $1.88 saucepan, it's got me out now on 3 occasions..........

I reached the Edge of the Cedars State Park just as they were closing, I asked if it was OK to stay in their car park for the night, I don't think we have any problem with that I was told. In the morning the museum was OK, so were the ruins, I continued towards Monticello and stopped early for the night in a sandy wood by a bubbling stream, close to Newspaper Rock en route to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Newspaper Rock is full of graffiti, mostly old, but not all, the wheel for example being added by some modern self considered joker.

Little cat had a great time, running here and there. And I realise now, he has grown a bit. Do you remember how he looked just 3 weeks ago? Like this.

Well, now he can barely fit on the shelf. Look at his tum!

Actually, he's not eating nearly so much now. I think not only has he caught up with himself, but he's not growing so fast. I used to wonder how he could get onto that little high shelf, but now he can easily reach it by standing on the back of the seat.

This a view of the Needles in the Needles District of Canyonlands.

After taking several short walks at different viewpoints I headed towards Moab, concerned that I was running low on petrol. I made the 80 miles with a couple of gallons to spare and parked for the night in what used to be a free campground but which has been improved by BLM and now costs $7 a night. Unless you have a Golden Age Pass as I do, then it's $3.50. Not exactly breaking the bank.

Little Cat has taken a liking to travelling by the window.

Or, even better it seems, outside the window.

He spent some time, on several occasions, jammed between the window frame and the wing mirror outside, but he moved back in whenever I stopped to take his picture!

Next morning, straight to Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. There are basically 4 different levels here. First there is the mesa topped with a hard rock, as you can see, left, right, and centre.

Below this there are several softer layers, mostly sandstone, which have rapidly eroded away, then a layer of hard white sandstone.

The white sandstone is the flat area in this and the next photo. It's just possible to make out the White Rim Road which runs right round the edge of the rim. It's 100 miles long, unsurfaced, and while it can be done in 2 days the rangers recommend taking 3 days. It needs a real 4x4, I couldn't do it in my van, I've seen some of the bends and some of the bumps. Looks fun though.

So below this level eventually is another layer of harder rock, the Colorado and Green Rivers have cut down through this layer so deeply it is almost impossible to see the rivers themselves. There's not a lot of rain here, but when it rains it rains heavily, causing flash floods, the floodwaters pick up the sand and abrade away the rocks they flow over. Which is why there are so many canyons.

Changing the subject completely, I just heard from Tom (Donnelly, yes, the famous one, the co-founder of Thunder Balloons) that he can't now go to Albuquerque, he originally planned to go and offered me some test flying with him. With Kamikaze Balloon Flights ABQ. (Some of you may remember we had a technical problem on a flight together last year at Albuquerque which we solved with nothing more serious than a near miss of a marquee). So I'm looking for a crew and vehicle pass can anyone help please?

Best regards

David Barker

Continue to After Mexico 5

Return to start page