I would like to share two things about my trek to the Natural Bridges, a National Monument in Utah. First, I would like to share my hikes and then share my thoughts.
Natural Bridges National Monument contains three different bridges. Bridge View Drive is a one-way road to the overlooks and access trails down to the bottom of the canyons. You also may hike a trail that connects each of the bridges. This is an unmaintained trail so you must be careful and be an experienced hiker. I chose the easier out and back trails from the road.
I hiked down to is Sipapu and Owachomo bridges. The trail down to Sipapu is short and considered moderately challenging. I planned to bring my tripod but upon reading the description about rails, ladders, and steepness, I decided to leave the tripod and minimize weight and bulk. The trail turned out to have three different ladders including a very steep slope which you walked along the edge to get to a handrail to climb down with a ladder.
There are several points where I did stop to unpack my camera and make some photographs. I am glad I reviewed the description at the top of the trail. It turned out not to be one to walk down with young children and has very steep drop-offs. The bottom has pools of water with trees and grasses growing there. Looking up under the bridge, you see massive arching red polished abutments holding up the bridge.
Sipapu Bridge is middle age and a maturing bridge. It is the largest of the three. It is big and bulky. A middle-aged bridge is wide, and the seasonal rains’ rushing water no longer erodes its sides. Wind and water seepage are the erosional forces it faces. The climb back up is steep, add in the hot desert sun and it’s a good workout with your camera pack.
Next, I stopped at the Kachina Bridge Overlook. I did not hike down this one. I photographed from the overlook. The Kachina Bridge is young. Its span is still being widened by the floodwaters. During its youth, it will be eroded and made wider by both the floodwaters and wind.
My last stop and hike are at the Owachomo Bridge. In its old age, its thickness is being worn down by wind and water seepage. It might now have a fatal flaw or crack which will end its life. The hike here is a simple walk down to the bottom. The path is filled with Juniper bushes and trees. The path leads to the stream bed. I cross over to discover several rock formations. One that I found looked like two hands lifted in prayer. I think perhaps it is simply praying to be here for a few hundred more years.
Later, walking back and then resting back at my rig, I reflect on life today and its natural cycle of life. Living creatures, plants, and man have a short cycle. We enter the world, learn through our youth, and grow. In our middle years, we mature building careers, raising a family, and perhaps building a legacy for others to follow. Finally, we reach those senior years. For some, it is a time of great wisdom to teach and share with others. Yet, we know our time is now very short, perhaps our fatal flaw has already found its way into us.
The wisdom of old age is that one realizes the frailty of life. Nature’s cycle is not just for living creatures but is part of all things. Although not living things the Natural Bridges have their life cycle. Their cycle is thousands of years and humankind is only one hundred years or less.
Humankind though has been left a special gift. We may leave a legacy for those who follow us. Perhaps it’s the wisdom of old age, but I often ask myself what contribution I am making to earth and mankind.
Some believe the strong prevail, yet do they? The strength of the strongest and the frailty of the weakest still end in the same fate. The key, I believe, is to ask did one live well.
Enjoy the photos from the National Bridges N.M.
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