Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Monument Drive and a Flash Flood

Tuesday August 26, 2014
Saddlehorn Campground
Colorado National Monument
Fruita, Colorado


Today we needed to do some resupplying and decided to drive 19 miles of the park drive into Grand Junction.  This included several short trails along the top of the mesas.  On one of them David took a picture of me in my “sunbonnet”.  It’s not much of a fashion statement and doesn’t match my “outfit” but it sure does help my eyes.   I continue to have serious troubles with the sun here in the west.  Even with very dark sunglasses, my eyes react by closing and refusing to open back up.  Not so good if you want to go hiking.  The bonnet has made a great deal of difference.  No sun on my face at all.






There are multiple canyons here in the monument.  The one nearest the campground is Wedding Canyon.  The largest is Monument Canyon which we see today.  It’s the main canyon and is huge.  Each overlook and trail lead to a different section.






There are some really lovely things up here on the top on the trail as well.  Things seem to just grow out of the rocks here.













My favorite hike today was the Coke Ovens Trail. The Coke Ovens are the shapes of erosion.  They were named because they look like the ovens that were used to transform coal into coke, a fuel that produces little or no gas when burned.  And we can see from the picture that they do look like them.




These ovens sit high in this  huge canyon.


You can see the wingate formations behind the ovens.  They still have their keyenta formation caps which are more resistant to erosion.  When their caps eventually weather away,  they will erode down into ovens.












Time to get down into that canyon at least a little way.  It’s been too hot to hike the entire Monument canyon trail which we would love to do.  It’s best with a shuttle so you can just walk down from the top and not have to reverse and climb back up.  It’s 6 miles one way.  If the weather had been better we might have started at the bottom and climbed up about half way and then turned around. For today we’re going to take the Coke Ovens Trail to get down into the canyon.


It’s down, down with switchbacks and beautiful views of the canyon. On the way down we hear slight rumbles of thunder.  This has happened on previous days here and hasn’t meant much.  I think I’m too far down now to go back for my raincoat so I continue on.

In many spots the trail is right on the edge.  Great views.






The size of this canyon just amazes me.  I mean it’s not like the Grand Canyon but it’s only one of 4 or 5 canyons in the Monument.






We arrive it at the view point where as you would expect the views of the canyon are fantastic. Soon we are joined by Scott and Kim who are prepared with raincoats and an umbrella. In our defense, they came down after we did.

We’re such dawdlers that they could have looped us. They have been full timing on a sailboat for 9 years since she was 26 and he was 32. They tell me this is  their summer “Mountains and Rocks” tour. Hurricane season.   I love it!!    They’ve got some great rocks here.






And then the rain starts, not too badly at first but it’s clearly time to head back. It becomes a little heavier. We don’t dawdle on the way out. The rain is shortly coming down in buckets.   Flash Flood anyone.  It was cool to see.  Glad we were not all the way down in the canyon.

We get totally soaked but Scott is kind enough to put my camera under his raincoat after I take the only pictures I could get of this flash flood.  They show the water pouring down the canyon and boy was it.   We hoofed it out of there including hiking through some fast moving waters.









Of course once we reach the top the rain lets off. They don’t call it flash for nothing.

We talk for quite a while and find we share many similar view points and even a favorite environmental author.  Pretty sure they are members of my tribe. 

Kim and Scott are making their fabulous sounding alternative life style work for them without waiting until they can “retire”.  Boy do I wish I had been that smart in my “youth”.

The skies begin to clear and turn blue again as we chat.  We dry out “mostly” and discover that our future camping spots are very similar.  I hope we’ll see them again along our way.  We wish them all the luck, safe travels and hope they have many many years of this vagabond full time life.  It’s the best!


On down the drive we go stopping at each over look. The walls of Monument Canyon are so varied and colorful. It’s just such a treat.









It clears up enough that we can actually see the Book Cliffs on the far side of Fruita and Grand Junction.   Guess that’s what a rain will do for you.





At one overlook we get a study in change.  Water is the change maker in these canyons.   As temperatures dip below freezing liquid water freezes, turns to ice and expands.  Rocks crack and are pushed apart.  Over time, water physically and chemically breaks down rock into particles small enough to be blown away by the wind.

In this situation the ice was working its way between an outer rock and its vertical base.  At the same time beneath the rock, the Chinle formation was weathered and softened by water seepage.  Flash floods cut into and further weakened the support for the massive rock slab.  Instead of toppling face forward when it separated from the cliff, “fallen rock” slid feet forward more than 100 feet to rest on the debris slope where it has likely been for thousands of years.





Notice that its top cap slid down with it, is still in place and has little trees growing on it.  But the main part of fallen rock has some serious cracks.  Wonder how long it will take it to crumble into smaller pieces at the foot of the big formation.





Near the end of the drive, we get views of both Ute Canyon and Red Canyon although none of No Throughfare Canyon.  Don’t you love that name??  You have to do some serious hiking to see No Throughfare.  But you’d likely have it all to yourself.





Our final stop on the drive is at Cold Shivers Point.






After running 7 different errands I am citied out. We take the short way back to Fruita, 8 miles rather than the 23 mile Monument Drive. We’ve been told that Hot Tomatoes has terrific pizza so we stop and have to agree.




You can eat inside,


  outside on the  side “porch”



or out back with the live music.




It’s raining again as we return to the monument and take a last picture of balanced rock in the twilight.  Tomorrow we leave for Capitol Reef National Park.






I really recommend Colorado National Monument as a low key beautiful place to be.  Our Verizon hot spot and cell phone work well.  Services are nearby.  Just remember the campground has great restrooms but no showers, no water hookups, no electricity and no dump station.   What it does have is fabulous scenery in spades!


  1. Great pictures Sherry of some beautiful scenery.
    That's too weird that you mention Capitol Reef NP. We'll be there mid-September. We'll be watching your blog as a preview for us. LOL

  2. Who cares about fashion if the bonnet makes it comfortable for you to see. It is mighty bright out there on those rock formations. Of which those 'ovens' even look like they have doors. The instant waterfalls are amazing and a little scary out on the trail. But what magnificent landscapes. And good pizza too.

  3. Wonderful day and spectacular scenery!!! I kind of like the "Little House On The Prarrie" look and if it works to protect your eyes then that is all that matters!!!

  4. Love the neat names of each area. Definitely makes you want to hike each one. The ovens are so cool!! Many of the rock formations reminded of The Needles area of Canyonland. I really enjoy when the rocks have caps of a different rock then the formation below.

    Glad you found something to help block the sun from your eyes. Watch those flash rain storms!!! Your photos are great but glad you got out safely:)

  5. The canyonlands are magnificent. What strikes me though is the twisted shape of that tree trunk early on.

  6. I thought Kim & Scott were on their dirt & rocks tour, but maybe that was just dirt in my ears again. The Colorado National Monument was beautiful in every way, quiet and above everything, like all the craziness was left down below. If you eat at Hot Tomatoes and they have live music, don't sit on the side porch or you will get a weird mix of piped music with the live. Note they do feature New Belgium beers on tap, and more than a few.

  7. ah, I am so excited about your visit to Capital Reef. You have met Kayenta and Chinle, and what looks like Wingate in between, right there in the Colorado monument, so the introductions for Capital Reef have been made. There is nothing, nothing, nothing like a wingate cliff against that blue sky in the canyons. I hope the weather is good and that you find the magic there as well.

  8. I am loving your tour so far. You are going to so many of the places that we want to see. Very cool that you got to see a flash flood at work but at the same time glad that you weren't at risk of being swept away in it.

    Hope you get to meet up with Kim and Scott again down the road, they sound like really interesting people.


  9. So many spectacular viewpoints! We're looking forward to visiting Colorado National Monument, thanks to your blog. I can't believe we haven't been there. How did we miss it in all of our Southwest travels??? We love Capitol Reef -- I'm looking forward to seeing it again through your eyes.

  10. Cold Shivers Point - what a name! The pictures are exquisite and it's not easy to comprehend the beauty of these canyons.

  11. This looks like a beautiful canyon to hike in and the fact that you can take a shuttle out is much better than doing a rim to rim hike in the Grand Canyon. I've reading and learning about all the areas of the "Colorado Plateau".

  12. Clearly you have taught me that brushing somewhere aside just because it is a "monument" rather than a "park" is a huge mistake. I will not make it again. Gorgeous pictures!

  13. Be sure to take time out to have a good eye exam. Your eyes are too important to neglect. I wouldn't mess around, there must be something causing the problem with your eyes.

  14. I'm taking notes...so majestic!! Glad you found some eye protection...maybe we all need bonnets! Nice to see you found some good pizza!!

  15. Ok the pizza sold me I will have to stop there :-). Seriously, thanks it looks very cool. See you were in Fruita CG in Capitol Reef...were you able to pick any fruit yet?

  16. Fantastic scenery photos! What a life,eh? Meeting cool people, taking amazing hikes, visiting the "off the beaten path" places that are not as well known. You are doing a terrific job of filling us all in. Thank you!

  17. What glorious photos of this amazing place! I would LOVE to do that Monument Canyon Trail! Fantastic captures of the flood waters...but kind of scary too! There is nothing like a good rain to clear all the junk out of the air and clear up the scenery!

  18. I liked the surprise water falls best of all.

  19. Wow, that must have been spectacular to witness some heavy rains and flash flooding. Glad you had some covering for your camera. Wouldn't think of taking a dry bag on a hike!

  20. Spectacular sceneries. Thank you for all your detailed descriptions and beautiful pictures and warning on flash flood. I would love to do that Monument Canyon Trail.

  21. I'm loving this part of Colorado that was not even on my radar! The canyon shots are magical - the flooding down the canyon walls and the close ups of the fallen rock are such great "captures" of the power of nature. We are so very small :-) Getting "introduced" to more and more young people who are already living the nomad life gives me hope for the future of our remaining natural places - seeing their value and learning to live with respect for that value is so critical IMHO.

  22. I'm not too pleased to hear you're hiking around all those cliffs and canyons with your eyes shut. Maybe we need to get you a seeing eye duckie... ;c)

  23. Love to watch the rain run down the canyon walls- just beautiful and so powerful.

  24. Lovely photos. Unexpected waterfalls! What more could you ask for? Love your Laura Ingalls bonnet. It is you!
    Walking those narrow paths at the edge of the cliffs....in the rain.....makes me mighty thankful you didn't become a mud slide.

  25. Lovely scenery! I am impressed with Kim and Scott of course - what a free life! Nice bonnet, although the eye trouble does not sound fun :( Neat what water can do - one drip combined with so many can really cause great change even in a matter of minutes! Impressive. Pizza sounds like a great treat at the end of a hiking/errands day. :)

  26. Careful now, you're rockin' that bonnet so hard you might start a new fashion trend. :) Glad it helps with the brightness.

    I've no hope of catching up on all your blog posts since I've been mostly offline for a month but it looks like you're still having a grand time. Keep it up!

  27. Getting caught up with you! always great hikes, Sherry ... I love the flash flood waterfall! flash floods are scary things ... glad you hoofed it outta there!

  28. All caught up on your travels, you're finding some of the best places in CO, I'll be bookmarking some of your CO post for the next time we're there. Can't wait to see what you find in UT.

  29. We had a short stay in Grand Junction but didn't get a chance to see Colorado National Monument or try the pizza at Hot Tomatoes. Looks like we really missed out. Never have seen a flash flood either--just glad you were able to witness it safely. Looking forward to seeing Capital Reef--another place that we would have liked to visit last time we were in Utah.

  30. Those "ovens" are amazing! They look like they were built. Love the cactus too. The scenery reminds me of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary- near and dear to my heart.


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