CanyonLands National Park.

Canyonlands was the last park in Utah I wanted to see.  I still think, if there is only one you have time for, then Zion should be it.

This park is like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon, lots of jeep trails thru it.  One of them is 100 miles long.  The most interesting part to me was seeing what appeared to be Yosemite ‘s half dome lookalike, the other half of half dome,  except it’s a yellowish rock instead of the grey of Yosemite Valley.

The valley is very cool with all the winding canyons carved by the rivers. I think this is the last of the red rock parks we will hit this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we start heading northward toward Yellowstone.

Moab and Arches National Park

We arrived in Moab Sunday afternoon with enough time to hit the Moab Brewery for a late Father’s Day lunch with a bunch of tasters and subsequent growler fill.   When I asked about getting some tasters, the waitress mentioned that Utah law only allows two drinks in front of a patron at any time.   I was able to conjure three as Kathy only had a margarita, so one could be in front of her.   Utah is an odd place.   Maybe if I was wearing some secret underwear they would cut me a break.   Who knows.

On Monday early morning we headed out to Arches National Park.   We arrived too early to pay to get in.  Kind of nice…   But that also meant the visitor center was closed, so we proceeded into the park sans map.

We stopped and took a few photos at Park Avenue and then at the Court House Towers.      As of yet I had not seen an arch and was wondering if I had been sold a bill of goods.  Thankfully we  ran into a ranger who could give us a map of the park.   Google maps is useless inside a national park.  It shows the roads and that’s about it, so getting a map from that ranger was priceless.

Not far from the Court House was Balanced Rock.  That was and still is amazing to me.   You better come see that one quick.. I was thinking I should turn on the video recording as it looked like it should have fallen while I was there.

After we left there, we arrived at Sand Dune Arch and that was an awesome short hike to a narrow slot canyon between some huge rocks.  Lots of red sand  we hiked thru as the name implies and a small arch hidden inside there.   It was maybe low 90’s getting there, but once in the rocks it felt like mid -70’s and cool.  Could have stayed there all day!

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately Fiery Furnace was closed the day we were there,  That sounded like something to see.   I was not disappointed as I got to see lots of arches while there.

The 17-mile Monument Valley Scenic Drive

We arrived yesterday afternoon and this morning I drove over to the scenic drive entrance, paid my $20 to enter.   First thing I noticed was a lack of signs pointing me where the drive starts.  There was a large visitor center and larger parking lots full of buses, RV’s and cars.  I saw quite a few (many) tour vehicles.   They were pickup trucks with a bunch of bench seats replacing the usual truck bed.  There was a roof over the benches but no sides.  It was 95 degrees there at 11 am, so the lack of AC would make that 2.5 hour drive a bit uncomfortable.  So I drove the Equinox instead of taking a tour, and I was glad I did!   As I drove the circuit, I realized that the worst thing would be the dust, as I could see almost everyone on those benches had handkerchiefs over their faces.  The tour vehicles tended to drive in small packs of three or four, and the folks behind the first truck were in a dust storm.  I am not sure the passengers in the last vehicle could even see anything.

Enough of that,  let me explain the road.  I’ve been on some pretty rough roads in the past, but I had never traversed anything even close to this and there were 17 miles of it.   For $20 you would think they would occasionally grade it.  That was not part of the plan.  Some places I felt like I was rock crawling in a jeep.   Two miles an hour seemed like it might be too quick for the terrain, and this was supposedly a road.   There were many places to stop and take pictures and just gawk at the magnificence of it all.   After about an hour into the drive, I was ready to be done with the jarring and bouncing around, but it was a one-way road so I had to keep going.   

Kathy was the smart one today as she had begged off going.   I’m glad I did it though as you cannot see anything from the main roads.   This valley is hidden away.

 

Durango Co for a late lunch

While we were here, I wanted to see Durango.   Guess I had some picture in my head from an old movie.   We drove around the town for a bit.  Kathy had never seen a tree-lined street before in real life, you know the type where they make a canopy over the road.   After poking around for a while, we headed over to the historic district to park to find a place to eat.   Durango is not a pet friendly town.  Most joints with patios had signs on them saying “No Dogs.”   I finally had to ask a local and he mentioned a place about 4 blocks up the street.   We sat at a very small table that looked out onto Main Street at the Carver Brewing Company.   I had one of their craft beers and was underwhelmed,  so I wouldn’t fill my growler there.

We ended up at Steamworks Brewing Company on the way out of town and got a really tasty Belgian Ale for my growler.   Can’t wait to put some in my frozen pint glass! Heading to Monument Valley tomorrow!!!

 

Cliff Palace Jaunt

It’s Wednesday morning and I am ready to climb down to the Cliff Palace and check the place out up close and personal.   Our tour was at 4 pm, so we had some time to kill,  drove in to Cortez to pick up a few things at WallyMart and find the post office to pay some taxes.   We headed back to the coach for some lunch and button up to leave the pups there while we head out for the long, windy drive to the Cliff Palace.

We arrived with about a half hour to spare and started reading about the history of the place.   As 4 o’clock approached, we headed out toward the overlook where the tour starts, listened to the spiel about how strenuous and steep the climb is, and how the high altitude can affect us.  There were about 50 of us standing out there.  Then we were off.

There were some steel stairs leading down to a locked gate where you had to hand your tickets to the ranger for admission.   Then the adventure began.

There were large rocks all around us and a narrow passage to the right with some jagged steps cut into them, very narrow steps, maybe a foot wide and all different heights, as if a blind man had carved them out of the rock.

Those steps probably went down about 120 feet.  Very cool and narrow.  Not many handholds, so the rocks filled in for that part.  The only adverse issue was the jarring shock as you stepped down and found it was closer to 18″ on some rather than 8 to 10″ steps.  

At the bottom was a narrow path that led off to the left toward the Palace.   It was a few hundred feet to the first 10′ ladder to climb.

 

After climbing that, we wound further down that path to a large nitch in the rocks where we all found spots to sit in the shade while Ranger Carol told us about the history of the people that lived here and wait for the previous tour to leave the Palace ahead.  The view of the ruins from there was terrific!   We were there at the perfect time for the sun to illuminate almost the whole Palace.    It’s really hard to imagine the people who lived here left over 800 years ago and moved south toward the Rio Grande.

After the previous tour group moved on, we descended more very uneven steps, but this time they were a lot wider.   As we moved closer to the ruins, we entered into the full sun and started to bake a bit.   Maybe 4 pm wasn’t such a great idea…  The ranger,  an archeologist by training, clued us in to how they figured out when the folks built the structures and when they left.   Apparently they only lived there about 100 years.   It is a grand structure.   The pictures don’t do it justice, you should just go there and see it for yourself.

After about 20 minutes baking in the sun standing around the actual ruins, the talks were over.   We got to look into one of the towers at some paintings on the walls, then it was time to climb out of there.   We determined it is truly harder to climb up the cliff than to go down..

There were some leisurely steps at first, then it got a lot narrower and steeper.  You have to see the crevice we climbed out of to believe it, maybe 18″ wide at spots, and three more ladders around 10′ each.  I had originally thought I wouldn’t like the ladders as they seemed to say they were on a sheer cliff with a narrow ledge, and I do not like heights.  But these ladders were in such narrow places with almost no way to see how high you were, I never even thought of how high we were.  But if anyone was claustrophobic, there would have been an issue.

Once at the top, I couldn’t believe we did it.   And Kathy, who was so cocky that morning about running laps around me, was quite a bit more subdued.   See the last picture, she could barely make it two steps from the last ladder… notice where i was taking the picture from.   [I think it was more from heat exhaustion, although the ladders climbing out were scarier than I thought they would be!]

Luckily the long walk to the car was on relatively flat ground.  And thankfully I insisted we pack some cold bottles of Snapple and fruit for after the trek.

Off to Durango tomorrow.

Mesa Verde National Park Colorado, pretty close to Four Corners.

Our campground was just across the highway from the visitor center, so we popped in to pick up some maps and guidance for walking the pups in the park.   This is a really big park.  It’s like an hour and a half from the visitor center to the main cave dwellings.   I’ts really different from Montezuma Castle as we were above them instead of below.  This place is even cooler.  You can climb down into the structures.   They warn you about how strenuous it will be and all the ladders you must climb, etc.  Narrow two-foot-tall tunnels, etc.   I held off purchasing any tickets today as I don’t like heights.  Climbing 30 feet up a cliff face on a wooden ladder wasn’t all that appealing.

We drove to all the overlooks, the first one was the Cliff Palace and it was incredible.

i didn’t know there were about 25 different dwellings until a ranger stopped by to pet the pups and told me about them.  I knew of three prior to arriving at the park:  the Cliff Palace,  the Balcony, and the Spruce House.  But there are lots more to look at over on the Mesa Top Loop.  The best part was the pups were allowed to go on most of the trails over there and were allowed into all the buildings on that side.

Toward the end of all the loops, we came to an overlook of the Cliff Palace from the opposite side of the canyon. From my first gander at it, I could see folks climbing the cliff face ladders and they didn’t look anything like what the ranger explained.  So a bit later as we were leaving the Spruce House overlook, we stopped in the museum and purchased tickets for tomorrow at 4pm to climb down to the Cliff Palace.   It looks incredible from above.  Can’t wait to get down there!

 

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride

As I woke up on Monday morning and I heard the wind blowing outside, I knew we would be in for an interesting ride that day.   We had been in Torrey, Ut, four nights and were setting out early for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.   It was pretty windy every afternoon while we were there, but the mornings and evenings were calm, so the wind at 6 am was not welcome.

We buttoned up the coach for the ride.   It was going to be a longer day than most.  I am trying to keep the moving day rides to three hours or less if it’s not freeway,  and we hadn’t been on a freeway since the South Rim of the GC.   Today’s ride would take us on I-70 for only 40 miles of the 255-mile move.

The first 90 or so miles on US 24 were pretty windy, but we were protected to some extent by the canyon walls for the first 30 or so.   And then after a northbound turn at Hanksville, the wind was mostly at our backs.  But once on I-70 eastbound, the crosswind had me white knuckling the wheel to keep it going straight.   And the gusts were lane changers.    Kathy’s hand was firmly attached to the hold-on bar next to her seat.   Once I saw the exit sign for        US 191 south, I felt a bit of relief.  But it was premature,  the hurricane winds were about to begin.

They really picked up as we headed toward Moab, which is on the Colorado River.  The canyons I was now driving thru made the wind come from all directions and at velocities I had yet to experience, ever!    As we approached our intended stopping point for lunch, a sign on the road said the rest area was closed.   We were hungry and tired and hadn’t planned a different place and were pleasantly surprised to see the road to it wasn’t blocked, and so we headed in.  They didn’t want people coming in to picnic because of the dangerous wind conditions and closed the buildings, but we could eat and rest up in the coach.

The wind was howling thru the trees and lots of branches were blowing off into the parking area and the grassy area under those same trees.   It would have been a beautiful oasis on a normal day.   We both assumed they put out the closed sign due to all the branches blowing around.   While standing under the trees walking the pups, I was wondering if I was going to get beaned by a large one.  The dogs hunkered down so they didn’t get blown away!!

After cooking some lunch, we headed back onto the highway for the next 100 or so miles of the windy hell.   Luckily as we were leaving the rest area, a poor soul towing a large trailer with a pickup truck was just in front of me.  I followed him for at least 60 miles till he turned off for gas.   He was like an early warning system.    I kept about 300 feet behind him and watched the bigger gusts  blow that trailer around like a bobbin on a windy lake, and that allowed me to know when to  grip the wheel tighter so I’d be ready for them.

The rest was relatively uneventful for the occasional gust, and the wind kept blowing all the way till just before Cortez, Colorado, where it slowed way down,  maybe because it was getting near 4pm Mountain time.   Whew!  It took us a couple hours longer than planned, but we arrived safe and sound.

 

 

Rest Day

[From Kathy]  Thank goodness for the rest days interspersed between all the hiking and driving to do the sightseeing!  I really need the down days when we don’t have to be anywhere, or we just drive a little to see the small towns nearby.  I am so curious about the people that choose to live in these really small towns.  I can’t imagine it.  Why do they stay?

Today we just relaxed.  In the morning looking out the window it is like being in a painting.  The ranch across from us has about 40 cows, 10 calves, and one horse. The bucolic scene of the cows grazing on the lush, green grass against the hills of red earth, grey hillside rocks, and then forest of trees at the top is just incredible.  The cows are totally used to people and graze right around the wire fence that separates the RV park.  In the evening you see the calves playing and running around chasing each other and almost frolicking!!  It is crazy to be able to walk right up close with the dogs.  They are all black except two cream-colored ones.  Even the horse is black!  Bill doesn’t understand my obsession with them.  He worked on a farm growing up in New Jersey and took care of cows.  They are just so interesting to watch and to be able to be so close you could pet them!

The green, lush grass here has been a blessing.  The dogs absolutely love it, and there is not a sticker in sight!!!!  They water continuously with little sprinklers on the end of hoses and someone moves them every several hours.  Have no idea why they don’t have in-ground sprinklers.  I guess water is cheaper here too.

The other reason we need the day off is to clean and do laundry.  There is even time for a nap if we need it, how crazy is that!!!  All the walking at this elevation really poops you out.  Well, we are off to Mesa Verde tomorrow to see the cliff dwellings there!