Category Archives: 2016 Jan/Feb – California Holiday – Death Valley, AZ, NM, CO, UT

2016 Feb 25 – Day 46 – California and Beyond

IMG_6398As I promised my daughter who does not diligently read my blog, here is my quiz about our latest travels.  How well can you do?  (Don’t let me catch you cheating – you know who you are.)


  1. Where did we spend the first night of this trip?
  2. What ‘game’ did we drive through?
  3. What British landmark did we visit in Washington?
  4. Where was the parking lot a sheet of ice?
  5. Where is the site of the Ponderosa Ranch from Bonanza?
  6. What are the names of the two ski resorts we drove through?
  7. What was the name of the little diner where we had lunch in Adelanto?
  8. What is the name of the Japanese Relocation Camp we toured?
  9. What is the name of the sculpture at the entrance to the Four Seasons Residence Club check-in?
  10. Who planted 40,000 eucalyptus trees for railway ties before learning the wood was not suitable for the purpose?
  11. What was the name of the trail from Poinsettia Lane to Batiquitos Drive?
  12. What was the name of Leo Carrillo Ranch?  What was his brand?
  13. What area of northern San Diego did we fly over on our hot air balloon ride?
  14. What tastes like pumpkin, sweet potato and maraschino cherries?
  15. What does Bai Yun, the name of the mother Panda at San Diego Zoo, mean in English?
  16. What birds did we see at the San Diego Archeological Society?
  17. What is called the Tree of Life?
  18. How long is the Panamint Valley?
  19. Which of these names is incorrect: Furnace River, Panamint Springs, Stovepipe Wells?
  20. What is the point of interest at The Racetrack?
  21. What special thing is happening at Death Valley this year?
  22. How many mules were in a 20-mule train?
  23. What is significant about Grand Canyon Caverns?
  24. Who built Montezuma’s Castle?
  25. How many stairs did we climb at Walnut Canyon?
  26. What percentage of petrified wood pieces are located outside of the Petrified Forest National Park?
  27. What gives Ship Rock its name?



2016 Feb 24 – Days 44 & 45 – California and Beyond

Days 44 & 45 – February 23 & 24 – Ely, NV to Twin Falls, ID to Clarkston, WA

Tuesday was a short day and a destination day.  There were no sites to see on our way north so we just drove.  We got into Twin Falls at 3:30 so we had a restful afternoon.  I checked the credit card bad news, paid a couple of bills, sent a couple of emails, and sorted my few photos from the day.

We drove almost in a straight line all day.  I think there were about three curves and one corner.  Speed limit was 70 mph and there was light traffic.  We drove through a long flat valley with various mountain peaks off to the sides.

IMG_3840 IMG_3845IMG_3851IMG_3855IMG_3856IMG_3859IMG_3863At 1:30ish we pulled into the Salmon Falls Rest Area and had lunch.  The light was nice on the pond and creek so we wandered around for awhile stretching our legs and taking some photos.

IMG_3866 IMG_3867 IMG_3871 IMG_3872And that was as good as it got.

Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday only longer. We left Twin Falls at 9:30 Mountain Time and drove north and slightly west all day, arriving in Clarkston,Washington at 5 PM Pacific Time or 6 Mountain.

Before we left Twin Falls we drove over to see the Shoshone Falls. There are numerous dams on the river but they were nicely integrated between the huge rocks.  The falls drop 220′ into the Snake River.  The viewing area was part of a park that was donated to the city in 1932 by a couple for the purpose of public enjoyment.

If you walked along a pathway from the park you could see the spot where stuntman Evel Knievel attempted to jump the canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle in 1974.  He failed, although the bike did make it across the canyon.  However prevailing winds blew it back almost to the other side again before dropping to earth.  Kneivel sustained only minor injuries.  We used to love to watch his stunts.
IMG_3883 IMG_3890 IMG_3891 IMG_3899 IMG_3900 IMG_3902After that it was drive, drive, drive.  Through valleys, mountain canyons and up and over passes, along rivers and past rich farmland.  IMG_3909 IMG_3910 IMG_3916 IMG_3919We pulled over to have lunch and take some photos of the pretty snow covered rocks in the river.IMG_3930 IMG_3926 IMG_3928 IMG_3931 IMG_3937McCall, Idaho is a ski resort area – Magic Mountain being one of them.  The roads were all bare and dry but they obviously had quite a lot of snow.  Several of the buildings were buried up to the door frame.IMG_3945 IMG_3946 IMG_3948 IMG_3949We had been driving on Highway 55 and just before turning onto Highway 93, at the little community of New Meadows we crossed the 45th Parallel; putting us half-way between the North Pole and the Equator.

Much of the rest of our drive to Lewsiton/Clarkston was along the Salmon River; a very familar name to us as we have a Salmon River at home.IMG_3954 IMG_3958 IMG_3960 IMG_3967 IMG_4002 IMG_4005The sun was sinking low as we entered Lewiston, Idaho and crossed the bridge over the Snake River into Clarkston, Washington to spend the night in the Best Western Hotel.IMG_4010 IMG_4009This is my last blog for this trip.  Tomorrow we will continue to drive north and will enter BC again; on very familiar roads.  We will cross into either Creston or Osoyoos, whichever John decides and spend the night before driving home the next day.  Another adventure concluded.  I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did.  Stay tuned for the quiz.


2016 Feb 22 – Day 43 – California and Beyond

Day 43 – February 22 – Richfield, UT to Ely, NV

Today was primarily a destination day.  I had considered going to Great Basin National Park, but it is quite a distance off the main road and quite a primitive area.  They have the Lehman Caves there but they take very few people into them and have lots of restrictions.  We decided to check it out when we have a bit more time and the weather is better for hiking and caving.

We left Richfield at 9:32 and headed south despite our northernly destination for the day.  As I was perusing the maps last night I noticed that about 30 miles down the road there was a place called Big Rock Candy Mountain.

When I was little this was one of the favorite songs we played of my father’s 78 rpm records.  I know Burl Ives recorded it but he didn’t sing the version we listened to.  Since we had a blank day sightseeing- wise John agreed to drive down.

IMG_3711                                 Apparently my son has his own town.IMG_3712 IMG_3713We traveled beside the Sevier River and into a mountain pass with very nice scenery. It was so pretty we had to pull over and take a few photos.

IMG_3714 IMG_3716 IMG_3717 IMG_3719 IMG_3722 IMG_3726 IMG_3728Big Rock Candy Mountain is a resort area on a hiking and biking trail made from the old Candy Mountain Express Railway line that served the mines in the area. 

IMG_3732 IMG_3734 IMG_3735 IMG_3736 IMG_3739 IMG_3746 IMG_3744 IMG_3743                             This is Big Rock Candy MountainIMG_3747 IMG_3749 IMG_3752 IMG_3754After we took our photos we turned around and headed back the way we came to go north of Richfield and turn west toward the Nevada border.

IMG_3757We had to slow down while the wild turkeys crossed the road.IMG_3759 IMG_1563 IMG_1564 IMG_3761 IMG_3762 IMG_3764 IMG_3768I thought it was crazy to have a 75 mph speed limit in eastern Arizona.  Utah has 80.  I guess it can be so high because there are very few corners, lots of long, long straights and light traffic.  I still think it is crazy.

IMG_3772 IMG_3773IMG_3776 IMG_3782 IMG_3787 We only met about 6 or 7 oncoming cars during a 95 mile stretch.IMG_3793 IMG_3797Our stop for the night is Ely, Nevada, about 65 miles from the state line.  John spotted a recreation area sign and we pulled in to stretch our legs a bit after the long sit.

IMG_3798 IMG_3800 This is Wheeler Peak at 13, 063′IMG_3806IMG_3801 IMG_3803 IMG_3804 IMG_3805 IMG_3807 IMG_3808 IMG_3809 IMG_3811 IMG_3813The other end of the Sacramento Pass took us down into Spring Valley where there was a large wind farm.  They had 5 rows of 12 turbines all spinning away in the wind.

IMG_3814 IMG_3815 This arch is completely covered in antlers.IMG_3816 IMG_3817 IMG_3821We were only a few miles from Ely when I spotted a sign for the Ward Charcoal Ovens.  They were located 7 miles down a gravel road and since it was still early (3:30ish) we decided to go see how they compared to the ones we saw in Death Valley.  The gravel road was certainly better.

IMG_3822 IMG_3823 IMG_3827 IMG_3828 IMG_3830 IMG_3831 IMG_3832 IMG_3833 IMG_3834 IMG_3836 IMG_3838 Then it was back down the nice straight gravel road and into Ely for dinner and a sleep.  (And now I have finally caught up on my blog day I have been behind since Death Valley.  Good night.)IMG_3839





2016 Feb 22 – Day 42 – California and Beyond – Natural Bridges

Day 42 – February 21 – Bluff to Richfield, UT

We actually set an alarm for 7:15 this morning.  We have quite a distance to travel today with a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument so we felt we needed to be on the road earlier than normal.

Also the most unfortunate thing has occurred.  We have changed direction and are now heading north west.  Durango, Colorado was our furthest eastern point.  We went west, but south, to go to Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods yesterday.  Today, though, begins the journey home.  Boo Hoo!  I don’t want to go home.  Unfortunately it needs doing once in a while.

IMG_3190 The Train Engine using one of the Twin Rocks as the smoke stack.IMG_3192But first, we have sights to see today.  As I mentioned yesterday, Charlene, the lady we met in the Twin Rocks Cafe at breakfast, had suggested we go up Mokee Dugway.  Well, this was fine with us as that is the direction we were planning to drive when we left Bluff.  What is Mokee Dugway you ask?

It is a narrow road with switch-backs straight up a 1100′ cliff.  Fun, fun. Unbelievable view!

IMG_3203 We will drive up the face of this cliff.IMG_3204 IMG_3208 IMG_3210 IMG_3211 IMG_3212 IMG_3223 IMG_3225 IMG_3227 IMG_3238 IMG_3240 IMG_3244 IMG_3249 IMG_3250 IMG_3254 IMG_3264The information below was on the counter at the Visitor’s Center at Natural Bridges National Monument.IMG_3280Once we reached the top of Mokee Dugway we drove across the mesa and on to Natural Bridges.  The Monument is totally off-grid; there are no electrical lines connected to them (they have there own generator that will keep them supplied for 6 days).  We arrived at 10:30.  There is a 9-mile loop road that takes you to good viewpoints of all three bridges and there are trails you can take down to the canyon bottom to stand under each one.IMG_3274 IMG_3276IMG_3275 IMG_3277 IMG_3278 IMG_3281 IMG_3286IMG_3298IMG_3299IMG_3300IMG_3301IMG_3302IMG_3303IMG_3304IMG_3305IMG_3312A little further along on the loop road and there is the trailhead to go to a closer viewpoint and the canyon bottom.  We decided to go down.  Read the trail description below.  Note the elevation change.  Are we crazy or what?

IMG_3315 IMG_3316 IMG_3319 IMG_3325 IMG_3326 IMG_3327IMG_3328 IMG_3332 IMG_3333 IMG_3337 Looking straight up the cliff wall.IMG_3338 IMG_3339 IMG_3340 IMG_3341 IMG_3344 You can’t see it, but our truck is parked up there not far from the trees on the rim.IMG_3347 IMG_3349 IMG_3357 IMG_3358We turned around from the bridge view and started to go down along the trail to the bottom but there was lots of snow and ice and it is a precarious trail in the summer so we decided not to risk life and limb and climbed back up to the truck to move on to the next bridge. We may be crazy, but we are not stupid.IMG_3361There is also the ruins of a cliff dwelling here so we walked the trail down to the viewpoint to see it.IMG_3363 IMG_3364 IMG_3365 IMG_3366 IMG_3367 IMG_3371 IMG_3372 IMG_3374 A sun bonnet? A UFO?IMG_3377 IMG_3378 IMG_3379 IMG_3381 IMG_3382 IMG_3383 IMG_3385 IMG_3386As usual the dwelling is in a crevass high up from the canyon floor and way down from the canyon rim.IMG_3389 IMG_3392 IMG_3393 IMG_3394 IMG_3398IMG_3396

Can you see the bear?IMG_3406 IMG_3407IMG_3415IMG_3431IMG_3432IMG_3433We read the trail description and didn’t even think about attempting this one. I really wanted to walk under one of the bridges so I was now hoping that the last one would be a bit more accessible than the first two. It would be much smarter to try these in the spring.

IMG_3417IMG_3418IMG_3434IMG_3419IMG_3423IMG_3437aThe last bridge is Owachomo and it is the easiest to walk to.  Yea!  Off we went.

IMG_3440 IMG_3441 IMG_3442 IMG_3443 IMG_3444 IMG_3445 IMG_3446 IMG_3448 IMG_3454 IMG_3457 IMG_3461 IMG_3463 IMG_3466We walked under the bridge and around these big rocks and discovered a double-spring-fed pool.IMG_3474 IMG_3477 IMG_3480 IMG_3481 The bridge looks nicer from the back, I think.IMG_3483 IMG_3492 IMG_3494 IMG_3495 Lichen on the rocks.IMG_3501After we returned from under the bridge we had some lunch and completed the loop.  The ranger at the Visitor’s Center had told us this Indian story to explain the twin bluffs on the mesa top.IMG_3502IMG_3503IMG_3511IMG_3506IMG_3512IMG_3515This is called the Cheese Box.




We left Natural Bridges at 2 o’clock and headed for Richfield, over 250 miles away. There was a notice of an  historical marker on the highway near the end of White Canyon so we pulled in and found this big sign and a fenced grave.  The view was nice a bit further behind this area. IMG_3525 IMG_3527 IMG_3528IMG_3530This distinctive formation is called Jacob’s Chair.IMG_3534IMG_3539IMG_3560We drove along the edge of  White Canyon for about 25 miles and then crossed the bridge at the end of Glen Canyon where it meets Cataract Canyon.  Those cliffs branch out in all directions.  Every time we turned a corner there was an arm of the canyon.  It was incredible. Hard to get a photo of though because it was usually aways from the road and there are so many shelves and ledges it is hard to distinguish all the twist, turns and angles.IMG_3562 IMG_3565IMG_3568 IMG_3570 IMG_3571 IMG_3572 IMG_3573 IMG_3575 Have I mentioned that I love Utah!  The colours and shapes of rocks and bluffs and cliffs and buttes are neverending.  It is great.IMG_3576 IMG_3579 IMG_3581We stopped at Hite Viewpoint to learn that the town had been moved because the damming of the Colorado River covered the original town and created Lake Powell.IMG_3585 IMG_3586 IMG_3587 IMG_3593 IMG_3602 IMG_3603 IMG_3604 IMG_3605 IMG_3606 IMG_3607 IMG_3610 IMG_3615 IMG_3616 IMG_3623We stopped at Hollow Mountain in Hanksville for some gas.  The store and restrooms and storage areas are cut deep into solid rock. Reminded me of our hotel in Coober Peedy where they dig the opal mines in Australia.

IMG_3625 IMG_3627From Hanksville going west on Highway 50 we entered Capital Reef National Park. We had explored this park when we came down here in 2012 so I was good and didn’t ask John to stop anywhere.  I just snapped lots photos out the car window.

IMG_3629 IMG_3631 IMG_3637 IMG_3640 IMG_3645 IMG_3646 IMG_3648 IMG_3653 IMG_3656 IMG_3658 IMG_3659 IMG_3664 IMG_3666 IMG_3668 IMG_3670IMG_3675 IMG_3677 IMG_3678From the western boundary of Capital Reef it is 63 miles to Richfield.  We drove down the hill and into town at 6:30.  It was along day.IMG_3680 IMG_3683 IMG_3687 IMG_3693 IMG_3701 IMG_3703 IMG_3704 But another good one.IMG_3705


2016 Feb 20 – Day 41 – California and Beyond – Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods

Day 41 – February 20 – Bluff, Utah

This blog will be 99.9% photos of red rocks – massive red rocks to be sure, but rocks nonetheless.  We toured Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods today.  There is no history nor geologic information boards.  We drove 17 miles on rough dirt roads in both valleys.   Red dirt.  The box of our truck now has a combination of brown dirt and red dirt despite it being covered.

At breakfast at the Twin Rocks Cafe we met a nice couple from Farmington, NM who were in Bluff visiting Charlene’s mother for a few days.  She told us to go see Goosenecks on our way to Valley of the Gods and to drive up Moki Dugway.  We saw the Goosenecks today and will drive up Moki Dugway on our way to Richfield tomorrow.

We drove 41 miles roughly southwest from Bluff to the turn-off to Monument Valley.  On the way we pulled into a dirt road to get a closer view of Mexican Hat Rock.

IMG_2705 IMG_2707 IMG_2708 IMG_2714 IMG_2715 IMG_2723 IMG_2724 IMG_2721After taking photos of the rock we drove back along the road and turned down a track because it looked like there may be a canyon view.  And there was  – a great look at the San Juan River.  It carries so much mud along in the water it looks as brown as the dirt.IMG_2729 IMG_2730IMG_1035We drove by Alhambra Rock, which is about the only black rock for miles and miles.IMG_2751 IMG_2752And…,.we just had to stop at the top of the hill to photograph the straight stretch of highway where Forrest Gump quit running!IMG_2761The silly things we remember.  Really!IMG_2764 IMG_2771 IMG_2772IMG_2774 IMG_2794IMG_2775IMG_2776 IMG_2780 IMG_2781Monument Valley is a vast area within the Navajo Nation spanning the borders of Arizona and Utah.  We actually crossed into Arizona to enter the valley.  It cost $20 for a car and two people; the same as to enter a National Park if you don’t have an Annual Pass (but you can have a full car).  There is a large Visitor Center, with a museum and displays, a great gift shop with lots of Navajo silver, blankets, jewelry, books, DVDs, and even a $24,000 hand woven Navajo rug.  You can stay at the nearby hotel and eat at the restaurant, have a guide drive you through the valley, or go for a horseback ride. Very nice set-up.

We did a quick look around and I bought a box of John Wayne playing cards.  Monument Valley came to national attention after John Wayne starred in the the John Ford western “Stagecoach” in 1939 and people have been flocking here ever since.

And now commences the photographs.  I took 478 photos today.  But keep in mind that I created 18 stitched panoramas that are made from 5 – 10 pictures each so that removes quite a few from the folder.  I did not import all my photos here, so don’t panic. There are a lot however.  It was such stunning scenery how could I resist?IMG_2797 IMG_2800 IMG_2782West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte.IMG_2790 IMG_2793 IMG_2801 IMG_2802 IMG_2805 IMG_2809

The hotel blends into the cliff top.IMG_2810 IMG_2826 IMG_2830 IMG_2832Camel Butte.IMG_2835We stopped a little further down the road at a pullout to take photos of The Three Sisters. Another car was there ahead of us and the dad was calling his three daughters to get out and stand in the same order as the rocks for a picture.  John asked if he could take a photo of them as well and he kindly said it was okay.  How adorable are they?

IMG_1090Not far from Three Sisters was John Ford Point.  A Navajo woman had a table set up with her jewelrey for sale.  We stopped to have a look see and John got permission to take a photo of Margaret’s little girl.IMG_1096 (2)

IMG_2838 IMG_2837 IMG_2839 IMG_2841 IMG_2851 IMG_2860


Rain God MesaIMG_2865IMG_2894



Totem PolesIMG_2876IMG_2879



The CubeIMG_2931 IMG_2934 IMG_2946 IMG_2947


This is where we ate our lunch.IMG_2960




Artist’s PointIMG_2964 IMG_2965 IMG_2967IMG_2973IMG_2975The Boot.

IMG_2976IMG_2978IMG_2984IMG_2994IMG_2997IMG_3009We finished our drive through Monument Valley at 2:30, backtracked up the road about 20 miles and took the turn to Valley of the Gods.

IMG_3014IMG_3015We took the road into Goosenecks State Reserve as Charlene suggested.  IMG_3035IMG_3030IMG_3036IMG_3031IMG_3037IMG_3047IMG_3053There is no visitor’s center, no brochures, no designated names for the formations, just a 17 mile road on rutted, rocky, red dirt to view some fabulous rock formations.IMG_3054IMG_3056IMG_3059IMG_3060IMG_3073IMG_3076IMG_3082IMG_3083IMG_3084IMG_3089We inadvertantly timed our trips through Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods in the best order. We weren’t sure which to do first and decided for no particular reason to start the day with Monument Valley. This turned out to be the best choice as we had the morning light, which was best, there and the afternoon light, which was best at Valley of the Gods. IMG_3090IMG_3104IMG_3106IMG_3110IMG_3117IMG_3118IMG_3121IMG_3129IMG_3134IMG_3140IMG_3142IMG_3143IMG_3148

These formations reminded me of the ‘ladies’ we used to make with Hollyhock blossoms.IMG_3149IMG_3151John thought these rocks on the top of the butte looked like cupcakes.IMG_3154IMG_3155IMG_3157


The Kiss.IMG_3166IMG_3167IMG_3170IMG_3171Evening is coming just as we were about to exit the valley and make our way back to the Twin Rocks Cafe for dinner and the Desert Rose Inn for bed.IMG_3172IMG_3174

2016 Feb 19 – Day 40 – California and Beyond – Mesa Verde

Day 40 – February 19 – Durango, CO to Bluff, UT – Mesa Verde

When we decided to take a road trip after our three-week stay in Carlsbad, CA I immediately wanted to see some of the National Parks in the southwest; particularly Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Petrifed Forest and Mesa Verde.

I checked the US National Parks website for each park to be sure they were open. I did not go in-depth into each site at the time.  A couple of days ago I ventured further into the Mesa Verde page and learned that the cliff dwelling I really wanted to see was by ticket only (that was okay) but it was only open for guided tours from May to September!  Bummer. That information would have been good to know on the front page.

I was quite disappointed but, as we know, there are more than the one thing you know about in a park so we decided to stop in and see what we were able to see.  We had a great day!  And I took almost 600 photos!  And Cliff Palace, the cliff dwelling I wanted to see was visible from two different viewpoints.  We were not able to go through it but that was okay.  I wanted to see it and I did – twice.  I am easily satisfied….

We left Durango at 10 and drove the 20-odd miles to the Visitor’s Center at Mesa Verde National Park.  We picked up a couple of booklets for the self-guided tours, spoke about where we would be able to go in the park and set off about 11:15.IMG_2203 IMG_2206 IMG_2210 IMG_2214 IMG_2216 IMG_2217 IMG_2218 IMG_2219 IMG_2221 As has been normal of late I am going to let the US National Parks people pass along some information.  Read or ignore as you please.IMG_2225 IMG_2226 IMG_2227IMG_2229This isn’t too clear but in the Visitor’s Center there was a to-scale model of Mesa Verde Park with a black line showing the roads, some of which were closed for the winter.  All the sights are at the TOP of the mesa.  We drove up a steep winding road with sharp grades and many places there was no stopping and no parking due to the risk of falling rock.  Our first stop was the Mancos Valley Overlook at 8572′ above sea level.   The Visitor’s Center is at 2118′.  That is quite a climb.
IMG_2231IMG_2232 IMG_2233IMG_2260aMancos Valley Overlook.IMG_2263 IMG_2266 IMG_2267 IMG_2274 IMG_2275 IMG_2276The next viewpoint was called Montezuma Valley Overlook and it was on the opposite side of the mesa from Mancos Valley.IMG_2271 IMG_2272 IMG_2279 IMG_2280 IMG_2270IMG_2281 IMG_2290The scenery was pretty awesome!

The Park Point Overlook was closed for the winter but a bit further up the road was the Geologic Overlook. IMG_2295 IMG_2296 IMG_2301IMG_2298 IMG_2299 IMG_2303 IMG_2304 IMG_2305 IMG_2306We actually descended to 7000′ at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum where we could view Spruce Tree House and then drive the 6 mile Mesa Top Loop which has examples of the various types of dwellings used over 800 years by the Ancestral Pueblo people.

At Mesa Verde there are over 4500 archeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings.IMG_2311IMG_2382 IMG_2312IMG_2325IMG_2326IMG_2329IMG_2330 IMG_2315 IMG_2317The cliff dwellings look like miniatures, or doll houses because we view them from across the canyon.  Most of them are  built 500′-600′ above the floor of the canyons.IMG_2344IMG_2333 IMG_2347 IMG_2365 IMG_2370The Mesa Loop Trail took us several hours to travel due to the frequent stops, many less than 1/2 mile apart.  Fascinating stuff though.IMG_2391IMG_2392IMG_2393IMG_2394IMG_2395IMG_2396IMG_2398IMG_2399IMG_2400IMG_2401IMG_2402IMG_2408IMG_2409IMG_2410IMG_2411All of the canyons drain to the south into the Mancos River.  The high mesas average 7000′ in elevation and receive about 18 inches of precipation a year.  This moisture, in the form of rain and snow, feeds springs at the heads of many of the canyons and supports a dense forest of pinyon and juniper.  This forest gave Mesa Verde its Spanish name, which means “green table.”IMG_2412


Navajo Canyon ViewIMG_2414




At Navajo Canyon view point we could see Cliff Palace, the most famous of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings, across the canyon.  They only take tours there in the summer months and only 25 persons per day.IMG_2415IMG_2420IMG_2421IMG_2423IMG_2426IMG_2425This was actually my favorite of the cliff dwellings.  We walked about a quarter mile along a trail through the forest, turned a corner, went down a little incline and there in the narrow canyon below us was Square Tower House.IMG_2428IMG_2430IMG_2431IMG_2432IMG_2441IMG_2443IMG_2444IMG_2453IMG_2445IMG_2446IMG_2454IMG_2455IMG_2456IMG_2457IMG_2458IMG_2460IMG_2461IMG_2462IMG_2464IMG_2465IMG_2466IMG_2469Totally ingenious!IMG_2470IMG_2471IMG_2472IMG_2473IMG_2474IMG_2475IMG_2476IMG_2477IMG_2478IMG_2495IMG_2498IMG_2499IMG_2500IMG_2501IMG_2505Sun Point Pueblo is one of the last mesa-top pueblos built at Mesa Verde.  The pueblo’s rooms enclosed an intriguing kiva-tower complex.  There was a tunnel that connected the kiva with the round tower.  People only lived in Sun Point Pueblo for about ten years and after a lot of time and effort it was abandoned. IMG_2507From this site, looking up and down the canyon, there were a dozen cliff dwellings sent in alcoves high up in Cliff and Fewkes Canyons, along with a building on the top of the mesa  across the canyon called Sun Temple.

IMG_2508IMG_2509IMG_2513IMG_2516IMG_2520IMG_2523IMG_2529My new zoom lens came in handy.
IMG_2526IMG_2528IMG_2532IMG_2533IMG_2534IMG_2535IMG_2537IMG_2538IMG_2539IMG_2542IMG_2543IMG_2544IMG_2545IMG_2546IMG_2547IMG_2553IMG_2558IMG_2564IMG_2565The people climbed the cliff walls to reach their homes using enlarged natural divots in the cliff face for hand and foot holds.  Water, food, fuel, children; everything was carried on your back as you climbed the face of 600′ cliffs.IMG_2571 IMG_2572 IMG_2573 IMG_2581IMG_2575 IMG_2577 IMG_2578 IMG_2579 IMG_2580IMG_2588IMG_2589IMG_2590IMG_2591IMG_2593IMG_2601IMG_2606Buildings go far into the back of the alcoves.IMG_2607IMG_2608After we completed the Mesa Top Loop we made our way back down to the Visitor’s Center as all the other roads were closed for the winter.  I was actually quite satisfied with my day at Mesa Verde.  We got to see a lot more than I expected after reading about the closures on the web page.  IMG_2610 IMG_2611 IMG_2614 Fire is a constant threat on the mesa.  There are over 100 severe lightning storms per year and in 2003 over half the park was burned.IMG_2621

Modern firefighting techniques can be damaging to archeological sites so in the event of a fire in the park an archeologist works with the fire fighters to protect the sites.IMG_2623 IMG_2629 IMG_2634When we got back to the highway we turned south to go to the Four Corners Navajo Monument.  The historical marker where the four states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet is on Navajo Nation land and you need to pay a nominal fee to access it.  We arrived at 5:03 to find a locked gate. They close at 5!  We wanted to put a hand or foot in each of the four states.  Unfortunately we are unable to come back this way to do it tomorrow.  Next trip over this way I guess.IMG_2640 IMG_2642 IMG_2646 Mesa Verde is in Colorado. We crossed into Arizona on our way to Four Corners and then when we turned around to go to our hotel for the night we entered Utah.  Three states in 10 minutes.  That’s what I call traveling!IMG_2648 IMG_2650 I LOVE Utah!  Ever since we came to southern Utah to see all the parks down here I have wanted to come back and see some more.  Colorado calls itself Colorful Colorado, but I love all the colours of rock in Utah.IMG_2658 IMG_2662 IMG_2663 IMG_2665 IMG_2668 IMG_2669 IMG_2674 IMG_2678 IMG_2681 IMG_2684 IMG_2687 We spent the night at a little place called Bluff.  A mile down the road from the Desert Rose Inn we went to Twin Rocks Cafe for dinner.  IMG_2697 IMG_2698 IMG_2703We decided to spend tomorrow night in Bluff as well because it is situated not far from Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods which are the next two things on our list of sights to see.  As usual when touring an historical or geological site I had a wonderful day. Thanks for joining us.



2016 Feb 18 – Day 39 – California and Beyond – Aztec Ruins

Day 39 – February 18 – Gallup, NM to Durango, CO

Driving north from Gallup today reminded us very much of driving to Butte, Montana during the years our son went to university there:  You drive and drive and drive and even though you are covering many miles it feels like you aren’t going anywhere.  And it isn’t that the countryside never changes because it does with huge rocks bluffs bursting out of the ground all over the place.  I guess it is just an impression brought on by the immensity of the sky and the land and the distance.IMG_1925There is a lot of road work going on north of Gallup.  Highway 491 is being four-laned.  It was quite chilly and windy when we left the hotel and all through the construction area the dust was blowing steadily across the road.  Dust storms and snow storms must be common because there were actually signs warning about zero visibilty areas.

IMG_1926 IMG_1927 IMG_1928I do love the big wide sky though and there were lots of changing cloud formations.IMG_1933 IMG_1938 IMG_1943 IMG_1944 IMG_1947 IMG_1951 IMG_1958 IMG_1956When I looked at my maps there did not appear to be anything particular between Gallup and Durango to stop and see other than Ship Rock, and a good view point for it was only a couple of miles down a side road.

It is a sacred place to the Navajo nation so no one is allowed to climb it. (We are driving through the huge Navajo Nation Reservation that spans the Four Corners – the only spot in the USA where four states meet – Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.)  It is called Ship Rock because in the evening light at dusk it appears to hover above the ground as if it was sailing.IMG_1964 IMG_1966At the community of Shiprock we turned east to Farmington and then northeast through Aztec to make our way into Colorado and the old west town of  Durango.