Monday, February 28, 2005

05-16 Utah into Colorado, Moab

Eastern Utah, return to Colorado

Green River and Moab

Week 16 of 52
July 17-24

Leaving Kanarraville. My last day in Kanarraville was on Tuesday. Donna and Gary came over the night before I was to leave and were so sweet to say they would miss me. Gary suggested I spend the rest of the summer here, but I have to move on. I had made many friends while I stayed in this little hamlet south of Cedar City. I’ll miss the ice-cream and cake and conversations late into the evening.

I took my time getting to the town of Green River going north on hwy 15 towards Salt Lake City, then turning east onto hwy 70. I started to ascend over the Pahvant Mountain Range, Sevier and Awapa plateau’s. Ahead of me were 4 to 5 mountain ranges each shaded with a lighter mist the further they were from me. I was entering the badlands of Utah, 105 degrees blazing sun, yet life could be found even in these desolate areas. The grades were a steep 6%, at times it appeared that I was barely going up hill, my camper and the numerous trucks on the highway had to go a slow 45 mph on our ascent, sometimes less. I’ve taken to following slow moving trucks up hill, so as not to attempt to try to go too fast uphill. It also has helped me with my gas mileage, as I’m averaging 12 miles to the gallon with my 8.1 liter V-8.

On Wednesday I attempted to go see some more petroglyphs, but could not find them on the dirt road. Perhaps I didn’t go far enough. I had fairly good directions, but since none of the roads were marked, it’s possible I was not on the right ones. It seems strange to drive through desert country, surrounded by so many varied mountains on a lonely dirt road with clouds of dust trailing my truck and miles of desolate sage covered land. No one else for miles around.

But alas, I knew where some other petroglyphs were on my way to Moab, so I took a short detour and arrived at Sego Canyon.

Sego Canyon. Now keep in mind, I’m towing my camper, since I haven’t arrived at my next destination, Moab. Again traveling down a secondary road that probably was paved back in the 30s and hadn’t seen a patch of new pavement since then. I turned left in the dry sun bleached town of Thompson Springs. Where the springs were I had no idea. Going on nothing more than a marking on my big travel map, I ventured up a side road, across washes, getting deeper and deeper into Sego Canyon, the road becoming tighter and tighter with no way to turn back. A brown Gov. sign, indicating I should stay on the paved roads, was my only indication I was on the right road. Things were bouncing around in the camper that I would find later. Opps.

After a few miles into the canyon, I arrived at a rock outcropping with a dusty parking lot, a few interpretive signs, a wooden post fence to keep visitors away from harming the petroglyphs. I first had to maneuver the truck and camper in a very small parking area, so that I was heading out again. I’m getting pretty good at maneuvering the camper and truck.

Now these are some of the best pictographs as well as petroglyphs in the area, and there are numerous sites throughout this region. Of course you know the difference between a pictograph and petroglyphs so I won’t bore you with the details. Some of the pictographs can be dated to over 7,000 years and were created by a group of Indians called the Archaic and the Barrier Canyon Indians dating to over 4,000 years. The haunting reddish and white painted figures with hollow eyes and V shaped bodies almost look alien. This particular sight had some vandalism damage going back to the early 1800’s to almost present day. But almost nothing could distract me from gazing at these artists of so long ago… Imagine, between 7 and 8,000 years ago, Indians came through this area and created masterpieces that have survived all that time. To see the colors of the paint still visible after 7,000 years is just amazing. Some of the prehistoric animals depicted are long extinct.

The faded shadowy figures in the background are some of the oldest pictographs, painted in red, wearing robes , broad shouldered tapering to a V shape, are like viewing spirits from the past. Once again I was taken back in time, to when our country was a wild land, being explored by these ancient Indian tribes. Leaving a reminder of their presence that lasts too today.

Moab. The heart of Canyon Land, broadcast from the only FM station in the area, playing country music. The Ok Rv campground is surrounded by horses and a small horse racing track nestled between tall ridges that look like someone sliced them with a cake knife. There are so many canyons, petroglyphs and of course the Colorado River that it would take weeks to see it all. I’m literally only about a mile from the closest petroglyphs. The Golf Course Rock Art, so named because it’s next to a lush green golf course surrounded by a new development of homes. All surrounded by more lush green lawns. Sucking up all the precious water in the area which is also used to irrigate a number of farms in the surrounding valley.

Moab is a true western town and caters to bikers, hikers, rafting, ATV and 4 wheel drive adventurers. The center of town has a fair amount of restaurants, gift shops and lots of tour companies. Western Union Banks are popular out here.

Arches National Park. My main reason for coming here is because my friends Betty and Dave told me what great scenery was in the area. It’s a quick stop-over before heading into Colorado again and hopefully cooler weather. The temp is around 105, so I don’t plan on staying but two days. Arches has of course grand arches. My first stop is actually my favorite in the whole park and is called Park Avenue. (It’s the picture with the words Arches National Park superimposed over it.) I would need a very wide angle lens to take in the whole scene, which does look like the canyons of Wall Street and seems to go on forever. The two side walls in the picture go back much further creating the columns of the Park Avenue canyon.

The various arches throughout the park are spectacular of course, but I was unable to reach the longest and thinnest one called Landscape Arch. It was a 2.2 mile hike and by the time I had traveled and hiked for over 2.5 hours, it was already heating up to the high of 105 that day. Better planning and I would have gone to it first thing when it was still cooler out. Instead I slowly drove back through the park, enjoying the scenery one more time inside the air-conditioned truck, before heading into Moab for lunch.

The Colorado River, Island Acres State Park. After a windy evening in Moab and an early rise due to the other campers getting up before the crack of dawn, starting their diesel engines. I ended up heading out just about sunrise. Besides, I knew where a Denny’s was located and decided an early start deserved breakfast. I decided to take scenic hwy 128 from Moab back to hwy 70 into Colorado. What perfect timing. Since my next stay was to be at the Colorado River State park, Island Acres, the scenic route followed the Colorado River most of the way. There were only a half dozen cars on the road most of the way, so I had the road to myself as the sun began to peak over the canyon walls. It was slow going due to the winding road, the speed limit was about 35-45 mph in many places. Which was fine with me. More time to take in the scenery. With a winery and a few farms along bends in the river, secluded from the rest of the world. All surrounded by high canyon walls and the Colorado river flowing through it all.

I’m just outside of Grand Junction Colorado. The state park is right on the river, wedged between two mountain cliffs. My site is a pull through with concrete pad. Yippee. No more tracking red dirt into the camper for a whole week! Trains go by on the other side of the river, on barely enough land to have laid the tracks, adding a nice scenic touch. It was easy to get a signal for the satellite dish and after a quick lunch, I headed over to the swimming hole. Which is exactly what it is. Fed somehow by the Colorado River. It’s cool water, but with temperatures still in the high 90’s, I’m not complaining. It is soooo nice to finally get somewhere that I can sit under a shade tree, read a book and go for a swim. It’s the only way to enjoy a sunny day. Being able to cool off with a good swim. I’ll be here for five days enjoying this little bit of Colorado paradise. Ya’ll stop by now, yah here…

05-15 Kanarraville Utah, Rambling Thoughts

Southern Utah

Kanarraville (2nd week)

Week 15 of 52
July 11-17

Doug‘s Rambling Thoughts.

Ahhhhh, another week in this small town of 350. Riding my bike in the early morning or later in the evening. The sight of the sun making the surrounding mountains rich in golden reds skirted with pinion pines. Sitting in the shade of my awning and the cotton wood trees, reading a new book. Enjoying the fresh air before the mid day heat forces me into the camper for an afternoon siesta.

Am I really having fun? I have so many friends write back to me and say things like “it seems like your having a good time”. I can assure you, I am having a good time. Perhaps it’s because I seldom write about anything negative that some question, is it real. Although a friend pointed out I had a couple of mishaps, the broken toe, the flat tires, the heat exhaustion from the desert hike and don‘t forget about the cows that could have attacked Dave and I. But all in all, each one of those was a learning experience and I do like to put it in a positive light. I’ve also found that I can learn from good experiences too. So I don’t need all those yucky experiences to learn and grow.

Traveling Solo. I know many people who are considering full timing or traveling solo are concerned about leaving friends and relatives behind and that it could be lonely out there. I have found that by keeping a journal and sharing it with my family and friends that it’s like having them along with me. You know if you travel by yourself, one of the things you miss is being able to look over at a friend or loved one and say, wow, look at that scenery. Or wasn’t that a fun town or such. Well by my keeping a journal and sharing it with you, it truly is like having you right beside me.

Another thing about this concern of being lonely is that with today’s technology, I can be in almost constant communication with friends via e-mail or cell phone. I might have to wait until I get over a mountain pass to get a good cell signal, or go into town to connect to the internet via a library or internet café, but that’s a part of exploring new places. So for me, loneliness is not an issue.

It also depends on your personality and your willingness to meet new people. I have had to really take charge and reach out and say hi to many strangers instead of waiting for someone to say hi to me and start a conversation. I find I talk to people while on a hike, in a restaurant, shopping, looking at scenery in a national park, you name it. When I get to a new park, I say hi to my neighbors as soon as I get parked, many times before I’m even settled in. The professor and his wife who’s a Doctor and their 2 children that I met visiting a slot canyon, ran out of film and I offered to take a few pictures and e-mail the pictures to them. I now have friends in Denver who are eager to have me visit. After an interesting conversation with them in the canyon and on the way back to the parking lot on the open decked truck, they said I was the type of person they look forward to meeting when they travel. Now that’s a nice compliment.

Dinner Party on the Road. Last night I had Steve, his brother Richard and Denise, Steve’s girlfriend over for dinner. We had my famous salad with mandarin oranges, apples, blueberries, onions, on a bed of romaine lettuce and Paul Newman’s Romano and Garlic dressing, a light dressing with tons of flavor. For the main course I made one of my famous one dish meals. A pie with stuffing as the pie shell and the filling a mixture of Campbell’s cream of celery soup, chicken, peas and French fried onions. A little California wine to toast with, more good conversation, a bit of country music in the background to top it off. Later we joined some other campers out on the patio and we pretty much talked until about 11:00pm with folks from England, The state of Washington and California. Along with a dip in the hot tub and you couldn’t ask for a better way to spend an evening.

Of course camping people are the easiest to talk to most times anyway. They are on vacation or full timing and something about the fresh air and sunshine that just makes folks eager to start a conversation and share their adventures with you.

Of course you get the occasional visitors center rep, who just doesn’t want to go through the speal again. Like the one I got at Colob Canyon, a part of Zion Park. He handed me a news flyer and said the map was in it and was the same as the one under glass at the counter. And that was that. He didn’t want to say another word.

Oddities. And being in the country, I come across odd things I’m not used to. Like everyone waving at you when they pass you in their cars or on the street. I’ve had to get used to the wave from the steering wheel as well. That’s where you keep your hand on the steering wheel and just raise it in a quick wave. After all, I do want to be friendly to the folks around here. And will a nod do when I’m on my bike or should I take a hand off the bike handle and give a full wave? I’m still working on that one.

I’ve seen a lot of cow guards on the roads out here. Those are those metal grates that you drive over, but the cattle can’t walk across. The wildlife is much more plentiful out here. Lots of rabbits hopping across roads and sometimes becoming rabbit pancakes along the way. Blue Bell ice-cream is the ice-cream of choice out these parts. You see lots of barbed wire out west too, unless it says, open range. In which case it’s a free for all for the wild animals to play.

Do I miss anything while on the road? Well out west I do miss the beaches of Florida and being able to go for a swim anytime. I haven’t found many lakes or swimming pools out here. And of course my friends, but as I’ve said earlier, I’m able to keep in contact with them quite often, so I can’t say I miss them except to see them in person.

And sometimes I miss finding a good grocery store to shop in. But that’s really just a minor inconvenience.

Colob Canyon. I took a short hike up into Colob Canyon which is a separate part of Zion National Park. The road into the park is only 5 miles long and gives a person much more time to enjoy the grand scenery on a smaller scale. Since it is basically just the one canyon, I was able to stop at all the turn outs and view it from many different angles. Something you don’t get a chance to do in the other parks. There is so much to see at the big parks, sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on any one aspect. I took the hike at the end of the file mile road and just enjoyed a trail that wound up the top ridge of a mountain for better views of the Canyon. There were many yellow flowers in bloom all along the sides of the trail. The trail was about the 6,500 ft level, so I found myself taking a couple extra deep breaths to get enough oxygen. Not uncomfortable, just something one needs to do.

So there you are. Just some of my thoughts while I enjoy another week at this little Rv campground in Kanarraville, a town of 351 if you include me . Sure hope you find adventure in your life. It’s out there, just waiting for you.

05-15 Bonus Report, Cedar Breaks National M, Utah

Southern Utah
Week 15 of 52
July 11-17

Bonus Report: Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

I had some time today…. Well ok, everyday. But really, after doing a few chores around the “Tri-level Titanium Excursion Mobile”, I decide to treat myself to lunch and a hike into Cedar Breaks National Monument.

I had never heard of this park in Utah and since it was a short 30 minute drive from Cedar city, I was off on another adventure. After a while I began thinking that one more mountain range, canyon, or plateau with a meadow with wildflowers can’t be that different than what I’d already seen. But each new corner turned, each new winding road up a canyon with steep cliffs on either side becomes a new experience.

Cedar Breaks is called an amphitheater because of the natural shape of this canyon which soars to over 10,467 ft down to the bottom of about 2,000 ft. Actually I had an ulterior motive for going to Cedar Breaks. Utah along with the whole region out west has been stuck in a heat wave of close to 115 degrees at the lower elevations. Where I’m staying it has even gotten into the high 90’s, over the past 3-4 days, so I thought a trip up to the 10,000 ft level would be a cool break.

YES! As I got closer to the entrance of the park, I began to see patches of snow. Can you believe, in the middle of July! And to make things even more cool, the spring flowers begin in late June up here and the second wave of wild flowers start in mid July. Talk about good timing. I’m getting to know many of the wild flowers and have taken tons of pictures of the Indian Paint Brush, Lupine in it’s many shades of blues to lavenders, Blue Bell, Blue and White Columbine and many yellow flowers from common daises to a new one for me, Cinquefoil.

The trail I took, The Alpine Pond Trail, skirted a vast Alpine meadow and I literally walked through fields of Blue Bell, Lupine and a scattering of Paint Brush. I walked along with an older couple who were on the hike looking for the Columbine. We didn’t see any along this trail, but we had both seen a wonderful patch of them just off the visitors center. Oh and I saw one of the strangest pine trees, the bristle cone pine which can be as old as 1,600 years in this park and is a native tree in this park. It’s all twisted and gnarled with loads of small pine cones. It’s amazing it can survive up here. Many younger trees were snapped in half due to the high winds that occur often up here and the tall stately spruce has been ravaged by bark beetles due to recent droughts. The lower part of the trail was closed due to so many downed trees.

It sure is nice to be able to go up to a place like Cedar Breaks to get away from the summers heat, instead of hiding inside an air-conditioned house, car or store. I guess that’s what makes “retirement” so wonderful. You can change your viewpoint anytime you want to.

It was a great afternoon of sightseeing, getting some much needed cooler fresh air and a bit of hiking to boot.

That’s life on the road, until the next mile, have a great day.

05-14 S Utah, Kanab, Zion National Park

Southern Utah

Kanab, 4th of July
Zion National Park
Kanab, Movies, Westerns

Week 14 of 52
July 3-9

I took a few days off from touring and hiking, but there’s just so much to see and do, it’s hard to take too long of a break. Mt Zion was on my list of to-do’s. I work so hard, it’s not easy trekking all over the place to make sure I see as much of the west as possible. And I’m only doing the four corners area this year!


Mt Zion is only about 45 miles from where I’m staying and the ride to it is through more gorgeous country. Including the Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Unfortunately, most of Utah’s state parks do not have electric at the campsites. Limiting my use of them greatly.

The east entrance to Mt Zion include two tunnels, one being a mile in length. Fun. It all begins with spectacular scenery like the checkerboard mesa and continues from the top of the canyon leading down into a magical basin with the Virgin River flowing through it, one of the last free flowing rivers in the US, waterfalls and some great hikes. My favorite part was not having to drive once I got into the park. They have free shuttles to get you to all of the best viewing and hiking sites throughout the park.

So after a visit to the museum and short film to orient myself to the park, I took a few short hikes to places like Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool Trail and The Temple of Sinawava. Surprising to see water in the middle of the desert dry country. Waterfalls cascading over cliffs and coming out of seemingly no where at the tops of sheer mountains. Just a tip, bring sandals or other water shoes so you can jump in the Virgin River at the end of the trails. Believe me you’ll want to. With the sun and heat, the water if soooo refreshingly inviting. Even with my healing toe, I took off my boots and jumped in. Ok, I tippy toed in. But what a great feeling, that cool refreshing water.

I wish I could share all the photo’s with you, but I would fill your e-mail to the limit if I did. From tourists splashing in the water dodging small rocks and boulders, stretching our necks to see up to the tops of all those mountains surrounding us. Views of the Lodge and the grassy lawn and trees with those shear cliffs and mountains peaking between each tree and porch column. The Virgin River flowing along the road way leading to all the trails throughout the park. Horse back riders riding along the rivers edge.

I finally take a break and have lunch in the Lodges second floor dining room with it’s stone and log walls, it’s big chairs and tables made out of stripped logs and trees, varnished clear and smooth. The young waiters from all over the world, working here for the summer. Having a chicken Caesar salad with Chinese rice noodles, ice cold ice tea.

It would take days, if not weeks to see it all. I may go back next week.

The 4th of July

How could I not enjoy the 4th of July any other way than to watch a parade in a small western town of Kanab Utah. This town has many secrets to discover. From being the western movie capital for years during the era of the western. The family that has their reunion here every year and the whole family is in the parade, including their 100 year old patriarch of the family. She looked pretty good too. The fun of getting sprayed by the fire trucks in the parade, a tradition in these parts. Seeing young kids scrambling for candy as it’s thrown out at all the viewers. Yes, I even got a few pieces of candy. Yum!

Johnson Canyon Movie Set

If you like movies and old westerns, Kane County is THE place to be. Almost everywhere you turn you’ll find references to movies having been made here. The visitor center is a great place to start as always. They have a pretty good display of movie posters and signed autographs from all the movie stars who have made films here. The entire town of Kanab learned to act and were frequently used in many of the movies and TV shows produced here.

The list of movies produced here is endless, from The Lone Ranger to Westward the Women to How the West Was Won. I got a map of places to see and before even getting out of town, I visited the Parry Lodge where many of the stars stayed while filming in the area. A cool old motel all white colonial ranch style. Then I headed out to the Johnson Canyon movie set. It’s viewable from the road and isn’t open to the public at this time, but I couldn’t resist and climbed over the fence and walked down the dirt road, through the hay fields into the old movie set town. All by myself, no tourists to bump into. Just the silence, wind whistling, feeling the hot sun baking the old town, waiting for a brighter day to make it come alive again. The hang mans noose swaying in the breeze.

Surrounded by hay fields, golden in the bright sunlight on one side and canyon walls off in the distance to the other side. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the neat old town created for all those movies and could feel the excitement of a movie crew getting ready to make magic for all us movie goers. The buildings barely standing up against the heat of the sun. Buildings that were made to last the length of a movie or two, still standing. Held to together by a few nails and boards. Many having lost their roofs, if they ever had them in the first place.

Gosh, not many people are able to experience an abandoned movie set out in the middle of a canyon without the commercial trappings of someone trying to make a buck. But a truck with an ATV in its bed was coming up the old dirt road and I finally had to run out to the gate to move my truck that was blocking the roadway. The cowboy was nice about it, being a nephew of the man who owned the property and had recently sold the movie town to some locals. The excitement of discovery. It’s worth exploring an area for more than a day or two. Treasures are out there, hidden down a side canyon if your willing to look for them.

I talked to the owner of the Movie sets/tourist place in Kanab and he told me how they firmed The Planet of the Apes over at Lake Powell. He remembers as a young man watching them lower the space ship into the lake, later erasing the cable suspending the space ship, from the movie. And seeing the half buried statue of Liberty on the shores of lake Powell, with the ape actors hanging around the edge of the lake, ready for the next shoot.

My last evening in Kanab ended with Dave, coming down from the mountain, and I going to dinner and hurrying to the towns park to watch the 4th of July fireworks. All the local restaurants and shops scurrying to close in time to join the festivities. Back dropped by the surrounding low mountains silhouetted against the dark blue/black sky, the colorful fireworks capped off an exciting weeks adventures. Along with the fireworks going off, we saw a helicopter take off from the road in front of the small hospital next to the park and later a burning bush, caught on fire from the fireworks. Note the religious overtones… after all, we are in Mormon country.

05-14, pt 2, Pipe Springs, Kanarraville Utah

Southern Utah (part 2)

Pipe Spring, National Monument
Kanarraville, Population 320

Week 14 of 52
July 5-10

Moving day again. I’m heading over to Kanarraville a T-tiny town between Cedar City and St George UT. On the way there’s a small National Monument, so I figured I may as well stop in and see what it’s all about.

Pipe Spring is the location of a natural spring and the Mormons built Winsor Castle. A small fort. It was a tithing settlement, as the Mormons were expected to tithe at least 10% and that usually meant cattle or sheep. The size of the herd grew and the women made cheese and other dairy products for sale. Unfortunately the Paiute Indians were reduced in numbers due to successive waves of drought, missionaries, explorers bringing European diseases and the Mormons who even sold them into slavery. Although the Mormons were kind enough to call it something else. The Paiute’s in the area were reduced from over 5,500 in the 1700s to less than 240 today. They were finally granted a reservation in 1907. Overgrazing caused the pastures to dry out and be overtaken by sage. Of course the Mormons were struggling with their own problems, that of polygamy which was outlawed in 1880’s and Pipe Spring was one of the last hideouts of the polygamists. This land has gone through a succession of changes, with the Indian being the only one who understood the balance required to sustain this land properly. Why on earth it’s a National Monument is anyone’s guess, except maybe to show the mistakes mankind makes.

Another Flat Tire!

Ekkkkk! One mile from my final destination on moving day, I got another flat tire on the 5th wheel camper. Fortunately, I saw the tire shredding to bits and smoking before it did any damage to the camper or anything else. The side of the tire blew out. Fortunately I had the new spare tire to put on. Was it the heat? The camper is now 4 years old and they say tires are usually only good for 4/5 years even if they don’t look worn out. Stress, fatigue, dry rot can all occur. I’m going to have to be very careful over the next couple of weeks and months and may end up replacing all 4 tires on the camper before heading back home.

After settling into my new home at The Red Ledge Rv Campground in Kanarraville, I took a well needed break. The site is shaded, with tall cottonwood trees, fine golfers grass on each site and I have a redwood stained fence and shrubs shielding me from the small local road out front. I looked out the picture window and all of a sudden I saw a heard of sheep coming up the road. Of course I grabbed my camera and took a few shots. Now that’s what I call being in the country!

I went into Cedar City today and after checking with the Big O tire company, I’ve decided to replace all my camper tires. My camper is 4 years old, but the tires were actually almost 5 years old, which is the top end of the life of a tire, even if the tread still looks good. Tires can wear out from the inside as well, stress, dry rot, fatigue. It’s not worth trying to get the last mile out of them. If your tires are older than 4 years, consider getting new ones, before you have that blow out. The magazine trailer life has had a couple great articles on tires this past year. You might want to check it out. Oh, I’m upgrading to 8 ply tires with a 2,600 lb carry limit, much higher than my previous tires which barely covered the GVW of the camper.

Parowan Gap, Petroglyphs

Imagine over 1,000 years ago an Indian tribe, perhaps the Sevier-Fremont, nomadic Archaic or even the Southern Paiute tribe migrating between the Parowan Valley through the Parowan gap. Stopping to reflect on the time of the season. The Native Indians in this part of Southern Utah were able to figure out the celestial changes in the sun and stars and documented that on these shear rock formations which create the gap. Not all petroglyphs are the same. These have more geometric shapes and appear to contain a means of counting. Note the repeating slash lines and dots. They would have had a fairly good life. Being able to migrate to grow crops like corn and beans, hunting for small game and water foul and then moving on into the mountains to hunt mule deer. The V shaped Zipper glyph is actually a numerical calendar and composite map. The tick marks, creating the appearance of a zipper, count off about 180 marks which is the number of days of the solstices. You can even see a mountain and sun between the V which shows how to use the V figure, the mountain gap, to determine the time of year.

I wonder how close this tribe was coming to creating a written language. They were obviously counting by the geometric lines and sectioning of objects like the snake and they knew how to represent complex ideas and put them into a graphic form. They may have been getting close to the capabilities of the Aztec or Inca cultures. If the European community had not been introduced, who knows how advanced they could have gotten on their own.

See if you can find the snakes, mountain sheep, bear claws and human figures in the pictures.

This area has not been completely fenced off and I sure hope people respect the area. It could be damaged so easily. There is evidence of recent visitors writing their names and dates on the rocks, side by side of the petroglyphs. One dated to 1948, another said Go Texas Rangers. There is no Ranger station, just a small sign next to a beat up old chain link fence along this quiet country road.

Talk about making history come alive. To be able to get so close to something that was created over 1,000 years ago. This is one of the reasons I’ve been wanting to get out west. To see some of what our country was made of. The people, the cultures that have changed it over time. How they used the land and changed it along the way.

Cedar City July Festival

Ok, so this wasn’t the biggest festival to attend. But, it was free and the music was pretty good early on, until the larger bands appeared. Then the Sound guy really screwed up the sound system. I really felt bad for the bands after that. A couple blocks in the center of town were closed to traffic and filled with antique cars, fire trucks, safety booths and information booths, food vendors on a very small scale and fun stuff for the kids. They even had free hotdogs, cokes and chips. So one didn’t even need to spend a cent if you didn’t want to. I stayed a couple hours until about sunset, 8:45, when the crowds started to get too much. A small local Indian tribe did some dances in very colorful costumes. They mentioned how they enter many Indian tribe competitions throughout the country and the high cost to do so.

All in all a relaxing day that started with a short hike up the canyon overlooking my campsite, washing the truck which really needed it and then the festival. I’m glad I didn’t wait to retire. There’s so much to fill a day, I just can’t imagine ever having time to go to work. One of these days I’m going to just sit back and read a book. But I have my Birthday party to go to tomorrow and I have to bake a cake! Actually Banana Bread, but it’s like cake to me.

Doug’s Birthday, On the Road

Sunday, July 10th. Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me… Ta.. Da… Yippee! I’ve been retired for almost a year. It would have been a year, but I had waited an extra two months hoping for a buy out at work. So when you think about it, I’ve started to collect on the 32 years I’d put in the Gov. 31 more to go to break even.

So Sunday evening, about 8 of us got together including two dogs, Kyenne and Bo to celebrate my Birthday, Sandy’s and Steve’s. Lots of good munchies, banana bread, carrot cake Birthday cake and cheese cake. Small gifts were passed out, we had music and just good old fun and conversation… I’m ready for another year of freedom! Yippee!

Have a super great week!

05-13 Page AZ, Kanab Utah, the WAVE

Arizona, Utah
Page, AZ
Kanab, Utah
The Wave

Week 13 of 52
June 27-3

After having met yet another lovely couple, this time from N Calif., Clayton and Jeanne, I prepared to head down off the Kaibab Plateau. But first, I discovered I had a flat tire on the camper. It had somehow gotten damaged on the inside sidewall and I had about a six inch tear. After replacing it, I was ready to head out.

I got a campsite at the Crazy Jug motel/Rv campground in Fredonia, right across the border from Utah. My friend Dave joined me and we spent a day touring southern Utah. We visited the Glen Canyon Dam which is the second largest dam in the US. Hover of course being the larger. Glen Canyon Dam came in just shy of being first in many aspects of dam building. The size of the lake, the amount of concrete used, etc. It was still a great tour.

We had lunch in Page, a town created from nothing to aid in the building of the dam. Later, we went to Lake Powell which of course was created by the dam and had a great swim. Everyone said it was going to be cold, but we both found it refreshing. Even though it really doesn’t have a beach like those in Fla. The bottom was a bit clayish and mucky and we had to watch out for the prickly sage brush back on shore. Ouch. But seeing all the houseboats and the jet skiers eager to begin a big holiday weekend, with a background of multi-colored mountains and hidden canyons along the lakes boundaries, we had gotten a head start on everyone.

Oh, we also went to the Antelope Canyon, which is on Navajo Land. A parking fee and $15 for a fun ride on the back of a truck added to the short ride to the site. Antelope is noted for being one of the most beautifully photographed slot canyons in the southwest. A native Navajo guide leads the tour with plenty of time to explore the canyon and take pictures. You know I took tons!

The Wave………………………………....................................

Dave and I were able to sign up for the BLM site, The Wave. This is a very hard to get hike, out to a sandstone formation called the Wave. The next day, we headed out to the site which is about half way between Kanab and Page. It’s very remote, having to drive down a long dirt road, past many washouts. You wouldn’t want to get stuck here as the area can flood in an instant during a summer downpour.

After signing in at the trail head, only 20 people max are permitted in this sensitive area, we began our three mile hike down a dried out wash. Unfortunately, there were three trails and we headed down the wrong one from the start. After backtracking about a mile, we were finally on the correct trail. We had a good set of instructions with full color pictures of what to look for as we hiked over old mining roads, through sand dunes covered with wild flowers, Juniper and sage, finally getting to the sandstone mountains we were to traverse for a couple more miles.

The heat started to become intense as we hiked up and down and across the rock formations, already showing signs of the wave. Although we were well prepared with lots of water and snacks to aid in keeping hydrated, eventually the heat became too much for me. Dave was great to have along and recognized the signs that it was time to turn back. It was my decision and I felt horrible that we didn’t get a chance to see this amazing natural formation. Dave did climb up one more hill and with a set of binoculars, was able to see the Wave, off in the distance.

The trip back along the sandstone rock formations was easier, knowing were heading back to the car. The sun and heat continued to beat down on us, only an occasional breeze to relieve the intense heat. We passed a German family that didn’t’ appear to be very well equipped for the hike. The young, 16 year old son was dressed in the long surfer shorts, no shirt, and I don’t think he was even wearing a hat or proper hiking boots.

We continued our trek across and down the sandstone formations and reached the wash, but couldn’t determine which direction to go. We had come down off the steep mountain ahead of where we should be. After a bit more backtracking, I was able to find the old mining road and we continued our trek back to the parking lot. A good mile and a half further.

At this point, I was becoming exhausted from the heat. The water and snacks no longer doing their duty. Dave stayed with me and helped encourage me to take as many breaks as I needed, as I began to grow more tired and weak from the intense heat and hike we were on. I rested many times to gather enough strength to continue. I could tell that my body was not working on all cylinders.

As we got closer to the end, I had to hand over my backpack to Dave and he doused me with some of the precious water we had to help cool me down. My chest began to feel tight and breathing became more labored.

Finally, the Trail head was in sight and Dave, after making sure I was still ok, hurried ahead to get the car started and get the A/C cooling the car. After what seemed like the slowest, most difficult final 150 steps I every had to make, I arrived at the car. I had made it back and was safe.

The drive back into Kanab found me gradually getting my vital signs back to normal, with some difficulty being able to focus and light being very bright and difficult for me to look out at the surrounding scenery.

The day had been an eventful one, with missed signals to various turns on the trail. The beginning of a hike that started with enthusiasm and a quick step, to finally relief that I had survived an intense and difficult hike.

I didn’t see the wave, but I did experience a day that showed me how difficult our forefathers had it, heading out west by wagon train. Trying to find a better life out west. Walking beside their wagons filled with their life’s possessions, finally leaving many items on the sides of the trail, just hoping to survive.

Had Dave not taken my backpack for the last mile or so, I too was ready to drop it and continue the trek, hoping to make it to safety.

05-12 The North Rim Grand Canyon, Arizona

Northern Arizona
The North Rim, Grand Canyon
Week 12 of 52
June 19-26

Hmmm, traveling north by north west, do I take the “scenic” byway Alt. 89 or the safe 89. Having never been on either and not sure I’ll ever be on these road again, I opted for the scenic. What could have been a harrowing drive turned out to be pleasant with just a bit of excitement going past Echo Cliffs and Vermilion Cliffs. Actually the portion that led up the mountain switchback turns had such a heavy banking of the road, that it was actually fun making those sharp turns.

I crossed over Lees Fairy and had my first view of the Colorado river with it’s deep rich emerald green color down in the deep shear canyon with it‘s twin bridges crossing overhead, Then, past the neat rock house dwellings of Vermilion Cliffs.

I arrived on the Kanab Plateau and Jacob Lake. This is a part of the Kaibab National Forest and is the entrance to the North end of the Grand Canyon. Elevation 8000 ft. to 8800ft. Up to the Visitors Center and as luck would have it, my friend Dave Brackett was there getting information on a hike he was preparing to go on. After greetings, he went off on his hike and I was able to get a campsite right at Jacob Lake. That way Dave and I would be able to do a bit of touring and dinner together before he starts his summer volunteer job with the Kaibab National Forest.

Dr Dave helped me out with tape for my slow healing broken toe and we were off to tour the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My first view being the grand view through the huge windows of the Lodge. A must if you visit the North Rim. You’ve seen pictures of the Grand Canyon, but for anyone who visits it, the first view is so overwhelming. The sun was still out and I was able to get a number of shots before the clouds rolled in. I might add in a very dramatic fashion as well. Some of my shots of the canyon with the sheets of rain coming down and the sun highlighting various canyon walls off in the distance are some of my favorite shots.

A quick lunch at the Lodge, make your own taco’s for $9.00, was actually pretty good along with the ever changing views of the canyon outside those huge windows in the enormous dining room. Dave and I decided to try to make it to one of the Archeological talks out at Walhalla Overlook. We were a bit late getting started as the lunch took longer than expected, but Dave drove like a bat out of hell and we made it just minutes after the Ranger started his talk. I, still reeling from the roller coaster ride, and imploring Dave to slow down, after all he had a “National Treasure” in the car! Me! But we made it and that’s what counts.

The Ranger was another summer hire, who was very knowledgeable about the subject of Ancient Indian tribes who lived in the area. Recently, just in the past year or two, over a dozen store houses of beans and corn were found on the mesas and plateaus in the Grand Canyon. Many questions lead to why the granaries, full of food, were abandoned. Examples of small animal figures made of straw and twigs preserved in perfect condition, pottery shards and other artifacts continue to add to the knowledge of those who lived here in the past.

All this along with the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon from the higher elevation of the North Rim, the rain that continued off and on to lightly pelt us, the dramatic lighting, which we were warned to stay away from the rim during thunder and lighting, only added to the excitement and feeling of being alive and living life to it’s fullest. Later I learned a girl had been killed by lighting up here just about a week and half ago.

I’ll be here at Jacob Lake for a full week before heading into Utah, just 30 miles away to visit a ton of other National parks.

Most of the historical buildings built for the Forestry department were demolished in the 60’s, with just a few remaining. Isn’t it interesting to see what we demolish, only to realize many times too late, that those structures were worth preserving. Like the CCC who did such great work on our National parks, who were not told to preserve some of the rock dwelling found in the area. So they salvaged some of the stones to make new buildings. Of course every age has done that. Reusing the remains of a past civilization. We are fortunate when those sites are so remote, as many are out west, that they were preserved until we could realize the importance of these sites.

On Saturday I attended the USDA Forest Service’s 100th birthday. It was held just about 100 yards from the campground at the historical North Kaibab Ranger Station directly across from Jacob Lake. A two room house and ranger station. History was reenacted and the current Park Ranger gave a heart felt talk about her love of the Forestry Department and shared a link to the past, that of her grandfather having also been a Forest Ranger. The reenactment of the early forest rangers lives and the mountain men who grazed thousands of cattle and sheep on this high plateau brought history to life and the evolution of this forest came alive. The Forestry personnel are the truest most honest workers who quickly admit past mistakes and are willing to learn better methods to ensure that these forests are used by all. For grazing, mining, tree cutting, recreation and wildlife and hunting.

Later in the day, after Dave finished work, he stopped by and we went for a hike through the forest. With the sun low in the sky, we walked along one of the many dirt and gravel roads that wind there way through the Kaibab forest. About half way into the hike, we came across a herd of grazing cattle. They looked at us, we looked at them. They started to moo in consternation that we humans were in their territory. I was concerned because a couple of the bulls with their horns pointed our way, were looking us directly in the eye ever so menacingly. Dave wasn’t worried. He said he could easily outrun me what with my damaged foot.

After a short while of us staring at them, they staring at us, they decided to moooove on to another pasture through the trees. A couple of the cows continued to look back at us as if to say, yah, we’re keeping an eye on you so don’t do anything funny.

We walked a good 45 minutes toward the setting sun, then, turned around to time it so that the sun would be hitting the horizon just as we returned to our cars. On the way back along that dirt road, we saw our shadows stretching for a good 30 feet in front of us. Two Gumby’s walking silently down the road.

On Sunday, I went back to the North Rim, a 40 mile drive from Jacob Lake and I’m basically at the entrance to the Grand Canyon. The drive to the Canyon is through forest and long stretches of pasture land. Natural open meadows along the Kaibab plateau that add to the expansive grandeur just ahead.

I revisited many of the viewpoints along the ridge then took one of the many hiking trails for a different perspective of the park. I chose a relatively short trail, barely a mile in length, since I was still testing my newly healed toe. It held up fine by the way. The Cliff Springs Trail was a perfect trail to see a wide range of landscape. Entering the trail, it was a gradual decline into a V shaped canyon with tall ponderosa pines climbing the hills. The first surprise on the trail was a well marked Indian grain storage site. I had heard so much about them on this trip and was excited to see one up close. A rock overhang which had stone walls built around it to form the store room. Continuing down the path, I thought I saw petroglyphs along one of the stone outcroppings, but on further investigation it was just natural stains on the rocks. There are areas in the forest and park where some can be seen, but not today. After the trail leveled off, it switched sides of the canyon and I was now hiking along a large cliff overhang. The view began to open up and I could see the Grand Canyon off through one of the side canyons that make up the Grand Canyon. I was now above many of the ponderosa pines looking down into a deep canyon. Walking under this natural cliff overhang was quite exciting, like having your own shaded skybox to view the canyon. A short distance along the cliff I discovered a wild range of plant life both down in the canyon and along the sides of it as well as huge spiky ferns, mosses and desert roses growing under the huge rock overhang, all being fed by a trickle of a spring that dripped from the ceiling of the cliff overhang.
My stay at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is coming to an end. But my memories of the vast expanses of scenery, the forest leading to it and the pleasure of meeting up with a friend along the way will be with me for a long time.

05-12 Bonus Rpt, Kaibab Forest, N Arizona

Northern Arizona
Kaibab Forest
Week 12 of 52 (bonus)
June 19-26

After my friend Dave got off work, we went for another walk in the Kaibab Forest. Dave is volunteering at the visitors center and is learning about all the great trails in the forest. He’s also much more of a hiker than I am, so he’s been a great positive force to get me out there hiking more than I would on my own.

I found a number of great sites I could primitive camp out in the forest with my camper, so maybe next time I’ll give that a try. To be away from all civilization for at least a couple of days would be awesome.

We drove a couple miles past my campground, the Jacob Lake campground and eventually along a more rugged forest road. We stopped and got out and began our hike following the road to an overlook site skirting the edge of the plateau.

Mining was permitted many years ago in this forest and we came across a small mine that someone had staked out years ago. Probably searching for copper. The rocks in the area were all shades of blues and greens indicating copper or some other ore in the area.

The view from this site was just about as far as the eye could see. I’m estimating about 50 miles, maybe more. With a few rain showers off in the distance and some smoke from all the fires from the surrounding states adding to a hazy scene. The shafts of light through the clouds created dramatic vistas over the Northern Vermillion cliffs off in the distance.

As we hiked back to the car, we saw our shadows again, and we both got out our cameras to capture our shadows. “Be afraid, be very afraid”…..

A great way to end a day….

05-11 part 3, Arizona, 4 Corners area, Tuba City

The Four Corners area
Week 11 of 52 (part 3)

Tuba City, AZ
4 Corners

It just amazes me at the number of places and things I see within a week. The number of Week 11 reports is testament to that. Or is it just that I look for more to see and do. I traveled across hwy 160 and came to the official 4 corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. It’s a quick picture opportunity and then on the road again. Cost $3.

Traveling along hwy 160 the terrain and landscape continue to change. Becoming more arid and the hills and mountains continue to surprise me in their shapes and color. I wish I could stop and take pictures, but in many instances, the highway has no place to turn off and take those awesome pictures I’d love to take. Oh, and at higher elevations on my way to Tuba City, I saw some of the largest displays of wildflowers all along the sides of the roads. From crisp white to powdery pink in large clumps 12” to 18” in diameter, that I just wanted to pick and take pictures off. Again, I couldn’t pull over. But what an awesome display. I wish you could see the smile on my face. Just enjoying that wonderful scene.

Apparently their was some kind of a big bicycle marathon across hwy 160. I saw many bikers spread out for many miles with their car crews following for protection and aid when needed. How many miles they were doing, I couldn’t guess.

After passing Elephant Feet (see pic) I twice came across a number of sheep grazing along the side of the highway. Thank goodness I saw them and didn’t have any encounters of the wooly kind. I did see the results of a motor cycle accident. At least one man was injured, as he lay on the side of the road, awaiting an ambulance. Only a minute or two behind the already heavy traffic jam.

After settling in at a campground in Tuba City, named after a Hopi leader, Tuve, I headed out west of town to the dinosaur tracks site. It’s on Navajo tribe land and a guide by the name of Bertha gave me a tour of the site. There were many different dinosaur tracks including petrified dinosaur eggs, and dinosaur poop. About the size of big bowling balls. Bertha showed me the different feet marks of various dinosaurs that walked this area and along with the eggs, showed they lived in this area. You can check it out on the Navajo web site: A person can’t get any closer to the past and the era of dinosaurs than I did, placing my hand over the foot prints of those past residents of this land.

At the hotel/Rv site, I talked to a native Indian who has lived here all his life and has never visited the dinosaur site. It’s like that all over the world isn’t it? What’s closest to home, we never visit.

Did you know that out here in Arizona, it can often get windy every day starting around noon time. A dust storm ensued along with the wind today, my first experience with that. Fortunately, I usually try to get to my next campsite by noon. Giving me time to explore the area before settling in for the evening. I see many campers drive in late in the afternoon and early evening. I find traveling early in the morning, I can put in 4 to 5 hours at the most and be set up in time for lunch. I guess it’s the early bird in me.

One of the locals told me that the wind is so consistent in the summer, they are unable to grow any flowers or vegetables. And, that they have to put rocks and pebbles along the sides of their homes or the wind will dig holes and channels all along the foundations of their homes. Leaving the resident with a “sinking” feeling.

Just a quick note on the Navajo Tribe. They are the largest tribe/reservation and have never ceded any of their original land to the US government. So in essence, they are truly a country within a country.
They are proud to say they are the most loyal of all Indian tribes, having never had to fight for their land. The Navajo also are noted for being the Code Talkers during WWII. Using their own language to send secret messages for the US Marines and avoid Germanys ability to decipher their messages. A truly proud moment in the Navajo history.

PS, this is just one day in my life as I travel the west.

05-11 part 2, Hovenweep and Durango Colorado

Southwestern Colorado
The Four Corners area
Week 11 of 52 (part 2)

Durango Co

Ok, so I’ve had some great suggestions from you’ll lately of and of course I appreciate all the great suggestions. But after traveling through some really icky looking landscape, with nothing promising down the deserted back road, I thought my buddy “John from Cape Cod” had led me astray. After many miles of harsh rocks, many blackened as if hell had burned them to a cinder, open range land, dry and parched, a half dozen young native Indians riding their horses along the lonely road, I finally arrived at Hovenweep.

The Rangers visitor center was new and inviting. Maybe there is something here. So after using my newly acquired “National Park Pass” and smirking to myself as a guy in front of me said to the ranger, “your killing me with all your fees!”, I picked up the brochures and headed back to the picnic table for a quick sub sandwich, chips and some water.

After a short walk on the smoothest concrete walkway leading to the edge of the Little Ruin Canyon and the ruins of the ancestral Pueblo Indians, I began my hike around the top of the canyon and enjoyed the more natural smooth rock formations under my feet. You know we have to call it a hike anytime we walk more than ten feet.

The towers of Hovenweep are very different, yet similar to the other Pueblo Indian sites, such as Aztec and Mesa Verde. These stone towers and buildings are for the most part on the top edge of the canyon and appear to be fortifications against enemies. There are a few in the canyon,but for the most part these magnificent towers, both square and round are on the tops of the canyon.

So I guess my buddy John gave me good info after all …. The site is very close to 4 corners. Which I’ll pass through on Tuesday. It was a great afternoon and I really enjoyed stopping off at Mickey D’s on the way home to get a chocolate shake. Yum!

Durango Colorado

My last day in the four Corners area brought me to the town of Durango. I’ve got to tell you, this is my type of town. Not too big, not too small, just right. It’s a well preserved western town that appears to be quite vibrant and active. No closed down and shuttered stores here. I walked around town and found great shops and tons of good restaurants, and lots of local activities to keep me busy. The proprietors of the shops were all very friendly. I liked their prices too! I ate at the Olde Timers Café… now don’t make any smart jokes. Gheez. Had a Grilled Cajun flavored turkey sandwich on sourdough bread, homemade potato salad and a soda. The waitress was fun to talk to, out on the back patio where I had my lunch. It’s so nice to be able to eat outdoors.

I checked out their wi-fi hot spots which they have quite a few of and also found out that there are ample campgrounds close into town including a state park. I’ll definitely come back to this area again and I plan on staying for a couple of weeks, if not a month. The town is in a valley with the Animas River flowing through it. One of the main streets in town is even named FLORIDA, making me feel right at home.

When your searching for places to go, this is one of those special places that I will feel comfortable coming back to. May even make it on my return trip… Who knows.

05-11 part 1, SW Colorado, Mesa Verde

Southwestern Colorado
The Four Corners area
Week 11 of 52 part 1

Mancos, Co
Echo Basin Resort and Dude Ranch
Mesa Verde

A Good Book as a Friend. One of the things I have enjoyed over the years has been to read what I originally referred to as my summer books. These would be books that I’d enjoy reading during the summer when in Florida, especially while at the beach. A number of years back I began to take interest in reading books that took place in the basic locations I would vacation. Hence, I read many Adventure/mystery books by Florida authors. In Particular, Heinsen, Randy Wayne White among others. They wrote fiction, but always based on Florida history or events that occurred in real life in Florida. Heinsen often wrote that he could never come up with the stories for his books any better that the real things that he read in our Florida papers each day or events that have shaped Florida.

Now that I’m full timing, I’ve expanded my reading to what ever region I’m currently residing in. And being that I’m out west, what better author is there than Louis L’Amour. I’m reading “Education of a Wandering Man”. The authors own story of becoming an educated man through the travel and reading that he did as a young man. Louise did not finish high school, instead decided to get his education on his own. He was a voracious reader and traveled a good bit of the world before settling down to write over 100 books mainly about the west. Louis writes about how our schools should be teaching students how to think a problem through, not just facts and figures, math and English. How to teach them to find the answers themselves and enjoy the discovery of learning.

So as you can see, along with my Roving Reports about the areas that I’m exploring in person, I’m taking along a seasoned expert on the west. Hopefully I’ll have time to read a number of other books by Louis L’Amour along the way. If anything, I read through all the pamphlets and brochures that I get from each exciting place I tour. So my mind is enriched not only with the scenery, but also by information about the areas I’m visiting.

Telluride Colorado

Another thing I always do is stop by a state or towns visitors center. While taking an excursion to Telluride, I stopped at their visitors center as soon as I got into town. Having been stopped on the way into town and given a 2 hour pass to remain in the town due to a folk festival being held and limited parking, the visitors center was to be of help. After I inquired about the Festival, which had already been sold out, one of the gals at the visitors center gave me a new pass for 8 hours. She said there was no way she would let them make me leave after having traveled so far to get there. Along with an extended pass to stay in town, she gave me excellent tips on how to navigate the small town with so much traffic and people due to the festival, where to park, to take advantage of the “free” gondola car ride up to the top of the mountain and to visit the “Village” on top. Additional tips on viewing Bridal Veil Falls and hiking opportunities as well. She even made sure I had enough quarters for the parking meters. The visitors center even gave me a printed copy of an article about the house and power generator at the top of Bridal Falls, since I had shown interest in the structure. Having seen it on Tv a while back.

My day was spent taking stunning pictures of this small mining town turned ski resort for the rich. It’s a very remote area that has access via a new airport on top of a mesa. Helpful when the roads are closed in winter due to avalanches and heavy snowfall.

Telluride is surrounded by the snow capped San Juan Mountains, a half a dozen cascading water falls, including the famous Bridal Veil Falls and mountains covered with tall narrow Spruce and Aspen. I spent the afternoon having lunch on the other side of the mountain, via the Gondola, at the Village, and a walk back through Telluride, stopping to listen to a free folk concert in one of the towns parks, a bit of shopping, and later a stop at the outdoor Coffee Cowboys for a frozen mocha coffee.

It would be nice to experience this town on a slower pace, without the crowds, but after looking at the visitors guide, the town pretty much has every weekend filled with Bluegrass Festivals, writers guild, art fairs, Shakespeare and finally a Nothing Festival in July. At least it is a vibrant town. With many hiking trails and other outdoor activities to take in, one could perhaps get away from the crowds.

Driving back along hwy 145, I followed the San Miguel River, still running high from the winter run off. Not great for fishing, but a great view from the drivers seat. Passing through areas with signs saying, “open range” , “avalanche area”, and “falling rocks, do not stop”, on into small towns along the San Miguel River named Rico, Stoner, Dolores and Cortez.

Whew… that’s a full days activities.

Mesa Verde National Park and World Heritage Site

And then there is Mesa Verde National Park and World heritage site. And what a massive area it covers. The ride into the park to the visitors center is over 15 miles. And this is not for the faint of heart. Ekk! I had no idea I’d be traveling hairpin turns up the side of two mountain ridges with a tunnel in between to get to the top of the plateau. And the drive back down is on the outside. Double Ekk! Then, it’s another 6 to 12 miles from the visitors center to get to the cliff dwellings. Now this will tell you how big the place is, there are over 4,000 archeological sites, with over 600 of them being the cliff dwellings. Much of the top of the Mesa has been burned out. Fires in recent years have changed the landscape into an eerie scene. Yet wildflowers and mother nature come back.

I hit a snag along the way. Sometime within the past week I broke a toe. Darn. So, needless to say, my hiking has been limited. Not much I can do about a broken toe except wear my hiking boots instead of the tennis shoes for better support until it heals. I’ve broken it a number of times in the past, so I’m sure it will be fine. It’s actually starting to feel better since I began wearing the hiking boots regularly.

I feel badly that I’ve only seen about 8 of the cliff dwellings, Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace , Balcony House among a few that I was able to see. But, with the toe, I don’t want to over aggravate it too much. That and the wicked road leading to Mesa Verde are just too much for this Flat Lander from Florida. I keep thinking about my two friends named Jimmy who don’t do well with heights. They could never see these magnificent sites unless there were another way to get to them besides those edge of the mountain roads.

Mesa Verde National Park is getting ready to celebrate it’s 100 anniversary next year of this site that holds the history of the Ancient Ones as far back as 1,400 years ago. With no written history, much of it will remain a mystery.

A final note, Louis L’Amore was concerned about mans history as well. He felt that without a written record (on paper), our own civilization could be lost within a thousand years as well. Putting all our data on disk, Cd’s etc., how would generations from now be able to read them? Rome didn’t think it’s culture would disappear, or the Greeks, etc. Could our knowledge disappear in the future too?

05-10 Farmington, Aztec and Shiprock New Mexico

North West corner of New Mexico
Week 10 of 52

Farmington, NM
Aztec, NM
Ship Rock, NM

I’ve arrived in the NW corner of New Mexico and am in the fairly good sized town of Farmington. I.e. they have chain restaurants, a mall and is completely surrounded by small oil and gas wells. I’ve settled into an RV parked called Downs. It a clean small park with laundry facilities, always a plus. It’s right next to a horse track and Casino. I can see the horses from my living room window. Some good grocery stores are in the area that I’ll use before heading to more remote areas in a couple of days.

I finally broke down and purchased the $50 park pass for all national parks. Probably should have done it sooner, but we learn as we go along. The Aztec ruins are the closest to where I’m staying so of course I visited them. What a well preserved site and the only Kiva that has been completely reconstructed. The west ruin has over 400 rooms, some rising three stories. Some of the lower rooms, when excavated, still contained the original wood roofs and many artifacts. The Great Kiva is one of the largest ever discovered and is built of three concentric walls with 22 rooms that surround the Great Kiva. Being able to step down into the reconstructed Great Kiva is an awesome feeling. It would have been nice to be able to meditate for a while in this great room. Not even half of the site has gone through excavation and will, I’m sure one day, reveal more secrets of these Indian ancestors. Note: the name Aztec was given by early explorers and has stuck to the ruins and nearby town. They are not Aztec ruins, but are Anasazi (Ancient Ones) or as the current politically correct name would have it, Ancestral Pueblo community.

I had a volunteer tour guide, a scientist, provide interesting tidbits and theories on the Pueblo community which only added to the mystery surrounding these Native Americans. The Aztec ruins are midway between Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde and was a major go between the two other settlements.

The area is much more desert like with surrounding mesas and two rivers, The San Juan and Mancos traveling through this parched land surrounded by Mesas. With a short trip to the town of Shiprock to view the impressive Shiprock Mt. I found myself in the heart of Navajo country. Once I began to travel out west, I was impressed by the number of Indian tribes that are out here. Of course this was due to our government moving them here in the first place. But still, if you’ve never traveled out west, you would be amazed at the land/reservations and number of tribes out here.

As the redneck joke goes, “you know you’re a redneck if the tires on your roof are in better condition that the ones on your truck”. Many mobile homes have tires on their roofs to keep the metal roof from flapping in the wind. An odd site along with the air conditioners on the roofs as well.

I’ve seen more hitchhikers out west as well. Many Indians going from Shiprock to Farmington. I haven’t picked any up, as I recall seeing a sign somewhere in Santa Fe not to pick up hitchhikers. I’ve also been approached twice in parking lots for a handout by native Indians. The main industry in this area are the oil and gas wells. I see many trucks traveling to and from these wells to service the oil rigs.

In the photo’s you’ll also see a rock outcropping being pushed up by the tectonic plates forcing an upward movement. A dramatic and visible power of nature and earths movements. The landscape changes at ever turn and I can hardly drink in all the changing views.

Ok, so I went to the Casino which is right next door at the race track. They did have video poker and blackjack so I played blackjack for about an hour and half and didn’t get anywhere. I decided to switch over to wild card poker and on my last quarter of a total of $10, I won $25.00 and practically ran out of the place with my winnings. So there you are. I’m not a gambler and just hate to loose money, but since by pure luck I got ahead by $15.00, I guess you could say I’m a Winner! Yippee! Actually the video blackjack was kind of fun, and at 25 cents a game, it wasn’t exactly costly. And I was able to play for well over two hours with less than $10.00.


Next report will be from Manco CO. I’ve already arrived here and visited Mesa Verde and Telluride CO. I’m at a working cowboy ranch and overlook a pond and have a view of the horse pasture. About 20 horses are in the pasture right now. I’ll be here for about a week, which will give me time to write up my report on mesa Verde and Telluride et all. Hopefully I'll take time to enjoy their swimming pool and hot tub.

This morning, some of the horses got out and were walking through the campground. Neat!

05-09 Bonus Report, Chama New Mexico

New Mexico
Week 9 of 52

Bonus: Chama
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Elkhorn Lodge, Cowboy Supper Show

The small town of Chama, Population 1100, in northern New Mexico has two main attractions. The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad and Wiley Jim Pfeiffer. So I treated myself to both.

Saturday night I made reservations to have the dinner and Cowboy show. I had a date before I even got to the show. Ira, a sparkling German who has been in the states for 42 years, asked if she could join me at my table that evening. Ira took my reservations and money. You women are all alike.

For $17.95 we were treated to BBQ Brisket, western beans, baked potato, corn on the cob, cornbread and spice cake for desert and great conversations. You guessed it, the meal was worth the price alone. Melt in your mouth and flavorful brisket. I’d never had it before. We ate under a picnic table shelter next to the Rio Chama River.

After dinner, I was nominated as the deputy sheriff to keep the crowd under control. A young man of about 12 was my assistant. We both got badges. Wiley Jim Pfeiffer performed a medley of true Cowboy songs with the best yodeling I’d ever heard. From ballads to humorous songs like the Wha-Who song. Believe me, you don’t want to loose your wha-who, what would life be without a bit of wha-who in it. he played the guitar, banjo and harmonica. At one point Wiley played an instrumental on the guitar of a Spanish tune, without any picks mind you, and I’d never heard such beautiful music. To watch him manipulate those fingers across those strings was pure delight. We were all spell bound and treated to some fancy “licks“ on the guitar.

The next day I headed back into town for an early breakfast and the train tour. You know I was hesitant about spending the $69.75, but boy am I glad I decided not to miss this treat. The trip included a one way ride on a tour bus to the other end to join the train ride back into town. One of my Escapees buddies warned me it would be cold. So I prepared by wearing my heavy lined winter leather coat. It would come in very hand, thanks Richard.

As a full timer, it’s really nice to have someone else in the drivers seat. Both the bus and train were more than comfortable inside, but you just can’t help going out onto the open train car to feel the fresh air, see the spectacular views unimpeded by windows and feel the coal fired smoke in your face as well as the snow and sleet.. Yes! We actually encountered snow and sleet up in the 10,100 ft elevations! Light though it was, it was quite a surprise.

The saddest thing is that no picture can do justice to the vast panorama’s around every corner. The snow capped mountains, the shear drop off to the valleys below, the thousands of majestic spruce, pines, Douglas Firs and my favorite the Aspen with their distinctive white and black marked bark. The entire trip takes almost 8 hours and includes an unbelievable full meal at lunch time, at about the halfway mark, at the train station called Osier. I had a complete turkey dinner. Yum! The train ride itself covers over 64 miles at a speed ranging from 5 mph to about 15-20 mph. Believe me, on a narrow gauge railroad, you don’t want to travel fast. All of the cars and steam engine are original.

The wildlife we saw was just incredible. Even one of the dosens (sp) said in over 100 rides, he had never seen so much wildlife. The wild elk were my absolute favorite and we saw young elk to majestic large elk with their distinctive white rumps dancing along the mountains and green valleys. One even ran along side the train at a short distance for a short time. Awesome. Just awesome.

I wish my pictures could show the vast vistas I saw. The rivers that flowed unimpeded by dams or reservoirs through one valley into another. with the occasional summer camp, desolate, many miles from civilization, no electricity or phone service out here. These spectacular places were truly off the grid. These are about the only valleys with no towns or gas stations. The land is all National Forest and only the original homesteaders can retain their homes down there.

The grazing pastures are so special, that cattle ranchers send their cattle from far and wide just to graze here in the summer. A cattle ranch in Hawaii sent their cattle here. Talk about summer camp for cattle

Because we were going to take the train back into Chama, we actually began the train ride in Colorado in the small town of Anotonito. If you don’t like isolation, you wouldn’t want to be staying too long in Anotonio. It is in the high desert and is a very very small community. No stores, one church and the train station.

Because the train travels through such mountainous terrain, it curves and switches back on itself many times. We passed in and out of New Mexico and Colorado numerous times. I think over 9 times. It is noted as being the highest elevation tracks of any train in the US. Hmmm, maybe that’s why we encountered snow.

Sure wish I could describe this trip better and do it justice. All I can say is, take a ride on the Cumbres and Toltec and don’t forget to take a heavy winter coat… even in summer! They recommend the fall trips with the incredible changing colors, especially the Aspen.

Side note: The town of Chama is host to a huge bike rally next week. I’ve seen many bikers coming into town this Sunday as I head back to my campground at heron Lake.

Find an adventure. Excite your mind. Create something. Life deserves your participation.

05-08 New Mexico, Santa Fe

New Mexico
Week 8 of 52

Santa Fe, NM

Around the bend, down a hill, over a mountain butte, into the range where Santa Fe butts up against the Sangree De Christo Mountains. I’ve arrived at Hyde State park which is 8,500 ft above sea level surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest. I’m in one of only 10 sites with electric. I was lucky to get a site near the only water source, so I was able to connect and fill my holding tanks. Something I hadn’t given much thought about, since most campsites I’ve been in have at least electric and water at each site. Watching the other campers carry 5 gallon containers up the hill to their campsites doesn’t look like the most fun in the world.

Along the way, I visited my second National park, Pecos. I was told a trick which I plan on using often. At my first National park, Fort Hood, the ranger told me my $3.00 entry fee was good for 7 days and I could use it at other National parks. Cool. I plan on hitting one more for my original $3 entry fee. But alas, not all national parks honor that policy. But it still doesn’t hurt to ask. All right, I know, it appears I’m getting a bit tight with my money, but I prefer to think of it as getting the most for my money. You can get a years pass for about $90 but you’d have to hit quite a few parks to make that work out.

I went to the top of the Sangree De Christo Mt today and saw snow at the highest elevation of 10,500 ft. Cool, really cool. Then it was a roller coaster ride down to the base of the mountain and Santa Fe proper. Beautiful winding small roads follow the historical paths through the city.
Everything is in harmony with the adobe style. The colors look so natural and fit the land.

I had a disappointing visit to the Santa Fe Museum of fine art. Hopefully my $7.00 entry will go towards purchasing more art. Most of the paintings were donated and only provided a small representation from the early era of Santa Fe as an art community. I would recommend visiting the numerous “free” art galleries around town to see some of the finest art in the country. The local artists use some of the most vibrant dynamic colors and their subjects are well worth the time to view and enjoy such wonderful art. Numerous gallery openings are available each week to see new art on display.

I met up with a fellow Escapee’s camping member, Christine Linn and had a great “seafood” Mexican meal in Santa Fe. What a fascinating gal with so many interests and talents.

Now I’m not into jewelry, but the fine jewelry including Indian turquoise jewelry are all on display at many of the finest galleries in town as well as sidewalk Indian vendors along the Plaza.

I just love the Aspen trees. Their white bark trunks and contrasting dark limbs with leaves that glisten like silver dollars in the breeze on a sunny day.

Tours: There are so many places to tour around and in Santa Fe, that I could never cover them all. I did go to Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monuments. I like all the outdoor places to tour. The mountains are just too awesome. I am just amazed at how the terrain changes within just a few miles, from mountains, to desert, to mesa’s, canyons, you name it.

Bandelier is such an ancient place for Indian culture. It’s a privilege just to be able to walk the same paths that the Pueblo people walked over 12,000 years ago, Baldelier was occupied as a permanent settlement over the past 400 years . One of the rangers, Moon, talked to a couple of us up on the high cliff Kiva or Alcove house, where I helped him measure for a new hand rail he was getting ready to build. The Alcove house is 140 ft and 4 very high ladders up on the side of the mountain. Whow, yes, I climbed to the top. It wasn’t all that bad. And the views were worth it.

In a sense, I think I appreciated the natural setting of the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks site the most. To be able to walk through these mountains that have been created by volcano’s, weathered by rain, wind and weather. Just a note though. One has to travel on a gravel road for a couple of miles. Lots of bouncing up and down. Not bad under most circumstances, but when I got to the site and exited the truck, I realized my back had been completely whacked out. Ouch! But I couldn’t leave and persevered by walking the couple miles up, along the sides and into sliver canyon. Awesome views at every turn. I took over 180 pictures in a matter of a couple of hours.

Los Alamos was a history lesson in itself. The town that wasn’t. Where the Government created this secret oasis during WWII for our scientists to develop the hydrogen bomb that was eventually dropped on Nagasaki Japan. It was dropped one month after Hitler committed suicide and Germany conceded defeat. Our scientists developed the hydrogen bomb without the aid of computers, which were developed years after the bomb was created. As I’m sure you’ve read in the papers Los Alamos is being put up for competitive bid by the government to contractors to run the scientific site. Los Alamos Labs covers a huge area around the town. I had no idea it was so massive.

Enough, I’m probably boring you to tears by now. Can you believe I’ve seen all these things in the past 8 weeks! Well it’s onto the northern and north west corner of New Mexico over the next couple of weeks.

Till the next report,

“Make good Memories, it’s the only thing you can take with you in the end”
Quote from: Elsa Palosaari

05-07 part 2, Las Vega and Taos New Mexico

North Eastern New Mexico
Week 7 of 52

Las Vegas, NM
Taos, NM

I took a Sunday drive up to Taos NM. This was a 6 hour loop trip. I followed mountain streams that had barely a trickle, that soon changed to a raging stream, and then a river that looked as if it wanted to jump it’s banks. The route took me through a number of valleys and over and around a mountain range, finally to arrive at Taos. Which, I wasn’t sure, but found out, is actually in a valley, or high country surrounded by mountains. The town is soooo adobe style, that having lived in the land of Disney for so long, I kept thinking, gee Disney did a pretty good job. But these are the real thing. The town was opened on Sunday, although a light crowd, as this isn’t the height of their summer season.

I had an uneventful lunch and then toured the Kit Carson Museum. An explorer, buffalo hunter, a soldier in the Army and paid $100 a month to find new routes west. And a member and founder of the Taos Masonic Lodge, which currently owns and operates the museum. I was fortunate enough to have as one of my tour guides an Indian descendant of Carson. She was very proud of her heritage and did everything possible to put Carson in a “positive” light. There being some dispute among the native Indians in the area whether to honor a man who had killed a number of their brethren. Note how the guide in the picture looks much like one of her relatives in the painting.

I went to a Ghost town called Elizabeth, which looked more like a family had been living and existing in and on the “Ghost” town for many years. You know, the old cars off to the side, junk in the yard, etc. It wasn’t officially open, as most everything starts up up here on Memorial Day weekend. So I got to wonder around and take pictures for free. And you know how I like a bargain. I took two of my favorite pictures there.

Now coming down from Taos, I came into the huge valley called Angel Fire, a ski resort area in winter, but what an awesome huge valley surrounded by all those mountains. Truly a valley that appeared to have been hidden for years and just discovered. Green meadows as far as the eye could see, sprinkled with a few houses and farms, surrounded by those majestic mountains. A lake created from the snow runoff.

The next day, down from the mountains, I went into Las Vegas NM to see if I could find a place to e-mail my reports out and check on my finances. The original Carnegie Library had computers but a very slow modem connection. I soon gave up on that. Will try a local restraunt in the next day or so and see if I can get my Roving Reports out. I understand one may have wi-fi service.

In the mean time, I found the hot springs north of town and enjoyed a morning hot tub, out in the great outdoors. Met some charming local gals, many of whom appeared to have played hooky from work. Good for them! The hot springs are owned by the Arm and Hammer World College, but are open to anyone to use at your own risk. Some were too hot for me, but just like the three bears, I found one just right.

The Aspen trees as well as others are just getting their summer leaves and look so fresh in the breeze. I even saw two small black mountain goats on my trip back into Las Vegas. Do you realize I’ve experiences three springs this year.

Then it was off to Town for lunch at Dick’s Bar and Deli. What a surprise to go back into the restraunt which was behind the liquor store to find a modern upscale two story bar, music and restraunt complex. Especially in a town that to some appearances, looks a bit on the tired side, having over 900 historical buildings, many going back to the late 1800’s. And not all in the best of condition. The potential of some of these towns is awesome. Just a lack of industry and money.
I had some camping neighbors over for home made brownies the other night. They were on their maiden voyage with their first 5th wheel camper. We had a great discussion while listening to my eclectic collection of music in the background and the “gas“ fireplace going. I gave them a number of tips on Rv’ing and Ronda kept telling her husband Ron, see, we can do it. We can do it. Ron has one year to go before retiring and is a bit less enthusiastic about being a full timer. Ronda on the other hand is eager to get on the road. That’s quite often the case, one spouse is eager to get out there and the other, is taking their time, wondering about all the “what ifs”.

From my perspective, it’s one great lifestyle. I hope you have a chance to experience some of it one of these days, if your not already out there.

Aside Notes: Charlie’s “Spic and Span Restaurant” has great “free” wi-fi service and the best Mexican food I’ve had so far out west. So I was able to send out those last two reports to you’ll.

Saw a “mule” squirrel. Cute thing. Big squirrel with these big ears and the usual big fluffy tail, very funny looking. And I have a humming bird that comes by my campsite every day.

Visited the Teddy Roosevelt Rough Riders Museum.

It’s in a transition process having been designated a national museum and I believe it has recently been funded by the State. Hidden meaning: It needs a lot of work. An odd chapter in American history. Teddy decided to go after the Spanish in Cuba after he had sent a ship, The Maine, to Cuba as a sign of intimidation. The Spanish having become more of a threat to the US. The Maine accidentally blew up (boiler problems?) and Teddy blamed the Spanish. The cry went out, “Remember the Maine”!

Teddy Went in with his rough riders to do battle and somehow won the battle, minus the horses for the 500 rough rider soldiers. The horses couldn’t adapt from the NM high country weather to Florida’s hot humid weather, and never got to Cuba for the fight. Teddy was the only one on horseback and one other very heavy general who had to be carried on top of a door, like a roman god.

So I guess this is another example of us getting into a war that wasn’t justified. Hmmmmm.

History has some odd twists and turns and being able to talk to the museum curators who study it can be very enlightening.

I have found that taking more than a surface look at many of these towns, one can find some fascinating stories. This town was not on my itinerary, but just happened to fit in, to give me a breather from my road travel to get out west. And I discovered new things along the way.

Sorry about this being so long, but I have time to ramble on and ramble I will…

05-07 North Eastern New Mexico

North Eastern New Mexico
Week 7 of 52 (the open Road)

I’ve been traveling across Hwy 40, which I’ve taken through Miss, Tnn, Okl, Tx, and now into New Mexico. This is my summer destination, the 4 corners states, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah.

After staying in Tucumcari NM overnight, I headed north, up a secondary road called HWY 104 to the town of Las Vegas NM. Remember my descriptions of The Natchez Trace in Miss? Well I can tell you I found another road that will thrill you, especially if you like those long lonely stretches of pavement that have no traffic and where you can drive at a slower speed to see the scenery. This is a two lane road, with no shoulders for probably about 60 miles, but with virtually no traffic, I don’t think the average RV’r will have trouble with it. The road is 137.5 miles in length and took me between 3-4 hours to travel it.

Here’s a lesson I’ve learned. When your towing a camper and you want to do some site seeing, don’t expect it to take an hour to travel 60 miles. Double the time. Take the time to enjoy the trip itself and stop often to check out those road side historical signs and take those all important pictures.

One experience I will treasure, when I stopped on hwy 104 to view those hwy signs and enjoy the spectacular scenery, was the awesome quietness I experienced. To only hear the soft whistle of the wind, a few birds singing…. And that was it. Silence. No cars going by, no planes, just quiet. There’s something that a big open space, the huge blue sky above and the silence that touches my heart. It’s like finally having the time to exhale and take a deep breath. I stood in the middle of the road, just looking all around me. Silence. Who could feel lonely with such beauty surrounding you. I feel a part of this land. I am home.

And talk about scenery! From the low desert, to the tops of mesa’s, to the high country and up the side of a mountain this road has it all. I’m glad I got out here by 1st of June. The desert is still green, with wildflowers in bloom along the roads. The place feels alive.

My Chevy 2500HD with exhaust breaks worked wonderfully. If you travel on hwy 104, I would recommend only going north on it. Why? Well I’m a bit of scaredy cat when it comes to traveling up steep mountains with shear drop offs. Going north on 104, you are on the “inside” traveling up the mountain. Makes for a more comfortable drive, especially when all the signs post no faster than 35 mph around the many curves. Fortunately, the mountain climb was a small part of the whole 125 mile trip. But it did add a fun excitement to the over all trip. And who could complain about the views! I can’t tell you how many times I stopped.

Note: I’ve switched to an 11 pt Arial font. I think it will be easier to read.