Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012-24 Lander Wyoming


Lander Wyoming

Campground:  Twin Pines RV Park.  Full hookups.  $31, no discount, Passport Not accepted during summer months.  Convenient Location. (one night)

Campground:  Mountain View Campground:  10 campsites, full hookups.  $12.50 Passport rate, 3 night max stay.  I got the weekly rate of $97, great deal.  The small park is surrounded by ranches, very quiet setting and only a 15 minute drive into Lander.  Great views of the ranches and surrounding area.  Additional note:  this park is very scruffy and is not being maintained, not even trimming the grass around campsites.  A number of campsites have gone into disrepair and no longer function.  This park may not be for everyone.  you decide.

Wyoming:  Lowest State population with around half a million folks in the entire state.

I couldn’t leave the Flaming Gorge area without commenting on the difference in scenery from the south end to the north.  I’ve already described those mountain ranges on the southern end with the Ponderosa pines and dramatic views.  Heading north into Wyoming from Flaming Gorge the scenery is quite different.  For one, it’s relatively flat with low mounds of bare hills and large stretches of high desert country.  Dry as can be with the short prairie grasses and sage as faded in color as the gray and tan sands and surrounding hills.  Traveling along, I don’t see a single building or man made object for 50 miles except for the endless rows of barbed wire fences and  lonely telephone poles reaching towards the horizon.  A lone pronghorn elk stands by the edge of the road until I pass and then it runs a short distance before looking back.

My intention is to drive to Lander where I’ve noted a Passport America park is that has unlimited stays.  When I get there I find the park (Dallas Dome Ranch RV) empty and abandoned along with a re-creation of an old western town.  Obviously I didn’t take my own advice and call ahead to see if they were still a Passport America member or that they were still open.  I quickly go into Plan B, but before doing so I have to walk around this empty deserted park and take pictures of this old western town re-creation.  With the grass growing knee deep, I wander through the old set and take as many pictures as I can, which of course are never enough.

And then it’s onto plan B.  Find another park, set up camp and figure what my next move will be.  Obviously at $31 a night I won’t be staying here more than one night.  I’m sort of at a crossroads, in that I haven’t really decided which direction I really want to travel.  Finding another park in the area that takes Passport America with a 3 night max stay, I’ll move there tomorrow and have a few more days to explore this area and hopefully decide which direction I’m going to head afterwards.  My dilemma being that I would enjoy visiting the Grand Tetons, but I don’t have reservations which are recommended during the height of the summer season.  Or head directly into Idaho which doesn’t have a straight path to get there by any means.  There are no short cuts from this point on.

As luck would have it, I got an unbelievable rate of $97 a week at Mountain View Campground, so I have plenty of time to explore and decide which direction I’ll travel to next.

Entrance to Lander WY
Lander is a nice western town, with approx. 7,500 folks living in the area.  Though it doesn’t have any big stores like K-Mart or Wal-Mart, it does have a couple good food stores and restaurants as well as a good size downtown area.  Of course this is a town that one would normally stop at overnight on their way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  I like exploring small places like this and just hanging out.  After all it’s not necessary to “tour” all the time when on the road.  I’ve already checked out the local library which is pretty nice, being it’s the main one in the county.  Oh and I get to wear my cowboy hats all the time, as it’s the norm out here.

Here’s an interesting story about Wyoming.  Back in the early days of Wyoming there was a huge influx of grasshoppers.  But there were also tons of seagulls in the area.  Well, seagulls enjoy munching on grasshoppers and saved the state from what could have been devastating to the state farmers.  The seagull is Wyoming’s state bird.  Now that’s the folklore told to me by the owner of the Mountain view Rv park.  With a little research, I found out the state bird is actually the Western Meadowlark.  How did they pick the Western Meadowlark?  At the time (1927) they had no state bird, so they put a bunch of bird names in a hat and picked one out of the hat.  So the story goes.

South Pass City, WY

I did go on an adventure today over to Atlantic City and South Pass City.  Both old mining towns. South Pass has been preserved by the State of Wyoming with over 24 buildings being refurbished.  I must admit, even though the building have been preserved to their 1890’s state, they are all so perfect, especially on the exteriors that it all seems rather fake at first glance.  The other thing that completely irritated me was how they had each buildings interiors behind glass or plastic walls.  Not only was it difficult to view the rooms what with the glair coming off the windows, it also gave the feeling as if one has come all this way to tour an historic town and only being able to see it all at a distance.  It’s hard to get a feeling for each building when I cannot walk through them fully.  Very sterile in feeling.  Now I did enjoy the drive up through the mountain passes and leaving the paved road.  Driving on a fairly well maintained dirt road does give me the feeling of being on an adventure as I go deeper into this rugged mountainous region.  And of course seeing the occasional deer and free range cattle as they graze along the sides of the road is pretty cool too.  There were even a few old gold mining structures still standing that are in pretty good shape.

The town of Atlantic City has a number of old mining buildings from the late 1890’s as well, but it is an active summer community.  Where people live in those older homes on the sides of the hills as they either enjoy the area as a vacation retreat, or attempt to make a living with the few motel/cottages and a couple of Mom and Pop eateries and stores.  It all seemed so much more natural than South Pass.  The buildings are more weathered and yes some are in total disrepair.  Which is what I expect to see when visiting an old ghost town or old mining town.

Of course another week another laundry day.  I headed into Lander to the only Laundromat in town.  All  colorful in red white and blue.  You’d think with all the times of done laundry it would be no big deal.  So when I went to the counter to get change for my change, I’d brought 4 bags of small coins already counted out to $1 or $2 combinations to make it easier to exchange for quarters.  The gal behind the counter said they didn’t accept small change and I could go to the local bank about a block away.  So off I went to the bank on the corner.  It was closed.  Trekking back to the laundry I thought let me just use some paper money.  Come to find out they don’t even use quarters.  They have a machine that take paper money and issues a credit card for use only in the Laundromat. Okkkkay.  So of course I purchase one for $5 figuring that would be enough.  When I put it into the washing machine it said I had 50 cents.  What happened to the other $4.50.  Surely the washer was only $2.50.  So back to the counter, where I had to call out about a dozen times to get the gals attention again.  A guy was standing near the counter and quickly hid behind a wall partition.  I guess he didn’t want get involved.  You see the attendants do the dry cleaning and ironing behind the counter or hide in the far reaches of the work area, I wasn‘t sure which.  Come to find out there’s a $2.50 fee for the credit card, refundable when one returns the card to the counter lady.  That is if you can get the counter ladies attention.  After all that, I had to add more money to the card to be able to dry the clothes.  In the mean time, a sprightly well dressed lady walked in and started to talk to me.  Pointing out that I was reading something on my Kindle, she pointed to an article about some kind of monkeys with huge noses and thought I might be interested.  I’m not sure what she was suggesting, surely I don’t have a big nose.  We chatted and of course I told her about my laundry saga and then she informed me that she was a Jehovah Witness and if I had any questions I could ask her.  About God, life, where we go after death, you name it.  I looked at her most pleasantly and didn’t respond, having no questions I needed her to answer.  She was all very pleasant and eager to help, like a little puppy that had learned a new trick and was just hoping someone would ask her to perform.  She finally left.  It all worked out well in the end and of course I have a load of clean laundry and a story to tell.

A quick note on my Verizon smart phone saga.  I was unable to get any of the tethering apps to work on the new phone and finally bit the bullet and have signed up for the $30 fee to Verizon (monthly) to be able to use my phone as a wi-fi hot spot.  If you know me, it was difficult for me to sign up for a feature I had previously been able to get around by using a free app.  But Verizon has gotten smarter in figuring out that some of us were getting away without paying them those extra fees and have done a pretty good job of making it impossible to get around paying them.  I guess if I look at it that it is only costing me $1 a day for the wi-fi hotspot, I should be happy with that.  All right already, I’m happy.

Books, books, books.  Do you go through periods where you enjoy reading and then you stop for no reason?  I do, that is until I discovered Agatha Christie all over again.  I’ve been reading her Miss Marple series.  Books like “Destination Unknown”, “A Murder is Announced”,  “A Pocket Full of Rye” and “Murder at the Vicarage”.  Of course I was able to find a number across the country in the $1 bin of used bookstores but I’m also signing up for many through my Library and getting them on my Kindle.  I hope you use your local library to get your digital books as well. Why pay when you can get them downloaded for free.  Getting back to the Christie books.  What fun to read stories that hold up so well over time and give a glimpse into the lives filled with English culture at the turn of the century.  Agatha’s second husband was an archeologist and she travels to many exotic places with him.  Incorporating those places in her stories.  So if you like stories based on life in the early 20th century and enjoy exotic locations, start reading Agatha Christie all over again.  Fun mysteries with all the intrigue you’d expect.

check for more photos on PICASA

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012-23 Flaming Gorge UTAH


Flaming Gorge NRA (PART 2)

Vernal Utah

Utah Field House of Natural History

Campground:  Lucerne Valley (Flaming Gorge NRA) campground.  $15 per night senior rate. 50 Amp Elect.  Next to the Lucerne Marina.  New campsites, fully paved.  Restrooms, water and dump station available.  Good DTV signal, Verizon signal.

I left off last week describing the Mountain pass with 8% grades and ten switch backs just to get to the top.  On my way up the mountain pass I stopped at a viewing area for a quick break and when I got out of the camper, a biker was calling to me from the other side of the camper.  He’d tipped over his motorcycle accidentally while trying to take too sharp of a turn upon leaving.  He asked if I would mind helping him right his cycle.  Of course I did.  Boy those choppers are heavy dudes aren’t they?  I do wonder that that sort of thing doesn’t happen more often than it does.  The biker said he was on his way to Idaho to go biking with his brother.  Said his wife no longer liked riding with him.  Didn’t feel safe on the back of the Harley.

Well after settling into my campsite at Flaming Gorge I was ready to head back to Vernal the next day.  They have a most wonderful museum I wanted to check out.  Besides, the very small town of Manila (the only town in the county of Daggett) has very limited resources.  To be expected with a population of only 340 farmers and cattle ranchers.  And I needed to get some laundry done as well as do my usual touring.  Speaking of Laundromats, it is the first one I’ve been in that had specific washers and dryers for “greasy” clothing.  These really heavy duty machines are designed to help get out all that oil from the workers in the oil and gas fields and miners around here as well as for use for cleaning horse blankets etc.  And it keeps the other washers in good shape for us folks with regular laundry.

Then it was off to the Utah Field House of Natural History.  This is a state park museum and is perhaps the best natural history museum I’ve been in in quite some time.  I would highly recommend it for anyone passing through this fairly remote NE corner of Utah.  They start you off with a good film on the geology of the area, then the lights come up and a door off to the side opens automatically and one enters a series of rooms with some great exhibits on the dinosaur, fossils found in the area and some of the best time lines describing our planets history and geology.  Excellent descriptions for each display that were printed large enough to actually be able to read them.  I learned so much and just know I would learn even more on a second visit.  It appears they are in the process of expanding an already new and fine museum so if I come back in a couple of years, I know I’ll have much more to see.  Another note, all of this information relates to the local geological formations.  As I drive around, there are many signs along the highways describing the various rock formations and what the sea levels were like and what fossils or dinosaurs are associated with each layer.

Oh and I love how the town has a pink dinosaur as it’s mascot upon entering the town. Along with a few others throughout town as part of hotel signs etc.  Vernal also has a profusion of flowers everywhere.  Huge containers spilling over with red and white petunias.  Most impressive.  Vernal is a pretty good size town and has all the conveniences one could want.

On my drive back to the small town of Manila, I was again amazed at all the large vehicles traveling this mountain pass.  Huge oversized vehicles carrying tanks lying on end with multiple escort vehicles with flashing lights.  A building being towed that was way over sized, requiring some careful maneuvering to permit passing vehicles.  I can’t imagine what they had to do to get around those 10 switchbacks along hwy 191.  I figure if those huge commercial vehicles can travel this route, any Rv can traverse this mountain pass with ease and a bit of caution or course.

There are multiple campgrounds all along the Flaming Gorge region with many high up in the Alpine region with those huge groves of aspen, Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper.  Oh and I can’t forget the Douglas Fir.  Who knew I had such a popular name.  Many of the camping sites are what’s called dispersed camping.  Where one drives along a dirt road into the woods and just pulls off anywhere and sets up camp.  Others along the Ashley National Forest are developed campsites with limited services like picnic tables, pit toilets, some with water available and the occasional dump station.  I must admit the high tree covered plateaus (8,000 ft) and large Alpine meadows are most tempting for camping, even without the convenience of electricity.  The only thing I’d be concerned about with the dispersed camping sites is that the roads are mainly dirt and dirt becomes mud with a little bit of rain and towing a big rig in and out of such situations could be fraught with peril.  But it’s still tempting and I’m sure I’ll plan an adventure into the forest one of these days.

I did stop at the visitor center at Red Canyon.  A most impressive building hanging on the steep cliff edge of Flaming Gorge.  Standing at the floor to ceiling windows, I was able to look straight down into the Red Canyon and Flaming Gorge as it meandered through those steep, twisting canyon walls.  Outside the overlooks were just as breathtaking, except for having to step over large cracks in the stone and seeing where the cliff has separated from the canyon walls.  Leaving huge cracks that go who knows how far down.  I know it was silly, but I did walk very lightly as I approached the various lookouts.  Back at the visitor center I watched a really good film on the making of the Flaming Gorge Dam.  Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson inaugurated the dam.  Ten years later, President Kennedy would Flip the switch to turn on the first generator making electricity.  Imagine, it took ten years to fill the dam before they could start the first generator.

At the campground I happened to see a most unique site as another camper drove in.  Now many of the campers have a travel trailer or 5th wheel plus a boat being towed behind it all.  Now a truck, trailer and boat has got to be over 60 feet long.  What I saw today was a large Motor home towing a two level trailer with just about every toy imaginable on it.  I guess if one has lots of toys and doesn’t want to have them taking up all the space in a Toy-hauler this is the way to go.  They have everything from a Jeep, ATV’s, bikes, and motorbikes on that double decker trailer.  Quite a site to see.

Also at the campground there is a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope.   They quite often come hoofing it through the campground as it has some of the best watered grasses and weeds.  I’ve really enjoyed watching them as they make their rounds, grazing along the way.  There are two young ones in the group and the other day they got caught behind the boat storage area fence.  Mama on one side of the fence following them as they on the opposite side kept looking at her in total bewilderment trying to figure out how to get out of the situation.  It took a while, but they finally figured it out.

On one of my last days in the area, I took the Sheep Creek Loop scenic tour.  This is a National Geological area.  What does that mean?  It has many layers of geological history that have been thrust upward over millions of years.  For me that means tons of pictures of some really awesome colorful rock formations.  The various types of rocks, the colors and just the dramatic scenery was well worth this side adventure.  It starts out in the Sheep Creek canyon which is thick with trees and shrubs fed by a spring fed creek.  The walls on either side of the canyon are quite different in rock formation and many are shear walls rising so high, they blot out the sun.  I was stopping it seemed like every 20 feet to get out and take more pictures.  Eventually the road loops around and up the side of the mountain range.  This is a scenic route that many of my friends who are afraid of heights could easily do.  As the first half one drives on the canyon floor and then continuing the loop up the  mountain range, the road traverses a sloping grade that I found easy and comfortable to drive.  Though slowly, since the road deteriorates with many pot holes to maneuver around.  This is slow driving, designed to enjoy the scenery, not get to the next destination quickly.

Since the Sheep Creek loop didn’t take all that long to do, I headed out to the Flaming Gorge Dam for a tour.  This dam is all business.  It has none of the style or design that larger dams like the Hoover Dam has.  It’s a dam that stores water and has three generators for creating hydro-power.  The tour brought us down into the dam itself to view the generators that are spotlessly clean and painted light blues, yellows and orange.  Someone must have really liked color when they painted this area. Then it was outside to see the dam from the bottom up.  Not a view one usually gets on these tours.  Tons of fish were at the base of the dam and they tell me the most recent survey of fish along the river indicates there are 20,000 fish per mile.  How do they know that you ask?  Well they shock the fish along a particular area of the river and then count them as they float on by.

Verizon Phone update:  As you may remember, I updated my cell phone to a new Motorola Razor smart phone.  I was having trouble downloading the latest PDA-Net software which gives me the ability to tether my phone to the laptop for internet service.  That way I don’t have to pay the extra fee Verizon wants to charge for this feature.  Come to find out I only need to download the PDA-Net software to the cell phone.  I then connect using the wi-fi feature instead of actually connecting the phone to the computer with the USB wire. Well, that worked all of the two or three days, then a notice indicated I couldn't use it anymore,,, hmmm did Verizon figure out I was going in the backdoor with the PDA-Net software?  I then had the message to use the BlueTooth link.  Unfortunately I don't have bluetooth on my laptop, so now it's run around and find a place that sells the bluetooth adapter.  If not, I'll be forced into paying Verizon the $30 extra to connect my laptop to the Smart phone.  The saga continues....

Well the weeks not nearly over but I think I’ll wrap up this report.  My next destination will be right across the boarder someplace in Wyoming.  Just haven’t figured out where yet.

More pictures on PICASA

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012-22 Rangely Colorado to Flaming Gorge Utah


Rangely Colorado

Dinosaur National Monument (Utah/Colorado)

Flaming Gorge Recreational Area (Utah)

Campground:  Rangely Camper Park.  $20, 30 amp elect.  Water (not at site) and dump station and restrooms available.  Nice big cottonwood trees for shade.  This is a small park and most of the sites are very small.  Barely large enough to fit one car.  I was lucky and got here early in the morning and got one of the few sites suitable for a 35 ft camper.  No Tv or radio signal. No wi-fi.

Campground:  Lucerne Valley (Flaming Gorge NRA) campground.  $15 per night senior rate. 50 Amp Elect.  Next to the Lucerne Marina.  New campsites, fully paved.  Restrooms, water and dump station available.  Good DTV signal, Verizon signal.

Distance traveled:  90 miles.

It was time to move on, with average temps in the Grand Junction area hovering around 100 degrees.  I took hwy 139 north which is really a poorly paved two lane road especially over the first 20 miles or so.  You guessed it, no shoulders.  I must be getting used to driving on these narrower roads because it didn’t bother me in the least.  Leaving the fertile Grand Valley behind with it’s many farms, orchards and wineries behind, I started my ascent up and over Douglas Pass at 8,268 ft.  It may not be the highest pass I’ve gone over, but it sure had the tightest and windiest road I’ve ever been on while pulling a camper.  I really felt as if I was channeling “The Long Long Trailer”.  I could have sworn I could see the back end of my camper around those sharp and steep turns.  I guess the awesome views of the valleys surrounded by those mountain ranges and then actually driving into the mountains really took my mind off of the road itself.

Hwy 139 parallels  the boarder of Colorado and Utah and is part of the Dinosaur diamond Trail.  My goal is to make it to the Dinosaur National Monument.  A friend, Dave, had been a volunteer Ranger here a year or so back.  The place had been closed for a couple of years for renovations, after all it is millions of years old you know.    

Rangely is a small western town that got it’s start around 1947 making it a fairly new town in Colorado.  Roads did not get paved for another 10 years.  Even today due to it’s remote location it only has a population of 2,500 at most.  One of the largest oil fields in Colorado sits nearby.  The first deep well was dug in 1930 at a depth of 6,335 feet.  It was capped until needed later on.  Due to it’s remote location is wasn’t activated until WWII.   By 1949 there were 478 working wells in the area.  Remember that date, it’s an important one.  Though I’m sure I’ll learn much more on the oil and gas industry while in the area, I’m really most interested in exploring the Freemont Indian pictographs and petroglyphs in the area and of course the Dinosaur National Monument.

Now you know I have to feel comfortable being in an area with Douglas on almost everything.  Douglas Creek, Douglas Pass, a Douglas here a Douglas there…  I planned on staying at most a day or two, but I seem to be smitten with the area.  Is it the remoteness factor?  The puffy white clouds against a light blue sky?  The awesome shade trees that make it possible to sit outdoors during the middle of the day.  Or maybe it’s having lunch right across the street at Giovanni’s Italian Grill and having the best Stromboli I’ve ever had.  Giovanni’s won the Business of the Year award in 2011 and I can see why.

So you say, what about that 1949 date and all those references to Douglas.  Well, I was born in 1949 and I’ll be spending my Birthday here in Rangely.  Yes I admit it, I was born July 10, 1949.  And feel barely 49 years old.

The following day, July 10th, I got an early start and proceeded down hwy 64 on my way to the Dinosaur National Monument.  One enters the main entrance in Utah with additional portions of the park in Colorado.  This is a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time.  But since it was closed for a numbers of years due to the building surrounding the quarry falling into disrepair due to shifting sands beneath the foundation, with windows popping out and breaking, the building was finally condemned.   A whole new structure has been built and is almost identical to the original except for having a much stronger footing and foundation.  Because I got there early, I did a tour of the park first.  Now since it was my Birthday, I was able to see so many things that interest me.  Along the road leading through the park,  I stopped at numerous Pictograph and Petroglyph sites.  I’m always amazed at these sites throughout the west and how many there are.  Each having it’s own distinct style yet with many similarities to other sites.  One of the sites had a large image of a lizard high on a cliff wall that could be seen from way down below.  Most unusual for the placement of the lizard as well as the size of it.  And of course I love the figures that to me almost look like space beings and are described by the locals as carrot tops.  As they have a similar look to the shape of a carrot.  And of course the scenery.  Blue Mountain to one side, white chalk like scraggly mountains in the opposite direction.  Rounded bare hills and scrub covered lower mountains in-between.  The Green River flowing through the valley making it a fertile and bountiful acreage.  Definitely a banquet for the eyes.  About 9 miles in, I end up on a well maintained gravel and dirt road heading deeper and deeper into a canyon where it led to Josie Bassett’s cabin and homestead.  A true pioneering woman.  Married 5 times and divorced 4 times by the age of 40.  At which time, with no money to her name and single, she decided to homestead again.  Well, I was talking to a local who grew up in the area and knew more of the story.  Josie basically took/stole someone else’s claim.  Mainly by obtaining the water rights to the area, thus insuring that she’d end up with the land as well.  Later she would be accused of cattle rustling but was never convicted.  Even with all that, Josie was well liked, the gal that told me more of Josie’s story, told of how she would walk the 9 or 10 miles out of the canyon to bring this gals grandmother apricots from her orchard.  I was fortunate to get to the homestead very early and was the only one there.  Enjoying the peace and quite of the secluded and remote canyon.  Walking around the tilted cabin where she lived for another 50 years, enjoying the shade of the huge cottonwood trees and orchard that Josie had planted so many years ago.  Listening to the gurgling of the spring.  Wow, what a way to celebrate my birthday.  And there was more to come as I grudgingly left such a peaceful site.  It was time to get to the visitors center and take the tram up to the enclosed quarry site.

Of course this is the main reason for coming to the Dinosaur National Monument to see the quarry.  Or should I say what remains of it.  The Carnegie expedition removed hundred if not thousands of dinosaur bones (roughly 2/3s of the river bed) which now reside in Pittsburg,  New York and the Smithsonian.  It is only due to fact that the Carnegie foundation decided to spend it’s money elsewhere that the remaining wall of bones remains in it’s original location.  Earl Douglass discovered the first dinosaur bones here and championed the idea of preserving the remainder of the site.  And even then, at the time it became a National Monument, the director thought it was a big boondoggle to spend money to enclose the quarry so that people could come to the actual site of one of the largest dinosaur bed discoveries in the world and learn about our planets past.  Well I can tell you, from my vantage point I couldn’t be more happy.  To be able to be in this most remote site of the U.S. and view and learn about these giant beings.   Right where they lived and died 150 million years ago.   Wow, I’m a happy camper.  Archeologists continue to explore and dig in the area as there is still a wealth of discoveries to be found.

The next day I traveled through Canyon Pintado which is part of the National Historic District along hwy 139.  Freemont and Ute Indians lived in the area and both created much rock art along the canyon walls.  Due to the age and weathering conditions, many are fading or have been damaged by vandals.  I particularly like the waving hands.  It’s almost as if some Freemont or Ute Indian was waving at me through the past.  Kind of spooky and endearing at the same time. It just put a smile on my face looking at those waving hands.  I couldn’t help myself and waved back.  Kokopelli was another favorite.  He was the humpbacked flute player that brought in his hump, seeds, babies and blankets and thoughts are that he was either a trader, shaman, rainmaker or even a god.  Images of him can be found all the way from Mexico to parts of Colorado and Utah playing his flute and bringing fun and maybe a few pranks as well.  The sites I visited are scattered along a 15 mile stretch and are fairly well marked by the National Park system.  I didn’t make it to all of them, so I might have to come back again one day.  It’s hard at times to imagine anyone living in this very harsh environment without today’s conveniences.  High dry desert with little vegetation or wildlife, but evidence of life in the area goes back over 11,000 years.  Today it’s oil, gas and coal that keeps the area alive.  And of course there is the Green River running through the area bringing life sustaining water to those who live here.

My journey continues as I head west and north towards the Utah and Wyoming boarder.  Flaming Gorge Country.

Flaming Gorge 

Distance Traveled:  121 miles

Yup, another mountain pass of 8400 feet.  More dramatic views along with 8% grade coming over the mountain.  I must admit this road was pretty good overall with lots of passing lanes available.  I plan on taking the route again back to Vernal UT without the camper in tow.  That way I can stop more often and take some great pictures to share.  The views coming down into the Flaming Gorge area are just spectacular.

More photos on PICASA.

To be continued….

Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012-21 Grand Junction Colorado


Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado National Monument

Campground:  Moon Dance Rv, Grand Junction Colorado.  $140 weekly, full hookups 50 amp service.  New park w/concrete paved sites, no shade.  All pull-thrus.  Laundry room available. Campground is in an industrial area.  Close to Mall and Big box stores, theatre.

view leaving Black Canyon NP

An easy ride continuing along hwy 50 took me to Grand Junction in less than an hour and a half.   A stop At Bob’s Rv shop to have my toilet fixed.  Yes, the repair previously done and paid for did not work out.   after working on getting repairs done under warranty, I finally have a new throne.  Now what better gift for my upcoming Birthday, but to receive a New Throne!  What shall I proclaim from my throne as my first act as Head of  “Doug’s Dream Catcher”.  I declare all in my kingdom must go out and have fun, whether at work, at home or out on the road like me.  So sayeth I.

Now I’m going to do my best at my own proclamation, though it will not be all that easy.  With temps in the 100 degree range here in Grand Junction.  But I assure you, I’ll be trying my best while in the area for the next week.

Teddy Roosevelt receiving Gov documents while touring the west
A twirl downtown to visit The Museum of the West.  A wall of paintings depicting a visit to the area byTeddy Roosevelt.  It’s not a huge museum, but they’ve done a pretty good job of depicting historical events in the area.  With it being relatively hot in the area, it was a perfect time to go see a movie.  I picked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a recommendation from friends Tom and Chris.  With an ensemble cast of English actors, it follows the stories of retirees trying to find someplace they can live out their last years in comfort on minimal incomes.  They land in India and each learns to cope with an entirely new way of life.  An interesting story on how one group of elderly explore aging in a new country.

The 4th of July out here in Colorado with all it’s forest fires has banned fireworks in most cities and towns.  Bans on open fires, charcoal grills and even smoking outside have been banned.  Grand Junction did have a parade but I didn’t go.  Instead, opting to go to the mall in town and enjoy walking around in the coolness of the large air-conditioned indoor mall.  In the evening I watched the Washington D.C. and Boston 4th of July celebrations on T.V. which you may have watched as well.  Out here the sky was dark, not even the stars were out as a bank of monsoon rain clouds are filling the skies.  No rain yet, but expected in the next day or so.  And the silence of the night hung in the air as I walked outside.  No fire crackers going off, not even one boom in the night.  A warm breeze blowing.  Odd to have a silent 4th of July.  Bringing back memories of years past of living in Orlando and Wayne Black shooting off fireworks in the cul de sac.  The loud whistles of the swirling sparklers, bottle rockets, the whizzing shrieks of the exploding sprays and the occasional landing of one of those fireworks on my mobile home.  Ekk. But all good memories.

Do you like steep winding roads perched on the edge of canyons and mesas where the average speed is 25 mph?  Me neither.  So why on earth do I keep going to places like this?  I’m talking about the Colorado National Monument which is  between Fruita and Grand Junction.  Well I guess part of it is, is that the views are usually spectacular and yes the drive is enough to get my heart pumping a little faster than normal.  What’s interesting is that one can see the cliffs and canyons and mesa from hwy 70 but until one actually enters the National Monument one can only get a glimpse of how stunning this billion year old monument in the making is.

I drove to Fruita to start my tour at the main entrance to the Colorado National Monument.  A small pay station at the entrance where I show my Senior Pass for free access.  That puts a smile on my face before I even enter the park.  As I showed my Senior Pass to the Ranger, I had to ask about a motor home that was just leaving the park, since there is a sign stating no vehicles higher than 12 ft.  The Ranger said that it was ok because the tunnels were actually 16 ft high in the center.  I couldn’t imagine driving a rig that large along those cliff hanging roads.  Yikkes!

There are a dozen pull off areas before getting to the Visitors center about 5 miles away.  Each one providing a look back at the steep winding road I’ve taken to get that far on my way to the top of the mesa.  Yikkes, why do they have to build the road on the very edge of every cliff  and through those tunnels along the way?

It’s a cloudy day, but still worth taking all those pictures.  Looking down into horseshoe shaped canyons.  Red rock walls of stone.  Pillars of stone separated from their original attachment to those walls, now sentinels standing alone.   Learning of the history of the monument.  Established mainly due to one person, John Otto, who wrote countless letters promoting the area and requesting that it be put under National protected status.  He built trails through the monument and eventually became the first caretaker at $1 a month.  He married Beatrice Farmham at the base of Independence Monument in 1911.  He insisted on living in a tent to be near his animals.  Beatrice departed after only a few weeks of marriage.

Otto started the tradition of putting a flag on the top of Independence Monument each July 4th by climbing the 450 ft monument for the first time in 1911.  About 25 climbers ascended to the top of Independence Monument this July 4th and planted a new flag on top.  Not something you would ever find me doing.

I’m off the mesa and back in town and just realized I need to stop by the post office and pick up my mail.  So until next time, enjoy your summer and try to stay cool.

more photos on PICASA.