Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015-15 Dolores Colorado to Moab Utah


Dolores Colorado continued
Moab Utah

Campground:  Ok Rv park and Canyonlands Stables.  $24.50 + tax PA rate, price includes a $3 elect chg.  Full hookups with cable tv.  Electric and water only sites are around $21.  Nice little park, I've been here a few times.

Colorado living

McPhee Reservoir 

evening sunset at campground

I’ve been in the 4 corners area now for a couple of weeks and I’ve finally gotten all pooped out on seeing all the historical Native Indian sites and I haven’t even gone back to some of my favorites like Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Ute Mountain Tribal Park and so many others.  It would take months to fully explore this region.  There’s even a place called Indian Camp Ranch, where one can purchase 35 acre lots that are guaranteed to contain historical Native Indian sites such as Kiva’s, pueblos, pit houses, pottery etc.  The heir to the Hine’s fortune owns some of this property and has opened it up to archeologist to explore on her land.  Giving her 1st rights to any finds.  Colorado permits land owners to excavate their own land with the supervision of an archaeologist.

One of my last tours in the area was to Canyons of the Ancients.

one of my day tours through part of Canyons of the Ancients

Lowry Pueblo

what Lowry Pueblo might have looked like

one of the few Great Pueblos with a protective roof added

a great Kiva at Lowry Pueblo

Well it’s getting close to another holiday and I need to make reservations somewhere.  Not having a particular plan of which direction I’d be going, I first checked into a place near Montrose Colorado, thinking it would be nice to start getting closer to a higher elevation as the summer heats up.  Unfortunately they were all booked up for the 4th of July.  So, I’ve decided to head into Utah, even though the temps are expected be in the 100’s.  I’ll be in Moab for 6 days and then I’ve found a nice little city park in Spanish Fork Utah for the week of July 4th.  My goal now is to head towards northern Idaho.  Sometimes we full time RV-ers have no idea where we will end up.

Painted Hand Pueblo

Painted hand Pueblo

Painted hands, now quite faded

These towers are characteristic of this region

possibly used as a watch tower and storage of grains etc.

I’ve learned a few tips I’ll share with you fellow travelers.

Telluride Colorado.  A beautiful mountain community that has major music festivals almost every weekend during the summer months and of course skiing in the winter.  If you don’t like huge crowds and the cost of those festivals, do what the locals do.  They head to Mountain Village.  It’s above Telluride and has weekly free events for the locals.  Outdoor movie nights Sunset Concert Series.  Bring a picnic and blanket and listen to the outdoor music.  Plenty of time to leave before the sun sets late in the evening to get back to Cortez or the Dolores area.  And if you have a hankering to go into Telluride, you can take the free gondola ride down the mountain into Telluride.  Tour the town on foot and ride the gondola back up the mountain away from all the traffic and congestion.

Cortez Colorado.  There is a big Colorado Visitor Center in town with a Mesa Verde Tourist extension.  I would recommend going here first before heading to Mesa Verde.  You can discuss the various tours available, make reservations (a must for the tours) and then be all set knowing your plans for your visit to Mesa Verde have been made and are in place.  Mesa Verde also has a number of options for restaurants if you are not doing a picnic lunch and you can learn more about those options at the visitor center.

Distance traveled:  109 miles

Wilson Arch, first of many arches in the Moab area

Moab Utah.  I crossed over from Colorado to Utah at 9:02 am today.  The western side of Colorado sure has some great ranch and farm land and it extended a bit into Utah before turning into the red sandstone and desert scenery that is so prevalent here.  Coming from the southern end of Utah, the first natural arch along the two lane highway 191 is the Wilson Arch followed by soft rounded monoliths of sandstone some looking like layered wedding cakes, others like blobs of stone in a desert.  Moab being home to Natural Arches National Park where there are just a ton of natural stone arches both in the park are surrounding area.  Moab is geared towards the outdoors with numerous rafting, ATV and jeep tours and rentals available.

Of course Moab is famous for Arches National Park, which I hope to tour early one morning, but with other sites in the area that I haven't seen in the past, Arches will be put on the back burner for now.

HOT.  My fist day in the area and it’s gotten up to 109 degrees.  That’s just about the hottest I’ve ever encountered while traveling the country.  The campers two a/c units are handling the high temps really well, keeping the 5th wheel camper a very comfortable cool 76 degrees inside.  Both are ducted throughout and I’ve noticed the bedroom a/c stays on most of the day and the living room unit cuts on and off as needed.

Canyon Lands National Park (North entrance)

I toured the north end of the Canyonlands National Park today which brings me on top of the mesa overlooking the canyon lands.  The southern end entrance will bring one into the bottom of the canyon itself.  One of the first things I notice as I’m driving up to the top of the mesa, is the large broad expanse of prairie grass lands on top.  Because of good rains this spring the grass lands are all as green as can be.

would you ever drive on that road?  

caused by many jeep tours, farming and city smog drifting in

As I stop at each of the overlook viewpoints along the way, I am amazed that folks will come all this way to tour and see the sights, only to use their smart phones and tablets to attempt to capture the spectacular scenery.  One guy was telling his wife, as they both were trying to capture the canyons miles below our viewing area that taking pictures with his smart phone just wasn't doing justice to the scenery.  Well, no kidding!?  I don’t really understand why someone would come all this way and not at least use a good point-and-shoot camera with a halfway decent zoom lense.

I can tell you, even with my good Canon Digital camera it is a challenge to try and get the perfect picture.

The most amazing site along the mesa top tour to me was the Mesa Arch.  It’s a low narrow arch hanging on the very top edge of one of the deep canyon walls.  A short hike leads the viewer to the edge of the canyon with it’s spectacular arch providing an eyebrow view of the canyon below.  The canyons were created centuries ago by the Green River and the Colorado river which merge at one point in the canyons below.  Wesley Powell explored the deep canyons as he traveled along the Colorado river which today leads into Lake Powell on the southern Utah boarder.

Mesa Arch, Canyon Lands NP

what a great view!

my favorite shot of the week....

The arch is right on the edge of the Mesa cliff and it's straight down....

It’s another 100 degree weather day, so all of my touring is being done before noon.  Then it’s back to the camper to hibernate in the cool recesses of the Rv.

one of many buttes in the area

all of this land was etched out by the Green River and Colorado River

So that’s about it for the week.  Could have done a bit more touring, but for now this will have to do.

more photos on PICASA

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015-14 Durango to Dolores Colorado


At Chimney Rock National Monument

Durango, continued:
Dolores Colorado
Cortez Colorado

Campground:  McPhee Reservoir/Lake, Juniper campground.  $16 senior rate, regular $22.  50 amp Electric.  Water available but only one water station with hookup for a waterhose.  Dump station currently closed.  Campsites among Juniper and Pinion trees.  No water views.  110 over-the-air Tv stations, yes really!  That’s a ton of TV stations including a number of music stations, some playing live music others play videos or still shots.  Blue Highway being a new favorite.  Fair Verizon service.

A few notes on Durango:

The downtown area is covered with parking meters.  A least now they also accept credit cards but to me it’s still a pain in the behind to have to pay to park in a town and then they expect you to shop and dine as well.
There are no free parking lots and those that are available clearly state you will be fined and your vehicle towed.

Most of the restaurants are locally owned and operated with only a handful of commercial/national chain restaurants in town.  Including a few brewing companies and one distiller.

The smell of patchouli wafts in the air from a number of shops on main street.  I’ve seen a couple of “smoke shops” but haven’t ventured in to see if they sell marijuana which is legal in Colorado.  Along the walking path into town and at the fairgrounds, the smell of pine trees is prevalent.  A most wonderful smell.

Durango Library along the walking/biking trail

scene along the walking/biking trail into Durango

Median household income:  $51,800
Median house or condo:  $355,000 (above average for Colorado)
Average rental:  $1,100

A day trip

I headed east on county road 240 up over the mountains outside of town.  Noticed there are some pretty nice homes and high end subdivisions tucked up in the forests overlooking the mountain ranges and Durango below.  I continued eastward as the road wound through some really pretty alpine meadows with Ponderosa Pines climbing up the sides of the ridges and mountains.  I’m heading towards Vallecito Reservoir Lake.  In 2002 they had a 70,000 acre forest fire that destroyed much of the surrounding forests.  But today the hillsides are dotted with burned out tree trucks and green with grasses and small tree shoots are coming up.  Letting nature do it’s thing rather than man reforesting by planting saplings.

along County Road 240

along County Road 240

along County Road 240

Vallecito Reservoir Lake

Vallecito Reservoir Lake

On the east side of the lake a dirt road leads to a number of  semi-developed campgrounds that boarder the lake.  The west side of the lake which is a paved road has a few small communities including four commercial campgrounds and cabins for rent.  The couple of restaurants are only open on weekends by the looks of it.  A wood carver has taken logs and created a number of carvings dedicated to the firefighters and can be found along the western side of the reservoir.

Made for a really nice day trip.

On my last day in the area, I drove over to Chimney Rock National Monument.  It’s halfway between Durango and Pagosa Springs.  I’ve been to this site before, but once again, it’s a great day trip out into the country, though I might add hwy 160 has a lot of road construction and repaving going on.  Giving me more time to enjoy the scenery as I had to slow down for the one way traffic periodically.  Hwy 160 has electronic signs that warn you if wildlife has been detected in the area…. I.e. slow down and be on the lookout so you don’t run into any elk, deer, bear, etc.  Wonder if it helps save the wildlife?

Chimney Rock is considered the furthest outlying posts with a Great House in the Chacoan style, indicating it was an outpost for Chaco Canyon.  Thousands of Native Indians had banded together during the Chaco period and were in a sense a very large community or even country encompassing much of the 4 corners region.  A student was able to prove they were able to communicate 90 miles way with Chaco Canyon.

from high up on the Mesa

pit houses

surrounding scenery, Chimney Rock

and we hike up, higher and higher

Chimney Rock, used for sky observations, sun and moon

part of the Chacoan style great house constructed on top of the Mesa

The great house was aligned with Chimney Rock in the distance

Distance Traveled:  58 miles

Ok, so it’s a short drive of about an hour and a half, but still you know how I love being on the road.  Had to stop in the little Town of Dolores Co. to get better directions to my campsite at McPhee reservoir and I had lunch in the little town.  The people are so friendly here.  I’m staying in the area for 7 days, but may extend just because the place feels just right.

McPhee Reservoir Lake

along the Can Do Trail

actually one of my favorite shots this week

I’ve settled in at the McPhee campground.  The reservoir was created in the early 1980’s and the Anasazi Heritage Center was created to store and interpret the 1.5 million artifacts that were collected in the largest archeological dig in North America.  Those artifacts had to be found, dug up and recovered before the new McPhee reservoir began to fill up.  Covering both Native American historical sites as well as the lumber town of McPhee.

Anasazi Heritage Center

I toured the Anasazi Heritage Center, which has world class museum exhibits from all those collected items from the McPhee project but also from the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument where over 6,000 Indian sites have been identified to date.  Canyon of the Ancients was declared a National Monument by President Bill Clinton in 1980 and has the highest concentration of Indian sites in America.

A small part of over 4.5 million collection

the first explores and archaeologists

Gustaf Nordenskiold

hows that for sneaking in my Swedish heritage....

one of the first young photographers

The second part of my tour would start in the afternoon and would take me and a select group down into the basements of the Heritage Center for a behind the scenes tour of where over 4 million artifacts are examined, cataloged, stored and entered onto a database that one day will be accessible to the public.  Seeing many rare and unusual Native American artifacts close up and having them explained in a more detailed manner really brings the history of this region to life.

Note:  the behind the scenes tour is only given on Thursdays at 2 pm and the number of people is restricted.

what an exciting behind the scenes tour

being able to get up close to some special artifacts

we are two stores below ground 

thousands of photographs from the first expeditions 

currently 4.5 artifacts are stored here

a very rare yucca plant sandal still intact 

items from the Wetheral Trading post

what a grand opportunity to see the behind the scenes storage
and research areas at the heritage center

I have so much more to explore in the area over the next couple of days but as always with my travels, I give myself a day off to enjoy the campground, go for a walk, today's walk was the “Can Do Trail” and then into Dolores for lunch and picking up my mail.  

Wishing you all the very best of adventures,
From the back-roads of America, happy trails to you.

more photos on PICASA