Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 8

Strictly speaking, the title of the blog is not correct since we have wandered into Arizona for a day or two, but we will be back in Utah soon enough!

The View, the hotel that we stayed at for the night is just a few years old.  It is a very comfortable but somewhat expensive place, and it is the only full-scale hotel at Monument Valley that offers views at sunrise and sunset from the comfort of your room.  So, without much ado, here are pictures of the sunrise.  (Click on the first picture below to start viewing all of them in full size.)

There are three buttes in front of the hotel called the three mittens.  They are probably the most photographed objects in this area.

The light from rising sun comes right into the hotel rooms.  You can watch the sky changing from the comfort of the balcony of your room with a cup of coffee in your hand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had considered going for a hike around the western mitten that morning, but decided that the 1000 foot drop-off to the valley floor, and the climb during the return, would be too much.  So we took it easy, and departed the place after a little bit of shopping in the local Native American store.  There is actually is more to do in Monument Valley.  You can take tours with Navajo guides further into their land.  You can walk in their sacred places.  But we had to move on..

Instead of heading west on National Highway 163, we took at detour and turned east and drove further into the valley to get  to the scenic viewpoints. We drove up to a place called Mexican Hat where the road crosses the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado river.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a motel right along the river.  Apparently you can also stay in a yurt at this facility.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point we turned around and headed back west on the highway. On the way you can see places like this where the locals try to make some money off the tourists selling trinkets.  This particular spot looked abandoned.  It looks like a hard life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at the spot that is well known to the tourists for taking pictures of Monument valley.  This was the scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the spot at which Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we got out of our car at one of the pullouts for taking pictures, we heard an older Indian woman greet us cheerfully from  a rise next to the pullout.  She had a table set up under a protective covering for selling things.  We felt a need to go up to her to meet her and chat, and to see what she was offering.  She was a very kindly person and talked freely about herself and the Navajo people, while also talking about the trinkets that she had made that she was selling.  Each trinkets was designed with a certain theme in mind, for example, she had some that were meant for healing.  All of the trinkets were made of local stones.  We did not bother to bargain.  That was not the spirit of the moment.

This was the last picture I took from the lookout point before we continued west on 163.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we reached the town of Kayente,  we turned on to Route 160 and joined the heavier traffic headed towards Tuba City.  There was a lot of overtaking going on on this road.  The RVs were actually slowing down the other traffic.  I was still nervous about going into the opposite lanes at speeds exceeding 70 miles an hour, but I still did it on one or two occasions.

We turned on to a local road going through Navajo territory numbered route 98 after a short ride on route 160.  This was the shortest way to Page, AZ.  The speed limit was still 65 miles per hour on this less used winding road that made its way through the shallow hills and dales of the countryside. You could see the horses wandering in the fields.  There were few trees around.  The scenery was beginning to change.  The colors of the countryside were lighter.

As we got closer to Page, we saw signs for tours of North Antelope slot canyon.  This was one of the things on my to-do list.  There were a lot of tourists there for the tours.  The person at the ticket counter said that he had spots for the 12.45pm tour when my watch was saying that it was close to 1:30pm. Turns out that the time zones are slightly different on Navajo land.  We had a few minutes to get ourselves ready for the tour after the long car ride.  We needed to put something in our stomachs and use the port-a-potties before we proceeded.

Our guide was Bernice.  She took us in her pickup truck to the entrance for the slot canyon, about three miles away from the road.  The drive was over a sandy wash.  This place is full of water when it rains heavily and there are flash floods.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Here are some pictures from the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you come here during the summer months in the middle of a sunny day, you can see a shaft of light come into the canyon and hit the canyon floor.  That must be so cool to see.  These places can become dangerous when there is flash flooding.  There are seasons for the rains.  It seems that it had rained recently.

This tour lasted about an hour and a half.  It would have been nice to see the place with less of a crowd around, but that is the way it goes. We might look for more slot canyons in the parks that we will be going to. Bernice was a great guide.  The guides know the best locations in the canyon to take pictures, and can make up stories about what the formations and the light patterns you are looking at look like.  We were shown a bear, a heart, and even the faces of a couple of presidents!  Bernice was really good at taking pictures for other people with their cameras.

We had a short distance to cover from the canyon to Page.  We went straight to the hotel and checked in.  It turned out to be a brand new facility just outside the main section of town.  It was time to look at a local map and figure out what there was to do in town.  The town of Page came into being in 1957 with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.  It looks like the place is still developing.  There are lots of outdoor things to do in this area, but not much in Page itself.

We went to the site of the Glen Canyon Dam and walked around, crossing the bridge across the canyon on foot.  The dam was built on the Colorado river.  Lake Powell was formed behind the dam.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then took a short walk on the Hanging Garden Trail close by.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was not much of a hanging garden to see.  We wandered off trail on the colorful rocks and on to the sand.  It looked like this was what a lot of other visitors were also doing.

We drove into the heart of Page for an early dinner.  We ended up at the Dam Bar and Grille, a popular local watering hole.  We shared a large pizza and had a couple of beers.  We have some leftover pizza for lunch.  So far in the trip, dinner has been the only meal that we have been going to a restaurant for.  Breakfast is usually in the hotel – the free breakfast or pastries in our room.  Lunch usually consists of trail mix, peanut butter and fruit, and maybe a granola bar.  We have a good dinner!

Our plan for today is to go to the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon and hike.  Looks like the weather will hold up.  And then it is on to Kenab in Utah.  I have a feeling we will be getting away from the more “touristy” things we have been doing the last few days and getting back to nature.

 

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 7

We took a quick walk around the town of Monticello, UT, before we departed for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.   I usually find something charming about these little places, but Monticello seemed to be just another town on the road to somewhere else.  There was nothing that caught my senses particularly.  Here are some pictures.  This picture is of the sunrise and it was taken from behind our roadside motel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the front of our motel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the locals were going for a morning run.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA local Native American store.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Abajo mountains rise from the morning fog west of town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were being careful about making sure that we did not run out of gas (petrol).  So, we filled up even though we had used only a quarter tank of gas, turned east at the only traffic signal in Monticello, and pointed our way towards the rising sun on National Highway 491 (not an Interstate Highway).  We passed through the city of Cortez on our way to the entrance to Mesa Verde.

We arrived at Mesa Verde by about 9:30 and it was already too late for the ranger guided tour that we were interested in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe only slot available was for the 3:50pm tour, and that was too late for our drive to Monument Valley in the evening.  We also realized that we had not given ourselves enough time to explore the place leisurely.  So the visit was a little rushed.

The primary theme of this park is the history of the Pueblo Indians who have lived in this area for a very long period of time.  You can see the ruins of their living spaces and communities spread out over the area, many of them under ledges in cliffs.  But reaching the areas where you can see these artifacts also requires long drives on the park roads.  The drives were actually quite thrilling over the mountain roads, some of them quite narrow and open only to smaller vehicles.  Our first stop to see the historical artifacts was for the Step House at the end of the narrow Wetherill Mesa Road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is was a long way down to get to the Step House from the parking area on top of the cliff.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cliff dwellings were usually under a ledge that provided some protection.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how far down one must go to reach the dwellings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then headed back to the main park road to the Museum at the end of the road.  Here are a couple of pictures.  We were rushing.  This is the Spruce Tree House,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand this is the Cliff Palace.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd before we knew it, it was time to head out of the park to Monument Valley, a drive of about three hours.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis drive was notable for the fact that for the most part we were passing through land that was barely populated and was essentially featureless compared to what we had experienced so far. The National Highway 160 on which we were heading west ran straight for long periods of time.  You could occasionally see the horizon in the distance at the end of a particularly long stretch of straight road. The speed limit on these smaller roads was 65 miles per hour, but folks were overtaking me every once in a while.  We did make a stop at Four Corners, where the states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, all meet at a single point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe place is managed by the Navajo, and, frankly speaking, I got a rather poor impression of the way they maintained and operated things at a location that has now become a somewhat well recognized tourist attraction.

We arrived at Monument Park as the sun was setting.  This horse had left its companions and wandered on to the side of the road as we were driving in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are some pictures of the sunset.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are staying at the only hotel here, The View, built on Navajo land, and owned by a Navajo entrepreneur lady.  The first order of business was dinner at the only restaurant in this isolated place on the border of Utah and Arizona.

Our room has a beautiful view of the valley and the sunrise is expected to be spectacular.  We will see.  We head out to Page, AZ, later today.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 6

It was raining heavily when we woke up.  I had been thinking about going back to Arches National Park to see the famous Delicate Arch before we departed the area.  That plan was cancelled.  There was no way to hike the trail to get to the rock under those conditions.  The rocks would be slick.  We decided to take it easy today.  We would starting heading south towards Monticello, UT, our destination for the night, and stop at the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park along the way.  (The area we had gone to the previous day was called Island In The Sky.  The two sections are not connected within the park itself.)  Moab and Monticello are less than 60 miles apart, but the side road to the National Park was a long detour.

We got back on route 191 after replenishing our grocery supplies and filling up the car’s gas tank.  (Interesting note – the regular gas has an octane level of 85 in these parts, whereas the minimum octane level that I have encountered anywhere else so far has been 87.  I have to find out why that is the case!)  It rained almost all the way.   At the turn-off for the park we noticed that there were others traveling our way on the narrow road in spite of the weather.  Interestingly, we had to ford a section of the road that had water swiftly flowing across it. This was a flash flood condition.  The water was brown and looked deep.  Our SUV vehicle had no issue crossing.

We had been driving in open areas all along.  As some point the road began to wind its way downward towards the bottom of the canyon.  As we rounded a corner in the road (with an overhang of massive rock that I thought would take the top off the RV that was following us), we saw trees once again.  It caught us by surprise.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a stop at this point to go to the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis following picture was taken as we were wandering around near the rock with the petroglyph.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was still cloudy when we reached the visitor center, but there were signs that the sky might be starting to clear up.  There were very few people around.  It seem like that number of people that we have been encountering in the local parks has been going down each day.  That is probably because of the location of the parks and their popularity in the general public.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way further into the park we stopped at the Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first real stop was for a hike on the Pothole trail to try to see the “Needles”.  Because of the rain the natural potholes had water in them.  You had to be careful to stay on the trail over the rock that was marked with cairns.  The rest of the area was muddy and you feet could sink into the soaked red mud.  Here are pictures from that hike.  We probably walked less than a mile.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI call the structures in the picture below (you can click on the picture to open in full size) mushrooms.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the needles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMushrooms once again!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was like walking in a fairy tale wonderland.

We then drove to the trail head for the Slickrock trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe skies began to clear up as we walked this loop trail.  We covered about 3 miles on a flat rocky surface that offered panoramic views in all directions.  By the time we got to the later half of the walk we were feeling the effects of the hot sun and were regretting not having taken our hats with us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABig Spring Canyon Overlook was at the end of the park road, less than 100 feet from the trail head for Slickrock trail.  There was a stream flowing over a waterfall at the bottom of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI walked halfway down to the stream by myself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back out of the park we stopped at some roadside ruins.  It was a short walk to a location where there was a granary that Native Americans had built for storing their food.  It seems that these kinds of structures were deliberately built in hard-to-reach locations.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way out of the park we stopped at the visitor center once again to fill up the water bottles.  The drive out of the park was spectacular as the evening sun was falling on the red stone formations that towered into the sky just beside us. We had to stop in different places to catch our breath and take pictures, pictures that cannot capture the majesty of the scene around us.  This land has a grandeur about it that words cannot describe, and we should be grateful for the opportunity offered to us to experience its natural beauty.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was what was left of the water that we had experienced flowing across the road that morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Monticello around 6 pm and headed straight for the Blue Horsehead Inn that we were staying at that evening.  It was an old roadside building that reminded you of motels in times gone by.  It turned out that our room was also in the same fashion, with the bathroom fittings seemingly from the last century. I thought it was a cute and functional setup, but I am sure some others might have different opinions and be concerned about staying in places like this that are somewhat offbeat and not up to their standards.

I had booked the place to stay in Monticello rather than staying another night in Moab because the prices for rooms were less than half what they were in Moab.  You can see why that is the case when you drive into town.  It is a tiny place and I think it might have a single traffic light (I will confirm today!).  The place is sparsely populated.  I saw a few older motels as we were driving in.  The houses are small, and there are signs of decay, including the closed up diner on main street that is for sale.  I am hoping to head outside to take some pictures this morning.

There are only a few restaurants around and after we got our stuff out of the car we chose to walk to Doug’s Steak and Barbecue down the street.  It was a small unassuming place set back from the main road, and behind a camper, but the food was awesome. We had some out-of-this-world pulled pork, freshly made I am sure, that we washed down with beer.  We enjoyed this simple and inexpensive meal thoroughly.  Great stuff!  We were glad to walk off the effect of the meal as we headed back to our motel.

We head out to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado this morning.  I have to say that all our park experiences so far have been unique in their way, and I believe this will also be the case today.  I am not sure if I will be able to post a blog for today in a timely fashion because we are staying the night on Navajo land in Monument Valley, and I am told that their is no Internet connection in the rooms.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 5

It is raining heavily outside this morning as I type this blog, but that was not the case yesterday when we went to Canyonlands National Park.

The day did not start exactly as planned.  As we were driving out of town, an indicator lit up on the dashboard indicating low air pressure in one of the tires.  We had to head back to a tire repair shop in town to find out what was happening. Turns out there was a nail in it.  It took about an hour to address the problem. That was the opportunity for us to take a walk through the small town.  It took little time to get from one end of town to the other.  Moab is geared for tourists who have come for outdoor activities. There are lots of bike shops, and you see four wheel driven vehicles like the one below all over the place.  There are coffee shops and restaurants all over downtown.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe town is nestled between the hills.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a stream with a walkway beside it, and a nice little park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way to Canyonlands we stopped to take the obligatory park picture at the entrance to Arches.  We had neglected to do that the previous day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures below were taken on the road into Canyonlands. The two mesas behind are called the Monitor and the Merrimac.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the view of Shafer Canyon in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Mesa Arch.  The La Sal mountains are barely visible through the arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the canyon where the Mesa Arch is located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures below are of Candlestick Tower.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is probably Gooseberry Canyon.  We stopped here for lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken during the hike from Grand View Point Overlook.  We walked a couple of miles around the rim of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALa Sal mountains in the background.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a long way down from this point!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was most likely taken from the Buck Canyon overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove to Upheaval Dome, and walked about a couple of miles out on the trail (Teresa did not come all the way) so that I could get this picture.  It shows that the surface is fractured, and layers of rock from below have pushed their way out. There are a couple of theories regarding how this happened, but they are not sure about the actual cause yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike had some difficult sections, which was the reason why I went the final distance by myself.  There was a point at which I was trying to grab the rock next to me just because I was nervous.  The picture below shows one of the easier challenges along the way.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe obligatory park picture!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then drove to Dead Horse Point State Park to get a view of the meandering Colorado river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw the train coming from a distance as we were crossing the tracks.  I turned the car around and waited near the railroad crossing to take this picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Canyonlands National Park had a very different feel from Arches.  We drove for long distances to get to places, and then we walked shorter distances when we got to those places.  Of course, the views were also quite different in these parks.

It was another long and somewhat tiring day.  We had walked about 7 miles over the course of the day, and some of it had been over difficult terrain.

We had dinner at a place where I could satisfy the craving for spaghetti and meatballs that had started early in the day. And they did have beer!

We are going to take it easy today.  I do not think much outdoor activity will be possible because the rocks are likely to be slippery.  We will head towards Monticello in a little while.  We will try to stop at the Needles district of Canyonlands.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 4

We are in Utah!

We left Parachute, Colorado, early in the morning as the sun was rising through the clouds and over the mountains.  This was what it looked like when the sunlight hit the mountains on the other side from where it was rising.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe first drove around the little town to explore. The kids were arriving at the elementary school for the start of the day.

This dog watched me quietly as I took took pictures from the dead-end road beside the building where it was tied to the railing. There must be people living in there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw signs for small cannabis based businesses in town, but did not explore this further.

And then it was back on to Interstate 70 heading west. The scenery began to change as we entered Utah.  The speed limit increased to 80 miles an hour!  I do not remember having seen such a high speed limit anywhere else.  As we crossed the border we descended from a plateau into this massive plain with nothing to be seen for miles and miles around, with mountains in the far distance across the plain.  It was the wild west as I imagined it, as I am probably remembering from movies I saw as a kid.  It was the kind of scene I had seen in the 1980s when I had driven across the country with friends, when I said to myself that this was something I wanted to experience again in my life.

There were very few exits along the road with no signs of habitation beyond the exits, and signs that there were no services at these exits.  Best to fill up your gas (petrol) tank before heading this way.  We took the state highway 191 from the interstate to head down to Moab.  Speed limits were still very high on this road that ran straight and true for long stretches. We arrived at Arches National Park a little before noon to encounter long lines at the entrance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter watching the movie at the Visitor Center, we took the ranger’s advice and drove the park road all the way to its end to do a hike to see some arches. This is what it looked like as we climbed the road away from the visitor center. The highway 191 and the visitor center are below us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ranger had told us that this would be about a four mile hike, but it ended up being more than six miles because of various detours to see arches away from the main trail.  We had trouble finding parking when we reached the place to start the hik.  We finally found a spot beyond the parking lot just beside the road.  The place was packed!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike was an adventure – including scrambling up rocks and walking on narrow ledges.  We were extremely tired at the end of it.  Here are some pictures.

This was the initial part of the walk towards the arches.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is called the Pine Tree Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShown in the picture below is the most difficult part of the hike.  You had to walk up the rock and it was quite steep.  You depended on the grip on your shoes to keep you in place. The presence of sand did not help.  When coming down, it was advantageous to sit on ones butt as needed!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is called the Landscape Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were plenty of places where you had to walk along the sloping side of a big slab of rock, or go down the side of a huge rock.  You had to be paying attention to make sure you did not fall.  It was interesting to see the sure-footed fathers carrying their babies in their baby carriers while navigating these sections while the mothers looked on.  Most of these families seemed to be from Europe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Navajo Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is called the Partition Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking on a ledge like this can be scary, and perhaps terrifying if you are afraid of heights, especially since these ledges are very high above the surrounding area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Double O Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is taken from a viewpoint.  This was what you saw to one side while walking on the ledge shown in one of the pictures above.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome scrambling down the rocks was required.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA lot of the rocks had shapes that you could let your imagination go wild with.  This one is an ogre who is in pain!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After the hike, we started to drive back to the entrance of the park.  We stopped to take a picture of the snow covered La Sal mountains in the background.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped off at another place to see a few other arches. Here is the Turret Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand here are the North and South Window Arches.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the Double Arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was beginning to set at that point and we headed out of the park to our hotel room in Moab.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe arches in Arches National Park are constantly changing because of the effect of the environment.  They will all naturally collapse at some time or the other.  The rocks are primarily Sandstone, and the geology of the place is due to that fact that this used to be a salt sea in ages past  The salt has compressed, but it is not very stable, especially in the presence of water.

I was quite tired yesterday evening after having walked over 8 miles, some of it in difficult conditions.  We went to the diner in front our our hotel for dinner and realized too late that they did not serve beer. But I was too tired to consider changing restaurants. We have one more evening in Moab. We can be more careful this time.

It rained overnight but the weather seems to be clearing for our outing today to Canyonlands National Park.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 3

The morning started with the sighting of elk from our hotel room window.  They were crossing a side street and somebody’s property.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese animals own the place.

It had snowed overnight.  After breakfast of some pastries we had bought in the supermarket, we headed out into the park. On the way we saw these elk bulls butting heads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce in the park, we got a picture of ourselves at the entrance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADue to incomplete instructions from the ranger the day before, and because of plans being made on the fly, it took a while to get to the trail head that we finally decided to hike from.  We started at the Park and Ride lot on Bear Lake road at about 8800 feet elevation and took the trail to Bierstadt Lake. The temperature was 30 degrees F when we started. We climbed through the snowy woods.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was tough! We reached a spot by the lake after a couple of miles, and an hour and a half of laborious climbing.  It was a small lake, which had its own beauty in the snow.  The altitude was supposed to be 9460 feet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a different trail down the side of the mountain to the actual official trail head for the climb to this lake on the way back to the car.  The view of the valley as we switchbacked down the mountain was spectacular in spite of the weather.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt would have been much more amazing if the skies had been clear.  At the bottom of the mountain we turned east, and we walked on a trail that ran along the road, back to the parking lot at the Park and Ride location.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFive miles of walking!  The temperature had risen to 37 degrees by then.

After a lunch of peanut butter, carrots, and fruit, and a Clif bar for myself, we drove to Bear Lake. The lake itself is at a height of about 9600 feet.  It was back to freezing temperatures – 32 degrees F – because of the altitude!  After a short and quick walk around the lake,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe hit the roads to head out of town.  We had a 250 mile ride ahead of us.

We headed south past the town of Boulder, and picked up Interstate 70 at Golden, CO, the birthplace of Coors beer.  There was only time for a stop to fill gas (petrol) and get a quick drink of hot chocolate.

Then began the most spectacular ride on Interstate 70 towards the place we were staying for the night – Parachute, CO. We crossed the Rocky mountains. The weather was all over the place during the ride through the mountains, but it was a notable experience nonetheless.  That part of the ride started with heavy fog in a winding section of the road as we climbed into the mountains.  I was not happy at that point.  We then encountered rain and snow in some other sections, and in some places it looked like the sky was going to clear up.  We crossed the the mountains through a tunnel above 10000 feet. It was clear on one side and we could see the snow covered mountains of the Rockies for the first time,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand on the other side of the tunnel it was snowing so heavily that the surface of the road was covered with snow and traffic was moving more slowly. The weather kept changing.  We went past the ski towns of Breckenridge and Vail.  It started raining lightly once again as we drove through Glenwood Canyon at the western end of the ride through the mountains. We emerged from the windy section of the road at Glenwood Springs and the ski area of Aspen.

Glenwood Canyon was spectacular, with the highway hugging the vertical sides of the canyon, supported by various concrete structures, the Colorado river below us, and the Denver and Rio Grande railroad line on the other side of the Colorado river.  (I may be wrong, but it is possible that Amtrak’s California Zephyr train from Chicago to San Francisco runs on this line.)

After another over hundred miles of driving past towns with names like Gypsum, Silt, and Rifle, we arrived at Parachute. We drove into the sunset as the skies cleared out a little bit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter dinner with margaritas at the Mexican place in this small town, we crashed out.  This tiny place looks interesting. We can probably see everything there is in town in 15 minutes.  The hotel room was remarkably affordable, and recommended to anyone coming this way.

Now it is on to Moab, and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  The weather should be warmer from now on.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Days 1 and 2

The first day was a travel day.  Left later in the evening for Denver. The flight and the arrival at the hotel was uneventful.  But the hotel was a surprise!  For a very reasonable price we had ended up in a fantastic place.  Here is the atrium of the hotel, seen before daybreak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Sunday Mass, we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park.  Nice drive.  Drove up from the mile-high city of Denver into the town of Estes Park.  We knew we were in Colorado when we saw this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found Estes Park to be an extremely touristy and crowded place, although we did get a nice view driving into the valley where it is located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When we reached the visitor center for the park, we were in for a disappointment.  The Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road that crossed over the ridge of the mountains to the west were both closed due to snow, and it looks like they will be closed for the rest of the season since more snow is expected today.

We drove as far as we could on on the Trail Ridge Road.  As we got higher, above two miles in altitude, we began to experience rapid changes in the weather.  The skies would be clear one moment and the next moment we would be enveloped in fog.  We even began to see signs of snow.  The drive ended at Rainbow Curve, beyond which the road was closed.  The mountains would appear and disappear in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is the autumn season here, but the primary color other than the green of the evergreens is yellow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is rutting season for the elks.  The bulls coral their large groups of “ladies” and go at it making loud bugling noises to manage the whole situation.  Elks are all over the place and tourists are also stopped everywhere to look at them.  The animals can come pretty close and stop traffic when they cross the roads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are experiencing both real and imagined issues with breathing because of the altitude.  We should be fine.  We are taking some medication.

It is supposed to snow today, but we are going to try to do some walks today before we head for our stop for the night, Parachute, Colorado.  So far things are not going exactly as initially planned, but that is is fine.  What are you gonna do? Our middle name ought to be “Flexibility”.

As I type this in the morning in my hotel room, I looked out of the window to find some elk crossing the main road.  I will post a picture in the next blog.

Fair warning that they blogs are being generated on the fly with minimum additional editing at this time. I might fix things later.