The Fallen Leaves

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA carpet of dead leaves covers the ground, lit up by the bright morning light.  The leaves glow in the warmth of the sun.  There is a beauty in the dying.

Before we know it, the golden leaves will all be swept away.  The winds of winter, even now, renew their strength. They blow our way from the north once again.  Soon we will be scurrying to find shelter from the bone-chilling cold as Old Man Winter reaches out with his icy fingers.

And this will pass eventually.  As Winter fades into Spring, the cycle will start once more. There will be renewal.  All this will happen without a care for what you or I think, and without care for your or my presence…  And so it goes.

Days of Autumn

I wrote an optimistic blog a couple of days ago.  I had seen the sun come out and was ready to bask in its glory.

Alas, it was not to be!  The clouds appeared in the sky soon after I posted the blog, and the weather turned gloomy once again.  All motivation to go out and get some exercise soon faded away.

But the sun did come out once again yesterday.  The bright blue sky stayed that way the whole day.  I could go out for a run, in preparation for the Feaster Five event that one is going to participate in on Thanksgiving.

As I was driving around the neighborhood, I noticed a couple of bright spots in the midst of the drab surroundings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough Fall has generally been a dull affair this year, there are still some isolated flashes of brilliance to be experienced before it is all gone.

And then it turned cold and cloudy once again today.  And now it is raining!  Dang!

These are the days of Autumn.  I suppose that is what one should expect.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 14

This was the day the adventure finally came to a end and we returned to reality.  No, we are not home yet, but we started the morning in an unknown little mining town in the middle of Colorado, and ended in the bustling city of Denver.  We spent the night in a Hampton Inn hotel in the busy city, and we fly back home today.  The mood has already shifted.

This was the scene outside our hotel room at Red Cliff in the morning.  A light snow had fallen overnight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOff in the distance, the sun was trying to break through.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOff to the east, the sun lit up the snow-covered evergreens.  This was the direction of Shrine Pass and the road that was not taken.  That may remain a dream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe headed up the hill and out of town to get back on to US 24.  This road did not seem as narrow as it did to us the previous evening, except at the point where it hit the highway, where they seemed to have had to cut down a little bit of the side of the mountain to create the entrance to the road.  There was an overhang that seemed like it would be nasty for tall vehicles.

Then it was back on US 24 East.  There was more snow around, but the road had been cleared pretty well by that time, and it had stopped snowing. Nevertheless, one had to be extra careful when driving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at the town of Leadville and stopped to fill gas.  Next to the town were the Sawatch Range of the Rocky mountains.  Mt. Massive is the closest high peak, over 14,000 feet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had selected a route that went through Leadville because I had read about this somewhat less known, and perhaps unremarkable to some, town in a book on running.  This is the location of the annual Leadville Trail 100, “The Race Across the Sky”, an ultra-marathon where runners covered 100 miles in the Rocky Mountains.  I do not think I am going to do that any time soon!

The town itself had a western feel to it, a feeling that we have gotten very used to during these travels.  Outside this little cafe you could hear the kind of music that one might have heard in an old western movie, typically in a saloon.  (If I remember correctly this sometimes happened before a gunfight broke out.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took this picture from the middle of the road.  I was ready for a shootout!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are more pictures of the town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then we were out of town, driving further south in the shadow of the Rockies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left the snow behind after we left town.  As we drove further south, we saw signs for Mt Harvard, Mt. Yale and Mt. Princeton, all mountains higher than 14,000 feet.  What an elitist bunch of folks, the people who named these mountains!  These are also called the Collegiate mountains.

The road headed south for a long time, and then turned east just beyond Buena Vista, a somewhat sizable town.

Then we were headed east, on a big plain, on a road that ran straight and true for miles and miles.  There were fields beside us with cows and horses, and then we saw some animals that we did not recognize.  I think they were some kind of deer.

We climbed out of plains into parkland area.  The scenery was still beautiful, but not as compelling as what we had experienced in the last few days.  But to somebody who was seeing this after having spent all their lives driving in suburbia, this could also seem remarkable.

We passed a little outpost where I finally stopped to take some pictures of buildings that had a western feel to it.  This was not the best we had seen during our travels, but this was perhaps the last time we would see such buildings during the travels.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was when we entered the town of Ute Pass that we knew that we were back in civilization as we have known it all our lives.  It was a bigger place with a lot of people, a lot of commercial buildings typical of suburbia around us, and names of stores familiar to us.

Shortly out of town, we arrived at the start of Pikes Peak highway.  There were already lines forming to pay the fees and enter.  You have to drive about 20 miles to get to the top.  This picture was taken at mile 10 where we decided to stop for some lunch.  We might have sat at the picnic benches had it not been for the description they had at the place for black bears.  We ate in the car.  You can see the top of Pikes Peak towards the left side of the picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left the forest of evergreens as we climbed.  The trees thinned out and eventually disappeared.

The last phase of the climb involved a lot of short and sharp switchbacks up the bare face of the mountain.  You had to be really careful.  We ended up behind a very slow driver who allowed a convoy of about 20 cars to form behind him.  The directions for driving this road clearly state that one should pull over and let others pass if there are three cars behind them. (I am told that it is not good to called people names in a blog. So I will avoid doing that.) We reached the top of the mountain in this fashion, in a convoy of slow cars.

We were actually a little disappointed when we got there.  There is a wide flat area on top, and the area that we were entering through was blocked off with a lot of construction equipment.  Additionally, there were a lot of cars and people around.  There was a guy who was helping people get parking.

Here is a view of a vista at the top of the mountain (click on the picture, as usual!).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were at a height where breathing could be difficult if you were not prepared.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter stopping in the cafeteria for their world-famous donuts and a cup of hot chocolate, we stepped out behind the gift shop to take in the view.

The pictures below show the place where the cog railroad used to end.  This railroad actually operated until recent times, but is out of commission because there is extensive maintenance work needed, and it is going to be tough to get spare parts and fix something that is not a mainstream product these days.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a guy who has taken off his shirt.  The temperature was below freezing!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lake blow is called Crystal Reservoir.  It serves the city of Colorado Springs close by.  We will stop by this lake on the way down the mountain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can walk the trail down the mountain.  In fact, there are supported bike rides you can do down the mountain on the road.  Can you imagine how hot the brakes are going to be as you proceed downhill!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a few stops on the way down.  Here is a picture of the road at one of these spots, of the direction we had come from.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis car looks like it is too close to the edge!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the road going down the mountain in one of the steeper sections.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken from Crystal reservoir, where we stopped for an extended break.  You can see the building at the top of Pikes peak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe blue color of the clear water was remarkable.  Pikes Peak is to the left of the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ripples in the water stopped at some point, and I could take the following picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe realized that we had taken much less time to explore Pikes Peak than what we had been led to believe would be needed.  The evening was still early, and we had to figure out what to do next.  We opened up the AAA tour guide book to the pages for Colorado Springs.  It seems like The Garden of the Gods was the topmost on the list of things to see.  That was where we headed.

The GPS device told us to go in one direction to get to the park, whereas the instructions on the city streets gave us a different direction.  We followed street signs.  It was the wrong decision.  Instead of the Visitor Center, we ended up at the Trading Post.  We parked there anyway, thinking that there might be a visitor center hidden somewhere.  It was at this point that an overwhelming sense of tiredness overcame me.  I was running out of energy.  It was time for a Clif bar. We went in to get directions for hiking and were given a map and some somewhat vague directions.  We decided that we wanted to head for the Siamese Twins.

We headed down a trail that seemed to be the right direction.  A park ranger who had been driving on the road next to the trail stopped and gave us us an official trail map of the park (which was different from what we got at the Trading Post).  We had been going in the wrong direction.

We did make it to the Siamese Twins.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the Trading Post as we walked back to the parking lot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had initially wanted to also walk in another section of the park, but I realized that I was too tired.  It must have been all the driving.  We decided to head out to our hotel in Denver right away.

On the way out, we passed the place where we had initially wanted to also walk after seeing the Siamese Twins.  It was actually the more interesting part of the places in the park, with its huge rock formations.  It was the place we would have ended up in if we had stopped at the actual Visitor Center. That is the way it goes.

We joined the traffic heading north on Interstate 25 towards Denver.  It was rush-hour time on a Friday evening, and there was construction on the road.  Welcome back to the trappings of civilization.

We went out for dinner soon after we checked into the hotel.  There was a Thai restaurant within walking distance.  The food was good, except that the chef had probably mixed up the dishes that were supposed to be very spicy, and I got more than I had bargained for.  Some Chang beer from Thailand helped cool things down.

Back at the hotel, I downloaded pictures from the phone to the computer, but that was as far as I got before an overwhelming urge to sleep overtook me.  I conked out the minute my head hit the pillow.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 13

It was around freezing temperatures when we woke up, but the light breeze made it feel colder.  My fingers froze the moment I stepped out to take a morning picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were down for breakfast as soon as the place was open.  The food was the standard fare, but it was very good in spite of that fact.  The bread and the pancakes were outstanding.

And then it was off to the Capitol Reef for a morning of hiking.  We would be leaving for Red Cliff, CO, as early in the afternoon as possible.  The cold weather would not stop us hiking, but there was the slight chance of rain that could.

This picture was taken from the car as we started descending from the rise in the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove past the Fruita schoolhouse.PA180031.jpgThe next stop was at a roadside display for Petroglyphs. What we saw here was not as impressive as the one in Newspaper Rock Historic State Monument.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also passed a few orchards along the way.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally arrived at the trail head for the Grand Wash Trail that we were planning to do.

For those who do not know, a wash is a path that water flows through naturally only when there is excessive rain and flash flooding. We had never walked a trail in a wash before.

This particular wash was a path for the water flowing between cliffs of mountains. Essentially, the wash was in a canyon, and the path of the water depended on the nature of the canyon. An obstruction in the way because of the presence of a mountain would cause the wash to change direction.

This picture was taken near the beginning of the walk.  For the purposes of the hike, you could walk anywhere in the wash.  The surface was covered with small rocks of all kinds.  It was also muddy because of the rain the previous day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt began to drizzle as we started our walk, but we continued.  There seemed to be no danger of flash flooding.

When the water encounters a barrier and changes direction, it actually eats into the rock and weakens it.  You can see this happening in the picture below.  Eventually the rock will have to collapse as more and more of it is eaten away.  This is the way of nature.  Nothing lasts forever.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture shows how the position of the mountain changes the direction of the wash.  The tall cliffs in front are a barrier to water flow.  The wash changes direction to the left of the picture.  The direction of this wash kept changing direction every few hundred yards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe distance between the cliffs got reduced significantly in the narrows section.  Imagine the waters of a flash flood encountering these sections.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water has cut deep into this rock as it changes direction here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the narrows section of the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wash did widen out after a while.  The rocks had interesting shapes and towered over you, all around you.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe depression in the rock in front was huge.  I am not sure what caused it, but it is in the way the water changes its direction.  It could be that a slab fell out.  It looked like an amphitheater to me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw rocks of all kinds of color in the the bed of the wash.  I did not get a picture of the orange ones.  All of these pieces are carried by the water when there is a flash flood.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the other end of the trail.  You can drive on a dirt road to this point on the scenic road that I took pictures of in the previous blog.  There is even a basic restroom here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pictures were taken on the way back.  Look at the shapes that the water has carved on the rocks near the canyon floor.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took this picture just to capture the beauty of these massive rock formations.   You can see that this mountain is a barrier to the flow of water and changes the direction of the wash.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is all created by flowing water!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then we had the sighting of the bighorn sheep!  We had been waiting for something like this all through the trip, and it finally happened on our last day in Utah.  You should have seen this guy navigating the rocks.  They are very surefooted.  We have to thank the couple who were hiking in front of us for directing our attention to the animal. We could have missed it completely!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took this picture just because I was imagining what this rock face looked like.  There are a lot of faces in pain looking down on you!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the end of our walk in the wash after a couple of hours.  It was around noontime. My not-so-trusty GPS said that we had walked 6 miles, while the sheet of paper in my hands said that we should have actually walked 4.4. miles.  I think the distance we covered is closer to what the GPS device says.  We stayed on the bed of the wash even when there were shortcuts beside it.

And then we continued our drive through the park to head out of town, and on to Red Cliff, Colorado.  We had a long drive ahead of us.  As we hit the east end of the park we encountered some very dark rock formations that were also quite pretty. This picture was taken from the passenger seat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove on Interstate 70 for hours with only a short stop to use the restroom.  A lunch of trail mix and apple were consumed as we drove.

We arrived at the exit for Red Cliff near the town of Vail and took US 24 heading east.  The GPS device said that we had to drive 9.9 miles on this road to arrive at our destination, but it was also turned off at this point because it was giving me bogus directions as we drove.  (Bad software can do terrible things!)

Anyway, we passed a small little town called Minturn, quite cute, soon as we exited the highway, and then the narrow road that we were on began to climb through woods along the side of a mountain. We climbed and we climbed for a while, until we crossed a marker that said that we were about 13,000 feet!  It seemed that we had been driving on this road for a while and, with no signs of civilization around,  I was beginning to get nervous.  There were other vehicles on the road behind us who seemed to be surer of themselves.  The road was descending rapidly at this point.  I decided to pull over to the side so that we could get our bearings.

I took this picture of the green bridge crossing the valley below as Teresa turned the GPS device on.  (You could not use a smartphone with GPS in these parts because there was no signal!)  She told me that we were a couple of hundred yard from our turnoff for Red Cliff.

Sure enough, when we reached the bridge, just before the start of the bridge, off on the left side, was this narrow road to Red Cliff.  You can almost make out the marker in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was barely place for two vehicles to pass on this narrow road set against the cliff.  It  was descending rapidly.  In the valley you could see a little town with old houses and even a railroad track.  There was no way to pull over to take pictures.

The village below us was Red Cliff.  We had arrived. This is the Green Bridge Inn that we are staying at.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view from outside our third floor room.   The room was very nice, with all the modern fittings, but it also had its own character.  Rooms like this are much more enjoyable that the cookie-cutter rooms of the big hotel chains.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was taken by the look of this small village.  When checking in, I asked the girl at the counter questions about the place.  She was from that town.  She gave me a small slip of paper with some information about the village. It was at 9000 feet! It is the oldest town in the Country, formed in the late 1800s, when silver was discovered locally.  At the turn of the 20th century, it boomed as a mining town, with saloons, brothels, bank, sawmills, and even an opera house.

The girl at the check-in counter also told me about a road from the village that went over the Shrine Pass, at 13,000 feet.  She said it was a dirt road in parts, and that we could turn back and return to town any time we wanted.  There is a small sign in the village pointing to this road.  I wish we had time to do this drive, but it is not going to happen.  We have places to go.

There was a walking tour one could do, and the two of us set out on a walk after putting our stuff away.  I was told that you could get a good picture of town from the cemetery on top of the hill.  That was where we went. We were breathing hard in the thin mountain air as we climbed, but we did get there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how high we had climbed above the village from the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures of the village itself that were taken from the cemetery were not clear because of things in the way.

The houses in this village were all different from each other and they looked like they were all in different conditions. Some of them were pretty. I don’t think there is a concept of zoning.  Here is a picture of one of the houses.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople have to depend on satellite signals to connect with the outside world.  We saw people taking walks with their dogs.  The dogs were usually running free.  We could hear people talking to each other outside the homes.  You crossed a bridge to get from one side of town to the other, and below the bridge you could see a stream and the abandoned rail tracks of the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  The trains ran through the valley in these parts during its heyday.

It snowed lightly when we were walking up on the hill. It also felt very cold but I did not know how cold it actually was.  Being up in the mountains, I imagine that temperature can be really low.

We had to find a warm place when we returned from the walk. We walked into the only eatery in town.  It was called Mangos.  This place is not open every day of the week.  We were fortunate about the day of the week we had arrived.  The inside of Mangos turned out to be very modern.  It was primarily a bar and most folks were at the counter, drinking and watching American football or hockey on the big screens.  Our waitress/bartender was very nice and the food was excellent.  In general, we have been very fortunate about the food we have been getting for dinner during this trip.

It had turned dark by the time we were done. Other than a few lights in the houses, the only big source of illumination were the lights from our hotel across the road.  There were no street lights and it felt dark.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a slight headache when I went to bed because of the altitude.  We have been taking diamox for the last couple of days to adjust to the altitude.

Our overnight stay in Red Cliff turned out to be a somewhat unexpected treat.  Today we go to Pikes Peak.  It is at an elevation of over 14,000 feet.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 12

It was raining when I woke up, and it would occasionally rain heavily enough that you could hear it quite loudly.  This part of the ride had been planned carefully.  We had been told that the drive on Utah Route 12 to Torrey and Capital Reef was especially beautiful, and that we should drive this stretch in the morning.  It seemed that all this planning was going to come to naught.  It did not look like a promising start to the day.

I took some more pictures of the Grand Staircase Inn before we departed Cannonville.  It was raining as I crossed the highway to take a few pictures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a short while we began to see snow on the mountains in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we climbed into the mountains, the temperatures began to drop, until they were below freezing, and the rain also changed to a steady snowfall.  The snow continued for a while.  We even passed a snow plow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, as we were driving through a valley between mountains next to a dry desert wash, the snowfall stopped. We could even see the sky brightening up in the distance.

All this while our drive had been alternating between the lands of the Dixie National Forest and the Grand-Escalante National Monument.

In a short while we arrived at the town of Escalante and the offices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a division of the US Department of the Interior that runs Grand-Escalante National Monument. They had a museum dedicated to the National Monument.  Although it was a small museum, there was a lot of interesting information to be found.  The mission of the BLM is to preserve the land and the environment of the National Monument, and to do research and learn more about the land. There are scientists of all kinds who go out looking for, and cataloging, the natural wonders, and the plants and the animals of that region.  They study the geology of the land, and do archeological studies.  The Hopi and the Paiute Indians used to live on this land.  Ancients artifacts of life from their times are discovered and catalogued. And then they look for fossils.  They are finding fossils of animals from really old times, including that of dinosaurs, some of them new types of dinosaurs, and some of them of really huge animals.

I thought that the movie that they showed in this museum was the best we had seen so far during this entire trip.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove through the town to Escalante.  It seems to be a developed place with a lot of amenities of modern life, but it also felt like we had stepped back in time when one looked at the setup of the town, its buildings, and its decor.  We even passed a motel called the Prospector Inn.

It also looked like the place where people who are interested in the outdoors use as a base for activities like hiking and biking.  I wonder if this is a place we would think about coming to for an extended period of time some day in the future.

It did not take too long to drive through the town.  It was still raining as we drove into the wilderness again. We arrived at an overlook into a valley where we, once again, saw clearing skies in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelow us, we could see the road that we were about to take into the valley.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we crossed another mountain range you could see the green trees below us where the Escalante river was flowing.  We are going to get to the road you see in the valley!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road dropped to the level of the river OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbefore starting to climb again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon the road was running on a high mountain ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides. It was a little scary.  Fortunately, there were pullouts where one could stop to take pictures like this.  The skies had cleared by this point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe presence of the trees between the mountains showed that there was water flowing at the bottom between these mountains.  One of these flows is of the Escalante river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe descended from the mountains into a lower area where Boulder was located.

And then the road started to climb once again.  We started to see cows wandering beside the roadside.  Apparently, they are free to graze in the open in these parts. I think this was mamma cowOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwaiting for her little one in the picture below to cross the road and join her.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then we saw the cowboys herding the cattle on both sides of the road.  We slowed down to let them pass.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is quite clear that we are in a part of the west that was captured in the western movies of a time gone by.  This is John Wayne country! The towns that we are passing through, the local hotels that we are staying in, the food, and the way of life here is from another time and place.  Wow!

The road continued to climb until we reached a point where we began to see snow on the roadside.  It had snowed recently.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the summit of the road at an altitude of 9600 feet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then started descending through a winter wonderland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was when we encountered this cow that looked lost. I wonder if the cowboys had lost one of their cows.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cow actually crossed the road in front of us to the side with a drop-off that looked somewhat steep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe think the cowboys lost one of their cows.  Hope it made it home safely!

There was more snow on the way down.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a while we dropped below the snow level.  As we approached the town of Torrey near the Capitol Reef National Park, we could see the distant mountain cliffs with sections lit up by sunlight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ended our unexpectedly eventful and exciting drive on route 12 at this point and turned east on to Utah Route 24 to head into the park.  This part of the drive had taken much longer than I had anticipated, but we had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  In fact, one is tempted to dedicate an entire blog to that topic.

Capitol Reef is quite close to Torrey.  It was afternoon by the time we arrivedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand it was raining as we went to the visitor center.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove to a picnic area for lunch after watching the movie at the visitor Center.

Because of the weather, we were not sure what we were going to do the rest of the day.  With all the water on the ground, the red sandstone mud was becoming sticky and slippery.  It stuck to your shoes and tracked into the car, and any other place you walked into.

We decided to drive to the end of the scenic road in the park, and follow the dirt road at the end of this paved road for a couple of miles to a trail called the Capital Gorge Trail.  The unpaved road ran through a narrow canyon between two mountains.  The trail was into a deep canyon.

It started raining somewhat heavily as we were driving on the paved road. An interesting aspect of this road was that it crosses a large number of desert washes that fill with water when there is flash flooding, and that the roads did not use bridges to cross these washes.  You essentially forded the washes.  You had to keep off the road if there was flooding.

It was raining somewhat heavily when we got to the end of the paved section of the road. There was some nervousness about entering the canyon under these conditions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo we turned to head back towards the Visitor Center. There was nothing to do but to take it easy the rest of the day.  On the way back, we crossed another dirt road that led to the trail head for a different canyon walk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe vehicle in the picture below sped its way past us on to the dirt road, splashing through the red muddy water that was already pooling on its surface.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis park seems to be a somewhat laid-back place.  At the center of the park is what used to be the town of Fruita, a place that was occupied by the Mormons in the first half of the 20th century.  They used to farm the land.  Some of the artifacts of life from those days are still around, and some of them are still used. They still have fruit tree farms and produce canned goods like jams and jellies, and have other items for sale.  You can buy some of this stuff at the Gifford House.  We consumed some locally made ice cream while sitting in our car.  It was too damp ans cold to sit outside.

The barn in the picture below is what you will see in a lot of articles about Capitol Reef National Park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were going to leave the park and check into our hotel early because of the weather.  We decided to stop at the Goosenecks Overlook, and also take the Sunset Point Trail at this location, on our way back.

This turned out to be a good decision.  The skies actually began to clear up in the distance as we approached the viewpoints.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next picture is from Goosenecks viewpoint.  You can see why this name was chosen. The Sulphur Creek flows at the bottom of this canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are pictures of the canyon from the Sunset Point trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I thought the green layer running through the mountain range was striking.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are more pictures of the mountain range that dominates Capitol Reef National Park.  These are also taken from the Sunset Trail.  (Click on the picture!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a close up of one section of the range.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun had popped out of the clouds by the time we arrived at the Broken Spur Inn and Steakhouse, the place that we were staying.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe property also includes a section where you can spend the night in a covered wagon.  We did not do that!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was an early dinner at the steakhouse.  The place was quite busy.  Beef dominates the menu list here.  For dietary reasons, we generally do not eat beet.  We were able to find something else.  The food was top-notch!

I have to note that I have been drinking only the local beers during this trip.  Many of them seem to come from Salt Lake City.  They are pretty good.

We plan to spend the morning today in the park if the weather holds up.  We then head east towards Colorado.  We are headed towards the tail end of our trip!

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 11

When we went down for breakfast at about 6:30am, we were greeted by a crowd of Chinese tourists finishing their breakfast. They had their luggage with them.  They were about to board their bus and be on their way to their next destination. They all looked sleepy. They must have arrived at the hotel after us. In fact, the lady in Luo’s Cafe had been preparing the dinner tables for about 30 tourists the previous night as we left.  It might have been for these folks.  I was wondering if it was the same noisy crowd we had encountered at Horseshoe Bend the previous day.  And we did encounter another noisy crowd at Bryce Canyon that evening, shattering the quiet of the evening with their constant chattering and rushing hither and tither to take all kinds of pictures.

We left Kanab for Bryce Canyon National Park by 8am.  It was a relatively early start for us. We had a somewhat long drive of an hour and a half before we reached our destination.  According to the thermometer in the car the temperature outside was around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, below freezing.  It was cold!  The drive was uneventful.  On our way we passed Dixie National Forest and Red Canyon.  We drove through this tunnel of red rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we reached Bryce, after the obligatory picture at the entrance,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe went to the Visitor Center and talked to the ranger to set up a plan of action.  After watching the documentary about Bryce, we took the shuttle bus to Bryce Point for our first view of the hoodoos.  (It turns out that we did not need to have used the shuttle.  There was ample parking available at the different viewpoints.)  It was still cold outside, but in spite of that there were a lot of enthusiastic fellow tourists with us on the bus.  It did become comfortably warmer later in the day.

Until you come to the rim of the Canyon you have no idea about the natural wonderland that lies below you.  We walked on the trail along the rim of the canyon, stopping at viewpoints along the way, soaking in the dramatic scenery below us. It was like another alien land. Here are some of the many pictures I took.  The primary feature of this park are the hoodoos that dominate the canyon floor.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed Inspiration Point and then stopped at Sunset Point for some lunch.  After lunch, we walked further along the rim to Sunrise Point, and then took the Queen’s Garden Trail down into the canyon valley to walk among the hoodoos. The way down was quite steep, and we could see people going the other way having a hard time with their efforts coming up.  This looked even harder than our climb in Zion National Park, but, fortunately, it was only about 600 feet.  At the bottom of the canyon we walked among the hoodoos and the evergreens.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe minerals were a light color when seen closeup.  There were lots of signs of heavy water flow and erosion.  Birds and chipmunks abounded.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw people riding horses on the horse trail.

There were a lot of people walking on the trails.  It was great to see the families with the little kids.

We had gotten on to the “Wall Street” section of the Navajo trail at the bottom of the canyon to make our way up to the top.  As we walked this trail, we entered a slot canyon. Ahead of us were a series of switchbacks that took you straight up the canyon wall.  It was a challenging and fun climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were tired at the end of the climb, and this, and the noisy Chinese tourists, were signs for us that it was time to quit the hiking. We had walked over 6 miles, some of it under challenging conditions, by then.

We took the bus back the Visitor Center, and hopped into our car for a drive to the viewpoints at the far end of the park.  Yovimpa and Rainbow Points, at the end of the road, were the highest parts in the park (over 9000 feet), and the coldest. I was not able to get a good picture here, but at the next stop, at Agua Canyon, we saw these colorful formations,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAincluding a rock that looked like it was balancing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture at Natural Bridge viewpoint.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was on to our hotel in Cannonville, UT, a few miles away from the park.  We were quite tired and left the park relatively early.

Cannonville turns out to be an interesting place in the middle of the countryside.  To get here, you first pass the little village of Tropic, with its old fashioned General Store, restaurants, gas station, and motels, and with quite a few tourists, perhaps mostly European.

Then you arrive at Cannonville, and this motel is the only big building in town that you see as you turn the corner on Route 12.  There are gas pumps in front of the building, and you walk into a small country market where the lady who is handling the counter checks you into the hotel.  It is all owned by the same people.  The rooms in this motel are huge and comfortable and have modern facilities, although they have older furnishings.  The place is very nice, and it seems to have gained some popularity even though it is in an isolated space.  There were a couple of bicycles parked at the front of the building when we checked it.  This was a good find!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had dinner last night in Tropic in a small western themed restaurant called Rustlers that was attached to the General Store.  The food was good.  Everything was fresh. The waitress had an East European accent, which was strange to encounter in a place like this.

I think it is going to rain steadily today as we make our way up to Capital Reef National Park.  Perhaps one should take it easy.

 

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 10

The visit to Zion National Park today was one of the great experiences that I hope to never forget.   It was an amazing day!

We have a general tendency to avoid the obviously touristy places and their crowds, but Zion was the place that showed me that it is possible to have a great experience even when the place is packed with tourists.  In this case, the park has set itself up to serve the tourists in a very effective way, dealing with the bottlenecks of crowds arriving in large numbers at peak times, and also having most of these tourists passing through a couple of points of entry and through a single visitor center.  There is a shuttle bus service which ensures that you do not have to rush through the park in your car causing unnecessary pollution and also frustration in finding places to park during the day.  Furthermore, the type of people who come to these places tend to be outdoorsy types, respectful of the space that they are in, and respectful of other people who are visiting.   They all also seemed to be well prepared for their outdoor activities with what they were wearing and what they were carrying. Once people get dispersed to the various spaces in the park and take to the longer and more challenging trails the crowds dissipate, and except for the popular trails, all is good.  The system seems to work in spite of the volumes of traffic.

The day started out with very cold temperatures.  We had packed warmly for the outing.  We need not have been concerned about the weather.  Once we got to the park and got moving everything turned out well.

We headed north out of town on US 89. We reached Zion taking Utah Highway9 from US 89.  At the entrance to the park the color of the road surface actually changed to a shade of brown. I do not remember seeing such a surface anywhere else.  The speed limit dropped as the road began to wind through the hills.  We began to see the mountains on the east side of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the 1.1 mile Mt. Carmel tunnel that takes you across the mountain to the western side of the park.  The tunnel was completed in 1930 and provided a way through the mountains in this section of the mountains for the first time.  The tunnel is quite narrow.  They were running one-way traffic when we arrived, probably because a bus and an RV were trying to get through.  They would take up both lanes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the picture below you can see one of the holes that was blasted in the side of the  mountain to provide a view point from the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs soon as the road crosses the tunnel, it switchbacks it way to the bottom of the canyon in a very dramatic way.  You can pull over to the side of the road in many places and you can get views like this.  These colorful mountains tower over the narrow canyon.  It is awe inspiring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Visitor Center to get ourselves oriented and figure out where we were going.  We decided to take the shuttle bus to its last stop, The temple of Sinawava, to take the Riverside Walk.  You get a lot of information on the bus during this 40 minute ride, and you can enjoy fabulous views from the bottom of the canyon, including this picture of the mountains called the Patriarchs, including the three peaks, Jacob, Abraham, and Issac.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou also pass the a peak that is probably called Angels Landing.  It is the terminal point for the Angels Landing trail, a climb of 1488 feet over really challenging terrain that is not for the weak of heart.  A one point you will be climbing and walking on open rock high over this open space, completely exposed, with only a metal chain railing to grab on to.  Other younger people in the family have done this trail in the past.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZion’s canyon was formed by the Virgin river that flows along its bottom.  Over millions of years the river has cut its way down through many layers of rock.  The place can become dangerous when the river floods.  The river was calm during our visit.  The riverside walk was very crowded, but there was always the opportunity to go off the trail and find a calm space beside the river itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end point of the trail, one can proceed further into the canyon by walking in the river itself.  You can go for miles, and many young people had come prepared to do this.  It sounded like fun, but not something we could indulge in today.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had something to eat as we sat by the river side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter this hike we took the bus to the stop for the hike to Weeping rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike to Weeping Rock was short but it was quite challenging in parts.  At the end of the hike you find yourself in a rock alcove with dripping springs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next hike started at the same place.  We climbed up the mountain you see in the picture below on the East Rim Trail to Echo Slot Canyon.  We had to climb up to the trees that you see in the picture below.  Basically, one is going up the face of the mountain that you are looking at using extended switchbacks.  You have a view of the valley below as you are climbing.  This proved to be a very challenging effort but quite rewarding. We took it slow and easy, with plenty of stops.  Lots of young people passed us on the way up, but speed was not the goal here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the valley as we started the climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Weeping rock, the place we had gone to earlier, as we climbed the East Rim Trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the valley when we finally reached the top of this section of the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail then continued on the other side, behind the open face of the mountain, in an opening between two cliffs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou could see the slot canyon below you in places.  They looked difficult to navigate, but it apparently can be done.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter passing through the gap in the mountains, you arrive at an open space on the other side.  We declared success at this point and turned to head back to the trail head. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy GPS device was having all kinds of issues during this climb, either because of the terrain, or because of a bad software download.  So I do not know how much ground we covered.  The hike took a couple of hours. We probably walked only about three miles in all, but we might have climbed about a thousand feet.

We were exhausted after this hike, but it was quite exhilarating to have done it.  The rest of our stay in the park was just icing on the cake.

The next walk was on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail.  It was somewhat unremarkable.  The trail was crowded.

We took the shuttle bus back to the museum to watch the movie about the park, and then walked back to the Visitor Center on the Pa’rus trail that ran along the canyon floor close to the river.  These pictures are from the walk.  We walked amidst the mountains.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are plenty of camping sites at Zion National Park, and it looked like all of them were occupied.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last stop was at the gift store to get a replacement light jacket for the one that I had left behind at the security check at Dulles Airport on the way in.

Then it was time to head back to Kanab for the night.  It took a long time to get out of the park because we were stuck in a long line of cars, slowed down because of a couple of drivers who did not seem to have the good sense to pull over when they got a chance to let the others through.

We walked over to Luo’s Cafe, close to the hotel that we were staying at, for our first dinner of Chinese food during this trip.  It all went down quickly because we were very hungry.  Back at the hotel, we took our baths and crashed out.  I, of course, spent some time processing some pictures for this blog.

We are heading north to Bryce National Park today.  It is going to be colder today than yesterday!