Stories of Our Lives

Each one of us comes with our own life story.  I believe that every story is unique, and that this story is strongly influenced by where we come from, and the circumstances that we grew up in.  I was more conscious of the existence of such stories when encountering people during our recent road trip out west.  It was not just about experiencing the places, it was also about trying to get to get to know a little bit about the people in any little way possible, with the faint possibility of even understanding something a little more substantial about individual lives.  Others’ stories are as important as our own, regardless of what you think of their achievements, or yours.  And many people are, for the most part, just trying to get by and make a living without hurting somebody else, and trying to find some happiness in their lives.  That is universal.  Life is not necessarily about becoming powerful, famous, and well-known, even though that would not be very obvious from what we are used to hearing in the news.

In my mind, most of the interesting interactions with people took place when we were in some of the smaller places, and mostly when we met people associated with the smaller mom-and-pop establishments, like some of the motels we stayed in, or some of the  restaurants we ate at.   Thankfully, there are still places that have not been overtaken by the big hotel chains and other “name brand” commercial establishments. There are places where you can find things that seem more genuine.  In some of the smaller places that we visited, there were even people we encountered who ran multiple establishments or operations of different kinds – like the hotel, the country store, and maybe even the town’s gas station and/or a restaurant.  Life could be about making a living and being happy. It does not necessarily have to be about defining a always rising career.

In the places we were visiting, you could try to imagine the background of the people you were interacting with or talking to (hopefully without romanticizing it unnecessarily), and if things turned in that direction, you could even strike up a conversation with them and get to know something specific about them.

In circumstances like this, when one did get a chance to interact with people, they usually tended to be open and friendly.  There was no reaction that would indicate discomfort because of how dissimilar or out of place tourists like us might have seemed be in the particular situation.  I say that because you typically do not see a large number of Indian tourists at the kinds of places we visited.   That having been said, I am not sure if the people we were meeting were as curious about us as we were about them.  Nevertheless…

Here are some of the folks that I remember from our travels, folks who in many cases were from the little towns that we were passing through:

The waitress at Doug’s Steak and BBQ in  Monticello, UT;  the waitress at The Broken Spur Steakhouse in Torrey who went out her way to customize a dessert for us – she looked busy but she did not ignore us;  the waitress with a east European accent  at Rustler’s restaurant in the town of Tropic, UT,  – we did not have the conversation to figure out how she ended up in Tropic, but she appeared to be bringing up her daughter there; the friendly waitress at Mango’s in Red Cliff, CO, who was cheerfully also serving the noisy crowd at the bar, but nevertheless talked to us a little bit.  (If you do go to Red Cliff, ask about the many dollar bills you will find attached to the ceiling in Mango’s using tacks).

I remember the girl at the hotel front desk at the Green Bridge Inn in Red Cliff, CO.  She clued me in on what there was to do in and around her little town.  The lady who checked us in at the Blue Mountain Horsehead Inn in Monticello cheerfully talked to us about the few eateries in her small town and gave us a sense about how small it was.  They have one traffic light in town, where the two main roads of the town intersect.

The owner of the Peak-to-Peak motel at Estes Park, CO, was manning the front desk of the motel himself.  I got the impression that he took also care of a lot of the things in the motel by himself.  It felt like that kind of an operation. I think he lived in the little house I could see outside the window of our motel room.  He helped us look for a place for dinner and even chatted a little bit about stuff.  His accent did not seem to be of the place.

The lady who was taking care of the Country Store at Cannonville, UT, when we checked in also owned and ran the Grand Staircase Inn.  When we did not have the change with us to pay for what we had bought from the store, she asked us to pay her whenever we were back down at the store, even if it was the next day.   We met her cousin the next morning when we went down for breakfast. She told us that the only two commercial activities in town were the motel and a cement factory.  Apparently, the place always had a small feel to it.

Bernice, the young Navajo girl who was our tour guide at Upper Antelope Slot canyon near Page, AZ, was a whiz with any camera that came here way.  She would take the pictures for the people in her tour with their own cameras.  The pickup truck that she was driving made all kinds of sounds as we traversed the sandy wash, but it made it.  It did not seem to be in the best of shape.  I suspected that the pickup truck was hers, but never found out.  If there had been some spare time, I might have tried to find out more about the life experiences of a young Navajo girl.  When I asked, she said that she did not own a real camera, but muttered something about getting one.  How affordable would something like that be for somebody who earned a living the way she did?

I remember the kindly old native American lady we met at the pullout at Monument Valley.  She was selling trinkets that she had made, and she was willing to talk about herself, where she lived, the circumstances under which she grew up, the life of the Navajo people in general, etc.  She told us that the young Navajo went to college outside the reservation so that they could find jobs.    There were not many jobs in the reservation.

Torrey, UT, is a very small place.  There are small number of private hotels just outside town on the way from Torrey to Capital Reef National park.  One of them was the Noor Hotel.  On our way out of town we stopped at the gas station connected to the hotel.  I had to go into the store to get a receipt.  I could have sworn that the lady behind the counter looked middle eastern.  Unfortunately, it was not the right time to start a conversation and find out.  I did find out that the hotel had changed hands in the last couple of years.

The ranger at the Interagency Visitor Center for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was very friendly.  She took the time to engage with us and to talk about the place, at one point even looking up a book to try to find out information about some plant that Teresa was interested in.  I do not know if she was actually from the local area.  I do not know what the hiring process is for folks who do these kinds of jobs.   In general, the rangers we interacted with were young and enthusiastic, and tried to be helpful.

The circumstances under which we saw the cowboys was not geared towards any meaningful interaction, but I have to wonder about the life of a cowboy these days.  I tried to take a good look at the face of one of these cowboys, but I could not gather a decent impression because I had to concentrate on driving.  Of course, he was wearing a cowboy hat!

Many of the employees in the restaurants that we went to in the very touristy town of Moab appeared to be of Hispanic background, whereas, we did not see many Hispanics on the streets.  It seemed like there was a story somewhere there.

Everyone has his (or her) own story to tell.

 

Colorado, Utah, and Arizona by Car – The Epilogue

(You might notice that the subject line for this sequence of blogs has finally gotten corrected in the last posting of the series!  It’s the least I could do.)

It happened when we were in Kanab, UT.  It had been a while since we had gone to a Chinese Restaurant.  Luo’s Cafe was close enough to the hotel for us to walk to.  The food, and especially the hot soup, was welcome on a cold evening after the active day in Zion National Park. We got fortune cookies at the end of dinner.  The one I opened up said “In the near future, you will discover how fortunate you are.”  I have thought of myself as very fortunate for many years of my life.  So this message about making a “discovery” was incorrect in a way, but considering the nature of the trip that we were making, it was still interesting, and perhaps timely, anyway.  The other fortune cookie had the message “It is better to have beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”  Please contact me if you can figure that one one out!

Here are some stats from the trip.
According to the odometer in the car, we covered 2579 miles during this trip.  This might be equivalent to driving across the country.

The places we stayed in were Denver, Estes Park, and Parachute, in Colorado; Moab and Monticello in Utah; then Monument Valley and Page in Arizona; back to Kanab, Cannonville and Torrey in Utah; and finally Red Cliff and Denver in Colorado.

The National Parks we visited were Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonland (two different sections), Mesa Verde, Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef.  Places visited also included Monument Valley, Pike’s Peak, Four Corners, and a few state parks.  We passed through numerous interesting little towns, including places like Escalante in Utah, and Parachute, Red Cliff, and Leadville in Colorado.  We did drive through a town called “No Name”, and drove past a restaurant called the “Bla, Bla, Blah Cafe” towards the end of the trip.

Most of the travel was on the Colorado Plateau.   We started off at an elevation of slightly over 5400 feet, in Denver, and probably stayed at an altitude above that most of the time, finally hitting over 14,100 feet at Pikes Peak.

The weather cooperated for the most part.  Even when it rained in the night or in the morning, it would clear out in time so that we could do something outside.  We had some really cold mornings, even around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but it usually warmed up enough for us to get going.  We always dressed in layers, and the outerwear would go into the backpack as we warmed up during a walk.  The snow that we experienced was not significant enough to cause problems, but it did bring an additional element of beauty to our travels.

One of the surprises for me was the fact there are still cowboys in the west, and that cattle still roam the open range in Utah.  There is definitely still a western culture.  Another delightful surprise was the discovery of the town of Red Cliff in Colorado.  I could have spent more time in that area, including a drive through Shrine Pass.  I could probably have also spent some more time at places like Cortez, Escalante and Leadville.  But we had other places to get to.

People we encountered were generally nice and helpful.  Conversations were not very deep. Politics never came up and that helped us stay out of trouble.  The servers at the restaurants were mostly  genuine and hardworking, and we ended up talking to some of them, and even tipping more than usual.

There were many tourists from Europe.  I  noticed very few black families in the parks.   This is unfortunate. On the other hand, the number of oriental tourists we encountered was staggering. For a reason I cannot fathom, tourists from India are found in large numbers in Page, AZ.

It took me a significant amount of organizing effort to make sure that we had a place to stay every night of the trip, and that these places would be suitably located relative to things that I thought were good to experience.   There was no issue with any of the hotel reservations, and some of the facilities had their own character and were interesting in themselves.  There might be one or two changes that I would make if I had to do this again, mainly related to location, but things worked out nicely for the most part.  I had also created a list of things that sounded interesting to see and do for every place that we stayed at.

I did all the driving, but Teresa worked out all the details of packing and unpacking and managing the stuff that we carried during our hikes.  My outerwear to handle cold weather stayed in the back seat of the car for the most part when I was not wearing it.  I spent significant amount of time every evening, and the next morning, working on the blog for the day.   I used to wake up very early in the morning and slept less than usual overall.  It must have been the difference in time zones that I never adjusted to.  But I have also noticed that something like this happens to me every time I make a trip like this.

We jointly decided what we would try to see and do on a particular day, and it mostly worked out.  We were flexible in planning and adjusting when things did not go exactly as planned, especially when it rained.  Sometimes the advance planning was minimal.  We did not see everything we would have liked to.  There was not enough time.  We did most things together – there were a couple of occasions when I did a little extra on the trails.  We managed to not get on each other’s nerves too much.  It was good teamwork.  Teresa actually started proof-reading my blogs after the first few days.  I know it helped, but I suspect that a bunch of editorial stuff still needs to be addressed.  I will try to fix errors as I find them.

The return to Gaithersburg and reality was smooth but I would not call it pleasant.  The election season is upon us, and it is the season of lying and spreading fear.   But a day at the Manna food bank revived my spirit somewhat.

I did manage to rescue the jacket that I had left at the security checkpoint on our way out of Dulles Airport on the 6th.  Some people may not be happy about that, hoping that this rather tattered piece of clothing would disappear.  But I think there is something to be said about being sentimental about old things.

Here is the link to a page that lets you access all the blogs for the trip in the correct order.

By the way, this is an amazingly beautiful country!

 

 

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 15, The Return Home

The last day was somewhat relaxed since our flight out of Denver was only in the afternoon.  I had time to work on the blog for the 14th day, the one that I could not start work on the night before.  We headed out to the airport early just in case there were delays in processing, especially at the car rental place.  The day after we had arrived and rented the car, as we were driving to Boulder, we had noticed a crack in the windshield on the top left side.  It was in a location that you would normally not look at.  Most likely it had not been noticed and the car had been rented anyway.  We had continued driving the car anyway, not wanting to turn back and return to the rental place and lose time.  The windshield had held up, but we were not sure what to expect from the rental company.  Perhaps they would blame us.  Things went smoothly, but I do not know if they get back to us later to try to add additional charges.  I should note that the vehicle that we were driving, a Dodge Journey SUV, performed admirably.

One of the handles on the big bag that we were traveling with came apart as I was lifting it into the car at the hotel.  Of the three original handles on this suitcase that had been bought in Australia many years ago, only one working handle remained.  Fortunately, the folks at the United Airlines counter were helpful and did not create a fuss. They taped up the broken handle so that nobody would try to use it, and the bag has made it home.  The suitcase will be promptly discarded.  It has served its purpose over the years.  It has even been to Africa!

Getting through security at the airport was a smooth process, and I had time to put the finishing touches to the blog for the 14th day, and to send it out.  I bought a sandwich for us to share on the plane.  The flight was not as long as we expected, probably because of the speed of the prevailing winds.  We sat next to a young girl, originally from Colorado Springs, but now living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Her flight to Sao Paulo was from Dulles airport.)  She was quite talkative, and has lived an interesting life even though she is very young.  Her family background is diverse, both in the nature of where people in the family come from, and also in the nature of where they have settled  down all over the world.  She is really into the outdoors, and has traveled a lot around the world, including to India.  But what impressed us most was the fact that she spent 8 months in Kabul in a girls school.  She was supposed to be there for 3 months, training teachers in teaching math, but liked the experience so much that she extended her stay.  She was getting her Masters Degree from Tufts University at that time, and took a leave of absence to do this.  Hope things go well for her.

It took us a long time to get home from the airport because we were using an airport shuttle service.  I have to find an alternative strategy the next time.

But now we are home and trying to get back to our regular routine.  It is a somewhat cool and windy Fall day here in Maryland.

I will finish up this series of blogs with an Epilogue some time.  Sorry, no pictures to share today!

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!