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Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

After driving back roads from Arches to Colorado, I came to a small town called Marcos. I saw what looked like a cool little restaurant with outdoor seating. After leaving 100+ temperatures, the 83 degrees in Colorado was a welcome change. The restaurant was Millwood Junction and I had their Ruben with macaroni salad.

Yes it was as good as it looked. I also drank about 800 gallons of tea. I suppose maybe I was a little dehydrated. So I asked the waitress what I should see while I was here. Without hesitation she said that Mesa Verde was a must see. And it was only 8 miles up the road. Awesome. Finished lunch and headed that way. I had no idea what Mesa Verde was. Dumb tourist.

By the way, the park pass I bought for $80 more than paid for itself on this trip.

The only campground in the park is Morefield Campground. It had plenty of availability so I took site 56 in the Zuni loop at $31.44 a night. The sites are average and not very well maintained. The staff up at Knife Edge were very nice. Knife Edge is the camp store etc. they have a nice store, gasoline pumps, showers, laundry facilities and a little grill with wifi. I asked one of the staff there what she felt was the must see part of the park. She recommended the Balcony House tour, but said I would need to get a ticket as it is a Ranger guided tour. I’m not much on tours but she said that was the only way to see this particular place. Tickets were only $5 so I picked one up for the earliest tour the next day. I was not disappointed.

I got there early and waited for the tour. I knew we would get to see the ruins but I still didn’t know we were going to be able to walk and climb through them. By the way, if you have a fear of heights or cramped places don’t take this tour. There are several others that have much easier access.

This is the view from above Balcony House.

The ladder up from below.

Same ladder from above.

This is the first room. Taking the first tour of the day assures that you are the only group there and provides a much better experience.

This is one of the “balcony’s” that the house is named for. Still the original materials.

Selfie.

View of the next room through a window.

The next room we entered.

The floor was amazingly smooth and flat.

This is one of the reasons they built here. This is a cistern where water would collect because of the differences in rock structure.

Fire pit and vent. They would cover this area with a roof of poles and brush to provide shelter in the winter. This is called a Kiva.

Our ranger. Notice that there are no guard rails. Darwin approves.

Another Kiva.

Ladders up and back to the top. That’s Bill and his family from Pennsylvania. He is a General Contractor on vacation. They were just an awesome family.

Ladder from the midway point. To get to that landing you had to crawl through an 18 inch opening for about 10 feet. Bill had to crawl through at an angle. I took a picture but it was so dark that it didn’t turn out. Again, heights and small spaces. Take another tour if you don’t like them.

Second ladder up.

Back up top. If you are in to history and ancient civilizations, I highly recommend Mesa Verde. And take the tour, you will not be disappointed.

Some more pictures of the area.

 

 

 

 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Up early (5:30 am) to beat the heat. I wanted to get inside the park and to Delicate Arch by 6:30 am. Ate a granola bar and drank plenty of water on the way there.

This is what part of the trail looks like on the hike up to Delicate Arch. The camera doesn’t do the drop-off  on the right justice. The trail is about 3 miles round trip, with of course the first part being very much an up hill slog.

Here is Delicate Arch in the morning light. There is a person standing on the bottom left to give you a perspective on the size. Apparently quite a few others had the same idea I did about getting up early…

Here is the crowd that beat me up to the arch. So much for originality, being the early bird and all that.

This is a view of the parking lot from about half way up the hike.

And the obligatory selfie.

This cabin was part of a homestead from the early 1800’s. This cabin was built in 1906.

Some of the original fencing still remains.

This is the entrance to Sandy Arch. It was surprisingly cool inside.

A narrow entrance, but the way it sits, there was a nice breeze the entire time.

Sandy Arch, aptly named. The kids in the photo were having a great time. There was a Ranger here who said I should go up above and take a look around. So I bouldered (sp) up a little higher to get a few shots of the area.

In case you are wondering, there is only a 10 second timer on my camera, so sometimes these shots can be challenging.

This is the area above Sandy Arch. Neat terrain and out of the sun.

There was a trail across the desert floor to Broken Arch, you can see it in the distance. Back out in the sun it was hot and I didn’t see anyone on the trail, so why not, off I went.

I didn’t see anyone coming or going, just the way I like it.

So when I finally made it to Broken Arch, I was the only one there. Sweet.

Perspective shot.

From the other side with the sun.

This guy was unafraid along the trail back. I tried to get a couple of lizards but they were too quick.

Lots of cactus along the way; this is where the reptiles were darting around but I couldn’t get any of them.

I can’t remember what this formation is called but I would call it precarious.

All in all, Arches NP is a must see if you are travelling to Utah. Of the places I visited, this was my favorite. Go early, drink lots of water and you won’t be disappointed. Next stop: Colorado.

Pic Dump:

Moab Utah

Moab Utah

Took back roads from Brice to Moab Utah. The views along the way are awesome. These roads, like a lot of roads out west, wind their way through the middle of nowhere. The majority of which, are in open range country.

Now these cows really don’t care.

Same cows, just further along.

Different cows, different road, closer to Moab.

This is the road in to Moab. As I said, lots of open country.

Here is the Colorado river that runs along Arches and Moab. It was 108 degrees in the shade here so sleeping in the back of the truck was out of the question. (Keep your comments to yourselves). So I stayed in a hotel, the Inca Inn. Drove around Moab to get my bearings, then went to a TexMex place to grab some chow.

Chips, salsa, guacamole, chilies and a local Moab brewery beer. The AC was going full blast but it was still warm inside the restaurant. After dinner I went back to take a shower and get ready for Arches in the morning.

This was a surprise; not really sure what to say, my mind strays down to the gutter and I’ll leave it at that.

Tomorrow – Arches NP

 

 

 

 

Brice Canyon

Brice Canyon

I have stayed mostly on East coast time this trip so I am usually up at dawn and on location by sunrise or shortly thereafter. This is Brice Canyon. Another stunning location in Utah. However I will say that Zion and Red Canyon are visually better. It would depend on the time you have set aside for your trip. If you can see all three, they are very close together and worth checking out. If you set aside enough time for only one I would take the whole day and spend it in Zion; taking the shuttles and spending time at each stop.

Can you tell it’s still early? Not my best side… As I said I got up early, so there was nobody in the park. This is the main parking lot overlooking the arch, and I had the whole place to my self. I’m not big on crowds so this was awesome.

This is the view from the above mentioned parking lot.

Another shot with a different filter; not much difference really. Still worth looking at a second time.

This is the top and end of the road in Brice Canyon. There was one other car up here when I arrived.

Makes you wonder if other countries post the obvious or are they so worried about law suits that this is necessary? Easily half the people I encountered out in the parks were from overseas, I should have asked.

Speaking of signs, I forgot to put this one in an earlier post. This will give you a warm fuzzy feeling at night. This was in the campground at Mt. Rainier. The “more information” basically said to run if there was any sign of geothermic activity…very helpful.

Another shot of Brice Canyon as the sun hit the cliffs. The camera just doesn’t do it justice.

The other side. The haze you see in some of the pictures are actually from the wild fires out west. There were several big fires out here during my travels.

This guy was making his way across the road while I stood near by quietly.

He also had several does with him. Utah is mostly geological but there is still plenty of nature to see.

 

Red Canyon

Red Canyon

Just outside of Brice Canyon, down towards Zion is an area called Red Canyon. It is a real sleeper.

I passed this place with the intention of carrying on to Brice but I spotted a campground that looked like it had some space in it, so I turned aground to check it out.

This place is awesome. Very clean, spread out and simply beautiful. I took site 23 and set up camp. Sites here are $18 a night with no hookups. It was 4 pm when I got here so I fixed a quick dinner – sausage dogs, chip and water – and went on a hike.

The trail leaves from the camp ground and is about a mile up to a ridge line.

This is at the split about 3/4 of the way to the top. There is another trail that splits off from here that takes you further into the canyon.

I wanted to go up to the ridge so I stayed on Buck Horn Trail.

Thistle along the trail.

That area up there is the destination.

These yellow wild flowers were also prevalent along the way. Life making its way in the desert.

Made it. There is a birds nest on top of the spire, I couldn’t get an angle on it but you could sure hear them when I got close. You can also see it was overcast up here, so the heat wasn’t bad at all. They say that it rains a lot up in this area but the rain doesn’t reach the ground, unfortunately the lightning does and that’s how wildfires start. The rain doesn’t have an opportunity to dampen the fire.

The obligatory selfie from the top.

A so so attempt at a panoramic shot.

Here are some cool colors from one of the burned out trees.

Another one. I think it is interesting how they grow in a spiral.

Pick dump till the end…

This is the exit from Red Canyon on the way to Brice Canyon. The old truck is still hanging in there. Over 260,000 miles on it now. Next stop, Brice Canyon.

Zion

Zion

I know it says leaving, sue me, I got the back side of the sign.

The start of the day I had breakfast at the Abby Inn. Typical hotel fare but a lot of it and a wide variety. It is in a little house behind the hotel. Again, the staff there were friendly and accommodating. You 4 and 5 star people, this place is not for you. You budget minded folks – this is your place.

After leaving the hotel I went to The Grind Coffeehouse to get a good cup of coffee and mooch some wifi. This is a very nice place with your normal coffeehouse fare, but with real food also, not just pastries.

This is the interior of The Grind Coffeehouse. Very cool and inviting atmosphere. An easy place to sit and get caught up.

Zion is about an hour away through a small town called Springdale. This town is set up for tourists visiting Zion. Very nice hotels,shops and restaurants. If you get the chance, I would spend the money and stay here. There are shuttles that run up through the park every ten minutes. Simply catch one, get off at a stop; take pictures, hike, whatever, then hop back on the next one that comes along. Taking the shuttle is the only way to see the most popular sites in the park. Didn’t know that until I already winged my way through, oh well.

Pretty cool rock formation. It looks like a monster rising up out of the valley. It’s hot here today, the thermometer is reading 102. I worked my way through the park, stopping at various pull-outs, hiking and taking pictures.

One of the pull-outs along the road.

One of the hikes took you along a dry creek bed, then up to a cool rock formation.

This is the hike up.

The shot back down.

The obligatory selfie from the top.

Taking a break in the shade.

A little perspective on the climb up. Everything out here is up.

One of the hikes in Zion you work your way through a stream bed that still has water in it and the walls are on all sides. You’ll have to look it up or do the hike yourself, I don’t have a picture of it.

All you get is one of me in a very dry, hot stream bed.

Here is the picture of the exit again, even though I took it on the way in. All of the campgrounds in Zion are full, so I am headed to Brice Canyon in hopes of finding a spot along the way.

Long Haul

Long Haul

A very long trip from Crater Lake to Cedar City, Utah. This is just miles and miles of miles and miles through the desert. This is “high desert”, you are mostly around 3500′ above sea level in the valleys, climbing up to 6000′ through the passes. The desert at night is full of wildlife. I almost hit 2 deer, 1 cow (free range area) and innumerable rabbits. Seriously, they were everywhere.

Went through Reno, Nevada and then took US 95 through Tonopah. This is a town right in the middle of the drive. It looked rough and as though it is still in the midst of the economic downturn. I figured I would arrive in Cedar City around 8:30 pm…I figured wrong. I also forgot about the time change when I hit Utah. I arrived in Cedar City around 10:15 that night. You could see the city for about 20 minutes before even getting close.

Along the way I had to take the obligatory “Road Picture”. Michael and Cutter will understand.

That night I stayed at the Abby Inn. I would stay here again, the staff was friendly and the rooms were very clean. First thing was a greatly needed shower and then bed.

Driving from 6am to 10:30pm: 16 hours -1 for crossing the line. Again, there is nothing and nowhere out in the desert.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Up early and off to Crater Lake. I took US 97 south to Bend, Oregon. Made a quick stop at the Walmart to pick up a few supplies.

Chips, dogs and beer for dinner. Also picked up wine, bread, tea, a long handled lighter, mixed nuts and a couple of other things that I can’t remember at the moment. I also picked up more ice. Note to extended travelers: get a good cooler, otherwise you will be buying ice on a daily basis.

Let me bust on Oregon for a minute, Michael and Cutter will know where I’m going with this. First, you can’t pump your own gas. When you get out and start to work the pump like you do in every other State in the Union (except NJ, or so I’ve been told) you will be told you can’t do that. Why? Something about safety and jobs. I guess the rest of us are paupers and run with scissors. I hate to ask what else you can’t do in this state. The other item of contention is: the 55 mph speed limit. You can be on a highway in Washington doing 70 and then cross the line and the speed limit drops to 55. This is in the middle of nowhere. Same road, no changes other than the state line. At those speeds I’m surprised that they don’t make everyone wear a helmet and 3 point harness. Rant off.

As soon as I got to Crater Lake I headed to the only open campground in the park, Mazama Village. July 4th and there is still snow in the campground. Claimed my spot and headed for the rim.

Apparently they had a butt load of snow this year. This is the drive up.

This is the view from Rim Village. There were a lot of people here so I decided to take the trail up to Garfield Peak.

Got up to where I was huffing and puffing and found out that the trail is blocked by snow.

It was still worth the hike.

This is the view from the trail.

The hike back down. Doesn’t look steep at all at this angle.

After the hike back down I wanted to take a trip over to Cleetwood Cove Trail. It is the only access down to the lake. You can also take a trip out to Wizard Island. A buddy of mine suggested a trip out to the island. (Len) Unfortunately it was mobbed; did I mention it was the 4th of July? Anyway, it was reservations only, no walk-on’s. So I drove on around the East rim as far as I could go. A sign said the road was closed 9 miles ahead.

That is a big ass snow blower. After getting all of the touristy stuff done I headed back to the camp site.

My 4th of July dinner. Yes, that is a Budweiser. I thought it an appropriate addition. After dinner, I settled down with a good book, but it was very buggy. This was the first time this trip I needed to break out the bug spray: Repel sportsman max with 40% deet. It worked pretty well. What’s a little bug spray cologne after four days in the woods without a shower? Tomorrow is a drive day with a hotel stay in the cards. It’s pretty bad when you offend yourself.

 

Following are a few shots along the trail. Enjoy.

 

 

Mt. Rainier day 2

Mt. Rainier day 2

Hiked up to base camp today. This hike let me know just how out of shape I am. Fat, out of shape and older… Lots of huffing and puffing. It is a 3.1 mile ascent with a 2000′ elevation gain. Back in the day…sigh. Anyway, the view from here is spectacular. I passed several hikers/skiers who lug their gear up to about 10,000′ and then ski down to where I am standing in the above photo. I know the picture is dark, but the sun and snow played hell with the camera; and I could’t change either the sun or mountain. In case anyone cares, I am using a FujiFilm Finepix S1000 with a tripod. That’s how I’m getting all of these pictures with me in them. It’s also why they are all from a lower angle.

Here is a picture of some skiers making their way down the mountain.

Here is a picture of their gear. Ignore the pretty girl in the background.

Two headed back down. They said it took them two hours to ski down. they said they take breaks to savior the moment. The guy in the orange pants also had a camera drone so he could film their decent. Out of all of their gear he said that the drone was the heaviest. To be young and in great shape again.

Base camp is also where hikers begin their ascent. Here is a group on their way to base 2. They will begin their final ascent in the morning, usually leaving around 3 or 4 am before the snow gets too soft and dangerous.

Lunch at the top. Mixed nuts with raisins added. Also known as trail mix or if you want to go old school, Gorp (sp).  There are lots of ways to make it, dried fruit, chocolate etc. Everyone seems to have their favorite. This is how I prefer mine.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier National Park.

Had a great hike with some beautiful scenery. On the way up I met four women headed to base to have lunch. They were trying to take a selfie when I offered to take a picture for them. They were super nice and appreciative.

Here is a picture of them coming up the trail. I met them again on the way back down and we had a great conversation. Melinda-hiker-kayaker was awesome. I told them about my trip and upcoming book and they became fans. They were a lot of fun.

Here is a picture from their picnic spot.

After my hike I went back to camp and saw the fellow in the camp site next to me struggling to get his moped back on his very nice Mercedes RV. I offered my help and we eventually got it back up on its stand. Normally he uses a ramp but because of the angles at our sites it was more difficult than he thought it would be. Afterwards, he offered a cold beer for payment. How could I say no. His name is Kaz and he is a Mechanical Engineer from Olympia Washington. We hit it off and later we had wine and talked into the night around his campfire.

He immigrated from communist Poland via Austria back in 1983. It was interesting that his political views almost mirror mine. Especially that his perspective is filtered from having come from a communist country. He is also a huge outdoors man, having hiked and camped all over the North West. He suggested that I head down to Crater Lake in Oregon and then to Brice and Zion in Utah.  I think I will take him up on his suggestion. All in all an excellent day.