Southwest CO Fun Stuff

That woman’s tryin’ to kill me I tellya…she’s a menace. We need to call in the ASPCA or the NAABP or Protective Services or sumtin’…Ima tellin’ ya she’s out to get me and send me to that great hibernation den in the sky.

Me bein’ just a sea level bear…I was born in Florida yaknow and originally belonged to her mother and spent all my life at elevations with only 2 (and occasionally 3) digits in the elevation…and here she dun gone and dragged my skinny little bear behind up to 8,546 feet…there aint’ no damn oxygen up there and by the time I got ouda da car I was just a huffin’ and puffin’ and purt near passed out.

Ima getting ahead of myself though…but I wanted to get it on record that she’s a menace to society and well mannered bears everywhar…

Sunday morning the adults packed up early and headed off for 2 days of Fun Stuff© over in southwest Colorado…but it seemed more like attempted homicide to me as I will relate shortly. 

Their first stop was at the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument…so we headed back up US-191 30 miles or so then eastward into Colorado…with our first stop being the Anasazi Heritage Center and Museum…and also the headquarters/visitor information center for the National Monument. No idea why they built their visitor center 20 miles from the park…but that’s those whacky Coloradans for ya…they legalized that wacky-tobacky ya know so mebbe they wuz under the influence of a toke or two when they picked the location…whatevers. Anyway…the museum was a pretty decent place but it did sit at just about 7,000 feet. They did a short hike up to the top of the hill behind the center to see the Escalanté House located up there and to get a good shot of Sleeping Ute Mountain just to the south. 

They learned about the legend of Sleeping Ute…here’s how it goes. Way back when…after the Utes entered the world there was this Ute warrior god who was involved in a battle with the Evil Ones. Eventually…the Ute warrior god won…but by then he was both wounded and just plain tuckered out…so he laid down to rest and promptly fell asleep. Some of his blood became the water that nourished the Ute people. He’s got 4 blankets to cover himself that he rotates with the seasons…light green for spring, dark green for summer, gold/red for autumn and white for winter. You can see him to this day…just laying there resting. You can see his head to the right, his hands folded over his chest and his feet stretching out to the left. Seems like a long dad-gum nap to me from way back when until now…but that’s their story and they’re asticking to it.

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From the overlook where they saw Sleeping Ute they continued on upwards to the top to the Escalanté House…named amazingly enough after Friar Escalanté who the first explorer to set eyes on it in 1776 (don’t know why Friar Dominguez got left out as they were together) (Editors Note…Connie reminded me that the Dominguez house was at the bottom of the hill…but it was a lot more poorly preserved and smaller so he musta been the junior friar. Sucks to be him.) Historians claim he “discovered” it…but it was here all along and he was just the first paleface to stumble across it I reckon. We also got some nice shots of the McPhee reservoir behind the center which was formed when a dam was built across the San Juan River. The San Juan dumps into the Colorado River a hundred miles or so southwest of this reservoir and adds to the water that sculpted the Grand Canyon.

 Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard…sorry it’s another lizard…but it’s what I got.

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The Escalanté House

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Flowering cactus

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McPhee Reservoir

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This must be an Albino Indian Mountain Lion…I never seen one with tattoos before.

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From the Heritage Center…after hiking back down the hill…we set off 20 or so miles back the way we came to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument…there are several Pueblo’s (Ute word for village)…we visited Lowry Pueblo as the others are off down 4WD high clearance vehicle roads and the one we had to go on was bad enough. The pueblo itself was both good news and bad news. The good was that it was the best preserved and most complete of any we’ve seen on our travels in this part of the world…the bad part is that it’s been…in our opinion…overprotected so as to make it last. The Indians who built it knew that it had a lifecycle of it’s own and would eventually go back to the earth but the Park Service’s job is to preserve it for future generations to see…this means they put up fences, built a roof over it to protect it from the rain, and have it 10 miles down a dirt road so practically nobody will visit. We hiked a half mile or so there and it was down in the mid 6,000s of elevation so I thought my prayers for oxygen had been answered…but as I’ll get to momentarily it was just a trick.

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Lowry Pueblo…the roof isn’t original but was added by the Park Service to protect the original construction.

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Large kiva located at Lowry Pueblo…it’s about 40 feet in diameter…and again contrary to what the commonly held “facts” tell you it was really a multipurpose social interaction room buried in the ground for temperature control in both winter and summer and entered via a hole in the roof and a ladder. Topside there was a courtyard used in good weather and inside there were benches and places to work and socialize in addition to conduct of religious ceremonies. The Puebloans were pretty smart engineers as well as mathematicians and astronomers…more on that when we get to the Cliff Palace shots.

 

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From Canyons of the Ancients we headed eastward another 20 or 30 miles to Cortez CO to stop at the Colorado Welcome Center…reason being that we wanted tickets to visit the Cliff Palace dwellings located in Mesa Verde National Park…the tickets are first come first served and only available 2 days in advance. Since we wanted them tomorrow we figured getting them early would give us a better chance of getting a decent time for the tour…that is an early in the day time before it got too hot.

That part went pretty quickly and we were back in the truck for a quick stop at Wendy’s for lunch…and that’s when the monster returned. Yeah…that woman…you know who I mean…took over and next thing I know we’re headed into Mesa Verde National Park. Her idea was that we could do all the overlooking and driving around today (yeah, sure) and then leave the hike until tomorrow. Next thing I know we’re though the entrance gate and up to the summit of the road at Park Point…8,546 feet above the sea level Ima supposed to be at…you know, where you can breathe.

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I thought there was no air at 7,000 feet…and I gotta tell there’s even less than none at 8,546 feet. Fortunately…the altitude finally got to her as well and she pardoned us from having to hike the 200 more vertical feet up to the weather station.

We continued our drive through the park with that…went down as far as the museum in the park to get some mementos and such before heading back to our hotel for the evening…it being way too far to try to get back to the house and we needed 2 days for all the things we wanted to see and do.

Pano taken from the Montezuma Valley overlook

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Knife Edge Trail…which we did not hike down. I only put this shot in because until the 1950s when the tunnel through the ridge was opened…this was known as Knife Edge Road and was the only way into Mesa Verde National Park. It’s only about 6 feet wide so I wonder how they got anything other than a Jeep or horses into the park.

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View across the Montezuma Valley…you can see Sleeping Ute Mountain in the back left although the angle sort of makes the outline of the sleeping warrior god harder to see…his head is still to the right.

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We thought this Monument Valley looking butte (the tall skinny one past the flat mesa in the foreground) was actually one of the ones in Monument Valley originally but that’s like 120 miles away and it just doesn’t look that far. Talking to the rangers you can see Monument Valley on a clear day…which it obviously wasn’t…she told us it was another butte only like 30 miles away. Still…as I said the other day the really long range views out here are one of our favorite parts of the west. Don’t worry though…Monument Valley is coming, at least the small part of it we’re going to pass through on the way to Page AZ later in the week.

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More canyon views in Mesa Verde National Park.

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The Sun Temple from across the canyon…we’ll be closer to it tomorrow.

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Point Lookout at the entrance to the park…the road winds up and around it with about 1500 feet elevation gain in about 4 miles.

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The La Plata Mountains…again about 30 miles away. Just gorgeous with the snow still on them in late June…but then they are all in the 13,000+ range. Neil got this while we were stopped for important FaceTime Granny operations…Jen called late Father’s Day afternoon so Alex could talk to him and Connie and wish him a happy Father’s Day. He’s starting to catch on to the idea that Neil and Connie are his Dad’s Mom and Dad.

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Excavated pit house…again it’s been Disney-ized by the Park Service to protect it. Pit houses were where the Puebloans lived on top of the mesa before they moved into the cliff dwellings…perhaps as more folks migrated into the area they needed additional living space and rather than utilize the scarce farmable land on top of the mesas for new villages they built the cliff dwellings to preserve more farmland.

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We finally got to our hotel…the Sophia Conference Center and Lodge in Dolores CO…and again it was the altitude. The hotel sits at 7,463 feet and while that’s less than 8,546…it still ain’t sea level and there still ain’t no oxygen. We went down into town and found the Dolores Brewery where they make mighty fine cream ale and stout…and mighty fine Hawaiin pizza with added chipotle peppers to give it a hot and smoky kick. After that we headed back uphill to the Lodge…thank god we were in Big Red and didn’t have to walk…and settled in for the night.

Early next morning…we had breakfast at the Lodge…it’s more of a bed and breakfast than a hotel…before heading back into Mesa Verde for our 1100 tour of the Cliff Palace Dwellings site…we were supposed to be there at 1045 for the Ranger led pre-walk talk…but that was just a trick to get us there early as the talk didn’t start until 1100.

The tour was pretty decent…it’s an archeological site and a sacred site to the descendant tribes from the Puebloan people…Utes, Navaho and Paiute…so it was mostly a look but don’t touch sort of thing. The only trouble was…some of those assholes we ran into up at Arches musta made the trek down here. Before we started on the tour…the guide went over the rules…and twice said “water only, no food, gum or candy”. When we got to our staging spot about 50 yards short of the actual dwellings…they run groups through it on a pretty rigid schedule…sure enough there was this 20something self-centered me-first snowflake right in front of the guide chomping away on his Juicy Fruit…and he was offended when told to get rid of it.

Our guide was…we think…an Indian/Spanish/Mexican mix and he was both entertaining and educational…after 8 years Rangering here he clearly was mucho knowledgeable about Mesa Verde…it’s pronounced Mesa Verday with a southwest/Indian/Mexican accent and rolling of the R’s…but as an Indian he clearly had less than fully complimentary thoughts about some of the “facts” and “history” of the establishment of the park.

According to history…the dwellings were discovered by the Wetherill family when they were searching for some lost cattle in a snowstorm…they had permission from the local Utes to run cattle…and discovered the cliff dwellings through a freak slackening of the whiteout conditions of the blizzard. In actuality…they had paid the Indians to run their cattle there and…since the Indians had lived in the area for generations they knew exactly where the abandoned dwellings were and they weren’t lost at all, just unknown to the settlers.

The Wetherills…being driven by money and greed as are most human beings…started digging out artifacts and selling them to collectors to help finance their cattle ranching operations. They were actually trying to help preserve the ruins…probably so they could continue selling artifacts…but they were not scientists so they eventually brought in Swedish scientist Gustaf Nordenskiöld who established a lot of archeological discipline and also dug up (essentially looting according to our guide) a great deal of artifacts and sent them to Sweden in the early 1890s where they eventually made their way to the Museum of Finland where they remain to this day. This theft of cultural items…Nordenskiöld was actually arrested and held in nearby Mancos CO until it was determined he broke no laws and they let him and the artifacts leave…enraged the locals here in the American southwest and led to the passage of the  Antiquities Act and the establishment of the National Park both in 1906. The park has gone through several phases and philosophies of preservation of the sites over the decades…first starting with putting in concrete walkways and rebuilding a lot of the dwellings to reinforce them and with later advances in archeology they’ve gone to much more of a minimal preservation sort of idea where they try to leave things as original as possible.

Another “fact” that our guide told us about was that the cliff dwellings were defensive in nature…this idea came about because they built towers and archeologists with a European mindset saw those towers and the small windows in them with a castle mentality and hence decided that the settlement was defensive in nature. Later investigations into the deep understanding the Puebloan people had of mathematics and astronomy…despite the lack of a written language…have sort of debunked that theory. What our guide told us was that an awful lot of things about the dwellings…why the Indians moved from mesa top pit houses to the cliff dwellings, why they left, what the purpose of the kivas (partially underground round rooms) was, whether it was a hierarchical society or an egalitarian society…simply aren’t known. There are multiple theories that fit the known facts…but with no written contemporaneous history to fall back on there is simply no answer to some of those questions.

 Close up view of the Sun Temple…it’s a much more substantial construction than the cliff dwellings with walls 4 feet thick in places and as our guide put it…was a large public construction project used primarily for religious purposes. It’s across the canyon from the Cliff Palace…and one of the buildings there that’s known as the Chief’s House has a window that looks directly out to the temple…coincidence? I think not.

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Cliff Palace from the overlook where our tour started. I left the people in there for scale rather than using the Magic People Remover Software to get rid of them. The kiva they’re standing around is the one I’ll show you in a bit.

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A Red Tailed Hawk out over the canyon…Neil didn’t have the bird lens and the first shot he got was actually the best of the dozen or so he fired off as it’s right over a light part of the cliff. The key identification feature…the red tail…is easily visible.

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Our guide…Vincenccio was his first name from his tag and his last name started with N, had a lot of consonants in it, and was Indian sounding. That…plus his pony tail and humorous insights on “Western” or “European” archeology concepts gave us our idea on his lineage.  Great guide though…smart, funny, and kept the pace of the tour and talk interesting.

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This is the Chief’s house with the view out the small window to the Sun Temple across the canyon…if you look a couple photos back right after the hawk shot it’s the building to the far left of the alcove the village is in.

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The round tower…which convinced early western/European archeologists that the cliff dwellings were defensive in nature when that’s really only one of many explanations. Given the Puebloan’s math, astronomy and engineering knowledge…most folks here with native ancestry tend to put more credence in the theory that the population grew and they didn’t want to waste farmable land on top of the mesa plus it put the village closer to the water source.

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Looking back towards our guide and the Chief’s house at the far end.

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Looking down into the kiva I told you I would be getting back to. It was covered with a solid roof and had the fire pit in the middle…which naturally used up the oxygen inside when the fire was lit and also would fill it with smoke. What to do? See the little opening about 10 o’clock? That leads…see, I told you they were engineers…to a slanted tunnel back up to the main level for a ventilation intake. Hot smoke rises and cold air falls down the ventilation shaft into the mostly sealed kiva. Of course…all the cold air blowing in would have spread ashes and coals all over the place…so they built a little wall in front of the ventilation shaft to direct the air around the entire kiva. There are little benches around the outside and the little pillars between the benches were for the roof supports. Pit houses had these supports as well but as they were larger and more primitive construction the supports were out in the center of the pit house.

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Last shot looking back to the Chief’s house. Individual tour groups are about 45 in size and come through every 30 minutes so it was a matter of careful timing and framing to get the shots with no people. I occasionally have to use the Magic People Remover software…but not on these as Neil did a better than average job of timing and keeping any distractions to the edge of the frame where I could easily crop them out.

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The Puebloans even incorporated logs and existing stones into their architecture rather than digging the large rocks out. The masonry is just connected with mud mortar so the logs are in there for much the same reason as modern concrete has rebar placed in it. Sometimes the logs extended across the interior as well and were used to support upper floors or storage lofts. Many of the dwellings in Cliff Palace are 3 or 4 stories tall…the entire complex supported about 150 people in this particular village. There are several other cliff dwellings within about a mile or less of this one…whether or not they were all part of a related clan, part of an extended village, or completely separate is another one of those things that just isn’t known. Theories abound…but with no written language there are few actual facts to go on…and our guide was correct in saying that western archeology concepts are different from native people concepts due to their culture and education…so what a classically trained archeologist thinks and what a Puebloan of the 1200s thinks may be entirely different things.

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After the tour…we headed out the far side of the site and climbed 50 or so steps and 3 ladders to get back up to the top of the mesa and then headed off. Our original thoughts were to head down Wetherill Mesa Road to another cliff dwelling known as Step House…this one you’re allowed to wander through on your own rather than only on a ranger guided tour…so we took the 12 mile drive down there only to find out that (a) it was a mile hike to see them and (b) none of us had another mile hike in us that day…at Cliff Palace we hiked about 0.8 miles total and both Neil and Connie agreed that it was the hardest 0.8 mile hike they had ever been on…worth it but brutal. Given the heat, altitude, and “it’s only another cliff dwelling and we’ve already seen the best preserved one” idea…we got back into Big Red and punched Blanding UT into the GPS and headed home. We arrived back about 1630 after a very tiring 2 days of Fun Stuff©. Dinner was angel hair pasta with butter, bacon, and cheese…then we watched a couple recorded TV shows until about 2200 when we were falling asleep so we headed off to bed.

Connie and Neil agree that Mesa Verde is really a hidden gem among National Parks…crowds were very light even though it’s late June as compared to the human traffic jams at Arches and to a lesser extent Canyonlands farther north. They actually liked the views here better as it’s not all dust, gravel, and rocks like the northern UT parks. It’s still a pretty arid landscape…but it’s not all the way to desert. The Puebloan people survived here for almost 900 years before they mysteriously disappeared…essentially walking away with just what they could carry as horses had not made it here when they left. Again…theories abound about why they left…internal strife, climate change as a severe drought set in by the late 1200s, overuse of resources, reliable water sources drying up…nobody knows. Archeologists are pretty sure that when they left they headed southwards into the Rio Grande valley area and although there are no more Puebloans…there are Navajo, Ute, and Paiute descendants.

Interesting things from the net.

No soliciting.

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Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 2 Comments

Southeast UT Fun Stuff

This post covers our transit to Blanding UT and the first two days there of Fun Stuff©…after that we took a break day and are doing nothing on Saturday…but we’ll be off Sunday without the house on an overnight trip over to southwest CO for a couple more monuments and parks.

Last Tuesday we checked with our next destination…Blue Mountain RV in Blanding UT “Gateway to Adventure” according to the Welcome to Blanding sign on the way into town…to make sure we could get in early and as our site was unoccupied they said sure. So we were on the road by shortly after 1000 for the 80 mile or so trip down. Turning left out of Archview we continued on US-191 south through Moab then it was pretty clear sailing going south. We did get stopped once for maybe 10 minutes for single lane/road construction/flagman/pilot vehicle but then were quickly on our way. Blanding is the next town south of Moab and is located at 4,872 feet above sea level so a bit lower than our last stop at Archview. We pulled in and were quickly directed to our site 15…a nice pull through looking west…with a request to come back later to check in as nobody was in the office right then. We got setup, checked in and did nothing the rest of the afternoon. Round about 1730…we decided we were hungry. Neil gave Connie a choice of spaghetti with bacon and cheese…or a burrito from Pop’s Burritos which is a UT chain similar to Chipotle only better as we found out. He suggested that…since we were headed off the next day for Fun Stuff© and would need lunch that if we got 2 burritos and ate 2/3 of each one of them we could take the remainder for lunch the next day…burritos are just fine cold from the cooler was his reasoning and there was no other possibility for lunch on our planned route other than taking it with us.

She agreed and we headed off…1 Steak Burrito for Connie and 1 Sweet Pork Burrito for Neil and we were back at home with dinner and a brew.

The guy in the office had recommended to us that we visit Bear’s Ears National Monument in addition to all of our other stuff…but on doing a bit of research we found out that it was only established by Executive Order last year and was currently under review by the new administration’s Department of the Interior. Apparently the locals here…at least the cattle growing locals…didn’t think much of the largest National Monument (1.4 million acres) being established basically without local input or any local management oversight…particularly as most of it is Indian Reservation land. It’s currently being reevaluated to include less acreage (which will satisfy the cattle ranchers), will be managed jointly by the BLM and the Indian nation whose land it is (Navaho nation), and most importantly of course it will allow the current administration undo one of the “executive over-reach” orders of the previous administration…because we all know that making the other guy look bad is the most important thing the useless bums in Washington DC have to do. Anyways…since it was recently established…there is no visitor center, no web page, no hiking trails…essentially it’s a National Monument on paper at this point. Since the only thing worth really seeing is the Bear’s Ears…and since you can see them from Blue Mountain RV…we decided it wasn’t worth a 40 mile round trip down a dirt road to see them.

Here’s a shot of our setup in site 15…looking eastward here.

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And a shot of Bear’s Ears looking west…more on these later.

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Our plan for Thursday was to arrive at Hovenweep National Monument about 30 miles southeast of Blanding when the visitor center opened for the movie…then a short hike around it to see the pueblos then head about 30 miles west of Blanding for the Natural Bridges National Monument. With that in mind we headed out around 0800…with some directions of the “turn left at the dead tree and right at the rock” variety from the Hovenweep web site…it claimed that GPS would do you wrong and lead you astray but I’m guessing that was some old stuff on their website as our Garmin Nuvi 770 took us on the same route as the web site directions. The only problem was the road names and numbers…between Google maps, the GPS, and the NPS website directions each of the roads except US-191 which we were on for the first 10 miles or so had at least 3 different names and or numbers. I can understand a different name but one would think that state road whatever and county road whichever would be the same no matter what navigational source you used. There was another minor problem in that the website claimed all the roads were paved which wasn’t quite true…about 5 miles was under reconstruction or widening or something…anyway there was heavy equipment pushing dirt around.

We arrived at Hovenweep and watched the movie. Essentially there were ancient Puebloan people living in these parts of southeast UT and back around 1200 AD they started to combine into larger communities around canyon heads of Cajon Mesa and the associated springs. They built villages of up to 300 or so people between the early 1200s and about 1270 when they were abandoned for an unknown reason. The ruins were discovered again in 1854 by a Mormon expedition and then named Hovenweep…which is a Paiute/Ute word meaning “Deserted Valley” in 1874. The National Monument area was surveyed by the Smithsonian in 1917 and designated as such in 1923. All that remains are some tall towers and other living quarters known as kivas…the towers are thought to have been religious in nature originally but eventually evolved into defensive works for the spring each village was centered around. The current Indian nations Navajo and Ute are thought to be the descendants of the Puebloans.

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Juniper Tree.

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Wildlife sightings were slim…here’s some sort of lizard we saw. We think he is a Sideblotched Lizard.

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Looking down into the canyon.

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Our second wildlife sighting…different kind of lizard than the first one…much bigger as this one was about 12 inches long vs 4 for the other one. We think it is a Yellow-headed Collared Lizard. Sorry they’re both lizards, but hey, you take what you can get.

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Wild horses…we think…at least there were no visible brands on them and we could not see any sign of human habitation anywhere around.

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From Hovenweep…we retraced our path through the road construction area back almost to Blanding then turned west to head towards our second goal for the day…Natural Bridges national Monument. Shortly after turning off of US-191 we spotted this road sign…and were taken aback as usually a ferry implies a water crossing and there are few to none of those in southeast UT…it’s a desert. Nonetheless…the ferry is temporarily closed…but we never saw it so either it’s further on towards Mexican Hat than we went or something else. We passed no water on our trip out to Natural Bridges.

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The bridges of Natural Bridges National Monument were discovered in 1883 by a prospector searching for gold who instead found 3 naturally formed stone bridges…they were chronicled by the National Geographic in 1903 and designated as Utah’s first National Monument in 1908. The bridges have had multiple names over the years but are now known by the Hopi names Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo…these mean (respectively) “Place of Emergence” where the Hopi believed their ancestors entered the world, Kachina dolls made by the Hopi, and Rock mound which is a feature just above the bridge.

Now in the photos below…you’re going to say “those are arches, not bridges”…but that’s becuz I ain’t edumacated ya yet. Arches ya see…they’re formed from sandstone out droppings that are eroded by wind power and by the action of ice expansion during the winter first into a fin and then the center of the fin wears away forming an arch. Bridges…on the other hand…are formed somewhat similarly but by erosion due to flowing water. Way back when…the canyons weren’t there yet but were flat lands with streams running across them. Now…as streams are wont to do…the streams meandered as directed by gravity and have many S-shaped bends in them. Over time…the water erodes the relatively soft sandstone and pretty soon (at least on a geologic time scale) then you have a canyon with many S-shaped bends in it and flowing water at the bottom. More time passes and the long fingers of high ground between the meanders get worn away by the action of the stream until it forms a new hole through the now fin-shaped high ground and then the water takes the new shorter route and the old meander route gets raised a bit by collapsing or eroding rock from the sides of the canyon and the stream abandons the old course. Bridges have a much shorter lifespan than arches do…they’re eroded more quickly by the water flow and eventually collapse. They start with small holes and massively thick bridges and then the hole gradually erodes larger due to both the water flow that formed the bridge in the first place and the same mechanisms that erode arches. Eventually they look more like arches than bridges…except they’re at the bottom of the canyons…and then eventually they collapse.

After watching the movie…we drove around the 9 mile one way road to see the three bridges then headed home.

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Kachina Bridge…the youngest of the 3 as it’s the most massive. All 3 are in the are of 200-300 feet in span and 106-220 feet in height

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Owachomo…the middle aged bridge…it’s really hard to see from the viewpoint as the best views require a hike down into the canyon…which at 6,500 feet we didn’t have enough energy left to do. The bridge is just behind the green area in the middle of the photo and you’re looking at it sort of sideways…the direct view through it you would be in the canyon bottom just past the green area looking to the right.

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Sipapu…the oldest and thinnest of the 3.

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On the way back we spotted Bear’s Ears…which is what the Bear’s Ears National Monument is named after…they’re two small mesas that supposedly resemble the ears of a bear sticking up from the horizon…I guess they maybe sorta kinda do if you had enough brews. But my ears certainly don’t look like that!

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Dinner was pepper steak that Neil grilled outside and some roasted ‘taters, onions, and green peppers…along with some left over zucchini Connie had from the other night…along with a nice glass or three of Malbec.

Friday we had a single goal…to visit the Four Corners Monument which is about 50 miles southeast of Blanding…it’s the only place in the US where four states meet…Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Now there’s some controversy over the location of this monument…so a little more edumacation is in order I s’pose.

Way back when…the borders of what would become these four states were sort of roughly defined…but after the Civil War they were surveyed and markers set to delineate the 32nd meridian and the 37th parallel which were the legally defined borders…and I guess by the standards of 1868 they were actually pretty good. In any event…they place a monument at the intersection and a court case decided back in 1925 by the Supreme Court ruled that the markers placed in 1868 were the actual border even though they were admittedly wrong based on the parallel and median locations…they were ruled as accurate when they were surveyed by the courts. Today…the monument is off by 1,807 feet to the east as admitted by the US National Geodetic Survey based on where modern surveyors using modern techniques including GPS would place it. If you google it then the monument appears to be about 30 feet south of the actual location…Neil’s GPS in the phone agrees with this but in any event the monument…by court decree…represents the actual borders regardless of what it says on your map.

Screenshot of Neil’s GPS app standing on the marker…about 40 feet off according to GPS.

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Google maps agrees.

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Standing on the actual…according to GPS…spot.

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Looking southward toward the marker…the guy with his back to you in the green shirt is standing on it.

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Connie standing on the marker and pointing westward towards where the modern surveyors would locate the marker…the GPS one Neil was standing on in the above shot is just the other side of that fence. States clockwise from top left…Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona.

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Obligatory tourist shot.

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After paying our $10 to the Navajo nation for entry, doing the tourist photo thing at the monument, buying a couple of T-shirts we headed homewards with a planned stop in Bluff UT for lunch were we ate at the Twin Rocks Cafe…had some pretty good bacon and cheese stuffed Jalapeño peppers and split a BLT…along with the obligatory brew of course, Evolution Ale for Connie and Polygamy Porter for Neil (both from Wasatch Brewery in Salt Lake City and both just 4% beers…this is Utah home of the Mormons who don’t like alcohol after all) we headed the last 30 miles or so home. Dinner was leftovers from the night before and then TV until bed.

This is why they call it Twin Rocks Cafe…both of these shots were taking looking up at about a 40 degree angle from immediately in front of the cafe…I sure hope they don’t eventually fall when the cafe is occupied.

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Interesting things found on the net.

Why they drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK…it’s because they rode their horses on the wrong side of the road so you could whack anybody you met with your sword.

Why UK Drives on Wrong Side of the Road

Toyota Corolla with a selfie stick and smoking a cigarette.

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More garage door art.

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How to pose with a statue.

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Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

Moab UT

This post covers our 3 days at Moab UT.

Following our arrival Saturday we went to Mass and dinner in preparation for an early Sunday morning trip over to Delicate Arch…this is the most famous arch in Arches National Park and when we were here before it was just after Neil’s broken foot healed in 2013 and he wasn’t up to a hike of that length and difficulty.

So…the hike from the parking area is 3.2 miles and gains just a bit over 500 feet…all on the way out to the arch of this out and back hike. We got to the parking area about 0815 and started up…we met some…a bunch actually…of folks just finishing their hike…they musta been there and started the hike just at 0700 when the park opened. 

The hike is mostly just rocky…although there’s a half mile section (of the 1.5 mile one way trip) that’s called Slick Rock because it’s just bare rock at about a 15 degree grade. Once over that…you think you’re done climbing but actually the last 3/4 of a mile across the top of the ridge to the arch continues uphill. Here’s a screenshot of Neil’s phone track showing the profile we hiked today.

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Ugh.

Once we got to the top we got some pictures and then headed back down. It was a lot easier going down but Connie ran out of gas about halfway back and really struggled the last 3/4 of a mile even though it was mostly downhill. Once we got down…Neil made her sit and went and got Big Red to save her the walk back. 

We noticed two strange phenomena on this hike. First was the half dozen idiots…who…despite having to hike uphill on stone and then sand…wore either flip-flops or Crocs. In the guy’s defense they were camo Crocs so maybe he figured that made it OK. In addition we saw 2…count ‘em 2…guys with painted toenails. Second was the way that a goodly number of the…well, I’ll just call them assholes as that’s what they are…parked. Down at the parking lot there were probably 300 spaces total but about 25 of them were marked as “RVs Only”…these were longer so an RV up to say 35 feet could park. When we got back down…we discovered that all of the RV spaces were occupied…and not one of them was occupied by an RV. Never mind that there were at least 50 parking spaces still empty…and never mind that the assholes were parking to go on a hike…the lazy assholes just couldn’t be bothered to walk an extra 50 yards to get to the trailhead so that any RVs that came in afterwards would have a place to park.

Have I mentioned that I hate people?

Ok…on to some photos from the hike.

Looking back towards the parking area from about the halfway point on the hike…looking back from the bottom of the Slick Rock section. If you look carefully just to the right of the green area in the  center you can see some of the vehicles in the lot.

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Looking up from the bottom of Slick Rock…this was the major climb on the hike although as you can see from the profile it was pretty much a steady slog all the way out. At the top of Slick Rock you basically turn left and continue across the ridge top until you get to Delicate Arch.

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Looking back from the top of Slick Rock towards the parking area.

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A couple of shots off to the left side as we made the final climb to the arch. The hole in the second shot is about 50 feet tall.

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Delicate Arch. I left the guy taking a photo op in the first one for scale. This 60 foot tall arch is the most famous one in the park…but was not actually in the park when it was designated as a national monument in 1929…it was added when the monument was expanded in 1938. The Olympic torch relay in 2002 passed through the arch. It was previously known as “The Chaps” and “Schoolmarm’s Bloomers” by local cowboys before being added to the monument.

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The bowl shaped hole to the right of the arch is about 60 feet deep.

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That was our day on Sunday…we had angel hair pasta with bacon, homemade basil pesto, butter, and Parmesan Reggiano  for dinner…and it was pretty fantastic.

Monday we only had one Fun Stuff© item to accomplish…it required us to get up at 0330 and leave the house at 0430 in order to get there on time…but again I digress.

Our destination was Mesa Arch…which is probably the second most famous arch in the world after Delicate Arch above…but there’s really two things about Mesa Arch that cause a bit o’ puzzlement. First off…it’s not in Arches National Park at all but about 40 miles away in Canyonlands National Park about halfway down Island in the Sky Road from US-191 right outside of Archview RV Resort. For those of you not familiar with Canyonlands…it’s divided into 3 parts. The northern half is up on top mesa that overlooks the canyons and is known as Island in the Sky. The southeast quarter is all down in the belly of the canyons  looking up and the Needles section is the southwest quarter. Only about 5 percent tops of the canyon is road accessible and most of that requires 4WD and a high clearance vehicle. The remainder…particularly the Needles section…is only accessible on foot or on horseback. What you can see though…is the sheer breadth of the landscape…although we were not able to see it very well today as it was really windy and the air is full of dust…from the southernmost point of Island in the Sky to the visitor center down in the southeast corner is probably 25 miles and typically you can make out the visitor center.

The second thing about Mesa Arch…is that except for an accident of geography it would not be famous. It’s pretty small as arches out in Arches and Canyonlands NPs go, not very tall or long at all. Arches are formed when the stone weathers into a fin shape and then it weathers further so that the center section falls leaving the arch. Mesa is about 20 feet tall, 120 feet wide and the hole is about 8 feet tall at maximum…and is what is termed a pothole arch by the geologists. What it does have going for it is that it’s right on the edge of a 2,000 foot or so drop-off, there’s another ridge 5 or 6 miles away to the east, and the opening in the arch faces eastward…this leads to some pretty spectacular sunrises at this location. The only troubles are that at it’s elevation of 6,200 feet sunrise comes pretty early…and that it’s 40 miles from anywhere…hence our 0330 wakeup call.

Once we were on the road we headed south down US-191 which takes you right into the Island in the Sky district of the park and thence right down to Mesa Arch…and afterwards another 8 miles or so to Grand View Point where you have about a 220 degree view of the canyon portion of Canyonlands NP. Sunrise today was scheduled for 0553…which meant we had to be there by 0530 along with 50 or so of our closest friends…and do the half mile hike over to the arch in the dark.

We arrived…got our tripod setup…and were immediately gratified to learn that all of the assholes I talked about earlier must have decided to head out to Mesa this morning. One would think that later arrivals would notice all the folks with tripods already setup for photos and not barge into the middle of the group pushing earlier arrivals to the side or setting up right in front of them…but if you think that then you would be thinking incorrectly. Darned millennials and foreign tourists…they seem to think that they have a God given right to insert their worthless snowflake presence in front of you and that you should just accept it. I guess I mentioned before…I hate people.

In any event…we stood our ground…and Neil was rude to several who barged in front of him and told them to get out of the way…and we just stood there and waited on the sun to come up. By and by…it did…we all got our photos…and by 0630 it was all over and we all headed for our cars. We were here before back in 2013 and it certainly seemed to him that courtesy was even more lacking now than it was back then. Last time we were here there were about the same number of people…but each took turns staying out of the way and allowing others to get a people free shot and trying to stay out of other photographer’s way. Oh well.

That’s enough griping about people…on to the photos.

This one shows what Neil called Combat Photography…very similar to Combat Salmon Fishing up in Alaska. As you can see…as arches here in these two NPs go it’s not really all that large…but like in real estate it’s location…this shot was taken at about 0630 right before we left.

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After hiking back up to Big Red we continued southward to Grand View Point stopping to get some more photos along the way…then headed home for a much needed nap after our early, early wakeup.

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Neil especially liked this sign outside of the pit toilets…we followed their instructions and unloaded.

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We had some lunch…and then spent most of the afternoon with the power going up and down…the winds were blowing 40 knots and higher gusts…great billowing dust clouds everywhere…the mountains I posted the shots of before almost obscured in the dust and finally about 1630 the power went down and stayed down. We were unable to open any windows due to the dust clouds until about 1900…it finally died down enough so that we could open a couple on the downwind side and turn on the fans then it came back on for good about 2000. Neil talked to the campground manager and it was out all the way from Dead Horse State Park 20 miles to our south up to 20 miles north of here at Thompson up by I-70. 

Tuesday we got up and did laundry around eating breakfast then headed off for our last Fun Stuff© thing in Moab…a quick hike at the Scott M Matheson Wetlands Preserve just south of the Colorado River at the northern end of Moab. Moab itself is in a little valley between the mountains and the river runs through a canyon both upstream and downstream of Moab. The bend in the river as it crosses the valley between canyons led to the development of a wetlands area known as the Moab Slough…although this was a short hike of less than a mile it really showed us a different side of Utah…all around Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands it’s high desert and mountains but there’s this little spot of lush green with a delightful breeze keeping it great in the shade.

Photos were kinda thin…and wildlife sightings were really thin but that’s just the way it goes some days. Here are a few to give you a bit of the flavor of the place…as I said it was quite striking to find a lush, green almost swampy section of land in the middle of the Utah high desert.

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Little cottonwood tree seed on it’s delivery mechanism…Connie tried to get some of these in the air as they were plentiful but none of the photos panned out.

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One of our two wildlife sightings…the other was a lizard that just went way too fast even though Neil tried to catch it for a photo. We looked at Peterson’s for 15 minutes trying to identify this guy without a complete success. The coloring matched most closely to a female MacGillivray’s Warbler but we eventually decided the size was larger than that (probably) and the sitting in the tree posture was a little more vertical than horizontal like most warblers tend to do. Our other possibility was either a Western Kingbird or a Cassin’s Kingbird…the posture and size seemed to match a little better but the coloring wasn’t quite what we saw visually and on the photo…it looked more brownish than grayish like the examples in Peterson’s. Not having the long bird lens didn’t help either…if we had taken it we would have a better closeup and probably could have identified it more conclusively. We’re going to go with the Kingbird though based on size and perching posture.

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Looking southward towards Mount Lasal…this is about 17 miles away and its a lot clearer today.

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Looking out over the marshy area.

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Flower Connie found.

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This hike was short and flat…but again we still figured that UT should import some oxygen.

We got back to the car and ended our day of fun…stopped by the library for some fast internet, the Golden Arches for a quick lunch, and a local grocery for some vittles…we’re headed to Blanding UT about 100 miles south from here tomorrow and it’s even more out in the MoNW (middle of nowhere) than Moab is…but we wanted to see the parks, monuments and such in southeast UT so that was the place to park.

Interesting Stuff found on the net.

I guess the camouflage paint is working.

CamoSuccess

Bad time to get towed.

Oops

Meanwhile…in Arizona.

MeanwhileInAZ

This place has amazin’ baptisms.

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And a couple of garage door art shots from our friend Gail.

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Cyas.

 

Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

Day Trip to Rifle Falls and Transit to Moab UT

Today’s post covers the last day we spent at Silt CO and the transit the next day to Moab UT where we’ll be for 4 nights.

We had a single Fun Stuff© item remaining on the Silt schedule…a day trip to nearby Rifle Falls State Park where there is a nice waterfall about 80 or feet high with 4 or 5 separate cascades depending on how you count them. The fall was used for a local hydro electric plant back in the early part of the 1900s but has since been allowed return to it’s natural flow. Our original plan was to complete both the Coyote Loop which contains the falls and the Squirrel Loop for a total hike of a bit over 2 miles…but on departing from the parking lot on the Coyote Loop we decided to skip Squirrel as the 6,000+ foot altitude was still kicking our butts a little and we had to stop…frequently…because Colorado just doesn’t have any oxygen in the air. Our total hike was just a bit over 1/2 a mile but did include the trek to the top of the falls as well as the bottom and a visit to some small caves in the limestone face of the falls.

Nice little flower just near the base of the falls.

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One of the runoff streams that feed outwards from the falls.

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Connie grabbed this shot of Neil setting up for a photo op.

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A couple of HDR processed shots of the falls…first one was taken where he’s setup in the shot above and the second about 75 yards to the right as we headed up towards the face of the cliff to climb to the top.

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We took a couple of photos of the small caves…this is the best image of the bunch and it’s pretty crappy…but I’ll post it anyway.

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Moving on to the top of the falls…with a couple of “we can’t breathe” stops on the way we found a nice little pond just upstream of the cliff face where the falls are and then got a shot from the top left side of the falls.

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After the shots above…we continued down the path from the left side of the falls back down to the parking area and headed home. We stopped in Rifle CO for diesel and for Connie to get her nails and bangs done and then headed home for lunch and getting ready to move. In the evening we walked the 100 yards from our campsite down to the Colorado River…hey, it ain’t called the Silt/Colorado River KOA for nuttin’…and got the shot below. Although the Colorado River eventually gets larger due to tributaries feeding in…it’ really difficult to imagine that a river this small could carve the Grand Canyon which is between 4 and 18 miles wide and over 6,000 feet deep from the rim to the river. Recent geological studies indicate that the Colorado River achieved it’s current path through what is now the Grand Canyon about 5-6 million years ago…so I guess that’s what 5-6 million years of erosion will do for ya…pretty amazing I think. The river in this shot is about 40 yards wide and I have no idea how deep…it’s just slightly out of it’s banks and was flowing at 6 or 8 mph.

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We got up this morning and Neil started getting the outside ready to go…dumping tanks, disconnecting utilities, and the like about 0745. While he was doing that he did his good deed for the day and rescued a retired Australian (or maybe New Zealander…he wasn’t sure but the accent sounded more Aussie than Kiwi)…anyways he rescued them from making a major mistake. This couple has made 4 trips to the US to see the country and they were heading eastward from Silt this morning to Estes CO to visit Rocky Mountain National Park just west of Denver. He asked Neil about the grades and curves on I-70…Neil assured him that it was a limited access highway and would be fine. He then asked if Neil could recommend for or against a potential route variation he was considering.

What he was considering was getting off of I-70 and heading up to Estes via Trail Ridge Road and coming into Estes CO from the west after passing over Milner Pass in the middle of Rocky Mountain NP…and he was doing this in a CruiseAmerica 32 foot or so rental class C RV. As you will recall from my previous post…Trail Ridge Road is one of the two passes in CO that is higher than Independence Pass…it would be a really foolish thing to take a 32 foot Class C over that road. Neil and Connie drove over it may years ago on their first trip out west to attend Nuclear Power Prototype in Idaho Falls ID in the late 70s…definitely not a road that is RV worthy.

Neil explained to him how to identify US highways from state highways on his road maps…and recommended that he stay on US highways with the RV as federal regulations make them…mostly…good for trucks while state highways have fewer regulations on them. Neil recommended he stay on 70 and then head straight north on I-25 from Denver and then take US-34 west to Estes Park. It’s probably 20 miles farther than Trail Ridge…but much safer and quicker.

Once he finished straightening out the Aussie couple…we finished packing, hitched and were on the road by 0930 for the 200 mile transit over to Moab UT. We stopped for DEF in Grand Junction…there was a Pilot there that had DEF at the pump and it’s way easier not to mention cheaper to pump DEF into the tank than it is to pour it in from jugs. While at the Pilot they split a half roasted chicken for an early lunch and continued west.

We passed through a section known as Anvil Points…because they look like anvils…but the pictures were so bad (the windshield is really dirty) that I’m not going to post them here…and then through Roberts Canyon where we got this shot.

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After crossing into UT…we discovered that it’s really, really empty in eastern UT…in 60 miles before we turned off on US-191 to Moab we saw the welcome station and 2…yes, 2…gas stations. Almost every exit sign said “No Services” and we didn’t even see any buildings at any of the exits. Saw a bunch of trains but that was about it.

We spotted a couple of neat mountains and got a shot of them…again it’s not very good as it was a phone shot through the dirty windshield…but it reminded me of why I like it out here…these mountains are Mount Waas and LaSalle Peak…and are over 30 miles away in this shot…just ignore the spots on it as they’re dead bugs on the windshield.

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We stopped at the Welcome Center…which is actually 45 miles into UT from CO…and picked up a bunch of propaganda on the various parks and such we’ll be visiting in UT over the next month and then turned south on US-191 the last 20 miles to our stopping spot 8 miles north of Arches National Park…Archview RV Resort. Got pulled right into site 76 and set up quickly…it was blowing 30 today and will be worse the next couple of days so we just left the awning in. 

Here’s another shot of Mt. Waas and LaSalle…the one above was looking south and this one is looking to the east toward them…they’re still over 20 miles away from the campground and it’s amazing how clear the shots are from that distance…it’s that nice smog free mountain air I guess.

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We went down to Moab for Mass since we’re heading over to the park to hike up to Delicate Arch early Sunday morning…then dropped by the Moab Brewery for a brew and dinner before heading home.

Sorry…no interesting stuff from the net…haven’t gotten anything worthy in the past couple of days. We’ve got 3 hard days of Fun Stuff© scheduled here at Moab…I’m not sure if I’ll have enough energy to do daily posts or whether I’ll just do one mega post for all of Moab on Wednesday or so.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 3 Comments

Day Trip to Aspen CO and Independence Pass CO

Ok…howsa ’bout some more Fun Stuff© for ya.

Thursday June 8 was dedicated to a day trip to Aspen CO…just becuz we never been dere…and then continuing onwards to the the ghost town at Independence CO east of Aspen and then another 3 miles past there to Independence Pass. Back when we were originally doing US Route 50 this summer…we had a side trip to Aspen on the menu and would have come up to Independence Pass from the south side on CO-82 but with the Jello shaking we would head up to the pass from the NW side on CO-82.

We headed out about 0910 for our trip…18 miles back east on I-70 then 50 south on CO-82 to Aspen and another 18 total from Aspen to the top of the pass later on. At the last minute…Connie found the ghost town so we decided to leave a little earlier than originally planned and do the pass and ghost town before lunch.

Heading east on 70…all was good but the troubles started when we got off onto CO-82…there was all sorts of construction in Glenwood Springs and it took us 30 minutes to go 3 miles from the freeway exit to the open road south of town. We persevered through that and were soon heading south on CO-82.

As we went we noticed something very strange on the road…at this point CO-82 is a 4 lane highway with speed limits between 45 and 65 depending on how close you are to one of the bedroom community turnoffs or traffic lights…here’s a shot looking out the windshield of Big Red. Don’t worry…Connie took the shot, not Neil who was driving.

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Yup…that’s a carpool lane HOV identification you see…and sure enough just a bit along we saw the sign saying “Right lane HOV and turns only”. Two things struck us as mighty strange about this. First off was why a small town like Aspen…this road only goes to Aspen…a town of less than 7,000 people at an elevation of around 8,000 feet…why the heck it needed a carpool lane. It pretty quickly dawned on us…as will become clear when I talk about our lunch later…that they needed a carpool lane because obviously nobody that worked in Aspen could possibly afford to live there. The second strange fact was this was the first carpool lane…of the hundreds we’ve seen on our travels…was the right hand lane instead of the left hand lane. Nonetheless…we met the criteria for HOV…at least we thought we did since it never really said whether you needed 2 or 3 people to qualify as HOV so we continued on.

Passing through downtown Aspen…which took all of 5 minutes at 1030 in the morning…we headed up to the pass and ghost town.

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We quickly noticed…that Colorado has no damn air…and the higher you go the worse it gets. Here’s a shot of a little waterfall we stopped to take a shot of at about 9,800 feet and by the time we stopped, walked 15 feet to the edge to take the shot and back to Big Red we were panting like dogs.

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We carefully watched for mile marker 58…which was where the tour guide said the ghost town was…and it just wasn’t there so we continued on to the pass. Here’s a panorama we stopped at about 10,000 feet on the way up…it covers about 150 degrees. The second shot was once we got above the snow line.

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And then we got to the observation area at the top of Independence Pass. This pass tops out at 12,095 feet and is the highest pass in Colorado that has a through road on it. The only higher ones are Trail Ridge Road 88 feet higher in Rocky Mountain National Park near Denver and Cottonwood Pass 31 feet higher down near Gunnison but it’s only got a gravel road across it. You can see Mount Elbert from the pass but we weren’t able to figure out which one it was…suffice it to say there were a lot of tall peaks visible. Mount Elbert is Colorado’s highest peak and the second highest in the lower 48 at 14,440 feet.

We wandered around and took some photos…Neil took a short walk across the snow to a rocky high point for photos. His foot fell through the top of the snow at one point and I don’t know how deep it was but it was at least up to his shorts. Temperature at the top was 40-45 and at least half of the folks he saw walking across the snow to the viewpoint were in flip-flops.

And there he goes…he fell though just after this point.

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I think this is Mount Elbert…at least the profile pretty much matches the one I found when I looked it up on wikipedia.

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More shots from the pass.

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Mount Elbert…again…I think.

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A nice middle aged lady from Arkansas took this one for us. Neil thought the Hawaiian shirt at the pass in 45ish weather was a nice fashion statement. 

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Bit of snow, eh? Neil with his best Vanna White impersonation…usually it’s Connie doing this.

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We headed back down the hill and stopped at this snow melt waterfall at the end of one of the valleys we saw on the way up.

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Panorama looking the opposite direction from the waterfall above…looking down the valley facing roughly west. The road on the right of this shot heads down toward Aspen and after curving around behind where he took this shot from continues upward just out of the frame to the left almost to the ridge you can see then turns sharply around the ridge to the pass. You can just see the road at the upper left of the shot…it’s the line going up and to the right from the left edge of the shot just above those trees you can see.

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On the way back down we found the ghost town…it was actually almost adjacent to mile marker 57 instead of 58…we decided it was too high in altitude to hike the 200 feet or so down to the cabins and then back up.

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A few more shots on the way back down to Aspen.

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With that we continued on down to Aspen as we were getting kinda hungry…well, at least Connie was but Neil was still pretty full from the eggs he made them for breakfast and the liter and a half of water they drank so far…it’s really dry up at altitude and keeping hydrated is the best way to avoid altitude sickness symptoms. Found a sweet parking place just a half block from our destination and even sweeter it was diagonal parking so Big Red fit into it perfectly. Cost us $5.25 at the credit card meter for 90 minutes which we figured would be plenty.

Our destination for the day…here’s the quiz part of the post. Take a look at the shot below which was our selected eatery and the quiz is…what’s the name of it?

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Give up yet? Obviously the name of the place is…

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Kinda appropriate name donchathink?

We found a couple of seats at the bar…outside patio tables were all full as were all the inside tables…but we would rather sit at the bar anyway because…of course…you meet a much better class of bum sitting at the bar. A quick discussion with bartender Tyler and we sampled a couple of brews before settling on 2 pints of 90 Shilling Scotch Ale from the Odell Brewing Company…a very nice malty Scotch Ale. To go along with it…Connie ordered a small Kale Salad and Neil…since he wasn’t too hungry…just selected an order of fries with dipping sauce…and when they showed up…I gotta tell you these were just about the best fries we’ve ever tasted. Here’s a shot…it used to be fuller. That’s Connie’s 90 Shilling on the left. To go along with the fries they served house made ketchup (pretty decent…but hey, it’s ketchup) and this house made mayo with Sriracha and herbs…outstanding stuff to stir your fries around in…and it kinda sneaks up on ya as after about 4 or 5 fries you notice it’s got a bit of a kick.

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Our bill…for 2 beers and 2 appetizers…was $31.something which turned into $38 with tip…you can see what I mean about nobody who works in Aspen can afford to live there. After lunch we had 20 minutes left on our parking meter so we wandered into the meat and cheese store across the street for a looksee…they had fresh Ahi Tuna for $37 a pound and local made cheese for $21 a pound…we passed on both of those although they did really look good. We headed back for the car and noticed this mural across the road from our parking spot on the side of a building…pretty neat looking…kind of a half woman, half cat thing.

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On the way back to the campground…we discovered that the city of Glenwood Springs has absolutely, positively no clue about urban planning. Before we left Aspen…we looked at the map to see if there was a way to another freeway exit than where we got off before so as to avoid the construction gaggle in downtown. A few minutes looking and we figured we could turn west at 27th street a bit south of town, cross the river and turn north on Midland which would take us to the next interchange with I-70 to the west…so we plugged that into the GPS and headed north. Things went well and we turned off of CO-82 just before the construction backup started and headed north along the western side of the river on Midland until we got about a mile from the freeway and came to a complete stop. Tried another alternate route with pretty much no success and sat there for 30 minutes before things finally started moving. Turns out there was another construction project on our alternate route…but at least it turned out to be just repaving with a flagman alternately letting the two directions of travel go. Got through that…finally…and then after another 15 minutes to get through the two jammed up traffic circles to get to the freeway entrance. Once we got there it was speed limit sailing the 18 miles west to the Silt exit.

Dinner was leftover Mac’n’Cheese from Connie’s dinner at the Miners Claim restaurant we ate at last night. We were originally going to have our Mexican leftovers from Tequila’s in Goodland KS…but Neil instead picked this local place here in Silt named Miners Claim. No draft brews but Connie had a Fat Tire and Neil a Coors Original Banquet…we are in Colorado after all…along with Mac’n’Cheese for Connie (which was enough to feed her last night and both of us tonight) while Neil had some Peel’n’Eat shrimp and a Kobe beef slider…which while it obviously wasn’t real Kobe beef for the $5 price was excellent with crunchy fried onions and chewy bacon with some spicy mayo aioli.

Tomorrow we’re off to Rifle Falls about 10 miles to the west and then Saturday we’ll be off to Moab.

Interesting things found on the net this week.

More sound life advice.

SoundLifeAdvice

This guy was christened on the internet as Waterslide Jesus…sort of a play on words for the Jesus Lizard of South America. Video clip here. I really liked how he glides across the pool and steps right up on the side…but I wonder how many times it took him to figure out how to do it. If you don’t know what a Jesus Lizard is…I’ll see if I can find a video for ya next time…

This fits Neil to a T.

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As does this…after all…both Neil and Connie were the remote at one time in our lives.

TVRemote

Cyas.

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Transit to Golden CO and Silt CO

Well…last night it happened. Connie and Neil left Goodland KS for the 200 mile trip over to Golden just on the west side of Denver…and I gotta tell ya’…they became members of the Mile High Club.

Not that Mile High Club you perv…get your mind outa da gutter. Ima talking about being one mile in altitude…according to the Altitude app on Neil’s iPhone we were sitting in the Dakota Ridge RV Resort at 6,010 feet…and then we climbed another 50 feet or so up the hill to the Chicago Wrigley Bar and Grill for dinner…since we didn’t unhitch for an over night stop we just decide to walk the 1/3 of a mile or so up to the pub for dinner. Bad move I tell ya…we sorta forgot that Colorado doesn’t have any oxygen in their air.

Anyways…before I get to that…Dakota Ridge RV Resort. Overpriced at about $61 a night but it’s in the Denver metro area and there weren’t any cheaper options. The good news is that it was right off the interstate about a mile. The bad news is that the sites are crammed in like sardines…it reminded us of a lot of the campgrounds on our Alaska trip a couple years back…there was absolutely no It Factor at this place. Still…it was easy in and easy out and wasn’t out of line price wise with anything else in the Denver area…so it was OK.

After we setup…we walked up the hill to the Grill…Connie had failed to have afternoon snack and she needs that with her acid reflux to keep from feeling bad. Add in the severe oxygen debt from the climb and she was an unhappy camper by the time we got back. We shared a single appetizer of potato skins and she ate almost 1-1/2 of them before giving up. We walked much slower on the way back…with several rest stops for her to catch her breath…and it was downhill so that wasn’t as bad as the first walk. Neil fed her a bowl of cream of wheat for some more dinner…but an hour or two later that all came back up…she started getting the throat burning from the acid reflux…which when added to the very high grass pollen caused her to get into a coughing fit which caused her stomach to reject dinner. We headed off to bed early hoping she would feel better and by this morning she pretty much was.

We quickly got ready to go…didn’t bother with sewer or water hookups last night so it was just slides, power, and pull up the forward jacks and we were ready to go. One slight problem…our new power cord reel decided to quit reeling in the cord with about 6 feet left to stow…Neil will have to look at that tomorrow and see if it’s the fuse/breaker and take a quick look to see if a wire came loose. Then it will be up to New Horizons to figure out how to get it fixed for us.

Ok…we did see a few sights on the way over from Denver today. We faced the 13 mile long 7% grade up to the Eisenhower Tunnel at the top of Loveland Pass. This was the highest vehicle tunnel in the world when it was opened in the 70s with a maximum elevation in the tunnel of 11,158 feet at the western end. The eastern end that we entered was only 11,013 feet according to the sign we passed. Here’s a shot as we got to the tunnel…note the snow still on the slopes. It was down into the mid 50s at the top compared to the upper 60s when we left Golden. Maximum height in the tunnel is 13’11” so we cleared the top by 5”.

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After the long uphill to the pass we still had a bunch of up and downhills as we headed through the mountains and then through Glenwood Canyon about 20 miles before our stop in Silt. Several 7% downgrades of 6-7 miles in length and a longer 10 or so mile one through Glenwood Canyon which was really pretty cool…quite narrow with towering rock walls on both sides and the Eagle River paralleling the highway…although actually the highway was built to follow the river, not the other way around. Don’t know why Connie didn’t take a phone photo for ya…I’ll chastise her and tell her to do better.

Before we got to Glenwood Canyon we passed an area known as The Summit…it’s just east of the Vail, Breckinridge, and Copper Canyon ski areas at 9,150 feet. From the scenic stop you can see 12 peaks over 9,000 feet and 9 of them are over 11,000 feet including Grays Peak which at 14.270 is the highest point on the Continental Divide. Here’s a pano shot of the twelve…Grays Peak is the third one from the left.

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And a couple of closer shots at Grays Peak, Mt. Guyot, and Chief Mountain.

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Pretty impressive views for our first day of actual Fun Stuff© this travel season…everything from departing Seminole to departing Goodland was pretty much maintenance related and definitely Not Fun to paraphrase Alton Brown.

We’ll be here in Silt 3 nights…tomorrow we are taking a trip down to Aspen just to see why yuppies want to go there and Friday we have a hike scheduled at a local state park to view Rifle Falls…then Saturday it’s off to Moab UT for Arches and Canyonland National Parks.

Bad Ass of the Week

OK…this might not actually be a weekly thing as I might not find one every week…but I’m hoping to make it a regular feature of the blog. After the guy who fed the mother polar bear in my previous post let me introduce you to this week’s contestant…Alex Honnold.

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Who is Alex Honnold you say? Why I was afraid you would never ask. He’s a rock climber who essentially lives out of a van to climb rocks. I don’t follow rock climbers at all…but from what I read this week he’s apparently one of the best in the world and as you will see in a minute…he’s got a darned good claim on being the absolute best in the world…at least for this week.

Now every good movie needs a foil…a supporting actor…in order to be good so let me introduce you to Alex’s.

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As many of you know…there’s this little known National Park out in the People’s Republic of California named Yosemite and located within Yosemite is the fellow above…his name is El Capitan. El Capitan sits on the north side of the Yosemite Valley as you enter from the west and is accompanied by his sidekick (not visible in this photo which I cribbed from the internet) Half Dome located at the eastern end of the valley. You can see Half Dome behind Alex in his portrait above. El Capitan is known as one of the meccas of the sport of rock climbing. It’s 3,000 feet straight up the face you’re looking at although it can be hiked up from the right side just along the ridge you can see descending to the edge of the frame. Neil would love to hike up there…but Connie absolutely, positively will not go with him.

If you visit Yosemite…you can almost always see climbers going up the face…but in rock climbing there are several different ways to do it. First there’s group climbing with safety gear…an ascent by a team typically takes 2-3 days. Then there’s free climbing which means you go up with minimal aid…just a few pitons and ropes to keep you from dying when you  fall off. Then there’s solo climbing which usually uses safety equipment. Then there’s speed climbing which means you go up in pairs as fast as possible but with safety equipment…the current record is 2 hours 23 minutes…coincidentally this record is also held by Alex.

Then there’s Alex’s achievement this week. He climbed El Capitan in 3 hours 56 minutes. Alone. With no ropes. And no safety equipment. First ever ascent solo with no equipment except hands, feet, and chalk dust. He described several times where he was hanging by his fingers and several where there were no cracks so he relied on friction between his shoes and the wall to keep from falling off. With no rope. From several thousand feet above the ground. Take another look at that portrait above…you can see everything he took up with him in that shot sitting on the edge of the top.

National Geographic had a team there to film the ascent for a documentary…they rappelled down and then winched themselves back up the rope…and had trouble keeping up with him.

Best of all…his description of the climb…”It felt much less scary than a lot of other solos I’ve done.”

Seriously…Alex is definitely bad ass. Here are a couple of links if you want to read a little more about it. First Interview. Article.

One more shot of Alex as he approached the top of the wall…nothing holding him to the wall except hands and feet.

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Ok…interesting stuff found on the net this week.

What was this woman thinking when she wore this dress?

WhatWasSheThinking

I feel for this guy.

AutoCorrectWorstEnemy

Very specific speed limit.

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Got this one from our friend Gail Mascari who’s an Elk down in Fort Myers. An excellent philosophy of how to live your life.

DieYoung

Another excellent life philosophy.

GrownupBy50

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 2 Comments

Adventures in Kansas

Well…she dun did it. Connie promised Neil an adventure yesterday…she advertised it as “the adventure portion of the cruise”…and darned if she didn’t come through as it turned into a 4WD required adventure and then eventually a “we’re turning around and not trying to take a $100K truck and bed over that obstruction because there ain’t any phone signal out here” adventure.

But I digress…let me go back to the beginning.

We arrived here Tuesday afternoon after a 280 mile drive from Junction City…pulled into the Goodland KOA, checked in, and proceeded to our nice pull through FHU site #62…which strangely enough is the same site we were in back in 2013 when we were here the first time.

After setting up we decided to head over to the Crazy R Bar and Grill on Main Street about a mile or so away and have a couple of brews and dinner. The brews were less than fully satisfactory…Bud Lite was the best thing they had going…so we ordered a couple of tall ones and after checking out the menu Connie ordered Fish and Chips and Neil a Crazy R burger which had bacon, pepper jack cheese, and grilled onions with fries on the side. The fish was pretty tasty but the burger was actually pretty outstanding as well…it had that nice greasy spoon crispy burnt goodness ‘round the edges of the patty and was actually still pink as requested. After dinner we headed home for TV and bed. Here’s a shot of the neat bar back in the Crazy R (which actually has the R upside down on the sign). Notice the tricycles, farm implements and other stuff hanging from the ceiling and there are dozens to hundreds of old road signs, advertising signs and other signs hanging on the walls as well.

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Wednesday we did absolutely nothing…we were tired from the sitting around and making decisions stuff over at Camp Horizons so we stayed in and vegetated. Dinner was left over meatloaf and mashed taters that Neil had made on Memorial Day. We did get a huge thunderstorm with 60 mile an hour winds and pretty darned torrential rain for 30 or 40 minutes right before dark…even got a few hailstones landing on the roof. Weather radio going off with flash flood warnings…but there aren’t any creeks or streams near us so it was mostly a wind and rain show for us.

Thursday was our first Fun Stuff© day…the plan was to go up and see the Akikaree Breaks in NW Kansas which are some Badlands in NW Kansas and eastern Colorado. They were formed about 10,000 years ago by blowing sand which then got concreted into something the geologists call loess. The Breaks are in between the high plains of western KS and the high plains in eastern CO…no idea why the loess formed there but it’s been sculpted by water over the past 10,000 years into the rugged Badlands type topography we have today. Connie found a pdf file on the interwebs that laid out how to go on the driving tour to see them…but let’s just say that this particular set of directions were not done by the National Park Service. Don’t know who did them…but they must be southern in heritage as the directions were really of the “go down yonder aways and turn right at the big rock” and “it’s just past the old Miller place (no matter that the Millers owned it 3 owners ago and it’s been abandoned for the past 25 years)”. Sure…there were signs…when they hadn’t fallen off of the post or been turned around the wrong way…and sure, there were distances specified…but in this case 2 miles really meant somewhere between 1 and 3 miles.

Anyways…we left Goodland about 1000 with a picnic lunch in the cooler and set off for St Francis KS up KS 27 and KS 36 but shortly after we started the driving tour at the bridge over the Republican River…which turned out to be about 6 feet wide and Neil could have leapt over it pretty easily…the road turned to dirt/gravel and we began the Adventure Portion of the Tour©. Mostly…the road was pretty good…dirt and gravel but dry and reasonably well graded. 

Our first couple of stops were at 2 of the only 4 springs in the entire Breaks area which is about 30 miles north/south and 4-5 miles wide. Following along with the tour directions we had…we were on the lookout for these red signs about a foot square on the side of the road to match up with the numbers on the tour guide…at least they were usually small red signs but not always as will be seen. 

Here’s the first spring followed by the second one…I guess the water was flowing in them but that doesn’t look like a whole lot of water to support crops or cattle…luckily in later years the settlers dug wells…as neither of these was more than 4 feet wide and maybe 6 inches deep.

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We did see some wildlife along the way…this gopher snake was out in the middle of the road and only grudgingly crawled to the side. It’s the largest snake in Kansas growing up to 7+ feet long…this specimen of which you can see the whole length was 5-6 feet and maybe 3-4 inches in diameter. Although Neil and Connie are firm believers that the only good snake is a dead snake…he decided that the rule didn’t apply as long as we were in the truck and it was out side so we let it live.

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Our next stop…which included the first 2 of our many “where are we supposed to go now” ponderings…was the Horse Thief Cave…which back in the day was a large cave down in a gully used to corral stolen horses but today everything but the entrance has collapsed. We headed off the main tour route the specified 2 miles…and when we didn’t find it by 4 miles turned around and headed back. When we got to what we knew was the 2 mile point we found that the little red sign had been nailed to a post but the top nail had come out and the sign was upside down and low enough so it was almost hidden in the grass. We were also tricked by the description of the turn as a “winding, narrow road”…this turned out to be true about 2 miles down the narrow winding road but at the intersection with the other road it was straight and wide, it didn’t get winding and narrow until it went down into the gully. We went down…and then up the other side with no sign of the red sign for the cave site. At one point we passed a mailbox sitting by itself right alongside the road…but it had a name on it so we just asked ourselves “who lives out here, there ain’t a sign of civilization in sight” and went on. Again…turned around after another mile or so and headed back. Lo and behold…on the side of the mailbox away from the direction you came from it said Horse Thief Cave…and up on the top of the roadside bluff there was a round white sign that said Horse Thief Cave…again on the wrong side so that neither sign was visible as you came in following the directions. We dutifully got out and got some photos…but didn’t enter the cave area as it was fenced off. I’m guessing that we’re looking from what used to be the back of the cave and the collapsed roof is what you can see…as the view out the entrance hole appears to open onto a flat area.

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Here’s a shot of the yucca plant which besides the grass is the predominant plant life out here…they happen to be in bloom this week. Very similar to a lot of the palmetto palm and similar that we see down in Florida…would not have expected to see them out here in a pretty dry landscape.

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We headed back to the main tour route and continued along. We started to see the actual Breaks…this gully is probably 200 feet deep from the road.

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And you can start to see the rolling Badlands terrain in this one…easy to see how you could be just a couple hundred yards from somebody and never know they were there.

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Some more of the local wildlife…hey, you take what you can get. We saw these birds which we could identify as swallows based on their flight but none of the pesky things would stay still long enough for a photo. From our very abbreviated glimpses of them we think they were either Bank Swallows or Norther Rough Winged Swallows but didn’t get a good enough look to identify the key characteristics for either one.

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We continued on up the tour taking pictures as we went…stopping finally at the “highlight” of the tour according to the tour guide…a place named Devil’s Gap.

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I left this one with Big Red in it in just for scale and to show a better representation for what the terrain looks like…the gully in the shot above is probably 60 feet deep, 200 wide, and the far end of it where it goes around behind the tan rock you can see just to right of center is probably 300 or 400 yards from where Neil was standing.

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You know what this is…right? Why it’s the little house on the prairie of course…and while it isn’t The Little House on the Prairie of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame…it is a lower case little house on the prairie. Abandoned of course…must have been because THERE”S NO WATER HERE.

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After Devil’s Gap…the last stop on the tour was at place named 3 Corners. What’s 3 Corners you ask? Why…it’s just like 4 Corners except it only has 3 instead of 4 corners. It’s actually the spot where the states of KS, CO, and NE come together. Anyways…according to the tour guide we had to proceed across privately owned land and we should be super careful to not damage anything, don’t kill any cattle, and stay on the road so that the state didn’t lose the permission of the landowner to go there. And this was where the really Adventure Portion of the Tour started. We turned in across a cattle guard and…according to the tour guide…it was 3.5 miles to the marker for 3 Corners. What the guide didn’t tell you was that the darned road forked with no indication of which way to go. We got to the fork and after a couple minutes deliberation and looking at the GPS app on our phone to see what direction the corner was in decided to go left…with the proviso that if we were wrong we could just go the other way as we were already 2+ miles into the private land portion of the road. We headed ‘round the ridge that was in front of the fork…and the road…if you can call it a road…got really muddy. So bad in fact that not only did we end up in 4WD with Big Red but were actually in 4WD Locked for maximum power. We made it through the mud but then got into a section where the road was sort of sunk between two banks on either side and was barely 2 pickup trucks wide. Nonetheless; we continued until we ran into the aforementioned obstacle. It actually wasn’t that bad and if we had a jeep we would have continued. The road was angling up from the muddy spot and we were on a grade of probably 5% or 6% but the last 4 feet before a cattle guard was probably 30% and then when you got to the guard itself the road surface had sort of washed away so there was a foot high concrete block to get up and over to get the wheels onto the cattle guard. On the other side it sloped back down and Neil decided it was too likely that we would end up high pointed on the cattle guard with the wheels up in the air…and by this point the cell signal was pretty much nonexistent so we decided that discretion was the better part of valor (not to mention the really expensive truck we might break).

The only problems were that (a) we weren’t sure we had taken the right fork anyway and (b) the road was too narrow to turn around in. Neil could have…maybe…done a 27 point turn to eventually get turned around but we decided to backup until we found a wider spot…he remember seeing a turnout into a cattle watering tank area about a quarter mile back down the hill just after the muddy spot. As we backed down…we spotted an F150 coming up…but he had a raised suspension and those knobby off road tires on his truck. We let him pass and he got over the cattle guard fine…but then he was narrower and was able to get way to the right side where the concrete block to climb wasn’t quite as tall.

After they passed…and we did verify that we were on the right fork…we backed up, got turned around, put the 4WD back on for the muddy spot and made our way back to the public but unpaved road we had spent most of the day on and headed home. Pro tip though…when we got to the last puddle before getting back to the public road Neil lost sync and failed to slow down so we went through the mud puddle at 15 miles an hour…consequently he will be heading over to wash Big Red over the weekend.

We got home and had a chicken dish with rice on the side for dinner…he made a cream sauce seasoned with the last of our fresh basil from the notary down in Fort Myers, some pizza sauce, and parmesan cheese…it was really tasty and we’ve got leftovers.

Today (Friday) we went out for our second tourist thing to do in Goodland Kansas.

They actually have what is billed as the World’s Largest Van Gogh painting here in a city park…here it is.

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It’s 24×32 feet in size and is a reproduction of a Van Gogh painting named Three Sunflowers in a Vase. Just to prove that it really is the world’s largest…here’s another shot showing the whole thing…that little speck in the blue shirt down by the right hand leg of the easel is our own Connie.

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From there we headed over to the High Plains Museum…the only other tourist attraction in town. A small museum that’s currently under remodeling but it’s still open so we wandered through for a half hour or so.

Here’s an old photo of Main Street in Goodland from the ‘30s…I can tell you it hasn’t changed much. In fact, the low building second from the left is actually the building that has the Crazy R Bar and Grill in it.

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Finally for the Fun Stuff© portion of the post…here’s a couple of shots for our friend Bill Napier who…as you know…is a plane guy. It’s actually the first patented and working helicopter. It was named a gyrocopter by it’s inventors William J Purvis and Charles A Wilson…who were granted US Patent 1,028,781 back in 1912 for it. Unfortunately…they were actually not very good inventors as they hadn’t solved the torque problem and it was underpowered and basically uncontrollable. Their company…the Kansas Aircraft Company…dissolved shortly after the patent was granted and the two partners left town separately and were never heard from again. Since they were based in Goodland…the city fathers had a replica built from their patent in the early 1990s.

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OK, on to interesting stuff found on the net…but in view of the fact that this is already a long post I’ll be brief.

First up…an old work buddy of Neil’s named Keith Meidling sent him this picture with a note that basically said “saw this and thought of you since you were in submarines”.

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Here are some North Korean Generals…

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Childhood photo of the actor Morgan Freeman.

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And finally…shooting a bear doesn’t make you a badass. Feeding a polar bear while her cub humps your leg makes you a badass.

BadAss

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 8 Comments