Monday, April 16, 2012

Back in SLC

My daughter called me last week after an appointment with her doctor, and she's moving along a little faster with this baby than she did with her first.  Which is normal.  It's also normal for me to hear something like that and say "I want to be home."  So we are.  I'm sure I'll do a few postings over the next few weeks,  But in the meantime, we're safe and we're home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Indescribable.. but I'll try

Yesterday we drove along a portion of the Colorado River that's north of Moab and also made a quick visit to Castle Creek Winery along the way.  But the biggest portion of the day was devoted to Arches National Park, just five miles north of Moab, UT.  We’ve been here before (Jim twice and me three times) and it’s an amazing place worth many trips.  The park's arches, spires, balanced rocks and what park literature calls “sandstone fins and eroded monoliths" were caused by an underground salt bed that moved “like toothpaste” as a park ranger put it (albeit very slow-moving toothpaste). The prehistoric Colgate pushed rock layers upward and causing them to buckle.  Then surface erosion stripped away some of the layers, leaving the geologic features.

Words -- and actually photos -- don't do them justice.
On the left is the aptly-named Balanced Rock.   You can (barely, but hopefully better if you double click to enlarge) see a woman standing on a lower rock near the center of the photo.
A scenery shot with eastern Utah's La Sal Mountains in the background.
An arch near the park’s campground.  You can see a man sitting below the left side of the arch. Arches National Park has over 2,000 arches ranging from three feet across (the minimum size to be considered an arch) to 306 feet across.  
Today it was Canyonlands National Park -- just 25 miles from Arches -- and a place neither one of us had been.  (Pathetic on Bev's part, since I've lived in Utah 38 years.)  Canyonlands is huge --- 527 square miles --- and made up of three distinct sections:  Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze; no roads within the park link the three. Island in the Sky is the park's northern-most section and is the part we explored.  It’s wedged between the Green and Colorado Rivers; their confluence is at the southern tip and it's those two rivers that carved the park's canyons. The Needles makes up the park's east/southeast section.   The Maze is the west/southwest section of the park and has NO improved road leading to it. 
Jim in front of a canyon where you can see one of the unimproved roads on the canyon floor.  All sections of the park have similar roads accessible by a “regular four wheel drive” we were told (no souped-up, big-rubber-tire vehicles needed, but I think I'd rent a Jeep before I drove our Honda CRV on them). The roads were built during a search for uranium that was pretty much a bust -- otherwise the area might never have been made a national park.
Jim on yet another ledge with yet another canyon and road in the distance.  A man standing near me while I was taking  the photo said he'd drive me down the canyon to retrieve the car keys if Jim fell. (Actually, it was a safe walk to where Jim is standing, and I walked out there later myself.)
 We listened to a ranger presentation made at Island in the Sky's "Grand View Point Overlook," the furthest point out on a developed road. 

The Green River, still carving the canyon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Back in Utah!

We are now in Moab, Utah -- only about 250 miles from Salt Lake City in case Ashley and Shad's little boy decides to make an earlier-than-expected-arrival.  But to catch up on our travels: after the Cottonwood Campground in Chinle, AZ, our next stop was Sand Island Campground in Bluff, Utah.  Managed by the BLM, it has 27 campsites and a boat launch where people rafting the San Juan River put in or take a break.  Cost to camp is $10 a night, but because Jim has a “senior pass” (or as we call it, his “old guys' card") we paid $5.  The old guys' card also gets us into all national monuments for free.  This card costs $10, is available to anyone 62 to older, and has to be one of the best deals around.
The scenery on the way to Bluff on Highway 191 was gorgeous.  
Another view on Highway 191. 
Goats on the reservation being herded by a pick up truck and a dog along Highway 191.
These two rock formations are directly above an art gallery and restaurant on the north side of Bluff.  I'd be worried about when they are going to roll.

Our camping spot at at Sand Island Campground.  We arrived the  Saturday before Easter; a family pulled in with their RV late that night and had an Easter egg hunt the next morning.
The bluff that rims part of the campground has a large panel of petroglyphs.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Random thoughts while on the reservation

Chinle, AZ (where our campground near Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located) is small town with few amenities.  It does, however, have cattle, sheep and horses grazing in town plus quite a few dogs.  One of the dogs lies on the sidewalk in town and chases cars whenever he gets in the mood; we were one of its victims.  I don’t think I’ve had my car chased by a dog since the first year I got my driver’s license.
We met a couple at the campground from Polk, Ohio, just 20 miles due south of my hometown of Wellington, Ohio.  
We visited Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four US states (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado) meet.
The Four Corners Monument is on the Navajo reservation.  The long, low buildings house booths where Navajos sell beads, paintings, and pottery.
Bev behind other tourists at the Four Corners spot and trying to get Jim’s attention. 
Bev standing on the Four Corners spot in front of Utah.
Jim eating Indian fry bread we bought at Four Corners.  It was so windy we ate the fry bread in our car.
Our camping spot at the Cottonwood Campground near Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  The campground is part of the National Parks Service and is free, although they are going to start charging $10 a night April 16.  Great campground.
Horses grabbing a bite to eat in downtown Chinle, AZ.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ya’at eeh (That’s “hello” in Navajo)

We are at another “wow” spot:  Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, AZ on the Navajo Indian Reservation. 
I told Jim this place would be in my top five most beautiful sites visited.  He agreed, not counting brew pubs.
We hiked into the canyon on the White House Trail.  At the bottom we saw the White House Ruin, built by ancestral Puebloan people 1,000 year ago.The trail is named for a dwelling that is covered with white plaster.  Along the way we saw amazing view after amazing view.  Photos below.   Also, at the bottom of the canyon were Navajos selling necklaces, paintings and pottery.  I wanted to buy two necklaces, but didn’t have any money with me.  No problem.  Just leave the money at the Chevron in Chinle and tell them to give it to Sharon.  Sale complete.
Further up the canyon rim road, we also saw Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire.  In the Navajo culture, the Spider Woman is a deity who taught the Navajo people how to to weave.   
A view near the beginning of our hike into Canyon de Chelly (prounouced Canyon De Shay.)
Bev on the 2.5 mile round trip trail.

Another view.
And another view, this time including Jim. 
And another view with Jim.
A couple from California took this photo of us. 
The twin spires of 800-foot-tall Spider Rock.   Spider Woman is a Navajo deity who taught the Navajo to weave.
Jim with Spider Rock behind him to his left.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Take it Easy

We wanted our next stop to be Winslow, Arizona (cue up Jackson Browne or the Eagles).  When I called nearby Homolovi State Park on availability of campsites, the ranger told me “We’ve never been full.”  Now we know why:  This place is very unpopulated. 
Homolovi means “place of the little hills” in Hopi, and is at the edge of the Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona.  The park was created to protect the ancestral site and now serves as a research center.
There are two pueblo ruins at the park where Hopi ancestors lived during the 14th century. The park also has 53 camp sites and a great camp host named Elaine, who we really needed when we got here.  Because, as it turns out, we dragged the electrical cable that operates our tow car turn signals and brake lights (and syncs  them with the rig) all the way here.  So it was frayed.  Badly.
Elaine made a phone call and we were on our way to Glenn’s RV Repair Shop in Winslow where a guy named Travis fixed it and another guy named Justin delivered it to us at the park.  

PS:  Happy Birthday to my brother, Don.
12,633-foot Humphrey's Peak, just north of Flagstaff, as seen on I-17 on our way to Homolovi State Park. 
The jack rabbits at Homolovi State Park are as big as dogs.
Bev standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.  Jim says the Jackson Browne version of the song is better than the Eagle's version. 
It's a girl, my lord, in (well, near) a flat bed Ford.   Winslow is on historic Route 66.
The blue and white speck in this photo is our rig in our camping spot at Homolovi State Park.  There are some other rigs here, but they are not (obviously) near us. 
The view out our rig's back window.

Monday, April 2, 2012

You can't beat a Dead Horse

We’re still at Dead Horse Ranch State Park about 17 miles south of Sedona, AZ and in a town named Cottonwood.  We’ve stayed two extra days because it’s windy, which makes it a little harder to drive the rig.  We expect to move on tomorrow.
But in the meantime we’ve been hiking, doing chores (laundry, groceries), watched the Buckeyes stay ahead of Kansas until the very end (bummer, but they did get to the final four -- so Yay, Buckeyes) and took a trip to Sedona.

We can really hear the coyotes here at night.  Jim says coyotes sometimes make a lot of noise to fool predators into thinking the pack is larger than it is.  They are either doing just that, or there really are a heck of a lot of them nearby.
Jim and Coop on a trail just above our campground.  Our rig is third from the right.  There are two RV campgrounds here, a campground for tent campers, plus cabins.  
Dead Horse Ranch State Park includes part of what’s called the Verde River Greenway State Natural System.  It’s a riparian “gallery” forest, which means it has a forest in an area that otherwise has no trees.  There are fewer than 20 such riparian zones in the world.
The park includes three large lagoons.  In one place the birds were so thick it sounded like a red-winged black bird convention.

A heron (look at the top right of the branches) perched near the Verde River.
How the park got its name:  A family from Minnesota named Irey came to Arizona looking for a ranch in the 1940s.  One property had a big dead horse on the road.  Later when the dad asked his kids which ranch they liked, they said “The one with the dead horse”  and their ranch got it’s name. The Ireys sold the ranch to the state of Arizona in 1973; keeping the name “Dead Horse Ranch" in the park's name was a condition of the sale. 
Sign with similar messages ("Votex tours!  Free vortex maps!) are all over Sedona.   A vortex is a place where energy is concentrated; Sedona is famous for them and even devotes a page of it's city website to it  It says that one of the vortexes (vorti?) is at Airport Mesa, which I first thought meant the Mesa, AZ Airport -- Jim said maybe near the candy machine.  (Airport Mesa is actually an area near uptown Sedona with panoramic views.)
A view from downtown Sedona.