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Published: December 8th 2009
JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS : FOUR CORNER STATES 2009
July 10, 2009 (Friday)
It seems like we just went to bed...at one a.m. Now the 5:20 alarm greets me. So
much preparation for the trip, especially coordinating a paint job for the house, while
we are away.
Bethany's best friend, Hannah, will be traveling with us. Her family arrives about
6:30. We leave our house and arrive at the Mobile airport before 8:00. There is time to
take a few pictures of the girls at the “family” sculpture out front.
Check-in with Continental Airlines goes smoothly and we breeze through security
with no problems. The flight leaves on time at 9:15. That is a good sign. Our plane
lands in Houston, Texas at 10:32.
I buy an early lunch at Schlotzsky's Deli. We love that sourdough bread. We soon
board and leave at 11:45. I appreciate this being on time aspect, as I remember missed
connections from previous vacation flights.
1 always enjoy a window seat. And there is a lot of flat central and west Texas out
my window. Our watches are changed to Mountain Daylight Savings Time. Destination:
Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our daughter has now been in 14 states, with three others to
follow, on this trip.
ALL of our luggage arrives with us in Albuquerque, at 12:30. This is something we
had been concerned about. A shuttle bus took us to the car rental headquarters. Our
S.U.V. was not quite ready. It took 45 minutes of waiting before we drive out in a
Nissan Pathfinder. LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!
Our first vacation destination was the University of New Mexico campus. We drove
to Northrop Hall to see the Meteorite Museum. There are 550 specimens from around
the planet. This holds the 6th largest collection of meteorites in the U.S.A. One of the hi-
lights is the one ton stone that landed in Norton County, Kansas in 1948. There is also
a 1600 pound chunk of the famous Navajo iron meteorite. Quite impressive.
On the same hallway is the Geology Museum. Established in the 1930's, there are
over 20,000 specimens in this collection. The public display includes several hundred
minerals, fossils, dinosaur bones and eggs, ammonites, trilobites, orbicular rocks,
beautifully colored minerals, and an interesting display of the ancient elephants of New
Mexico: mastodons and mammoths.
There is a seismograph in the corner of the room. Data was updated every 10 minutes
to show earthquake activity around the planet. In front of the machine was a small area
for the tourists to jump up and down on. The seismograph needle would measure our
activity. It was fun to see the needle moving like crazy. This museum has been a treat.
Back into the car and turn on the a.c. It is hot! We leave campus and drive through
town. After crossing the Rio Grande River we soon find our exit. We are now at the
visitors center of the Petroglyph National Monument. We picked up a brochure with
hiking trails and bought four bottles of water. Unfortunately, the gates are locked at 5:00.
Why? This is summertime and there are at least 3 and ½ hours before sunset. Bethany,
Hannah and I hiked for only about 25 minutes. We did see six petroglyphs. Sure wished
there was more time to walk and wander. And we saw a roadrunner by the bushes.
About twenty minutes later, we check into a La Quinta motel. I get directions for
supper: Garduno's Mexican Restaurant. It feels like a festival in there and the food is
plentiful and very good. I notice a sign out front: Don't drink the water, Drink the
Margaritas... It has been a wonderful first day. Bedtime tonight is 9:30.
July 11, 2009 (Saturday)
Happy anniversary! Twenty two years of marriage! Up at 6:15 while the girls slept.
I made a trip to a local Wal-Mart to purchase an ice chest, a case of bottled water, some
supplies and a box of Earl Grey tea (an unusual anniversary gift).
There was a continental breakfast served in the lobby. We check out at 8:30 and go
to the west side of the Petroglyph National Monument. This broad, grassy flat area is
home to three dormant volcanoes. Around 150,000 years ago, Albuquerque was a hotbed
of volcanic activity. These three Albuquerque Volcanoes were formed by Fissure erup-
tions. These are rather rare and leave behind multiple “cinder cones” which now appear
as small hills. We only had time to hike to the top of one, the JA Volcano. The other two
are known as Black Volcano and Vulcan Volcano.
From the top of the ancient volcano we were treated to a fantastic 360 degree view!
There was a rabbit and several lizards that crossed our paths. We readily admired the
stratified rocks, mesas and flat lands. It is beautiful.
Driving west on I-40, we enter the Laguna Indian Reservation. There is an Indian
Arts Center to visit. Lots of authentic, hand-made Indian crafts and memorabilia. And
what better way to finish our trip here? We bought plates of Indian Fry Bread and
enjoyed it at a shaded table in front of the store.
Thirty miles down the interstate, there are signs for the Bandera Volcano and Ice
Caves. Janet and I reminisce about our visit there in 1993. A little while later, we cross
the Continental Divide.
There are a couple of billboards that catch our eye. Several include the caption of
“Historic Route 66”. The one we are curious about is Earl's Restaurant, World Famous
since 1947. I wondered what made it world famous.
It is now time for lunch as we enter Gallup. The parking lot at Earl's is packed as we
walked past a few Indian vendors at the front door. The food was very good, and such
large portions. The staff was friendly and courteous. However, what we will remember
about this Route 66 restaurant is the 30 or 40 Indian vendors that came to our table,
trying to sell their handmade items. I have never had so many people visit my table
before. They readily accepted a no-thank you and were polite, not pushy. There were
even two ladies in there who must have been in their 80's, trying to sell their stuff. Oh
well, that just added to the ambiance.
Arizona awaits us and we need to take a few pictures of the state sign. It is soon time
to visit our first of eight national parks: Petrified Forest N.P. It has one of the world's
largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood. This 218,533 acre site
became a national park in 1962. We made several stops at the observation points in the
Painted Desert area. There is a striking color contrast with the different bands or strata
in these badlands of the Chinle Formation.
During the Triassic Period, seasonal flooding would wash trees from where they grew
to where they accumulated in sandy river channels. They were buried by layers of
gravelly sand, which was rich in volcanic ash. This ash was the source of silica, colored
with oxides of iron and manganese. It has a stunning beauty to it. There are hiking trails
at the Jasper Loop and the Crystal Loop. And I saw many ravens in this area, just as I
did 20 years ago. A quick visit to the Rainbow Forest Museum for souvenirs and the
area's geological story and human history.
We exit the park and drive to Holbrook. Time now for gasoline and an A & W root-
beer float. I have been carefully checking my watch. We would love to see the Barringer
Meteor Crater while there is still sunlight. As we arrive at 7:05, the guard tells us that the
gates close at 7:00. What a disappointment. Well, we'll just get up earlier than normal
tomorrow and backtrack to Barringer.
Tonight we shall stay in Flagstaff. Janet calls her cousin Pam, who comes to visit.
There is so much to catch up on since our last get-together five years ago. She enjoys
scuba diving and traveling. I am entertained by her adventures in Fiji, Belize, Peru, the
Cayman Islands and Tanzania. What wonderful trips. We say goodnight after about 90
minutes and go onto bed at 11 p.m.
July 12, 2009 (Sunday)
The 5:30 wake-up call starts our morning. We fill up at the continental breakfast and
leave at 8:30. This morning we backtrack about 40 miles, until we arrive at the Bar-
ringer Meteor Crater. It is estimated that 50,000 years ago, a meteor slammed into this
Arizona desert. The crater is nearly one mile wide. It is 570 feet deep and the rim rises
150 feet above the level of the surrounding sandstone plain. The scientific explanation is
that the meteor was 150 feet wide and weighed 300,000 tons. The amount of energy
which was produced by this impact was enough to vaporize the meteor. The meteor was
composed almost entirely of iron and nickel and slammed into the earth at 28,600 miles/
hour. It had the force of 150 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
The visitor center had several pieces of the meteorite on display. I especially enjoyed
the 10 minute movie : Collisions and Impacts... There is a boardwalk that takes you to
the rim of the crater. Great pictures. There are 150+ proven impact sites on our planet.
A sign touts Barringer Crater as being “The Prototype of Impact Craters in our Galaxy”.
This has been a fantastic visit for our budding geologist. So glad we squeezed this
trip into our plans today. We head west to Flagstaff again, then south on I-17. We pass
through the Coconino National Forest. There are a few signs along the road as we climb
in altitude...5000..6000..7000 feet high. A few hours later we arrive in a rainstorm at
Uncle Ted and Mary Lou are waiting for us and we receive a tour of their lovely
home. It sits on 12 acres on the outskirts of town. It is lunchtime and we are treated at
the Azteca Mexican Grill. Good food and good conversation as we stay about two hours.
I take a picture of our crew, say our good-byes and head north. There is a quick stop in
Williams to stretch our legs. A large sign announces “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.
We don't stop now until we reach the Grand Canyon Village. We are booked for two
nights at the Grand Hotel.
Our luggage is unloaded and now we can relax... in the swimming pool. Several
families had the same, fun idea. I hear lots of Spanish and French. We stay an hour
before returning to our room.
We will eat tonight at the Canyon Star Restaurant, which is at our hotel. It has a
quaint, rustic, western atmosphere and a guitar player / singer who entertained us. We
pass a huge stone fireplace while walking through the lobby. Later on tonight, about
10 o'clock, I have the girls follow me outside. There are thousands of stars in the dark,
night sky and so beautiful. Wish I had my telescope out here.
July 13, 2009 (Monday)
No alarm clock to wake us up today. We needed that extra bit of rest. There is a
service station close by and that is where I buy breakfast. We have bear claws, Danish
pastries, fruit juice and coffee.
We arrive at the Grand Canyon National Park at 11 a.m. At Yavapai Point, there is a
full parking lot. The beauty is outstanding, no matter how many times you see it on
television. I am certainly busy with the camera and camcorder today. We must have
stopped at ten observation pull-offs for the scenic views. And lots more pictures!
This national park is huge at 1,218,35 acres. It is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles
wide and one mile deep! This is the second most visited of our national parks, with close
to five million visitors / year. The oldest human artifacts are nearly 12,000 years old.
There has been continuous use and occupation of the park land since that time. As a
World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes
in the world.
There are records of three of the four eras of geologic time, a rich and diverse fossil
record, numerous caves and the best example of arid land erosion on Earth. There are
also several major ecosystems here. Concerning its great biological diversity, there are
1500 plant; 89 mammalian; 355 bird; 47 reptile; 17 fish; and 9 amphibian species found
in the park. It is truly an amazing place.
It is time for a tail-gate picnic. There are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to enjoy
for lunch. From the shade, we observe squirrels, crows and a California Condor. Wow.
We like picnics in the “park”. And we heard many more foreign languages today.
Our next stop was at the Tusayan Ruins and Museum. Anasazi Indians settled this
village in the late 1100's. Lots of artifacts, pottery and treasures from several different
Indian tribes that lived in this area. The ruins themselves are not that spectacular, just
rows of stones forming an outline of the Indian community. It has been several hundreds
of years since the Indians left. However, the site was not “discovered” by archeologists
until 1930. There are several signs here that inform about life 800 years ago. I like the
kiva storage rooms.
Three more miles to the east is the Grand View Point. Bethany and I enjoy the hiking
trails. Nearby is the Watch Tower. Constructed in 1932, spiral stairs above the bookstore
and souvenir shop take you through more layers of Indian history. At the top there is a
wonderful panoramic view. Cedar Mountain and Navajo Point are 90+ miles away and
are easily seen today.
Supper tonight is at the Spaghetti Western restaurant. The food is excellent and the
atmosphere was wonderful, very family friendly. And there is time for another trip to the
swimming pool. I find another Alabama family to chat with. Bethany and Hannah want
to swing and slide at the playground, which is outback, by the tall pines. Big kids.
When the stars come out later, we all go outside to enjoy another stunning view. At
one point, we watched four different planes as they flew their separate ways in the cool
night sky. The stars just seem so bright!
July 14, 2009 (Tuesday)
We have breakfast pastries, fruit juice and coffee to start our morning. We check out
at 8:30. Our trip today takes us back through the Grand Canyon. There are two more
stops for some of the most gorgeous scenery in the country. And more time on the cam-
corder plus camera pictures, especially at the Desert View.
We exit the park and drive toward Cameron. We park by the Little Colorado River
Gorge. Navajo Indians are in their booths selling handmade items (lots of jewelry). A
few necklaces and bracelets were purchased at a good price. As we walked along the
trail, I liked the sign that warned about snakes and lizards.
Highway 89 took us north towards Page. In the Echo Cliffs area it was easy to
imagine what the moon looks like. Seems like we had left Earth. In a little while, we
arrive at Page. I have the directions to the Antelope Canyon Navajo Nation Tours. I was
hoping to arrive by 1 p.m. Made it by only three minutes. Tickets are purchased and we
climb into the back of a 14-seat truck. Our Navajo guide, Kim, pointed out different
features and answered many of our questions. We learned a lot about the history of these
formations and the canyon. This was a sculpted and petrified sand dune, created by the
erosive force of water. Flooding still continues to gradually change the landscape. At
one point, we saw a log about 25 feet above ground level, wedged into a crevice. This
is an awesome place to behold.
Our one hour here is soon over and we drive into Page. On a hill looking down at the
Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, we pull into the Butterfield restaurant. There is a
sign out front: “Best Dam View”. Lake Powell is the second largest man-made reservoir
in the U.S.A. We cool off and have a good lunch.
I see a Welcome to Utah, Home of the 2002 Winter Olympics sign. We have to stop
for another picture. There are miles and miles of open flatland. Ahead of us are the
Vermillion Cliffs. With these pink and white colored cliffs, it resembles the Painted
Desert. There is a historic marker at Old Paria. It was the site of an old western movie
set. In use from 1963-1991, “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and episodes of Gunsmoke were
We drive on through Kanab and Mount Carmel until we finally reach Zion National
Park. We pass through a couple of tunnels. The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is 1.1 miles
long. The Checkerboard Mesa is amazing. Can't wait to come back here tomorrow. We
drive on until we exit the park.
We arrive in Springdale a few minutes later. I pull into a campground and turn on the
camcorder. We see a couple of grazing deer, next to some tents. We easily find our resort
destination, Flanigan's Inn. This is very nice, like an oasis. After checking into our room,
we discover it was not clean. The electricity went out earlier this afternoon, and the staff
was sent home. Well, in about ten minutes, one of the workers came back. I looked after
her 18 month old son while she cleaned the room.
Janet, Bethany and Hannah left me in the room while they went exploring. There is a
labyrinth atop an adjacent hill. It is a quiet place to catch your breath, block out all other
distractions and meditate on this beautiful area. This was so nice and peaceful.
Supper tonight was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And we watched television
for the first time on our trip. The MLB All-Star game was on. I couldn't get the girls to
join me, so I went to the swimming pool by myself. There were several Mexican free-
tailed bats flying around the pool, attracted by the lights.
We loaded into the car about 10:15 and drove a few miles to the Zion Park entrance
parking lot. Star gazing!!! Away from all lights, I have never seen such a dark sky or so
many stars. I think I lost count at 6,320. Janet and I each saw a “shooting star”. This
has been an incredible 30 minutes. We are still talking about our stars as we go to bed
July 15, 2009 (Wednesday)
We leisurely arise around 9 and walk up front to the Spotted Dog Cafe. They serve a
wonderful breakfast buffet. The town provides a free shuttle service which takes us to
the Zion National Park Visitors Center. From there, another free shuttle bus makes eight
stops inside the park. With 229 square miles at Zion, there is much to see.
Our family will go to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava. We must drink lots of
water today, for the temperature is already above 100 degrees. We stroll along the trail
by the Virgin River. I read a sign which described the geology of this area. The river
canyon narrows abruptly to create a tight, perpendicular gorge. The scenery of Zion
Canyon evolves daily as tons of rock particles tumble downstream. The water is so
clear at the rivers edge that we see dozens of fish.
As we travel upriver, the trail passes through surprisingly lush vegetation. Spring run-
off leaves the low ground perpetually moist, creating a cooler, greener micro-climate of
ferns and mosses. I was not expecting to see a desert swamp. Bethany has found some
huge boulders to climb on. And guess who has to walk in the cold river water?
It is so hot today, that we head back to our room for lunch and the air conditioning.
After resting awhile, we catch another bus back into the park. Our first stop is at the
museum, where we watch a 20 minute movie. Zion became a National Monument in
1909 and then a National Park in 1919. So they are celebrating 100 Years of Sanctuary.
Our next shuttle bus stop is at the Court of the Patriarchs. These three peaks at Mount
Moroni are named after Biblical characters of the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob. This is at the Birch Creek Canyon section of the Virgin River. This was the
shortest trail we walked today, but the view was still spectacular.
Our last hike of the day was the best. We went to Weeping Rock. The trail is ½ mile
round trip. Water continues to “weep” from the alcove, and provides for lush hanging
gardens. Through millions of years, this area was covered by mud and sand. As the
layers were compacted, the mud was squeezed into thin shale layers. The rain / snow
water of today cannot pass through the shale, so it slides out easily over the sandstone
layers. Thus, we have a continuously weeping wall. And the nearby little waterfall is
crystal clear. Many small markers along the trail tell of the flora and fauna. We saw a
few deer as we were exiting the trail.
Time to buy more souvenirs and catch a shuttle bus out of here. At the Zion Park
Lodge, all of us tourists were amazed to see 15-20 wild turkeys slowly strolling along
the roadside. Our guide pointed out a few trees at the edge of the river. Beavers had
visited and damaged many of these trees.
Supper tonight was at the Spotted Dog Cafe. Most of the patrons were in hiking
clothes. I ordered the Gourmet Game Meatloaf with elk and buffalo. Janet had the lamb
shank and the girls had pasta plates. It was excellent. For dessert, there was bread
pudding, cheesecake drizzled with raspberry sauce and a crème brule. What a feast!
I took the two teenagers to the swimming pool and hot tub from 9:30 - 10:15. We
enjoyed watching the stars come out to play. Back in the room, we worked on some
e-mails and downloading pictures. Finally in bed at 11:45.
July 16, 2009 (Thursday)
I got up around 8 am. The three girls went to the breakfast buffet while I packed. As
we left at 10:15, our path took us back through Zion N.P. We stopped at Checkerboard
Mesa for more pictures. These cracked and weathered slopes resemble rows of cracked
biscuits. We drive north and soon see a pasture with 50 buffalo. They seem so gentle.
There was a rock shop in Orderville that Bethany had to visit. We bought several
rocks, a small box of meteorites (from three different continents), brachiopods, rocks,
horn coral and some sandstone. This was a fun place to shop.
It is close to lunch time as we stop in Hatch at the Cactus Cowboy Restaurant. There
is an 8 oz. Buffalo burger on the menu. So big that I couldn't finish all the french fries.
Adjacent to the restaurant is a replica of the Old Hatch Jail. There were about 20 French
tourists there and each one had to have their picture taken inside the jail. Funny.
A few miles later we drive east on Hwy. 12. This road is featured in a Reader's Digest
book I bought for Janet several years ago called The Most Scenic Drives In America.
Passing along sagebrush flats, we soon enter the seven mile stretch of Red Canyon. It
is often called Little Bryce.
We check into our motel, the Bryce Canyon Pines. After unpacking the car, we set
our sights upon Bryce Canyon National Park. Established in 1928, the park encom-
passes 57.2 square miles. There is smoke in the air. Seems like lightning struck in the
southern section of the park last month. Most of the park is now off limits. Visibility is
hazy as we see floating ash particles. We will only be able to visit the northern
Our first stop is at Sunset Point, elevation 8000 feet. There is a nice observation area
that is fenced in. What grabs our attention first are the adorable golden mantled ground
squirrels. They sure look like chipmunks. Some of the most breathtaking hoodoos are
found there. Bethany and Hannah join me in a walk down the switchback trail to the
bottom, where we see a few huge fir trees. This Navajo Loop Trail, at 1.3 miles, is one
of the most popular of all the trails at Bryce Canyon. This is such a pleasant walk. There
are thousands of these colorful hoodoos in the Amphitheater section of Bryce. These
stone columns are carved by ice and rain. For 200 days every year, snow and ice will
melt each afternoon and freeze at night. When the water freezes, it expands and pushes
the rocks apart. We've never seen anything like it!
When our trek is through, we make it back to the car and enjoy some icy cold bev-
erages and a few snacks. Our next stop is Inspiration Point. Such a spectacular view, as
we look toward Silent City, near Sunset Point. There are so many rows of seemingly
frozen hoodoos. We see so many pink and white and beige and yellow and rust colors.
You can see the geology in their striated erosion. Bristle-cone pine trees cover the edge.
Bryce Point was settled in 1870 by Ebenezer Bryce. As an early Mormon settler, he
only lived here for 5 years. This is one of the most scenic areas of the park. When asked
about the extraordinary scenery, he replied, “It's a hell of a place to lose a cow”.
Back into the car, we drive south to Paria View. This section is famous for its slots
canyons. Comparatively, there are fewer sandstone / rock hoodoo formations here. It is
supposed to be a good place to view Peregrine falcons, but they were bashful today.
Sunrise Point is our last stop of the day. It is too smoky for the girls, so I hike the
Queen's Garden Trail by myself. I am just mesmerized by all these hoodoos. I take
about 15 pictures. This is the place from which I will submit my picture for Mobile's
newspapers summer vacation photo contest. This is absolutely beautiful. Hope there is a
break in the smoke tomorrow, for my three girls need to see this site.
As we drive back to the motel, I see my first of many Utah prairie dogs, standing on
his back legs. After a few minutes, we are freshened up and walk over to the restaurant.
Our supper tonight will be: Rainbow Trout, Smothered Hamburger Steak, Chef's Salad
By the green grassy area in front of our room, there are four orange-breasted robins
that have found a long earthworm to eat. I change into my swimsuit and walk over to the
enclosed swimming pool. There are 20 people in there, mostly children, and they are
loudly enjoying their vacation. I soon have the place to myself. Then off to bed.
July 17, 2009 (Friday)
Our wake-up call is at 7:45 and we have toast and jelly for breakfast. Bethany,
Hannah and I walk across the parking lot about an hour later. We have 9:00 reservations
for a Red Canyon horseback ride. This is a one hour ride through the high country. There
is another family of three that joins us. I ride an old brown horse named Lucky. Bethany
is on Stan, a chestnut colored horse. Hannah rides Annie, an older gray horse.
All the horses were so gentle and well cared for. We stopped a few times for water
and to take in the scenery. I spotted a roadrunner in the grass. And we saw a couple of
mountain short-horned lizards. A few times, Hannah's horse rode too close to the low
hanging branches. She said the horse did it on purpose!(?) I took several good pix on the
trail and pulled out my camcorder too. This was so much fun...and wonderful views.
Back at our motel room, we took our showers to wash off the hot dusty trail and the
smell of horses. Janet finished her morning project of washing a load of clothes. We go
to lunch at our restaurant at 12:30.
Our great western adventure continues this afternoon as we drive over to the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Designated in 1996 as a N. M., at 1.9 million
acres, it is larger than the state of Delaware. This is perhaps the world's most dramatic
natural staircase. The rocks that form Grand Staircase-Escalante N. M. climb 5000 feet
to the rim of Bryce Canyon. The Monument is full of twisting canyons, multi-hued
cliffs, expansive plateaus, pinnacles, buttes and mesas.
The three distinctive features of the Monument include the staircase itself. It is made
up of steps of gray, white, brown and vermillion cliffs. Next is the Kaiparowits Plateau,
which is a broad mesa carved through narrow canyons. The third feature is the Escalante
Canyon area. This will include the Escalante River and the canyons it created.
The Visitors Center is located in Cannonville and we got a map there. We drove down
unpaved, primitive roads for awhile, admiring the beauty. Where a creek crosses the
road was a good place for us to turn around. This vast Monument area was the last place
in the continental U.S.A. to be mapped. This is another proverbial “middle of nowhere”.
Heading west on Scenic Hwy. 12, we are soon back at Bryce Canyon N.P. At Sunrise
Point, we brave through a very annoying smoke to see the hoodoos. Janet had a little
trouble breathing and went on back to the car with the two girls. These silent hoodoos
inspire your imagination. I finished clicking a few more pictures, then we drove to the
Fairyland Point. Once again we see the enchanting hoodoos. The view is clearer here.
And what a sight we have seen. The word “beautiful” just does not seem to describe it.
We stop at a market on the way back to the motel and buy some food fixings. Our
two teenagers stay in the room and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Afterward,
they are on their laptop computers. Janet and I stroll over to the restaurant. Since we are
on vacation, this is the best time to try something different: Elk Burgers. Delicious. I go
swimming to relax. A couple of the children there ask me to help them learn to back
float, I couldn't disappoint them. Fun!
July 18, 2009 (Saturday)
This is another gloriously wonderful morning. We eat breakfast in our room: milk
and cereal and juice. After checking out, we leave at 9:30 and drive east on Hwy. 12.
There are many more miles of stunning scenery ahead of us. I stop at most of the over-
looks, and many have descriptive signs. We saw Powell Point in the distance. It's named
after the adventurer and explorer, John Wesley Powell. He led the Powell Geographic
Expedition in 1869. It was a three month river trip down the Green and Colorado
Rivers that included the first passage through the Grand Canyon.
Another sign spoke of the time when Fremont Indians farmed and lived in this region.
The next sign was titled: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. It showed a map of 12
mountains and mountain ranges. Navajo Mountain is 65 miles away. We are 37 miles
from the Henry Mountains, some of the last remaining wild lands in the southwest. Then
there is the Aquarius Plateau. At 11,000+ feet above sea level, it is the highest timbered
plateau in North America, and 30 miles away. At Boynton Overlook, the area resembled
another moonscape. Take A Deep Breath describes the 29 mile section of road that goes
over the narrow ridge of the Hogsback. Completed in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation
Corps, the road provided the first year-round automobile mail service for the people of
I snap a picture of the Welcome To Boulder sign and it is now lunchtime. We found a
delightful organic this...vegetarian that...earth muffin...type of restaurant. The food was
delicious at the Burr Trail Grill and we felt like we stumbled into an artsy little town.
It is located at the corner of the 66-mile Burr Trail which ends at Bullfrog Lake. We
learn that Boulder was the last town in our country to receive its mail via pack mule. It
had a reputation of being isolated from the rest of the world until the mid 1930's.
We drive north and enter the Dixie National Forest. As we climb in elevation, there is
a striking change in the landscape: green. It has been a week since I have seen this much
green. We pass a Summit Elevation sign of 9600 feet. There are plenty of pine and fir
trees to view. We stop at an Indian Trading Post. Janet decides Bethany needs a wooden
Indian flute. There is an instructive CD that comes with it.
We are soon in the tiny town of Torrey. It is now 3 p.m. And all our stuff has been
brought in. We will only stay here for one night.
A six mile drive takes us to Capitol Reef National Park. We take a few pictures at the
sign. And at the Visitor's Center, we receive a map and directions. This was established
as a National Monument in 1937. National Park status would not come until 1971. It
comprises 378 square miles of colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, massive domes and
monoliths. Capitol Reef is the name of an especially rugged and spectacular part of the
Waterpocket Fold near the Fremont River. A nearly 100-mile long bulge in our planet's
crust, this Fold is a monocline: a “step up” in the rock layers. The western rock layers of
the Fold have been lifted more than 7000 feet higher than the layers on the east.
The national park gets its name from Capitol, for the white domes of Navajo sand-
stone that resemble capitol building domes. Reef is for the rocky cliffs, which are a
barrier to travel, like a coral reef. There are eight miles of paved road to drive on.
We pass through the “ghost town” of Fruita. It was first settled by Mormons in the
1870's. Life was sustained by the fertile flood plain of the Fremont River. These pioneers
planted many fruit orchards. There are apple, pear, peach, cherry, mulberry, apricot and
plum trees. Annual fruit sales to the rest of the state was the major source of cash, even
though the barter system was important. Today, about 2500 trees still remain. As each
fruit crop comes into season, the fruit is made available to the public. It is successful on
a pick-and-pay system.
Most of the original settlement is gone. The Gifford house and barn are open to the
public, as are a few other buildings. The restored schoolhouse was such a treat to visit. It
is such a tiny one-roomed school. The school closed in 1941, due to a lack of students. It
is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our plans now are to hike along the Capitol Gorge trail. It is right at one mile through
a dry, rocky stream bed. Turn of the century travelers passed through here. We see the
Pioneer Register, where the early settlers left their names, carved into the rock walls. I
viewed one from a C. Waters on March 3, 1883. There is also a section of petroglyphs,
left by the Fremont Indians. After awhile, the canyon floor narrows to 15 feet and the
Navajo sandstone walls are hundreds of feet high. I'm curious about dozens of metal
pipes, anchored to these walls. These are remnants of old telephone lines. This section of
the trail ends at The Tanks. Bethany and I climbed the rocks to see them. These are
water pockets. The ranger I spoke to earlier had seen big-horn sheep in this area on a
previous hike. We were not so fortunate. However, there were no flash-floods today,
which can be sudden and deadly. And we each had plenty of water with us.
Heading back out of the park, we stopped at the orchards. I pulled into a driveway so
we could watch four deer munching fruit, hanging from the trees. Two stood up on their
hind legs and found apples to eat. I'm pleased to have caught this on my camcorder and
we also got some good pictures. What a treat! It must have tasted wonderful because one
deer just licked his lips with a long tongue. Cute.
I pulled off the road to get a close-up view of the old Fruita schoolhouse. We will
visit tomorrow when there is more time. Outside the park boundary, I stopped so that
Bethany and I could pick up a couple of small rocks. She is such a little geologist.
Returning to our motel room, three of us had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for
supper. Bethany ate a black-bean burger we had ordered for her in Boulder at the Grill.
Hannah and Bethany joined me at the swimming pool for an hour. Though it is out-
side, it is enclosed like a glass house. This was fun and relaxing, especially the hot tub.
Had a blast just tossing the nerf football around, too.
We all went outside our room about 10:30 for a fantastic view of the stars. Nice! I
saw another shooting star! What a way to end the evening. In bed at 11:00.
July 19, 2009 (Sunday)
I awoke at 3:45 and had to go outside for a quick peek at the stars. I saw the quarter
moon and lots more stars. Some are just above the horizon. I'm mesmerized by the view.
At the normal time, we get up for a milk and cereal breakfast. I notice the subdivision
behind our motel. There looks like a tall, white stone monolith in an empty field. We say
goodbye to Torrey at 9:15. Heading east on Hwy. 24 we stop first at Panorama Point.
From there we could see the Henry Mountains and Boulder Mountain. What a view!
Soon we're back at Capitol Reef. We park at the schoolhouse and read about the history.
The building opened in 1896. Eight grades were taught in just the one room. Student
enrollment ranged from 8 - 26. Finally, in 1941, dwindling attendance forced the school
to close. There is a large stove in the middle of the room. And I saw a few inkwells.
The next stop was to see the petroglyphs. These were left by the Fremont Indians,
perhaps a thousand years ago. Several human figures with headdresses, mountains and
sheep decorate the cliff. I've been fascinated with petroglyphs for 20 years now.
Our next quick stop is at the Behunin Cabin. Built in 1882, this family of ten lived
here. This was so tiny that only the two parents and the two smallest children stayed
inside. By widening a dugout in the cliff, the boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a
bed in an old wagon box. We certainly take our modern conveniences for granted.
The road now seems pretty lonely. There is a lot of desolate looking land. I see
several “Cow Crossing” signs. Actually, I see more signs than I see cows.
Our next stop is at old Giles Town. This little ghost town seems to be in the process
of restoration. There is a sign touting the history of the area in the late 1800's. One sign
reads: Wanted...$5000 Reward...Dead Or Alive... “The Cassidy Gang”. Another sign
reads: WANTED...Sundance Kid...$4000...Dead Or Alive. Still another wooden sign
touted the Blue Valley Ranch...Historic Old Giles Town of 1898.
In 1895, Blue Valley changed its name to Giles. It was a fertile farming community,
with upwards of 200 people. Devastating floods pretty much destroyed the town in
1909. There just isn't much left of it these days.
On we drive until we arrive at Hanksville. It is time for more gas so we stop at the
Hollow Mountain market. It is a gas and convenience store that sure makes an impress-
ion. It is literally part of a hollowed section of mountain. Cool. On the premises is 'Ol
Jed's Smokehouse. The signs there were a hoot: Elk Dead Ahead; Smoked Elk...;
Jerky Here...; Vegetarians Not Welcome Here...; Naked Stripped Elk...; Smokin Buffalo
Patties...; and this one really got Bethany's attention: All Men & Women Are Created
Equal... Except Vegetarian Freaks Of Nature. We got a big kick out of all those signs.
One hour later, we reach Interstate 70. We soon enter the city of Green River. It is
time for lunch and we stop at the Tamarisk Restaurant on E. Main St. New to the menu
were flavored sodas. I may have mentioned before that I like to try new or different
items when on vacation. How about a cantaloupe flavored soda? My three travelers did
not care for the taste, but thought it was interesting. It tasted delicious to me. We were
pleased to have a table by a large window. The banks of the gently moving Green River
were just below us. I saw a flock of 20 geese fly by. Mother robins took worms to their
babies and we saw a hummingbird, too. This was a pleasant little stop.
There is an unusual sign I need to photograph: Dust Storm Area...End. In a little
while, we reach our destination. I drive across the Colorado River into Moab. We have
our reservations for two nights at the La Quinta motel. After checking in, we all decide
a one hour nap / rest would be nice.
We will visit Canyonlands National Park today. When designated as a N.P. in 1964,
cattle grazing and uranium ore mining ceased. The boundaries of the park expanded in
1971 and there are now 527 square miles. Along the road, we pull over at Big Mesa
Viewpoint. We see...Big Mesa, of course. And it is one huge butte. It is now time to take
our picture at another national park sign. At the Visitor Center, we watch a 15 minute
movie called: Wilderness of Rock. There is a map featuring the three distinct areas,
which are separated by the Green and Colorado Rivers. We shall tour Island In The Sky.
The other two areas are The Needles and The Maze.
The Island In The Sky mesa rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1400 feet above the
surrounding terrain. It contains 40 square miles and is accessible by crossing the “Neck”
to get there. Geologically, the Neck is only 40 feet across. With time and erosion, it will
eventually wear away and the Island will truly be isolated.
Across from the Visitor Center is Shafer Canyon Overlook. From up high we can see
the incredibly twisting Shafer Trail road, built as a cattle trail in 1917. Uranium miners
extracted ore from the White Rim area and turned the old cattle route into a truck route.
The uranium boom began in the early 1950's. Uranium mining stopped here in 1964.
Our next scenic sight along the way is the Green River Overlook, elevation 6000 feet.
One sign at the observation point showed the three different levels. The highest is the
Island In The Sky mesa. A little under 5000 feet is the White Rim mesa. At 4000 feet is
the Colorado River gorge. Plants and climate here are worlds apart. There is such a
difference in trees, animals and rainfall.
The last stop on this stretch of road is Upheaval Dome. Bethany and I got our exer-
cise going to this spot. It is three miles across and has dramatically deformed rock
layers. Experts cannot tell if this was a giant salt dome or a meteor impact crater.
The Grand View Point is our next stop. At 6080 feet, another sign shows us what is
ahead. 35 miles to the east-northeast are the snow-capped LaSal Mountains. The highest
peak is Mt. Peale at 12,721 feet. About 1000 feet below us is the White Rim. This is a
hard layer of white sandstone. The Colorado River is cut so deeply into the canyons, that
it is out of view. There is a 305 foot high eroded spire called the Totem Pole. We see a
small stretch of the White Rim road, which runs 100 miles through the back-country.
There is a Monument Basin, the Abajo Mountains, the Needles, mining roads, and the
confluence where the Colorado and Green Rivers merge. Such a majestic site of beauty!
As we leave the park, we see soaring hawks, a deer and a small kangaroo rat. Snow
still covers the LaSal Mountains. We continue commenting about the geology of this
country as we cross the Colorado River and return to Moab. It is time for a good dinner
and we go to Cassano's Italian Restaurant. At our second floor table, we relaxed with
wonderful meals and a cool breeze. There was so much food, we got 4 to-go boxes.
This will be our supper for tomorrow night.
We arrive at our motel before sunset. There is a cool pool and a hot-tub calling for
me. This is becoming a great habit, to unwind at the end of a long day, as stars come out.
July 20, 2009 (Monday)
The motel offers a continental breakfast and we leave about 9:45. We shall visit half
of Arches National Park this morning. In 1971, it was designated a N.P. It contains 119
square miles. There are over 2000 natural sandstone arches located here. 43 have toppled
due to erosion in the last 40 years.
Here is an interesting sign: Bighorn Sheep Crossing...Next 3 Miles. The Moab Fault
sign tells how at the fracture line, when the rocks shifted, the east side ended 2600 feet
lower than the west side. We first stop at the Courthouse Towers. Then there is the
Tower Of Babel formation.
The Rise and Fall of an Arch sign tells of the “life cycles” of arches. To the right are
the Petrified Dunes. Up ahead is Balanced Rock. The landform's total height is 128 feet.
The huge balanced rock is the size of three buses and rises 55 feet above its base. There
is a lot of walking and hiking and of course, pictures! The highlight would be Windows
Section. This area contains the North Window and South Window. There is also Turret
Arch, down another trail. Bethany and I thoroughly explored that one too.
Next for us is Double Arch. This is the third largest arch in the park. The larger span
is 144 feet wide, while the smaller opening is 67 feet wide. We leave early this afternoon
to find some relief from the 105 degree heat.
Janet wants to stop for lunch at a cute place we've passed a few times, The Peace
Tree and Juice Bar. The girls found an outdoors table for us in the shade. We enjoy
paninis, turkey wraps, tofu wraps and fruit smoothies.
Afterward, we walk down the street to a souvenir shop for a few tee shirts and post-
cards. I liked reading some from the North American Proverbs. Here are a few that I
appreciated. *The more you give, the more good things come to you. *Don't allow the
grass to grow on the path of friendship. *We do not inherit the land from our ancestors,
we borrow it from our children. *It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story. And
*Remember that your children are not your own, but are lent to you by the Creator.
Those were some inspiring post-cards.
Back at our motel room, Janet and I napped for over an hour. And we were thankful
for the air conditioning. Bethany and Hannah read and visited friends on the computer.
At 4 o'clock, we leave and go to the Moab Rock Shop. We each have a card from the
motel's rack of brochures for a free dinosaur bone. This was a fun place to shop. There
are wooly mammoth tusks, rocks, minerals, fossils, sandstone items and all sorts of
cool stuff. The shop is owned by Lin Ottinger, known as the Dinosaur Man. Why? He
had discovered bones several years earlier, thought to be those of an iguanodon. How-
ever, these bones may be from an entirely new species, never seen before. Anyway, the
official scientific name is Iguanodon Ottingeri.
We are now back at Arches and Janet drives so I can use the camcorder. We stop at
the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Glad we have a zoom on the camera. Bethany and I
will hike to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. She is such an adventurer! And we are
not disappointed. We get a nice view of Delicate Arch. This is the arch that is featured
on the Utah car tags.
We drive by Wolfe Ranch, then turn northward. Past the Salt Valley Overlook and the
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint, we park and walk to the Sand Dune Arch. And there is a lot of
deep sand to tromp through. This secluded arch, 30 feet across, sits among sandstone
fins. All this sand looks so out of place, like we should be at a beach.
This same trail takes people to Broken Arch. It is about one mile away, so we just
took a few pictures. A crack at its top gives the appearance that the arch is broken.
Janet slows the car as I take pictures of Skyline Arch. In 1940, a large chunk of
rock fell from this arch, instantly doubling the size of its opening. This is the only arch
in the park that sits on the skyline.
The last parking lot on a paved road we visit today is at Devil's Garden Trailhead.
Janet and Hannah didn't want to walk anymore trails. So, Bethany and I hiked to our
last two stops of the day. We walk a trail for about a half-mile. We are now viewing
Tunnel Arch. There is a much smaller arch very nearby. Next up for us is Pine Tree
Arch. This one got its name from the little pinion pine that grows at the opening. Up
ahead in the distance is another one, possibly Wall Arch. It was too far to hike to.
We took a couple of nice pictures as the sun was setting. Back at our motel at 9, we
have Italian leftovers for supper. Janet washed and dried one load of clothes as the rest
of us watched the National Geographic channel on television. In bed at 11:45.
July 21, 2009 (Tuesday)
I go and buy some bubble-wrap and packaging tape. We shall mail several pounds of
rocks back home, freeing some suitcase space. My next stop is the Peace Tree and Juice
Bar. I ordered ham & cheese wraps and also egg & cheese wraps. The young ladies
enjoy their breakfast in bed. We check out at 11 a.m.
Bethany just has to stop at the fossil and rock store again. Besides, I would like to get
an autograph from Lin Ottinger. There was a book for sale that had been signed by him,
so I bought that one. Imagine, how many people get a dinosaur named after them?
We take a different scenic route as we leave Moab. We will follow the Colorado
River for about 30 miles as we drive along Hwy. 128. We pass several recreation areas
and camping sites. This is beautiful! This stretch of the Colorado River does not look
very intimidating. My best guess is the river is only about 40 feet wide. It was easy to
throw a rock across it from here.
Just a couple of miles south of I-70, we drive 4 miles east to Cisco. Last night,
Hannah and I looked on the computer at ghost towns of Utah. There are three in Grand
County. Cisco was a mining town, founded in the 1880's. There is not too much left of
the town in 2009. Looks like maybe 20 old, run-down buildings. There are quite a few
houses where people still reside. The post office was closed so many years ago that the
zip code was unreadable on the sign. We drive to the only store that is open, the Cisco
Landing Store. It has a very meager selection of merchandise. And it is only open
during the summer months. People have to drive elsewhere to buy groceries.
The woman working at the store said there are ONLY 13 people living here now.
Wow! I wanted the two girls to see a ghost town on this trip, and we did. We spotted a
few prairie dogs as we drove to the interstate.
A few minutes later, I stopped at the state line. It is time to take another round of
pictures: Welcome To Colorful Colorado. Bethany has now been to 17 states, while
Hannah has been in 14. Nineteen miles later, we are on the outskirts of Fruita. We can't
help but noticing lots of burned trees. There must have been a fire through here recently.
We shall check into another La Quinta motel for the night. As we settle in, the t.v. is
turned on and we learn of a wildfire that was started Sunday by lightning. The fire re-
surfaced Monday and jumped the north side of Interstate 70 to the median. The road
was closed for several hours yesterday.
We find a good Mexican restaurant a few blocks away. It is fast becoming one of my
favorite types of food. Bethany, Hannah and I relax in the swimming pool for about 90
minutes. Janet takes a nap and we just take it easy for awhile.
The front desk staff gives directions to a nearby Wal-Mart in nearby Grand Junction.
We buy supplies for the next few days, plus soup and sandwiches for tonight. It is a
restful evening as we play on the computer (Facebook) and watch television.
July 22, 2009 (Wednesday)
After a 6:00 wake-up call, we take quick showers and pack the car. There is another
continental breakfast for us. At the far end of our parking lot we see 550 Jurassic Park
Dr. This is the Dinosaur Museum, operated in conjunction with the University of West-
ern Colorado. We meet a few paleontologists and prepare to go on the Dinosaur Dig!
At 8:45 we leave the museum in a U.W.C. van. Bethany and Hannah have bought tee
shirts several weeks ago for just this occasion. Bethany's purple shirt has a brontosaurus
on it and the word: Vegetarian. Hannah's pink shirt has a T. Rex on it and the word:
Carnivore. That describes our two girls to a tee.
There are a total of seven tourists. We soon arrive at Rabbit Valley, just a few miles
from the Utah state line. Known as the Mygatt-Moore Quarry, this site has been worked
by volunteers and paleontologists for the past 26 summers. Over 4000 dinosaur bones,
teeth and fossils have been removed from here. The most common remains are from the
brontosaurus (Apatosaurus) , Allosaurus and Camarasaurus. Less common have been the
Mymoorapelta (a small armored dino), Diplodocus and Ceratosaurus dinosaurs.
We all receive knee pads, brushes, screw drivers, hammer and dust pan. Our group is
in a shaded work area, 12 x 12 feet. I was working down about 4 inches from a previous
layer, chipping away the pebbles, hardened mud and rocks with screwdriver and hammer.
Then I would use the paleontologist's “best friend”, a small brush. We are very
conscientious about helping out, being careful and doing the best job we can. Our
questions were immediately answered, and we were thrilled when we uncovered another
“treasure”. This is a blast! Spending $125 has never been this much fun.
At 12 noon, we take a break for a picnic lunch. There are sandwiches, chips, cookies,
fruit, drinks and water. There is plenty to eat as we talk with a few older volunteers
about what we've found. They seem eager to help us identify what we have just un-
earthed. Also, whenever a bone is finally removed, one of the more experienced folks
maps it on a grid that is being kept.
I had the pleasure of finding several dinosaur bones, then was intrigued by a black
piece of something. That would be a tooth from an Apatosaurus. One of the workers had
been working on a large clump of bones. He used plaster of Paris to form a huge ball to
remove the entire thing. This will be returned to the museum for more meticulous bone
retrieval. All in all, our group from Alabama found 12 bones, 1 tooth and part of a rib.
All were Apatosaurus.
I was working on another excavation at 2 p.m. when I ran out of time. I simply left it
where it was. There was not enough time to carefully extract it. With my brush, I already
had 5 inches of bone showing. This has been very interesting, entertaining and FUN!!!
Our van returned us to the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita, where we had a chance to go
behind the scenes. This is where the tedious work occurs, extracting bone from stuff. We
all got to tour the museum. So many kids in there and they were just fascinated. Before
leaving, we watched a 15-minute movie and felt a little important for the good work that
By 4:00 we were leaving Fruita and heading into Grand Junction. Going south, the
scenery and landscape changed, but this was so pretty. We pass through Montrose and
stop in the small town of Ouray. It is called “The Switzerland of America”. This is a neat
place, originally settled as a mining town (silver and gold) in the 1870's. The population
is right at 1000. There are several interesting buildings along Main St. It turns out that
the entirety of Main St. is on the National Historic District list. I was surprised to see so
many gravel roads, just one block off the main street. Might be messy with winter snow.
The Ouray Hot Springs swimming pool is open year round. I'd love to come back
here one day, swim and gaze at the mountains. The town is surrounded on 3 and ½ sides
by the steep San Juan Mountains. For supper, we visit a small restaurant. There is meat
loaf, mashed potatoes, etc. The hilight for me is the High Mountain Huckleberry soda.
This has been a fun little stop, but we must continue south on Hwy. 550.
There are curving, even treacherous mountain roads as we keep on driving. In several
spots, there seems to be no more than 6 inches between the white line and a STEEP drop
off. There is not even enough room for a guard-rail. The Red Mountain Pass is just a few
miles outside town. At 11,018 feet, this pass straddles a divide that separates the Uncom-
phagre and Las Animas River watersheds. The scenery is spectacular!
At 8:55 we finally arrive in Durango at the Caboose Motel. Excellent timing. The
office closes at 9 p.m. and we were the last guests. What a full day. Lights out at 9:45.
July 23, 2009 (Thursday)
I'm the first one up again. That has happened a lot on this trip. I drive to the closest
grocery store and buy milk and cereal for breakfast. We are staying at a family owned
motel, originally built in 1940. There is a 700 year old ponderosa pine tree on the
premises. It is estimated to be the oldest one in Durango.
We pass a large herd of elk, behind a fence and grazing in a green meadow. Then we
make it to our 8th National Park on this, Mesa Verde. The one-year Park Pass I bought
earlier in the year has saved us some money. This was the ancestral home of Puebloan
Indians (previously known as Anasazi). They lived here and in this general area for 700
years, circa 600 - 1300 A.D. The park protects over 4000 archeological sites, which
includes 600 cliff dwellings. Covering 52,121 acres, this was the first place in the U.S.A.
to be listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978.
Janet and I visited here 20 years ago. The first stop today is Cliff Palace. This is the
largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde. We shot some excellent pictures here. Park rangers
lead an escorted tour to this site. We then drive to the small Balcony House. There are
also tours available.
And now we have a self guided tour to the Spruce Tree House. My wife rests in the
car, while I hike with the two younger girls. Instead of going directly to the cliff dwell-
ing, I follow the sign pointing to petroglyphs. There are rocky and narrow trails we
travel upon. It doesn't seem like the trail will ever end. We continue to drink plenty of
water. I decide to finally turn back, not knowing how close the petroglyphs were. I lag
behind with Hannah as Bethany speeds on ahead. And in a few minutes, she's gone.
Hannah is now quite winded, tired and hungry. I check her pulse a few times as we take
several water breaks, on our way back. I treat my “vacation daughter” just like I would
treat my own daughter. We do make it back in one piece and Janet is concerned about us.
This is a great time for lunch. We fill up at the Spruce Tree Terrace and Gift Shop,
then buy several souvenirs. Across the road at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
we watch an introductory movie. On display are all kinds of artifacts: tools, baskets,
pottery, bows, arrows, clothing, etc. Very interesting.
Bethany and I decide to try the Spruce Tree House trail again. So glad we did. This is
the 3rd largest cliff dwelling and was constructed in the 13th century. This dwelling con-
tains 130 rooms and 8 kivas. These are the ceremonial chambers, built into the natural
cave. We climbed down a log ladder into one of the kivas. It was dusty! I imagined how
life must have been here, about a thousand years ago. The three story buildings extend
to the ceiling. This cliff dwelling area measures 216 feet wide and almost 90 feet deep. It
was home to probably 80 people. Due to the protection of the overhanging cliff, there
has been very little deterioration.
As we drive out of the park I realize we need gasoline very soon. We can make it to
Moorefield Campground, where there is a service station. The gauge in the car says we
have 18 miles of fuel left. There is a little problem. The service station is closed. We are
very fortunate as we exit the park and cross over Hwy. 160. There is a Sinclair station
with the green dinosaur sign. I was so excited to see a gasoline pump that worked.
Seven miles ahead, we enter Cortez. We've made reservations at the Days Inn and
check into our room at 7 p.m. All our stuff is taken upstairs before we go on to the
swimming pool. There are several families relaxing, playing and just having fun. I talked
to four Hispanic teenagers from south Texas. They had visited several places where we
had been. And there were four French children we enjoyed splashing and playing with.
The 11 year old twins (one boy and one girl) were in the hot tub with us. I asked,
“par le vieux, France?” Oui! They anxiously waited for me to talk to them, but that is
about all the French I know. We laughed over that one later. I refereed some swimming
contests and helped the 4 year old to the poolside a few times, when her 7 year old
brother was too rough. They were surprised when she called me Papa. Then her father
swam over and introduced himself. He had lived in Georgia many years ago, for a short
period of time. They sure were a nice family. We have met some good folks on this trip.
Supper tonight was sandwiches. The girls amused themselves on the computer as we
watched television and wrote some more postcards. In bed at 10:45.
July 24, 2009 (Friday)
Our motel had a continental breakfast and Bethany and I served Janet her hot tea and
pastries in bed. She likes being pampered. We check out at 9:15 and drive through town.
As we pass a Super 8 motel, I recognize it as the one we stayed in on our previous visit.
We continue on Hwy. 160. Ten miles from Cortez, traffic is stopped for construction
work. That was okay, for we saw four prairie dogs at the edge of the road.
We enter Navajo territory and pay our $3 entry fee (per person). Finally we visit the
Four Corners Monument. This is the only spot in the United States where four states
meet at one point: New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Janet and I came here in
1989. There are many more Indian concessions stands now. But I do remember eating
Indian Fry Bread. After taking a bunch of pictures, we buy several tee-shirts, magnets
and postcards. The four of us enjoy a shaded table, Coca-Cola and Indian Fry Bread.
There were three different toppings: powdered sugar, cinnamon and honey.
We drive through northwestern New Mexico and view Shiprock Peak in the distance.
This rock formation stands at nearly 1800 feet above the high-desert plain. Near
Farmington, we stop for lunch at a country buffet. There are a few Indians who try to
sell their homemade stuff. I remember that my father worked in Farmington with the
telephone company for several months in 1981-1982.
At Bloomfield, we turn onto Hwy. 550. It could be called the road less traveled. Near
Nageezi, we follow the signs toward Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This is
another U.N. World Heritage Site. After about eight miles, the pavement ends and we
are riding down a gravel road. Cattle are grazing on the open range. And we watch a dog
as he guides about 25 goats. That was rather impressive.
At the Welcome Center, we watch an introductory movie. Chaco Canyon was a major
center of Puebloan culture between 850 and 1250 A.D. The museum contains the Chaco
Collection. There are about one million artifacts from over 120 sites in Chaco Canyon
and the surrounding area! Our first destination was the Hungo Pavi. This is an unexcava-
ted Great House containing over 150 rooms, a great kiva and an enclosed plaza.
Our next stop brings us to Chetro Ketl, the second largest Great House. It covers
more than three acres. The next quick stop is at Bonita Pueblo. More than 600 rooms
towered four and five stories above the valley floor.
The four of us spent the most time at Pueblo Del Arroyo. This contained 280 rooms
and over 20 kivas. We explored most every nook and cranny. Be careful with the low
entrances. It is 111 degrees outside now and time to leave. What an incredible Native
American Indian culture adventure this has been!
There is a handmade sign: Cactus Hill as we drove along the gravel road. Back on
Hwy. 550, we drive through the village of Cuba (with its population of about 1000).
We have been admiring a rainbow for about 10 miles. It is difficult to use a camcorder
and drive at the same time. But it was beautiful, almost like a going away present. We
continue commenting about the striated rock formations. This area is a young geologists
North of Albuquerque, we stop at a Cracker Barrel for supper. We spot a rabbit at the
edge of a brushy area. We fill up on vegetables and discuss our vacation, how fast it
went by. Now we see two rabbits in front of our car.
We get directions to the Airport La Quinta motel and check in for our last night. The
suitcases are prepared for we will have to start our day very early tomorrow. There will
not be any time to waste. In bed at 11:00. Such a wonderful trip this has been!
July 25, 2009 (Saturday)
The 4 a.m. wake-up call sure seems early. We leave the motel at 5:15 and drive a
couple of miles to the Car Rental Facility. We say good-bye to our dusty Nissan Path-
finder. We have put 2600 miles on it. There is a shuttle bus that takes us to the Albuquer-
que Sunport airport.
As we check in our luggage, I notice a sign at the Continental desk, Celebrating 75
Years...1934 - 2009. The plane takes off at 7:15. In a little while, we are high above
west Texas. Watches are changed from Mountain to Central time. I see about 50 very
large windmills. With plenty of time, I look over the New Mexico map. We traveled
through several Indian reservations yesterday. How many? I was curious too. It looks
like six. In CO: the Utes. In AZ: the Navajo. In NM: the Jicarilla Apache, the Jemez, the
Zia and the Santa Ana.
We arrived in Houston, TX at 10:15 and have a four hour layover. For lunch we visit
the Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Excellent food, especially the fried alligator. Bethany
called her Grandma. We saw 30 teenagers, all wearing the same teal colored tee shirts.
I found out they were leaving for a missionary trip in Guatemala. Then we saw six
people wearing Pura Vida tee shirts. They were just returning from a missionary trip in
Costa Rica. And I reminisced about my three Methodist missionary trips to Costa Rica.
We leave Houston at 2:25 and arrive in Mobile at 3:45. Hannah's parents and friend,
Karen, greet us at the airport. What a homecoming hug. Can't wait to get home and see
our newly painted house. Life is good!!!
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