S: Road Trip - September 2010
FC: Max and Julia's Road Trip Adventure September, 2010
2: On September 7, 2010, we packed up our little Ford Escape with hiking gear and star gazing equipment and set out on a 6000 mile, cross country adventure. We were headed to the high-desert area of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico (the Four-Corners area) with our National Parks passport book in hand. Our goal - to hike and explore as many National Parks in the area as we could! It was an awesome trip full of spectacular sights and fascinating experiences. This book attempts to tell the story of our trip. | Utah | Arizona | New Mexico | Colorado
3: Utah | Colorado | Arizona | New Mexico | 1 - Hanging Lake 2 - Arches NP 3 - Canyon Lands NP 4 - Capitol Reef NP 5 - Bryce NP 6 - Cedar Breaks NM 7 - Zion NP 8 - North Rim Grand Canyon 9 - Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon 10 - Lake Powell & Rainbow Bridge 11 - Monument Valley 12 - Mesa Verde NP 13 - Chaco Culture NHP 14 - St. Louis Arch (off map) | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
5: September 7 - 9: Travel Overnight in Clive, Iowa and Golden, Colorado Hanging Lake Hike September 10: Arches National Park September 11: Canyonlands National Park September 12: Capitol Reef National Park September 14: Bryce National Park (Day 1) September 15: Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon September 16: Bryce National Park (Day 2) September 17: Zion National Park & St. George September 18: Cedar Breaks National Monument September 19: North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park September 21: Lake Powell & Rainbow Bridge September 22: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park September 23: Mesa Verde National Park September 24: Chaco Culture National Historical Park September 25 - 28: Travel Overnight in Shamrock, Texas and Rolla, Missouri Jefferson National Expansion Memorial | Itinerary
6: Hanging Lake, Colorado | Leaving Golden, Colorado, we took I-70 west across the Rocky Mountain Range. This was a beautiful drive that reached an elevation of 11,158 feet (at the Eisenhower Tunnel). About 140 miles outside of Golden, we happened to stop at a rest area that included the trail head for Hanging Lake. I had heard of this hike, so we decided to try it out. It was a short, but fairly difficult hike - 1.2 miles pretty much straight up! But it was definitely worth it! | Left: Trail Head for Hanging Lake | Below Left: Hanging Lake Right: Turning 180 degree, Glenwood Canyon
7: The aptly named "Spouting Rock", a short hike behind Hanging Lake
8: Leaving Hanging Lake, we continued west along I-70 toward Moab, Utah - the center for several National Parks. At the advice of a friend, we took a scenic route off of I-70 along the Colorado River. This gave us a first glimpse of the amazing sandstone sculpted structures we would see across the region. | The Road to Moab
9: Arches national park
10: Double Arch, Turret Arch, Windows Arches | Delicate Arch | Balanced Rock | Fiery Furnace | Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers | Navajo, Partition, Landscape Arches | Dark Angel Double O Arch | We had a very busy day at Arches! We started at the Courthouse Towers area then took a quick swing by Double Arch before heading past the Fiery Furnace and on to the northern end of the park road. Here we took a long hike that included Navajo, Partition, Landscape and Double O Arches and a view of Dark Angel Rock. After lunch, we went back to the Windows Section of the park to get a good look at Turret Arch and the North and South Windows Arches. We then took the primitive hike around the back side of the Window Arches. Our final stops of the day were at the most iconic structures in the park, Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock. The hike up to Delicate Arch was quite strenuous (and a little scary), but what a great reward at the end!
11: Courthouse Towers | Above and Right: Park Avenue | Left: The Organ
12: Left: Max surrounded by rock. Right: That little pink dot under the arch is Julia.
13: Double Arch & Fiery Furnace | Below: Fiery Furnace area - check out the size of the vehicle in the lower left corner of the picture to get an idea of scale.
14: Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park measuring 306 feet from base to base (more than a football field!) In 1991 a rock slab 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and four feet thick fell from the underside of Landscape Arch leaving the pile of rubble on the right side in the picture above.
15: Devil's Garden Landscape, Navajo, Partition and Double-O Arches, Dark Angel | In the Devil's Garden area we started on a short, easy (1 mile) hike to Landscape Arch. From there, we continued on a 4.2 mile "primitive" trail to Double-O Arch passing Navajo and Partition Arches (not to mention stunning scenery) along the way. | Left: Piles of rocks called "cairns" mark the trail.
17: Right: Max taking a picture Above: Max's picture :-)
19: The hike to Double-O Arch was quite strenuous and a little scary. That's Max above left on the crest of the same spine Julia is on below right. | Right: Some idiot walking along the crest of Double O Arch.
20: Below: Turret Arch from a distance looks like an A-OK sign. | Windows Section Turret Arch, North & South Windows | North & South Windows | Turret Arch
21: North & South Windows | Along the Primitive Trail behind the Windows, we came across Darth Vader & Casper the Friendly Ghost.
23: Delicate Arch | Balanced Rock | The hike to Delicate Arch was quite difficult. The very end included this narrow passage with a STEEP drop off! | Max | Our final stops at Arches NP were to view the parks most well known icons. Both Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock can be seen on Utah license plates.
24: Canyonlands national park
25: Canyonlands is a very large National Park with four distinct regions: Islands in the Sky in the north-east, The Needles in the south-east, The Maze on the west side, and the Rivers (Colorado and Green with the confluence in the south center of the park). We had only a day at Canyonlands, so we did as much as we could in the Islands of the Sky region, which is the most easily and frequently accessed part of the park.
26: Upheaval Dome | Aztec Butte | Green River Overlook | Mesa Arch | White Rim Overlook | We started our day at Canyonlands at Upheaval Dome hiking to both overlook sites. Then we took a fabulous (and a little scary) hike to Aztec Butte. Next, we went out to Green River Overlook where we had our picnic lunch. After lunch, we took the short hike to Mesa Arch and then our last hike of the day to White Rim Overlook. It was another gorgeous day filled with incredible views! | Piles of rocks called "Cairns" mark the trail (this is much larger than most!)
27: Upheaval Dome is a huge (3 mile+/-) crater of unknown origin. There are, however, multiple theories. The "Impact Theory" suggests that a large meteorite struck this area over 60 million years ago creating a large explosion. Shifting and erosion since then has resulted in the dome we see today. The "Salt Dome Theory" stems from the fact that this entire area has a thick layer of salt formed by the evaporation of ancient seas. When under pressure from thousands of feet of rock, the salt can flow like ice moving at the bottom of a glacier. Salt is less dense than sandstone and over millions of years salt can flow up through rock layers as "salt bubbles" causing salt domes that deform the surrounding rock.
28: Ancestral Puebloans traveled to the Island in the Sky to hunt and gather seeds. They stored food in stone granaries located all around a ledge just below the top of Aztec Butte. This was a fascinating hike, but actually a little scary getting from the face of the butte to the top! | Left: Julia climbing from the lower ledge back to the top Below: Max peeking out of an ancient granary.
29: Various granaries at the top of Aztec Butte & the view on our way back down. Next Page: View from the top of Aztec Butte.
31: We had our picnic lunch at Green River Overlook. This was a beautiful view of the Green River. Further south is the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Both are very calm above the confluence, but the rapids after they join are apparently quite incredible.
32: Yes, we are still in Canyonlands! But there are arches everywhere in Utah. This is Mesa Arch, and the drop off on the other side is SCARY! | Scary drop off!
35: Our last hike at Canyonlands was an easy, 1 mile walk to White Rim Overlook. The walk was very pleasant and a great way to wind down after some fairly strenuous hiking. The reward at the end was a spectacular view - that clearly showed why it is called "White Rim" Overlook! The drop offs, though, were quite significant. Max was willing to get closer to the edge than Julia was!
36: Capitol Reef national park
37: Scenes along the road through Capitol Reef | We left Moab and headed southwest toward Bryce Canyon. Our route took us through Capitol Reef National Park - a vast park, but with limited auto access. We spent about 3 hours exploring and hiking.
38: The only hike we took at Capitol Reef was at the end of the scenic drive, through "Capitol Gorge". This was a road built by Pioneers in the late 19th century. They moved huge boulders out of the gorge to create a barely passable road. Until 1961, it was the only road through the area and there are places too narrow for two vehicles to pass.
39: Left: The "Pioneer Register" is a place along the narrow road where several settlers engraved their names. Note the neat writing and how high up on the wall the names are! | Above: Max near the beginning of the Capitol Gorge hike.
40: At the end of the Capitol Gorge walk was a short hike up to a place called the Tanks. There were several of these natural potholes created in the rock that the pioneers used to store water. | Left: a tiny rock hiding out in a crevice.
41: Highway 12 "All American Road" | Leaving Capitol Reef, we started on a 124 mile scenic byway (Highway 12 - named an "All American Highway"). This was a truly amazing drive - but the views were really too "big" to capture. The incredible variety of landscape along this road was truly mind boggling. Everything from red/pink cliffs, to meadows, to canyons, to forests, to places where the road dropped off steeply within feet of the blacktop on BOTH sides! Beautiful.
42: Left: Max in our kitchen / office. Above: Bird outside our kitchen window. Right: The living room. | Duck Creek Village (Our home for the next 9 days) | Julia managed to find a great rental home perfectly located for day trips to a half dozen parks and monuments. It was wonderful having a "home base". | Duck Creek Village
43: Bryce Canyon national park
44: Amphitheater | Our first day at Duck Creek was spent going to town for provisions. But the next day dawned bright and beautiful, and we headed out for the first of two days at Bryce Canyon. What an amazing place! Bryce has two "regions". The area below the arrow on this map is a scenic drive with a number of overlook points. The area around the arrow is the "Amphitheater". This also has a number of overlook points, but has much more hiking opportunity as well. Today we started at the far end of the scenic drive and worked our way north stopping at most of the overlooks. At the end of the day, we took a relatively short hike within the Amphitheater to Tower Bridge. This hike convinced us that we had to come back to Bryce on another day and do more hiking in the Amphitheater area. It was stunning!
45: Yovimpa Point is the southernmost tip of the Bryce drive. This and the following pages show pictures from the overlook points. Below: A baby horned toad enjoying the sun. (He was only about 1 inch long!)
56: Last stop of the day, Sunrise Point and a relatively short (3 miles round trip) hike to Tower Bridge. This was an amazing hike down into the Amphitheater where we saw the beauty of the canyon up close - and vowed to come back for more hiking. | Left: We saw this sign as we were getting ready to start our hike. Fortunately, we did not come across any snakes! | We stopped briefly at Sunset Point in the Amphitheater area before heading to Sunset Point and the Tower Bridge Trail Head.
57: Right: Park Services were conducting a control burn to clear some underbrush in some of the wooded areas. You can see the smoke in the distance in this picture. | Above: Max dwarfed by the scenery Right: Julia dwarfed by the scenery
58: Above: The China Wall
59: More scenery on our way down into the Amphitheater toward Tower Bridge.
61: Left: Heading back up out of the Amphitheater. Below: Firefighters working a controlled burn on our way out of the park.
62: Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
63: The next day, we got up bright and early and headed toward Page, Arizona to see Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. It was about a 2 hour drive, but well worth it! Horseshoe Bend is a spot along the Colorado River just south of Page where the river takes a dramatic, almost 360 degree turn creating a horseshoe appearance. It is truly amazing, but really requires a wide-angle lens to capture. The map below shows the Page area including the southern tip of Lake Powell. | <--- To Duck Creek Village | Above: Interesting rock formation as we walk to Horseshoe Bend. Right: The south arm of Horseshoe Bend.
64: Boat | The picture to the right attempts to show the scale of Horseshoe Bend. Julia took this one while lying down and peering carefully over the edge! (left).
65: After leaving Horseshoe Bend, we went to Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell to check about a boat tour we wanted to take later in the trip. Then we drove to the tip of the Wahweap Peninsula for a quick picnic lunch on Lake Powell before heading to Antelope Canyon for our afternoon tour.
66: antelope canyon, Arizona
67: Antelope Canyon is an amazing slot canyon. Because it is on Indian Land, the only way to visit is on a guided tour run by the Navajo Indians. We gathered in town and climbed into our chariot (right) to take the 20 minute ride. The last 3 miles were on a dirt road (below right). The road looks smooth in this picture, but the picture is very deceiving! It was good that our guide knew the road and how to avoid the worst ruts!
68: The canyon is known for spectacular photo opportunities with sun light causing beautiful beams that create spotlights on the ground. Our timing wasn't the best, and we didn't witness this phenomenon. Nevertheless, we got some fairly decent (though dark) photos!
70: It was a great day in the Page Arizona area. We saw this unusual landscape (below) on our way back to town.
71: Bryce Canyon national park Day 2 - The Amphitheater
72: After a great day in Arizona we were ready to go back to Bryce and do some serious hiking in the Amphitheater area. On our first trip to Bryce we took the Fairyland Loop Trail to Tower Bridge (green arrow). Today we again started at Sunrise Point taking the Queen Garden Trail, the Navajo Loop Trail and the Peek-a-boo Loop Trail. We ended up at Sunset Point and took the Rim Trail back to our starting point (pink arrows). This was about a 7 or 8 mile hike with significant and multiple elevation changes. It was quite challenging but absolutely incredible! | Above: The view as we are getting ready to hike. Left: Max making sure his boots are tight.
73: "Hoodoo -- a pillar of rock, usually of fantastic shape, left by erosion". "Hoodoo - to cast a spell". At Bryce, erosion forms an array of fantastic shapes called hoodoos. Surrounded by the beauty of southern Utah, hoodoos cast their spell on all who visit. We were no exception.
74: Above: Heading down toward Queens Garden. Right: View into Queens Garden from above.
75: More scenes along the Queens Garden Trail. Lots of tunnel holes along the way. And yes, the sky really was that blue! It was amazing!
78: Right: Checking the trail map to make sure we're taking the right fork. Below: This is actually NOT what the Peek-A-Boo Loop is named for - but it is a fitting picture!
79: The hike along Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail was stunning. We had a hard time narrowing down the pictures so we'll just let them speak for themselves!
82: <--- Peek-A-Boo!
85: Left: Because of the multiple and significant elevation changes, many parts of the trails had switch-backs. Some more sophisticated than others.
87: Above: At the end of the Peek-a-Boo Trail we took a short break to have a bite to eat. | Above: Are you getting a sense for how far down we had hiked - and how far up we had to climb? (Which is NOT to say that we hadn't already gone up and down several times!)
88: After lunch, we took the south (and longer!) side of the Navajo Loop Trail which took us through an area called "Wall Street". Below: Entering into Wall Street - aptly named for its high straight walls much like the skyscrapers in New York City. | Near the entrance of Wall Street there is an amazing tree defying nature to grow up through the barren land reaching straight up for sunlight. Above: The most you can capture of "the tree" with a basic lens. Right: A panoramic view capturing the entire tree. For scale, notice the people standing at the base of the tree!
89: Right: Beginning the long, arduous climb up to the rim. | Left: Walking through Wall Street.
90: The Climb! | From Wall Street back up to the rim was pretty much a straight vertical climb. On our first day at Bryce, we had watched from above as people made the assent. It was much more daunting from below! | Left: You can just see Max beginning the climb at the lowest arrow. The other two arrows show people at various switch-backs along the way! This hike is NOT for sissies! | Max | Left: Max is standing just above the point of the middle arrow in the picture above. Right: Turning 180 degrees and looking back toward Wall Street.
91: We were very excited to see this sign and know we were at the top and had only the flat, 1/2 mile hike from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point left to maneuver! | Julia. Always behind Max! She learned very quickly that slow, steady steps were the only way to make it up this climb! | Left: The view at the end of our seven mile hike. Definitely worth it!!
92: On our first visit to Bryce we had missed the Inspiration Point Overlook. We decided to make a quick stop before heading back to our cabin. It definitely lived up to its name! | Right: When we got into the car to leave Bryce we couldn't resist this shot of our dashboard. We only had one day of rain on our three week journey!
94: zion national park springdale and Kolob
95: After our busy day at Bryce, we were ready to tone it down a bit, so we decided to take a drive to St. George to visit with some of the staff from Beck's former school. The drive to St. George took us through Zion National Park where we stopped briefly for some pictures. | On our way toward Mt. Carmel Junction we came across this billboard. Honestly, how could anyone resist "Ho"-made pies! | We entered Zion through the far east entrance near Mt. Carmel Junction and drove the Zion/Mt. Carmel Highway to the Springdale Visitor Center (pink arrows). We had hiked this area extensively on previous trips (blue arrow) so decided to take just a few pictures and head to St. George. The other area of Zion is called the Kolob Canyons (pink star). We stopped here later in the day.
96: Above: The view from "Canyon Overlook" which is about half way across the Zion/Mt. Carmel highway just before the mile long tunnel. | What always amazes us about Zion is its scale. There are towering rock structures completely surrounding you. It is absolutely majestic. Left: The Streaked Wall and Bee Hive Peak Above: The Great White Throne
97: Right: Beck's former school in St. George. We had a great visit with some old friends followed by a nice lunch. Unfortunately, this was the only picture we took. | When we left St. George, we decided to head up to the Kolob Canyon section of Zion. Julia had hiked here in Dec of 2008 but Max had never been here. This was another quick stop just to take some pictures before heading back to Cedar City for supplies and back to our cozy cabin in the mountains.
98: Cedar breaks national monument
99: Cedar Breaks has a similar look to Bryce except on a smaller scale. It is a two-mile natural amphitheater of exquisitely carved pinnacles, spires and columns that change color with the sun. It is also at a higher elevation (10,000+ feet) making hiking even more tiring (but worth it)! | We started at the Visitor Center and took the Spectra Point Trail then continued to the Rampart Overlook (lower purple circle on map). This was a beautiful hike with many views and some pretty high cliffs! Later in the day we drove up to the Alpine Pond Trail which was a much different - but still lovely, hike. | Spectra Point | Rampart Overlook | Alpine Pond Trail
100: Starting off on the hike toward Spectra Point and Rampart Overlook, we were at an elevation of 10,512 feet! Despite the beautiful day, it was actually quite chilly at that altitude.
101: Left: The vista at the trail head with the trail winding around the bluff at the left. | Views as we approach Spectra Point. Left: Taking a brief rest at Spectra Point before heading off toward Rampart Overlook.
102: The hike to Rampart Overlook took us through some different terrain - heavily wooded with lots of song birds and small wildlife. Very pretty and peaceful. Although that tree Max is holding up looks a little scary! | We had to laugh at the "End of Trail" sign. Really?? I mean, look at that drop off! Whose gonna go any further?
103: Notice that Julia is sitting in every picture and Max is standing. Guess we know who is more comfortable with heights!
105: More spectacular views of the limestone, shale and sandstone amphitheater as we head back toward the Visitor Center and on to the Alpine Pond trail. | As we approached the Alpine Pond Trail, we passed this stand of Bristlecone Pine. The Bristlecone are the oldest single living organisms known. The oldest ever dated (nicknamed "Methuselah") is located in the White Mountains of eastern California and is just under 5,000 years old. This stand is relatively young at about 1,600 years!
106: With the Alpine Pond Trail brochure in hand, this hike is a self-guided loop trail that includes 25 numbered stops. The brochure helps the hikers to understand the ecosystem of Cedar Breaks, explaining the relationships between rocks, weather, soil, plants and animals. The pond itself, about in the middle of the trail, is a natural spring-fed pond that is a focal point of activity for wildlife. This was a very lovely, peaceful and informative hike!
107: As we left Cedar Breaks we headed out on Highway 14 or the "Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway". This road travels 40 miles from highway 89 to Cedar City across Cedar Mountain. It is a gorgeous drive that we took many times as our little cabin in Duck Creek Village was located along this road. The Markagunt Plateau volcanic field is an area of basaltic cinder cones and blocky lava flows. As we drove back from Cedar Breaks, we decided to stop to get some pictures of the unusual lava flows and a beautiful little lake (Navajo Lake) with another lava field ending in the lake (below left).
108: Grand canyon national park - north rim
109: For our last day trip from our cozy cabin we took a 2.5 hour drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive into the park is along the Kaibab Plateau. At 8-9,000 feet above sea level, this area is full of lush green meadows surrounded by forests. And then suddenly you are at the edge of this amazing, awe-inspiring canyon! We started our day with an easy half mile hike to Bright Angel Point. The South Rim is only 10 miles as the Raven flies from the North Rim, and since the North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher, the South Rim is easily seen from this overlook. But if you want to actually drive there, plan on a 215 mile trip! From Bright Angel Point, we drove to Cape Royal where we took several hikes. We ended our day at Point Imperial at the northern end of the park road. By now, we were exhausted - and still had another 2.5 hour drive to get home!
110: As we walked down the path to Bright Angel Point, we met a woman who was a volunteer ranger. She had been doing it for years and loved her job. Her 8 year old granddaughter was visiting her for the week. What a great experience for a youngster! The ranger graciously took our picture before moving on.
112: Before leaving this area, we took a quick look at the Grand Canyon Lodge. We will definitely have to consider staying there someday! The views are incredible, the Lodge is impressive and many of the cabins were right on the rim! Lovely.
113: We left the Visitor Center area and drove the 20 miles to the very end of Cape Royal road. Here we found a picnic area where we decided to have our lunch. The area also had a wedding site, but we were less interested in using that! | Picnic table on scary ledge! | Above and Right: We were looking for a "perfect picnic table" to have our lunch. Found this one that someone had pulled out on a very scary ledge with a huge vertical drop on 3 sides. YIKES! | Max was willing to sit briefly on the picnic table for a picture, but we found a much better table in the pines to have our lunch!
114: Above: The wedding site was beautiful, but we decided that the minister should get hazard pay! | Below: The Cape Royal Trail includes a stop at Angels Window with the North Rim's only view of the Colorado River. | Below: Looking down from atop Angels Window. YIKES!
115: The Cape Royal point had an incredible, almost 360 degree view of the canyon.
117: Leaving Cape Royal, we drove a short way up the road and came to the Cliff Spring Trail Head. This was a nice short trail that meandered down a forested ravine. Near the beginning of the trail was this ancient Indian granary (above). Left: The trail turned out of the woods and led us along a cliff side with spectacular overhangs.
118: Below & Right: More of the cliff overhangs along the trail. | Cliff Spring itself was a bit of a disappointment. Really not much more than a puddle of water and some wet rocks. However, the lush vegetation along the cliff wall was evidence that there is plenty of water here. And the view (right - next page) was lovely.
119: After our Cliff Spring hike we headed back up the road toward Cape Final. On the way we stopped at the Walhalla Overlook. While here, we talked with a Ranger who pointed out that there were some ancient ancestral Pueblo ruins nearby. We followed him and learned a bit about the ancient Pueblo people. This would be the first of many ancient structures we would explore on this trip! | Above: The Walhalla Ruins. Left: View from Walhalla Overlook.
120: Cape Final was our only long hike of the day at 4 miles. There were so many hikes we would have loved to have taken - but with only one day - and 5 hours of driving, this would have to be it this time. We will just have to go back (and stay at the Lodge!!) | The Cape Final Trail was a relatively easy trail through lovely forest (above/right) to an even lovelier overlook on the east rim of Kaibab Plateau (below).
121: Cape Final is a good name for this overlook - but Julia kept referring to it as "Cape Fear". Check out that ledge hanging over nothing in the picture to the left! Above, Julia is standing as close to it as she dared! (She looks much more composed than she actually was...) | On the hike back, we wandered off the trail several times to see what the views of the canyon looked like. We're glad we did!
123: By now we were exhausted and looking at a long drive home. But we had one more stop - Point Imperial. At 8,803 feet, this is the highest point in the Grand Canyon. From this vantage point there are incredible views of the Canyon as well as the Painted Desert to the northeast. The lighting was starting to change as the sun was setting, so the colors were stunning! | Time to head back to our cabin... we're tired!
124: Glen Canyon / Lake Powell / Rainbow Bridge
125: We spent Monday getting ready to leave our cozy cabin (cleaning, laundry, packing...). On Tuesday, we left Duck Creek and headed toward Page, Arizona. We had been to Page the week before (Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon), but this time we would be staying for a night and then heading east. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a huge area (1.25 million acres) that runs from the northeastern most point of the Grand Canyon encompassing all of Lake Powell (with 2,000 miles of shoreline) and running north to the northern most point of Canyonlands National Park. To the south, the park borders the Navajo Indian Reservation. We had one day in this area and would see only a small portion. We took a boat ride from Wahweap Marina (red dot) that went 50 miles up Lake Powell to Rainbow Bridge National Monument (blue dot) and back. It was another great day!
126: The Glen Canyon Dam was built to provide hydroelectricity and to regulate flow from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower. Lake Powell is the reservoir of this dam. The dam was started in 1956 and completed in 1966. | Glen Canyon Dam Carl Hayden Visitor Center | Below: A display at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. This is Dinosaur Country!
127: We had plenty of time to look around the Wahweap Marina as we waited for our boat trip. Max has a habit of wanting to be the first in line to get the best of... whatever he's waiting for (notice Max in the front seat!)
128: Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir lake in the U.S., behind Lake Mead. There was (and still is) much controversy around the building of Glen Canyon Dam which created this lake by flooding beautiful Glen Canyon. This area had over 80 side canyons in the colorful Navajo Sandstone containing clear streams, abundant wildlife, arches, natural bridges, and thousands of Native American archaeological sites. Much of this is now under water. However, the dam provides significant hydro power and the ability to control the flow of water down river has proved beneficial during long droughts (like now). | Left: Tower Butte on the Navajo Nation rises 5,282 feet. 2 feet taller than 1 mile! Right: The line marks the high water mark. Changing water levels are expected but it has been a long time since the lake has been full.
129: Lake Powell provides significant water sports and recreation and is open to all. Houseboats are extremely popular on the lake. Groups often rent these floating homes for up to two weeks and just float around enjoying the beauty of the area. | speed boat | house boat | Right: These boats show the scale of the surrounding area!
131: More scenery as we make our way toward Rainbow Bridge. Keeping in mind the scale (boats above) imagine how deep these canyons would have been before the dam!
132: As we got closer to Rainbow Bridge we began winding our way through one of the many finger canyons along the river. Again, imagine what this must have looked like before the dam flooded the region! Below Right: After docking, there was about a 1/2 mile walk to the site. When the water is at its highest, the boat is able to go right up to site!
133: Below and Near Right: The docking area at Rainbow Bridge. Far Right: Our first view of the magnificent Rainbow Bridge.
134: The size, majesty and mystery of Rainbow Bridge is awe-inspiring. It is the largest natural bridge in the world standing 290 feet from its base to the top of its arch, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty. It spans 275 feet across the river and measures 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide at the top of the arch. The opening is large enough to fly a small plane through!
135: As we returned to Wahweap Marina, the sun was beginning to set. The lighting was lovely for some nice evening shots. We had a fabulous day on Lake Powell. As the sun set, we were ready to head to our hotel for some sleep before heading out to Monument Valley the next day. Good night Glen Canyon, Good Night Moon!
137: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
138: Monument Valley is not part of the National Park System as it is on Indian land. It is run by the Navajo Nation. The park offers the ability to tour in your vehicle as shown on the map above. The road is extremely poor with huge ruts and pot holes. It is not recommended that you attempt the drive unless you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. The other option is a guided tour led by a member of the Navajo Nation. This was a much better option for us, as it also allowed us to access areas not open to the general public. The green dot on the map on the right shows the additional area we covered with our very knowledgeable guide. The tour was definitely worth the price. | After 2 weeks of perfect weather, we drove to Monument Valley through heavy rains. Above: a rushing flood of debris over the highway. We were stuck here for 30 minutes before we just decided to take our chances!
139: When we arrived at Monument Valley, it was still pretty nasty out so we waited it out in a place called "Gouldings". This was a fun place with a movie museum and a great gift shop! Above: The view of Monument Valley while we waited for the weather to change. Below Right & Left: Gouldings.
140: Some of the best known images of Monument Valley are the West and East Mittens (right and below). They are clearly visible from the Visitor Center. You can also see parts of the VERY rough self guided drive-tour road in these pictures. Below right: Max in front of the East Mitten and Merrick Butte.
141: Early views along the tour - Above left: The View hotel. Yes, if you look closely at the top, there is a hotel! Above Right: We think this is Elephant Butte - but it looks more like a sleeping Snoopy.
142: One of our first viewing stops was at the Three Sisters. Julia couldn't help thinking about her mom and two Aunts - Edith, Hazel, and Elsie!
143: Our next stop was John Ford Point. John Ford directed 9 films in Monument Valley including 1939's Stagecoach which launched John Wayne's career. Below is the view from John Ford point. Imagine a horse and rider at the tip of the rock ledge in the foreground, right. That's a John Ford Western! Left: Unknown butte but it was in full sun and looked so pretty! | John Ford Point
144: At this point in the tour we veered off the drive-tour loop and headed into the "green dot" area on the map. This first stop was called "Eye of the Sun". To get an idea of scale, the small dots above the grass in the lower left are people! In addition to the spectacular arch, this stop also had ancient petroglyphs and interesting boulder structures. | Eye of the Sun
145: Our next stops were at the Ear of the Wind (right) and the "Big Hogan" (below). A Hogan is a sacred home for the Navajo people who practice traditional Navajo religion. It is generally a small round structure with an opening at the top for smoke. The door always faces east to get the morning sun and good blessings. You can see why this structure got its name. | Ear of The Wind
146: Moccasin Arch | Our last arch of the day was Moccasin Arch. Here we also found this funny looking rock to the right which we thought looked a little like ET. | Left: In front of a butte called "The Hub" is an active Navajo homestead including two hogans. Above: Our chariot and guide.
147: Back on the drive-loop the primary attractions here were the TotemPole (above left, tall one on the right) and YeiBiChei (grouping to the left). But everywhere you turned, there were great scenes. In the parking lot was the huge monolith on the left. In the lower left corner of that pic is "The Cube" seen in its full glory on the right.
149: Facing Page and Above: Views from the aptly named "Artist's Point". Just beautiful. Above Right: Rooster Rock. (This picture was actually taken at the TotemPole stop.) Right: We were so lucky with the weather. It had been really nasty early in the day. During the tour, it cleared up well enough to truly enjoy the day, but still had enough clouds and shifting sun for some great pictures. As we were getting near the end of our tour, the clouds starting rolling in again. | Artist's Point
150: Our last two stops on another fantastic day: The North Window (below) and The Thumb (right). The Thumb, when viewed from the side, looks more like a boot. | North Window | The Thumb | When we left Monument Valley, we drove to Farmington, New Mexico where we would stay for the next three nights.
151: Mesa Verde National Park
152: Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,700 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the North American Continent. Other mesa top sites include pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures. The drive into the park is spectacular. A 15 mile winding road from the park entrance to the Far View Visitor Center includes several overlook viewpoints and some pretty scary drop-offs! From the Visitor Center, there are two routes - one to Wetherill Mesa and one to Chapin Mesa. Wetherill was already closed for the season, but we had plenty to see on Chapin Mesa! The map on the left shows the entire park. The yellow dot is the portion shown in the close-up map on the right.
153: On a snowy December day in 1888, while two ranchers searched Mesa Verde's canyons for stray cattle, they unexpectedly came upon Cliff Palace for the first time. Based on recent studies, Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people. It is an exceptionally large dwelling which may have had special significance to the original occupants. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage. | Above: Our first view of the spectacular Cliff Palace. Above Right: Our tour guide giving us some history. Right: The group gathering and a view of the canyon beyond.
154: Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.
155: Because Cliff Dwellings are tucked into alcoves under the mesa top, it is necessary to do a fair amount of climbing to get to the actual structure. We began with views from above, and then climbed down to actually wander through these incredibly preserved structures. | Below: This guide was clearly getting into his story. We wished he had been our guide as he was much more animated than ours!
156: A panoramic view of Cliff Palace
157: -> The upper rooms attached to the alcove hangover. These are storage areas for harvest and other goods. -> The round structures and towers. The Ancestral Puebloans were expert masons. -> The large square tower to the right (aptly named "Square Tower House"). It was restored by the National Park Service using slightly different colored materials to show it was a restoration (near the top). -> The round structure the group is gathered about. This is a kiva. More later on kivas | Of Note:
158: Sipapu | Ventilator Shaft | Air Deflector | Fire-pit | Bench | Pilaster | The Kiva (a Hopi word for ceremonial room) was and still is a sacred building. Kivas are prevalent throughout the Puebloan ruins. They were round underground rooms with beam-and-mud roofs supported by pilasters with benches between each one. Entrance was by ladder through a hole | Kiva | in the center of the roof which also functioned as a chimney. Kivas had an ingenious ventilation system that consisted of a shaft running from the ground above to a hole at the base of the kiva. A brick deflector was positioned a few feet from the opening to force the fresh air around the base of the kiva. The deflector also protected the fire-pit. In line with the air deflector and fire-pit (usually in a north-south alignment) was a small hole or indentation called a Sipapu or "spirit hole". This symbolized the place where the mythical tribal ancestors first emerged from the primordial underworld regions into the earthly realm. It was a reminder of the Puebloans connection to that world. | Above: The red pattern on the wall is ORIGINAL art work! We had to stick our heads through a window and shoot straight up - so it's a bit blurry.
159: Above: A view of Cliff Palace as we are getting ready to exit. The two round structures in the foreground are kivas. Above Right: Square Tower House. Notice the lighter colored mortar where the park service has restored some of the structure. Right and Left: Max and Julia as we climb back to the mesa top.
160: House of Many Windows | The road past Cliff House contained many overlooks along Cliff Canyon. The Canyon was beautiful, and on the opposite side, many more cliff dwellings were visible. These are much less ornate than Cliff Palace, but still impressive. Left: Imagine how the Puebloans of the 1100s managed to even get to this structure. Yikes!
161: Our next stop was a guided tour of Balcony House. We had a great guide for this tour who was a wealth of information. Right: Our guide telling us about the Ancestral Puebloans water supply - seepage through the very porous sandstone inside the cliff dwelling. Below: Entry to Balcony House was very challenging and a little scary.
162: Balcony House had two distinct sides, a storage area and a living area. We entered the structure from the north end, into the storage area, but the original occupants had no access here. They crawled through a narrow 12-foot tunnel at the south end into the living section. The storage section was accessible only by a small passage from the living area. Obviously, Balcony House was defensive village. A handful of men posted in this cliff-house could repel the attacks of a substantial force. | Balcony House got its name from this second floor cantilevered "balcony". While other sites also have balconies, this is Mesa Verde's best preserved example. These storage rooms were completely enclosed with no access from one to another, so this balcony must have served the purpose of allowing the inhabitants to move items in and out of the rooms.
163: Above: Max & Julia in front of Balcony House's "balcony". Right: More storage areas. | Right & Below Right: Storage rooms. Note the well preserved wooden beams and slats that form the ceiling.
164: Left: The red arrow points to the entrance to the passageway (below) to the living area | Right: Standing near the passageway looking toward the living area. The wall with the beams would have gone up to the cliff line offering no view between the two areas. | Below: Looking out over Soda Canyon. The 3 foot high parapet wall is unique among cliff dwellings, but there is a 600 drop here to the canyon floor! We were glad it was there.
165: The quality of the construction at Balcony House suggests that those who built it were skilled masons. The blocks are squared and laid with more evident care and precision than even Cliff Palace. The kivas are beautifully formed and unusually deep. | Right: The ventilator shaft, air deflector, fire pit and sipapu are all clearly evident in this kiva. | Left & Right: The soot clearly indicates that this was a living area. It is not clear why some openings were T-shaped and others rectangular.
166: Right: The Ranger is explaining how the women of the village would process corn and other grain as a group emerges from another small passageway. | In order to protect these incredible archaeological sites, entrance to both Cliff Palace and Balcony House are by guided tour only - with restricted group size and time slots. However, it was absolutely worth waiting in line to purchase the tickets. The Rangers provide so much more history and insight than we would have received otherwise. Facing Page: The living area of Balcony House as we are getting ready to leave.
168: We left Balcony House the way the Ancient Puebloans would have entered and exited. First, we went through this narrow slot (above left) where we came upon this narrow, 12 foot tunnel (above - not sure whose butt that is...) The tunnel was not this narrow all the way through but it was definitely not for claustrophobics! Once emerging from the tunnel (above far right), we still had two 10 foot ladders and a chain fence to maneuver before we were back to the parking lot. Those living here would not have had fancy ladders and chain fences to help them negotiate the cliff walls. How did they do it? According to the Ranger, they carved hand and foot holds out of the rock. Yikes!
169: Spruce Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde with 130 rooms and 8 kivas. It is also one of the few cliff structures that can be accessed without a guided tour. Its architecture, split into two distinct parts by a row of rooms that served for storage and weaving but not living, suggest that two separate groups occupied this dwelling.
170: For us, the most intriguing part of Spruce Tree House was that it offered a fully enclosed kiva - as it would have been when these cliff dwellings were occupied. The roof was intact, and we were allowed to climb down the ladder and enter this sacred structure. It was pretty special.
171: By this point we had had a very full day. We spent a brief amount of time exploring some of the pit-house sites on the top of the mesa before heading to Durango to have dinner, and then back to our hotel in Farmington NM. After spending the day in the incredibly well preserved cliff dwellings, these ruins were much less impressive. Which is understandable given that they were older and much more exposed to the elements. We said goodbye to Mesa Verde much wiser as to our national heritage.
172: Chaco Culture National Historical Park
173: We were nearing the end of our three week journey and chose Chaco Culture National Historical Park as our last stop in the high-desert area. It was truly out in the middle of nowhere. The road into the park is quite rough - and passage is not recommended if it has been raining. Fortunately, we had a beautiful day. The cows were certainly enjoying it! Chaco Culture is to pueblos as Mesa Verde is to cliff dwellings. Incredible ruins of "great houses" abound in this park. It is clear that Chaco Canyon was the center of a thriving culture over 1000 years ago.
174: When we finally arrived at the Visitor Center we found that it was under major renovation and was temporarily being housed in this yurt (left). It was quite cute and cozy. Once armed with a map and recommendations, we started at Una Vida which was a short walk from the Visitor Center. We were frankly a little disappointed, not realizing that this was by far the least preserved site we would see here. When we got high enough above the ruin (below left) it was a little easier to see the size of this great house. During its heyday, it contained 150 rooms and 5 kivas.
175: Not being ones to avoid a hike when there is one available, we hiked up above Una Vida a little. Here we found these petroglyphs (above). On our way back, we came across this beetle sitting in the sun.
176: From Una Vida, we went further up canyon where most of the great houses are clustered. Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and Pueblo del Arroyo sit very near each other at the western end of the driving road. We had a 2pm guided tour of Pueblo Bonito planned so we parked at the end of the road and walked further into the canyon to Kin Klesto where we found a trail head that lead up the cliff to the mesa top and some beautiful views of these great houses. Kin Klesto at ground level (above) and from above (right). Above Right: Max beginning the climb to the mesa top.
177: As you can see from the sign above, this was a little over a three mile round trip hike. It was a beautiful day, and once we got up to the mesa, it was a very easy hike. The views of the great houses from above were truly amazing. Left: Pueblo del Arroyo Below Left: We came across one couple on our hike - and we exchanged taking each other's pictures. Below Right: A view of Chaco Canyon.
178: Chetro Ketl is one of the larger Chaco structures with an estimated 500 rooms and 16 kivas. Note the "Great Kiva" below. Its design and size were unusual at the time. Chaco Canyon is hardly a hospitable landscape, enduring long winters, short growing seasons and marginal rainfall. Yet it became the center of a thriving culture with architecture of monumental scale, complex community life and far reaching commerce. It is an area surrounded by sacred mountains, mesas, and shrines that still have deep spiritual meaning for the Chacoan descendants.
179: Below: The view to the left was taken from the cliff approximately where this person is standing.
181: Pueblo Bonito is the largest of the Chacoan great houses towering four stories high and containing more than 600 rooms and 40 kivas. It is thought that these great houses were not traditional farming villages occupied by large populations, but rather "public architecture" that were used periodically during times of ceremony, commerce, and trading when temporary populations came to the canyon for these events. | Scenes from our mesa hike. There were a number of these naturally formed, perfectly round waterholes.
182: Our tour guide of Pueblo Bonito was a retired volunteer who had studied the Anasazi people extensively. (Anasazi is a Navajo word meaning "the ancient foreigners". We now call them Ancestral Puebloans.) He was extremely interesting and knowledgeable. | Above: Approaching Pueblo Bonito which is a D shaped great house with the flat wall running perfectly along the east/west axis. | Bottom: A rendering of the architecture of Pueblo Bonito and what it may have looked like in the early A.D. 1100s Below: Note how the walls are wider at the bottom. This was how they supported multiple stories.
183: This building embraced many roles including ceremony, administration, trading, storage, hospitality, communications, astronomy, and burial of the honored dead. Only a small portion seems to have served as living quarters. The angular window at the right aligns perfectly to the fall equinox. Below Right: Note the pile of rubble at the lower portion of this picture. It was once a tall monolith called "Threatening Rock". In January, 1941 the threat became reality - and it destroyed 60+ rooms when it fell.
184: Above: A series of perfectly aligned doorways. Below: We don't believe the Chacoan were this short but rather that the excavation left the floor higher than it was originally. | Left: Many of the rooms at Pueblo Bonito were dark and had no access. It is not clear what they were for. This one has only a small window access (which is how we climbed in). The wood ceiling and beams are original. Below: A large alcove in a random wall. Not sure of its purpose.
185: And so we say goodbye to Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Culture, and the beautiful and fascinating high-desert of the four-corners area. Tomorrow we begin the long drive home, but still have one more National Monument to visit along the way.
186: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
187: The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (better known as the St. Louis Arch) is located right on the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown St. Louis. The property actually includes the arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse. This Courthouse was the site of the first two trials of the pivotal Dred Scott case in 1847 and 1850 and was active in the Underground Railroad. | Left: The museum and tram entrance were underground in a structure between the two legs of the arch. Right: the steps leading from the Mississippi River to the arch platform.
188: The tram system is a unique and ingenious combination of the elevator and the ferris wheel principles. There are two trains (one in each "leg") each with 8 pods that seat a maximum of 5 people (with very cozy knees!). During the four minute ride, each pod shifts or rotates many times to keep it upright. Once at the top, there are 16 small windows on each side. | Above: Looking east over the Mississippi toward Illinois. Left: Looking west over the city of St. Louis (the blue dome in the center is the Old Courthouse).
189: *Views from the top* Above left: Home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Above: Straight down toward the river and the steps to the park. Left: Looking west toward St. Louis with the shadow of the arch.
190: The phenomenon popularly known as the Underground Railroad has been broadly defined by the National Park Service as the "historic resistance to enslavement through escape and flight." The Old Courthouse is recognized as having been an active part of this movement. | Fact: The arch is exactly 630 feet high and 630 feet wide.
191: What an incredible trip! 22 days, 6000 miles, 11 National Parks/Monuments and 3 other points of interest. It was an amazing journey. There is so much to see in the west, that we are already thinking about our next trip to this spectacular and fascinating part of our country.