We returned to Albuquerque to meet up with my old navy buddy Tom and his wife Paula, who were in the area for a wedding. We had a great visit and then a great meal at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe. We were treated to authentic native food with great service. It is always fun getting together with the Neys. We stayed at Enchanted Trails RV Park which is located on old Route 66.The park owner has a half dozen restored trailers, some with cars to match, that he rents out. Josie was partial to the restored Airstream since it was named Josephine. The park is right next to a Camping World so we did a little shopping, replacing a water filter and sewer hose. We also found an electric fireplace on sale. Josie loves it. We start heading in a few hours.
Moab, Utah is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. They are the last two Parks on the Grand Circle that Josie had not been to. So we drove out of the snows of Colorado back into Utah. When I visited this area 23 years ago with my friends Bekki and Hutch, Moab was a small town with a couple of bike shops to service the newly developing mountain bike phenomenon and a couple of rafting companies that took customers down the Green and Colorado Rivers. Today Moab, the parks and the lands around them are being loved to death. There now seems to be a bike shop on every corner and many more rafting companies. But the biggest change is the number of off road vehicles buzzing all over the town and the surrounding country side, they are everywhere. Two things that have not changed, the scenery and the number of Foreign Tourists. The Orientals come in tour buses, and the Europeans come in rented RV's.
Our first night in town we ate at Trip Advisors number one rated place to eat in Moab, The Quesadilla Mobilla. It is a food truck that turns out fantastic quesadillas. The next evening we went to the Moab Brewery, just down the street from our campground. I was hoping it was the same place we watched the Baseball All Star Game 23 years ago, but it was not. We did have a nice meal and I had a beer and Josie a root beer.
As I said before, like all great places this area is being loved to death. The line to get into Arches National Park was a half mile long and it took us 30 minutes to get through the pay station. Once in the park, we drove straight to the parking lot for the hike to Delicate Arch. It is the most beautiful and thus the most photographed of all the arches in the park. It is featured on many Utah licence plates. The lower viewing area for the arch was washed out so we set off on the 3 mile hike up the hill to the base of the arch. I don't remember the trail being that long 23 years ago but I was younger then. The trail went up and over a few hills then straight up a large slick rock section before flattening out near the top. Josie is afraid of heights so parts of the trip were difficult for her. But she was a trooper and we made it up and back. The views of Delicate Arch were worth it. The rest of the park is also very scenic, with other arches and balancing rocks.
One afternoon I played Moab Golf Course. As you can see below it is quite a beautiful place to play.
On our final day in Moab we drove over to Canyonlands National Park and drove the 30 mile long Shafer Basin Trail. I did the first 10 miles of this trail with Bekki and Hutch in my Bronco 23 years ago. Of course we did not have any idea back then what we were getting into and it was quite a thrill as you can see form the pictures below. The trail can be driven when it is dry without 4 wheel drive but you really do need a high clearance vehicle. The trail starts with a 1 mile drive along a steep canyon edge then into a two mile section of switchbacks. At times it looked as if we were going to drive right off into the canyon. A few hearty souls ride their mountain bikes up the trail and we passed a few when we were almost to the bottom. When we got down Josie, who may or may not have had her eyes closed on the trip down, got out to look at the wall we had just driven down. I do know when I was cleaning the Jeep out after the trip there were finger print indentations on her door handle.
Once at the bottom we decided to drive a spur road over to Mussleman's Arch. This trip was just as exciting. The trail was much thinner and you had to find pullouts for others to pass. I took the second picture below out of the Jeep window and as you can see I was looking straight down. The other side of the Jeep was right up against the cliff wall. You can walk out on this bridge but we chose not to do it. Josie identified the Porcupine Prickly-pear cacti, which were blooming everywhere, from her Audubon Field Guide to the Southwestern States that the Loomis's had given us during their visit. To give you a sense of how vast this country is, see if you can find the Jeep that was coming toward us in the final picture below.
We returned to the main trail and passed many hoodoos until we reached the the Gooseneck bend overlook of the Colorado River. 23 years ago my friend Hutch and I drove golf balls off the cliff here. So I decided to do it again for old time's sake. I hit two balls, one for me and one for Hutch. I am sure he would have hit his a lot farther then I did. The form is not as good as it was 23 years ago as you can tell by the picture from 23 years ago and the one from this trip. The trail was scenic the whole way until we reach the salt evaporation pools near the end.
We were going to go to Colorado tomorrow on our way east but decided to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico so we can meet up with my old Navy buddy Tom and his wife Paula who are going to be in that area.
We have spent the last 5 days in the Southwest corner of Colorado. We camped in the city of Durango right next to the Durango Silverton Railway. The train would come right in front of us every morning and evening.
We spent our first day in Durango running errands and shopping since we had just come from Monument Valley which had no viable shopping options. Trip Advisor rates Michel's Corner Crepes the number 1 place to eat in Durango, so we stopped by to have lunch. Michel is an award winning chef from Belgium who while touring the US fell in love with Durango and retired there. He was bored in retirement so he opened this small food cart on one of the main corners in town. We had a very tasty savory crepe with turkey, avocado, tomato and cheese. We washed this down with hot spiced cider that was so good I bought one to take home to have with breakfast the next day. Michel was just closing as we finished and to our surprise he delivered a of banana-raspberry sweet crepe drizzled with chocolate, and whipped cream on the side. I tried to pay him but he would not have any of it. Needless to say we went back another time before we left town.
The next day we toured nearby Mesa Verde National Park. We were a little disappointed in that a few of the major cliff dwellings were closed and would not open till Memorial Day. We did however get to tour Spruce Tree House and get views of the largest dwelling, Cliff Palace. The scenery was outstanding as there had been snow in the mountains the night before. On our way home, we passed a local trading post with some unusual yard art.
The main attraction in Durango is the narrow gauge train ride to Silverton Colorado. The 50 mile trip starts at 6500 feet and climbs through the Animas River Canyon to Silverton at 9000 feet. The trip takes 3 1/2 hours each way with a two hour layover in Silverton. It was very exciting to pass by the RV on the way up and back. We traveled in a car that was built in 1885 and was the oldest one on the train. It only seated 16 people. It was the last car on the train so we had the whole back platform to enjoy the view. We also had our own car host , Kevin, who was fantastic at serving us hot or cold beverages and snacks. He also was our guide and told us the history of the train and also let us know the best places to take pictures. Silverton was surrounded by snowcapped peaks and has a population of around 300 full time residents. It has only one paved street. We saw Big Horned Sheep on the steep cliffs and Elk in the alpine meadows. Despite the cool temperatures and even a few snow flurries we had a great time. As you can see from the pictures below it is, a very spectacular trip.
We were going to spend a week in Durango but it kept getting rainier and colder so we are leaving two days early and heading for Moab, Utah and better weather.
We have spent the last 5 days in Monument Valley, right on the border of Arizona and Utah. It is part of the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the continental USA. We stayed at Goulding's Camp Park which was founded in the 1920's. Mr. Goulding came to the area to buy sheep from the natives and liked it so much he and his wife moved there and built an Inn for overnight visitors who they would take on tours of the Valley. During the depression he went to Hollywood and talked John Ford into filming his new movie "Stage Coach" in the valley. This not only helped him but the Navajo as well. John Wayne fell in love with the area and came back many times to visit. Our camp site had a great view of some of the monuments. We drove the 17 mile scenic drive and stopped at one of the Navajo stalls, selling locally made jewelry. Josie bought two authentic Native bracelets for her granddaughters, Abby and Anne.
One day we took a road trip to Natural Bridges National Monument, 50 miles to the north. On the way we stopped at the spot on Highway 163 where Forest Gump stopped his 3 year run. You may recognize it from the first picture below. We marveled at the colors of the layers of rock on the hill- side. We then stopped at Gooseneck State Park, where the San Juan River makes two 180 degree turns. The river flows 5 miles just to go 11/2 miles in distance. We then drove the Moki Dugway, a cut that switchbacks up the plateau, and cuts 30 miles off the trip north. This remote area is open range and we had to slow down a few times to let the cattle cross the road. There were many calves in the herd, and I think Josie would have rustled the calf with the #1 tag in it's ear and brought him home, if we had the room.
One day we took a road trip to Natural Bridges National Monument, 50 miles to the north. On the way we stopped at the spot on Highway 163 where Forest Gump stopped his 3 year run. You may recognize it from in the first picture below. We marveled at the colors of the layers of rock on the hill side. We then stopped at Gooseneck State Park, where the San Juan river makes two 180 degree turns. The river flows 5 miles just to go 11/2 miles in distance. We then drove the Moki Dugway a cut that switchbacks up the plateau, and cuts 30 miles off the trip north. THis remote area is open range and we had to slow down a few times to let the cattle cross the road. There were many calf's in the herd.
On our final night in the Valley we had dinner at the View Lodge. Josie had her first Navajo Taco and I had the Green Chili Stew. The food was as good as the view.
We left the Valley and headed east, stopping along the way to visit the Four Corners. Josie did her best Yoga pose to be in four states at one time. New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.
We left Las Vegas and drove to Page, Arizona. The town of Page was founded as a support facility when they were building the Lake Powell Dam on the Colorado River in the early 60's. They poured concrete for the dam 24/7 for 3 years. If a load of concrete did not meet the required temperature for use on the dam they diverted the load and used it to pour the foundations for the city buildings, schools and even churches. So the town is laid out on the side of a gentle hill with all the city buildings on the first street, all the schools on the next and then all the churches on the next. The surrounding area was used as the back drop for many movie westerns since it is so scenic. We visited the dam and then went down river a few miles and hiked out to Horseshoe Bend, one of the most photographed spots on the river .We even had a great view from our camp site.
I played the very scenic Lake Powell Golf Course one morning. Below are some of the views.
The only way to see Antelope Canyon is to take a guided tour using a Native guide, since the canyon is located on Navajo land. The canyon is one of the most photographed sites in the world. A professional picture taken in the canyon sold for millions of dollars. Our native guide, Abraham was very good in giving us the geology of the canyon and showing us the best places to take pictures. As we reached the far end of the canyon the rains came and by the time we made it back out we were a dirty sight to see. This will be an adventure we will always remember.
Over 20 years ago I took a 10 day raft trip down the Grand Canyon. It was one of the greatest adventures I have ever had. I have always wanted Josie to see what that experience was like, minus the rapids, as she is not really an "on the water person". So when we saw the rafts on the calm waters of Glen Canyon from Horseshoe Lookout and later from the Dam, we signed up for a day trip. We covered 16 miles of the river from the Lake Powell Dam to Lee's Ferry, where the trips down the Grand Canyon start from. Out trip started with a bus ride down to the base of the dam through a two mile tunnel. That in its self was an adventure. Once at the bottom, we had to wear hard hats as we walked to board the rafts. Once we got to the raft we turned them back in. There were two rafts with 15 people in each. Our guide was a local Navajo, Nate. He did a fantastic job of pointing out the geology, flora and fauna of the canyon. We had a box lunch along the way and stopped once to see petroglyphs and also ran across a local resident, a Chuckwalla, a type of lizard. As you can see from the following pictures it was a scenic trip. Look on the water for the other raft to get an idea how tall the cliffs are on either side of the river. They ranged from 800 to over 1500 feet as we went deeper into the canyon. Half way through our float we went around Horse Shoe Bend that just a few days earlier we had looked down from. We encountered a little rain but we had brought our rain gear and were prepared for it. Josie really enjoyed it and I am so glad she was able to have this experience.
On our last day in Page we drove over into Utah and took a Jeep trail down to the Lake Powell Shoreline. We entered a slot canyon that took us out into the now dried up lake bed. Our GPS showed we were driving right down the middle of what was once a finger of the lake. Unfortunately the lake is very,very low. Josie found shells along the trail that were once at the bottom of the lake. It did make for a beautiful drive but would rather see lots of water. We exited the slot canyon onto a high plateau park road that took us back to the highway.
We later went back to the Lake Powell Resort and capped off our busy week here in Page with a nice dinner in the main dining room. Tomorrow we head further east.