Just south of Page, AZ and the slot canyons, just a short walk off to the side of highway 89 is a must-stop point along many travelers’ roadtrips – horseshoe bend in the Colorado River.
In spite of lots of signs warning everyone not to get too close to the edge, as you don’t really know what you’re standing on… many people just wandered straight up to the precipice… of course, not me! I got as close as I could…. TOTALLY AMAZING, BUT ABSOLUTELY NAUSEATING!
Entering the Grand Canyon National Park from the south eastern end (sadly the north rim was closed already for the winter) the inevitable, but impressive first stop is at the Desert View Watchtower, designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is often referred to as the architect of the southwest. She traveled throughout the southwest to find inspiration and authenticity for her buildings. The architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau served as her model. This particular tower was patterned after those found at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde. Ms. Colter indicated that it was not a copy of any that she had seen, but rather modeled from several.
For years I have seen the amazing photos that people have taken of the slot canyons of Utah and Arizona, and I’ve always wanted to go play there. As touristy as the south Antelope slot canyon was, and the grey skies overhead, it was SPECTACULAR!
Heading west from Colorado makes travel planning rather hard… too many National Parks to choose from in Utah!
We narrowed it down to the most unique for us and headed north to Arches National Park. Small for the national parks, it had everything we wanted: unusual landscapes, a challenging hike (for us) and a campground… sold!
We arrived late morning, with everything on schedule… until we noticed the sign at the entrance “Campground Full.” Hmmm… really?! We asked just to be sure, and were assured that it had been booked up for 6 months!
We completely failed to notice that as we had been heading west the weather had been getting warmer, which meant that even though it was out of season in the parks of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota… it was very much prime time in Utah. Oh well, we’d do the hike and work out our night’s accommodation later.
We had been building up the hiking gradually… getting older and being out of hiking practice, it was a wise decision. But we felt ready for the 7+ mile hike Tadd had planned for the Arches, “primitive trail” and all…
It was definitely the most grueling thing we had done so far in the trip. We realized we needed more water containers if we were going to carry on with the hiking thing. And it was totally amazing walking up and down and around the truly alien landscapes of the park, scrambling along rock walls and clambering around mud pits… fantastic!
All that was left at the end of the day, was to work out where to sleep. Moab, the nearby town only offered RV parks right on the side of the main highway… definitely not our thing… so a quick bit of reasearch turned up a national forest campground about 30 miles south. We drove through the darkness, passing all the 18 wheelers careening the opposite direction and then off into the darkness (thank goodness for the newly purchased GPS). We really had no idea where we were until the next morning… not too shabby!
In spite of what a life-long obsession with flying might seem to indicate, I am actually scared of heights! For some reason the man-made wonders of hot air balloons, airplanes, and the mere presence of a steel barrier embolden me, and give me the freedom to enjoy amazing perspectives of the planet, looking out from above.
However, the likes of cliff edges, tiny mountain trails and winding roads with sheer drop-offs, turn my legs to jelly and induce a yucky, nausea in me. It’s something I hate, but which pushes me more to literally go out on the a ledge sometimes… well, if it’s worth it! And the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings were definitely one of those places.
Some time around the 10th century the natives began moving down from living on the top of the plateau and began the precarious life on the edge. They scuttled up and down ladders, from ridge top field to the next and routinely wandered around next to a huge drop off!
After a cosy night in our cabin, we drove down into Boulder to catch up with friends… once again we were having too much fun to remember to take any photos 🙁
We could easily see why the Trimmers decided to move there from Chicago…. we will definitely be back to visit again soon!
We drove through some amazing highlands in Colorado, with vast pasture surrounded by the picturesque peaks of the Rockies. The clouds came down as we went over the passes.
We had done our research and were headed southwest from Boulder. A night soggy night in the Curacanti National Recreation Area let us enjoy a short hike in the morning with some signs of autumn and views of the Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Such an amazing and unexpected location, but we were on a mission that day… and we didn’t yet realize how time-sensitive it was. We drove on to Montrose, CO and stopped in for some free WIFI in the parking lot of the McDonalds just to check our directions (our less-than-useless wifi hotspot had failed to provide us with up-to-the-moment navigation, and we had not yet given in to getting a GPS).
But just as we were about to to get on the road to the Million Dollar Highway, we discovered that it was closed!!! We couldn’t believe it… just because it was a weekday… they were doing road works. There was just one chance… if we could make it to Ouray in the next hour, we would be able to catch the lunchtime window (the road workers are literally eating their lunch at the side of the drop-off).
An exciting sprint south and we made it in perfect time… if not, we would have had to spend the day in Ouray (at least they have hot springs!) and wait until the end of the workday, to get through at 5pm… dusk and descending clouds be damned.
Tadd has decided that Colorado is now his favorite state (bad luck Montana!) and I am inclined to agree… we haven’t been able to find an ugly or boring part of it yet!
After a cozy night in our loaner cabin in Estes Park, CO, we woke up to see a small group of Elk crossing the stream behind the cabin. And so it was time to go explore some more of this Elk territory – off to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
As the whole world seemed to be headed up to Bear Lake for the view, we decided to turn back and find our own space… which we did pretty well; not seeing more than a few others on the trail we found along the south side of the Moraine Park.
Having left behind the marvels of nature in the Grand Tetons, we headed south then west towards Colorado. We had planned to stop for the night at another wonderfully remote campsite on a hillside… I had even heard there was a possibility of spotting wild horses in the area. However, we changed plans at the the last minute in order to try to catch up with friends back up in the Rockies. So, we found another, less-picturesque spot…
We made good time and shortened our drive for the next day so that we could spend time our friends… but the best laid plans and all that…
At least things worked out better than we initially thought: the very nice tow truck guy, Mr Brown from Jamaica, started out saying that as it was Friday, and Rawlins has 10 times more mechanic work than mechanics, no-one was willing to look at the RV that day… and we had the prospect of spending the WEEKEND in Rawlins, WY… certainly not a destination we had added to our Google Map when we researched the trip!
Luckily Tadd is rather persuasive… and convinced one of the crazily, overworked mechanics in town to have a look at it… it was only electrics after-all. I still wasn’t at all happy, but at least there was free WIFI from the “by-the-hour” motel next to us.
We lost 4 hours of our day, and limped away with a temporary fix… which meant by the time we got going again, there was no way to make our date in the mountains. But, our friend Kim was kind enough to let us stay in the cabin she wasn’t using that night, so we had a welcoming place ahead of us for the night. This was a particularly good thing, what with all the rain along the way.
We enjoyed a lovely night with hot showers (as much water as we wanted), TV, unlimited internet and a queen-size bed…. gorgeous!
After a couple of weeks on the road, generally trying to get far enough west to make Tadd smile… we made it to our first National Park…. Yellowstone!! We have been really excited about checking out some the amazing natural areas of the U.S.
We drove in through the east gate, and luckily something triggered Tadd’s memory and he got us hooked up with an interagency pass getting us into all the National Parks and more for just $80USD for a whole year… SCORE!!!
We climbed up and over the Sylvan Pass and finally got our first glimpse of what lay ahead.
Having passed a crowd on the main road (apparently there a mother brown bear and her cub had been spotted…. but no sign of them by the time we got there), we stopped off a few miles into the park for our first hike of the day at Indian Pond, along Storm Point trail.
Happily this was not a popular spot, so we had the whole trail to ourselves… or so we thought!
After a quick stop at the visitors center, and lunch on the side of the road, we set off to bike the trail to Natural Bridge… finally an actual bike trail!
Of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to Old Faithful (well, at least when it’s your first visit!)
We stopped in to the Lodge and the Inn to explore the classic hotels
And then a little further north we reached the Grand Prismatic…
As we wound our way back over the Continental Divide for the 5th time… we fit in a quick stop for a waterfall.
From here it was time to head south out of the park, on another whirlwind taster of U.S. and out into the spectacular Grand Tetons.
And then we turned the corner…
I had found us another free campsite in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just off the main road a few miles to the east…
Given the amazing location and the fact that Tadd owns an original print taken somewhere just below us in the valley, we renamed the spot “The Ansel Adams Campsite,” Moran, WY.