Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008--Hiking Sound of Silence at Dinosaur NM

Monday we decided to hike the Sound of Silence trail at Dinosaur NM. It was a nice trail with many different types of geologic formations to view. The first part took us through a wash (dry creek bed).
The next part of the trail took us between the red 'mud' mounds. We wanted to stop and take a picture of us, but the trail was too narrow to use the tripod! We took a picture looking back as we finished that portion of the trail.

A little further on, we rested on the trunk of a juniper tree. The junipers had strange shaped trunks and most trunks were flat at some point!

Next was the yellow sandstone portion of the trail. This was marked with rocks on the big boulder we had to walk down!
Bob went down first. We both thought the rock outcropping to the right looked like the back of a stegosaurus.

Finally we were back in the wash near the streaked sandstone boulders. The colors are beautiful.
Even though spring officially started toward the end of March, wildflowers are just starting to bloom in the upper desert.
The flowers that were blooming alone, no clumps, just single plants.
Even the cacti were beginning to bud. The cacti here are not the same species as those in the lower desert. The temperatures in the high desert reach sub-zero in the winter and the cacti that grow are specialized. They seem to be thicker and we have noticed that the animals don't eat them.
The lichens growing on the rocks also have bright colors.
Tuesday we plan to go toward Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. We will leave the dinosaurs behind.
We just hope the campgrounds are open this early in the season.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008--Traveling to Dinosaur National Monument

Sunday we packed our belongings and headed for Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah. We backtracked from Fruita, Colorado to Loma, Colorado to find Colorado 139--another scenic route!

The road was a two lane highway that was pretty straight and in need of repair for the first 10-15 miles. Then we started to climb! We headed toward Douglass Pass which is about 8100 feet in elevation. Colorado National Monument is 5300 in elevation. The road seemed to be smoother as we climbed toward the pass. But as we approached the pass, the hairpin curves began! Joyce watched the 'road' on the Topo Map on the laptop so she was able to tell Bob when a major hairpin was coming. Several times we pulled over to let others pass and to cool our transmission.

We made it over the pass and down to the town of Dinosaur. We then headed west on highway 40 into Utah. We stopped at the visitor center-the first we have seen for Utah! The lady gave us information in Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

As we left the welcome center, we turned right and were on the road to Dinosaur National Monument. We stopped in the visitor center to see the bones and to find out if the campground was open. The quarry where the major exhibit is located has been closed since 2006. The building was built on shifting ground and is now unsafe to visit! The foundation and walls have split and shifted. The quarry is the area where you view fossils still in the mountain side!

They had a few fossils on display at the visitor center. Bob stood next to the femur of diplodocus.
Allosaurus's left hand and fingers were also displayed.There was a bulletin board sized display of some other dinosaur information, but not what we expected. Inside the building there was a small room with a few more small displays and a rolling cart with dinosaur bones you could touch and compare with petrified wood. The most interesting display was of dinosaur teeth. They were not as large as one would think for the size of the animal.The ranger told us the campground was open and there were plenty of spaces to choose! Boy, was he right--we were the only other camper besides the campground host. He is at one end of the campground and we're at the other! As we left to drive the scenic route, we stopped at the overlook above the campground. The is our rv among the cottonwood trees. The Green River is beyond our campsite.The scenic route through this section of the park took us to more petroglyphs by the Fremont culture. They differed in that some of them had been colored in with red or blue. If you look carefully, one on the right has a red tunic.

From the petroglyphs we drove to Josie's cabin. Josie was a woman who moved to the area in 1914 when she was in her forties. She built several cabins--this one with the help of her grandson in 1935. She lived in the cabin until her death in 1969 at the age of 90. She fell and broke her hip while feeding her horse! The location of her cabin is remote! The park service is trying to save the cabin as you can see by the new window (and a new roof).

She kept her livestock in two box canyons. All she had to do was build a fence across the entrance and they couldn't get out. We walked into Hog Canyon. The path meandered along a small creek. This is the type of hike we want to do more!
The further back in the canyon you went, the more peaceful! We heard numerous different bird calls and saw wildflowers blooming. It was late in the afternoon when we started our walk, so we didn't go all the way to the end of the canyon--as the sun dipped below the canyon walls the air cooled quickly.

We drove back to our campsite and enjoyed an evening by the campfire. Before we went in, we took a look at the stars. We were able to pick out several constellations. There must be more stars in the western sky or else there is less light pollution out here!

Satrurday, April 26, 2008--Caching in Fruita, Colorado

We enjoyed our hikes in Colorado National Monument. Our campsite was on the mesa above and to the right of the west entrance sign. The road was windy with steep drop offs on one side or the other.Saturday we decided to geocache in Fruita, Colorado. It is the small town at the entrance to the national monument. We did several virtual caches--ones where you answer questions & e-mail answers to the owner of the cache. The first cache was at Colorado West Slope Vietnam Memorial. We saw the helicopter when we arrived on Thursday, but didn't get back to view it until we went caching.It was a nice memorial. The names of those who served are on the wall around the memorial.

After we found our answers, we drove downtown. The main street was closed due a bike rally of some sort. Mountain bikers were everywhere. We were told that next weekend the street cycles will be in town (not motorcycles, but street racer bicycles). Many street bikes were practicing going up and down the Colorado Monument road!

Saturday evening we took a walk around the campground and met a couple from Great Britain. They sailed their boat across the Atlantic to visit friends in the Caribbean and Maine! After visiting Maine they decided they wanted to see more of the USA so they moored the boat in the Chesapeake, flew to Florida to visit other friends and bought an rv. They have been traveling in it since November. Their daughter is flying in to Salt Lake City to go with them to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We enjoyed our visit with Mike and Angela.

Sunday will be another travel day! I hope it is better than the last one!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25. 2008--Colorado National Monument

Friday was a normal day--thank heavens! We went for a short hike to the visitor center. The first part of the hike was Windowrock Trail which is only .3 mile long. This feature is called Windowrock since the rock has eroded and frames the valley below.The trail was a nice one with views of the valley and the town of Fruita.

We enjoyed our morning hike. It was relaxing after the mishaps or the previous day.
From Windowrock Trail we hiked to Book Cliffs View. The building at the overlook is on the National Historic Register. It would be a great place to watch a sunrise, but we don't get up that early!From Book Cliffs View we hiked to the visitor center along Canyon Rim Trail. Once again we saw great views of Independence Monument, Praying Hands, Organ Pipe, and Kissing Couple.
The trail to the visitor center was paved part of the way. We took our time in the visitor center, reading displays and watching the informational movie about the area.

The return trail took us through small pinyon pines and Utah junipers. It amazes us how trees can grow in such a rocky, arid place. The trees seem to come up out of rock, but every now and then when we're in a valley, we see the roots protruding through the rock!

For the afternoon we decided to geocache in the park. Our first find was near Balance Rock. The rock weighs over 500 tons! We're not sure how they weighed it, but we hope it stays balanced while we're driving near it!

From there we drove out of the park and found Dinosaur Hill which is maintained by Bureau of Land Management (BLM). An apatosaurus skeleton was found here in 1901. There is a mile trail around the area.
The apatosaurus skeleton was moved to the Field Museum of Chicago where it is still on display. This plaque commemorates Elmer Riggs who was responsible for the find.

We drove back into Colorado National Monument to find 3 other caches. We have to e-mail answers to questions to get credit for these caches so watch our cache totals to see when the number increases.

Saturday will be our last day at the park before we head to Dinosaur National Monument. Hopefully the weather channel is correct when it says the winds will be 7 mph from the south! We are really tired of the wind. We feel like we have been in wind since we started this leg of our trip.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008--On the Way to Arches...or Not!

Thursday morning dawned sunny and windy. Bob and I made it up by 6:00 and were ready to leave the park by 7:30. After dumping grey and black water, filling fresh water, and hooking up the car, we were on the road by 7:55. We knew we would have to arrive at Arches National Park early to get one of the non-reservable campsites.

We made it to I-70 without much delay, but then the wind started. We could feel the rv sway occasionally and we could hear the whistle of the wind all around us. We stopped in Green River to fill the rv tank even though we weren't down more than 1/4 of a tank. With gas prices rising daily, we top off the tank whenever we see gas at a lower price than we expect.

We continued on to Arches and pulled in the entrance between 10 and 10:30. The sign in the window at the check-in station read: "Campground Full!" We asked the ranger on duty how that could be and she happily explained to us that it was a great weekend at the national park and the antique car show was in Moab! All the sites were filled and had been filled for days! Bob was not a happy camper. He had been looking forward to camping at Devil's Garden campground for quite some time! The ranger told us the visitor center had a list of campgrounds in the area, so we went in to check it out.

We parked next to another motorhome and went in to talk to the rangers. They were very helpful and gave us a list of private and public campgrounds. We chose to pursue the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds along the Colorado River.

The first two that took rvs were filled so we continued on along the river until we came to Big Bend BLM campground. It looked promising, but it was a cruel joke. Tenters had taken the big sites and there was nothing that would fit our rig. We drove down the last 'loop' and found it wasn't a loop at all, but a dead end! We had to unhook the CRV so Bob could turn the rv around to head back to the entrance! We were not happy campers for the second time in one day!

We stopped at the group camping site to regroup, call some private campgrounds, and eat lunch. Joyce used her cell phone to call private campgrounds and found they were full. People were coming in for the car show from all over the country. We finished lunch, rehooked the CRV to the rv and continued on the road next to the Colorado River. The wind was still howling all around us through the canyon.

We came to a campground near the Old Dewey Bridge (also BLM campground), but the wind was so bad and the river so high that we decided to keep moving. As Bob drove, Joyce searched the atlas to find a place to go. We decided on Colorado National Monument near Fruita, Colorado. We hoped the campground would have sites available since it did not take reservations.

As Joyce looked at our street atlas on computer, she noticed 2 tunnels leading to the campground. She tried several times to call the national monument to find out about the tunnels, but no one answered the phone.

As we exited Interstate 70 at Fruita, the road ended--the ramp was not paved, but was being redone by a road crew. What a mess!

We finally approached the west entrance to Colorado National Monument--HOORAY!! But wait! There was a sign that said "Clearance 10' 6"....oh no! Our rig is 11' 6" ! The entrance kiosk was empty--no ranger! We had to turn around...but wait, was there room? Bob started his u-turn around the ranger station and realized the pavement was too short! We had to unhook again, this time blocking the entrance and exit. The CRV was at a terrible angle to unhook. A man approached in a vehicle behind us and said he thought we could make it through the tunnels--we said no, our height is 11'6". He gave us directions to the east entrance and said big trucks go through that tunnel all the time. We thanked him and headed for the east entrance.

Bob drove the rv and Joyce drove the CRV. Bob pulled over in a parking lot to get in with Joyce. He didn't want to waste gas if we couldn't get into the park and had to go someplace else. We drove to the east entrance which was manned with 2 rangers! They assured us we could get through the tunnels at either entrance as the sign didn't mean total height! A bus went through last year and scraped the side, so the signs went up, confusing many people. The rangers were also kind enough to call the visitor center (near the campground) to find out if there were sites available and yes, there were!

We drove back to the parking lot, Bob drove the rv to the west entrance and Joyce followed. The reason we went to the west entrance was that the campground was only 4 miles from that entrance and 23 miles from the east entrance--and it was a curvy, narrow road.

We finally made it to the the campground and found a site. We were exhausted and frustrated. After winding down for a while, we decided to drive the 23 miles to the east entrance to check the road. It was just as curvy and white knuckle as the west entrance road, but much longer! As we made it to the entrance, we decided to eat at the restaurant where we had parked the rv! It was a Mexican restaurant (Dos Hombres) and the food was very good AND it was HAPPY HOUR! Bob and I each had one drink with dinner, then went in search of Wal-Mart to stock up for the next week. We returned through the west entrance and made it to the rv for the night. What a day!

To top it off, Bob lost his cell phone. Thanks to Beverly we were able to find it through this link: Bob was glad to find his cell phone! It's amazing how it works--just enter any cell phone number and it shows you on Google Earth where the phone is located! Hope it works for you, too! Maybe you could track us with it!

Tomorrow should be a better day! It couldn't be much worse!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008--Last Day at Capitol Reef

Wednesday was our last day at Capitol Reef. Bob let Joyce pick the trail for the day and she chose Old Wagon Trail. It was advertised as 3.5 mile strenuous hike. We packed water and protein bars, put on sunscreen and off we went! The trailhead is almost at the end of the scenic drive.
We parked at the trailhead and after hiking a few minutes, turned back to see the car parked on the sandstone.
The trail was a wagon trail used by miners on Miner Mountain. We are not sure what they mined, and we are not sure how they got wagons up the trail! It was steep, but worse yet, it was very rocky! We passed a lot of pinyon pines and juniper trees.
Near the end of the trail was a viewpoint to overlook the area. It was another climb! We were ready for the downhill portion of the trail which we didn't get to until the last .75 mile of the trail!
We had our handheld GPS with us to measure the distance and the change in elevation. We climbed over 1000 feet and the trail was 3.85 miles! The brochure was correct when it said this was a strenuous trail!
We went back to the rv for lunch and to put our feet up! Around 3:00 we decided we needed to walk to the visitor center to see the movie since we had not watched it. Off we went the 1.2 miles to watch the movie! We were very proud of ourselves for walking over 6 miles!
We also determined that even though our hike to Scout's Landing in Zion was 4 miles and uphill, it was not as difficult as Old Wagon Trail! The trail at Zion was paved with level areas whereas Old Wagon Trail was not paved and level areas did not exist!
Thursday was a travel day and we planned to be up and out of Capitol Reef before 8:00 a.m. Hmmmm....would we make it?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008--Hiking Hickman's Bridge

Tuesday we decided to hike the trail to Hickman's Bridge. The trail starts on Utah 24 to the east of the visitor center. We stopped in the visitor center on our way to the trailhead. There were 2 mothers with 6 boys outside the visitor center. The boys were running amok with no guidance: climbing walls, yelling and going in planted areas that were under restoration.

After purchasing a hiking stick medallion we were off to the trailhead. We passed the parking area for the petroglyphs and saw the moms with the six boys and heaved a sigh of relief that they weren't hiking to Hickman Bridge.

We started the trail at the overlook for Capitol Dome. That is how Capitol Reef National Park was named--one of the first formations seen when entering the valley looked like the dome on the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
As we started up the trail we were having trouble reading the trail markings. In wooded areas, the trails are marked by painting a slash mark on a tree. Well, in areas without many trees, the markings are stacked rocks! We took several wrong turns, but realized our mistakes before we had gone too far. Unfortunately, we missed a turn later on the trail and went to Hickman's Bridge from the south side, not the north like we should have!
As we approached the bridge, Joyce heard hooligans yelling and screaming in the area. She looked around a rock and sure enough there were boys running amok in the area below the bridge. Joyce said, "Our favorite group is here!" Just a few moments later she looked around a rock and saw a mom and 2 of the boys---oops! Foot in mouth disease strikes again!

The mom came out a few seconds later and we talked. She grew up in Idaho and had been to Florida one time. We talked about the difference in climate. Then she said she was sorry her group interrupted our quiet hike. Joyce replied with the fact she was a retired teacher and was used to noise. The mom countered with everyone needs a dose of reality once in a while. Joyce wanted to say that people should show respect at national parks, but she held back!

We continued on our hike in the right direction! We met a couple just before the area where we made our wrong turn and advised them which way to go. They were thankful for the information.
We returned to the rv and planned our next hike! Capitol Reef has many great hikes with different views of rock formations. Each one looks different at different times of the day!

Monday, April 21, 2008--The Drive to Capitol Reef

As you have probably realized, we didn't get many days updated on the blog while at Bryce. We left early Monday morning to head back to Capitol Reef. We stopped in the small town of Escalante for breakfast. We both had a pancake and 2 scrambled eggs plus coffee. The bill was less than $10--much less than it would have been at Ruby's place! It was an eclectic cafe with many funny signs on the walls.

We arrived back at the rv in time to go for a long hike. We chose the Grand Wash. It goes along a wash, through the narrows and stops at a picnic area. It was a 2 1/4 mile hike one way!
We found several rocks that looked like geodes and Bob cracked them open. The insides were completely filled with quartz.

The walls of the cliffs were marked with water erosion holes. They are different sizes in each area.
We found several places in the walls of the wash that had been eroded. They made good caves.The Cassidy Arch Trail was off the Grand Wash Trail, but it would have made our hike a little too long for the afternoon. It is said that Butch Cassidy had a hideout near the arch, but it was never proven.
After we returned to the rv, we ate dinner and decided to go to sunset point at the west entrance to the park. We missed the light playing off the red rocks, but we did see some good color in the western sky.
We waited about 10 minutes before taking the next picture.
We planned to do another long hike on Tuesday!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sunday, April 20--The Drive to Bryce Canyon

Sunday morning we drove the CRV to Bryce Canyon. We traveled through Dixie National Forest. The drive was along Utah 12. We left the rv at Capitol Reef.
We reached the summit, but knew that we would be about the same in Bryce Canyon.
Along the way we had many great views. The most interesting was Hog's Back Ridge. You drive along the road with no guardrails and a view straight down to the left and right of about 1500 feet. The section of the road is only 1/4 mile long, but it seems like a lot longer! This is the beginning of the ridge, you can see where the side drops away on the right.
We arrived at the Bryce Canyon area around 11:30 a.m. We stopped at Ruby's Inn to check out the room rates. We had a brochure that stated the price was $60 a night. We thought that was reasonable. When we inquired at the desk, we were told the brochure was wrong or outdated! The price was $95 not including taxes. We didn't want to pay that much so we went across the street to Bryce View Lodge and got a room for $60 (not including taxes). It turned out that Ruby's Inn owns Bryce View Lodge as well as every shop, restaurant, rodeo, stable, and gas station on the way into Bryce Canyon National Park!

After checking into our room, we drove to the park. It was cold and we knew we wouldn't be able to hike any trails, but we could look!We ate lunch at Bryce Lodge. Did I mention that it was windy and cold at Bryce Canyon? We decided to take the scenic drive after lunch. We froze our buns off at every stop! The temperature was in the low 40s, but the wind chill made it feel like the upper 20s and lower 30s.
It is amazing at Bryce to drive along among the evergreens and then come to an overlook at the canyon edge where you see hoodoos below you!

It is unbelievable how many there are and the different shapes that were made by erosion.

There was even snow on the ground around some of the hoodoos.
We enjoyed viewing the rocks, but it was time for dinner.

Bob had seen a Subway before we turned into 'Ruby's Row' so we went there for dinner--well we tried! We arrived at 6:15 p.m. and as we tried to go in the front door, the workers left through the side door. Another family also stopped for Subway and they were also disappointed. We drove back to Ruby's Row hoping to get pizza at Ruby's Diner--it was also closed. The only place open was Ruby's Restaurant--dinner was buffet and it was $17.99. The family from Subway also wanted pizza, but went to Ruby's. We felt sorry for them because the kids buffet was $10.99 and that was for 3-12 year olds. The family had 4 boys ranging in age from 4-12! Bob and I thought maybe we would pick up something in the store. We went in and gave it the Cheez-It test. We found Cheez-Its at the store outside of Zion for $5.39 a 16-ounce box. Near Capitol Reef, the local store had the same box for $4.83. Well, Ruby's price matched Zion's so we turned tail and got out of Ruby's! We left and drove west of Bryce and found a steakhouse that had reasonable prices. We enjoyed our dinner, then drove back to Bryce for the sunset.

We went to Sunset Point first. It is nothing spectacular unless you get there about an hour before sunset. We were late, but we still enjoyed the view.
Next we stopped at the Fairyland Overlook. Many of the hoodoos here look like fairies!
The night ended with us in the motel room updating the blog. We had a signal at Bryce and we tried to do as much updating as we could. As you can tell by the date of this post, we are still behind. Maybe we'll have it all updated by tomorrow and you can find out "Where in the USA RV!"