Sunday, September 30, 2012

Goosenecks of the San Juan River-Sept. 24-26, 2012

It was a quick drive from Chinle, Arizona, to Goosenecks of the San Juan River State Park, Utah. We stopped at Goosenecks in 2008, but didn't realize all there was to see in the area. This time we stayed for three nights.

Goosenecks is located on a mesa above the meandering San Juan River. The river is over 1000 feet below the mesa and it is a wonderful view.

This time we chose a site away from the edge of the mesa as we knew about the strong winds that could come through the area. Last time we thought we were going to get blown over the edge!

After we set up camp, we drove down to the town of Mexican Hat which is named for this formation which is north of town.
We picked up some geocaches along the way. This is a different side of the area where the Mexican Hat formation is located.

When we returned, we had a leisurely afternoon  before cooking dinner and watching the sunset. It was an okay sunset since there were too many clouds. It looked like rain was heading our way. That night we experienced some strong winds and rain, but nothing like our first night here in 2008!

The next morning we thought the rain had blown through so we drove up the side of a mesa on the Moki Dugway.
 It is a gravel road to the top of Cedar Mesa. This is a view of the road through the windshield.

 This is a view back down the road. The left end of the mesa in the background is Mulee Point.
Once at the top of the mesa we realized the wind had picked up and the rain clouds were moving our way but that didn't stop us from making it out to Mulee Point! We found the two geocaches at the point and tried to enjoy the view-Monument Valley in the distance and Goosenecks just below! Needless to say at that elevation and with rain headed our way, it was chilly!
  The rain was coming our way so it was back down the Dugway to snag another geocache and then on to Valley of the Gods.

Even though the rain was headed our way, we decided to drive the 17 mile Valley of the Gods road. There were geocaches along the drive, but weather didn't permit us to stop and find them. We enjoyed seeing the sandstone buttes that have been carved over the years. This is Setting Hen Butte.

The rain continued to we set off north on US Highway 191 to Bluff, Utah. Along the way we passed Sand Island BLM area. There was a walk to some petroglyphs, by we had to pass because of the rain. We drove around the small town of Bluff, viewing the historic fort from the car and then headed back to Goosenecks.

When we arrived, the weather had cleared and we had a restful afternoon on the mesa. There were no clouds in the sky, so no sunset.

The next day we drive south again through Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley. Our first stop was Gouldings which has been there since 1928. It was made famous by John Ford who filmed the first western at Monument Valley--Stagecoach--in 1939.

From Gouldings we drove into Monument Valley Navajo Indian Park. After looking around the museum and gift shop we set out to drive through the monuments. The road was terrible, but we made it through the drive. The road through the monuments was crowded with guided tours and tourists.

We saw the famous 'monuments' and headed back to Goosenecks. It was our last night and we were hoping for a fantastic sunset.

The afternoon was still young, the weather was great, so we went back to Valley of the Gods to see if we could find those elusive geocaches. This time we drove from east to west.

Our first stop was Seven Sailors. We hiked .3 mile to the base of the sailors and found the cache!

We continued on and found a cache named "The Gods Are Watching."

It was our last night at Goosenecks and we had a fantastic sunset!
 The next day it was a short drive to Blanding, Utah, Base Camp to Adventure!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Gallup to Chinle

When we left Cibola NF, we drove into Gallup, NM, to top the gas tank in the rv. As always, Bob researched gas prices before going into anew state. Bob found that gas in New Mexico was a bit less expensive than we would find in northeast Arizona.

From Gallup we turned north on highway 264 and drove until we reached Ganado, Arizona.We wanted to tour Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site.
 It was an interesting tour and we learned quite a bit about trading posts on the Navajo Reservation. Navajos still bring their handcrafted items to the post and trade for items they need such as flour, ceremonial baskets, or Zuni salt
  Of course we also found the geocache located at the trading post.

From the trading post we continued to our destination for the next two nights--Chinle, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly. Bob and I were looking forward to hiking to the White House Ruin. It is the only ruin you can get close to without a Navajo guide.
 After we arrived and set up camp in the Cottonwood Campground, we set off to drive the north rim of the park.

From the overlooks we saw all the ruins. They reminded us of our visit to Mesa Verde in Colorado. We learned that some of the people of Mesa Verde had come to this area to live, also.

The next day we got up early to go to the overlook for White House Ruin and the trail head. We wanted to hike before it got too hot. We were both wondering how we would do hiking at elevation. We had been hiking about 4 miles a day for some time, but that was all at sea level or 1000 feet! Canyon de Chelly is 5500 feet high!

The hike down to the canyon floor is about 1 1/2 miles and the average time to complete the entire hike is 2 hours. Going down was a breeze!

The scenery was gorgeous and the trail was interesting. We walked behind several huge boulders and through one long tunnel. Once we got to the bottom, the ruin was fenced so we couldn't get very close.
 We took some pictures and then began the walk back to the top of the canyon. Did I mention that the trail had a 500 foot change in elevation? Well, it got to me on the way up. I had to stop and rest several times.

Later that afternoon, we drove the remainder of the south rim drive to visit the other overlooks.

One thing we noticed about the Chinle area, all the animals tend to roam the streets. Wherever we drove, we always saw horses roaming the streets, even in the center of town! As we were leaving, this dog was herding these sheep to the other side of the road. A goat turned and went the other way to avoid the dog! We even saw a pig by the side of the road, not a javelina, but a domesticated pig!

Next stop, one of our favorites--Goosenecks of the San Juan River State Park, Utah!

Monday, September 24, 2012

West to New Mexico

 We left Ponca City driving west. As we passed through town we saw the largest oil refinery we had ever seen. It stretched as far as the eye could see on either side of the highway.

Along the way we did some sightseeing. We stopped on OK 8 to see Sod House Museum. It is the only homesteader's sod house still intact. Most sod houses were built to last for 3-8 years while the owners gathered materials and built their permanent home. The owner of this house lived in it for 15 years. It was unusual in that it had two rooms instead of one.

I am standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the bedroom.

The stove is original to the house.

So people could see this historical marvel, the museum was built around the house!

After we left the museum we stopped at an Oklahoma State Park--Glass Mountains. When settlers originally came west, the mountains shimmered in the sunlight, thus the name Glass Mountains. The reason the mountains shimmer is because they have layers of selenite crystals throughout them. We would have liked to walk to the top, but we were parked at a picnic area outside the park and it was a ways back to get water and it was HOT!

After a quick lunch, we continued on our way to Fort Supply.

We made it to Fort Supply and were delighted with the Corps of Engineer Campground.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the historic site. It was supposed to be open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it wasn't!

We stopped at the gate Thursday morning at 9:30 and a prison guard from the nearby prison/asylum told us that the volunteer who runs the historic site keeps his own hours. Oh, well, we drove to the Historic Cemetery so we could learn something from that time. We found out that all the soldiers who were originally buried at the site were moved to Fort Leavenworth. The headstones remained.
After spending one night at Fort Supply, we decided to change our plans and head to New Mexico via Texas rather than go to Felt, Oklahoma, to spend the night at the grasslands. We decided it was too hot to boondock, we needed hook-ups.

While at Fort Supply we found that Oklahoma highways still have roadside picnic areas. Bob got on the internet and found that most of them had geocaches hidden. So as we traveled toward Logan, New Mexico, we stopped and found some caches. We also went through another town that makes you go hmmmmm... Slapout, Oklahoma. Because there was a cache locate in this desolate area, we know the reason behind the name. There once was a general store located there (no more) and if the owner didn't have what you wanted, he would tell you he was "slapout" and was expecting it any day.
 As we crossed into New Mexico, we also entered our third time zone--we are now in Mountain Time.

We spent the night at Ute Lake State Park. The park was almost empty! The lake for which it is named was also down. After setting up camp, we drove to Tucumcari to see Historic Route 66. There weren't many places left and the town hasn't done much upkeep on them.

The next morning we began the long drive to the west side of New Mexico. Since there are not many roads to choose from going that way, we traveled on I-40 almost to Gallup.

We chose a campground in Cibola National Forest for our camp that night. The campground was at an elevation of over 7000 feet and we didn't think it would get to hot! In fact, the temperature dropped into the low 40's!

It was a great campground just outside Fort Wingate, New Mexico.

From Fort Wingate we continued on our way into Arizona. More to come later!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exploring Northern Oklahoma

 From Siloam Springs we headed west into Oklahoma. Our travel preferences take us on back roads, not interstates or toll roads. We drove west on US412 and then headed northwest on OK 88. This took us through Claremore, Ok. If you have never visited this town, it has a lot to offer. On previous visits we toured the Will Rogers Museum and the Davis Gun Museum which has much more than guns.

As we were driving toward our destination we passed a small town that claimed it was the birthplace of two celebrities: Anita Bryant and Clark Gable. It seems both were born in Barnsdall, Oklahoma.

We continued on to Osage Cove Park on Kaw Lake near Ponca City, Oklahoma. We would call it home for two days. Luckily we arrived at a slow time for the park so we had our choice of the 94 sites. We chose one overlooking the lake.

The first night we saw a portion of a beautiful sunset, but alas, there were too many clouds and they hid the red hues we could see in a few areas.
Tuesday morning, we drove over the dam and into Ponca City. For a small town, it has a lot to offer.
Of course, we stopped at the overlook on the west side of the dam. The dam, like Toad Suck Ferry, is on the Arkansas River.

 In Ponca City we toured the Marland Estate. It was built by E. W. Marland in the 1920s. It officially opened in 1928.

 There are many statues on the ground of family members.
 This is one small section of a ceiling painted by an Italian artist.
 E. W. and his second wife Lydie had an unusual love story. According to a newspaper clipping in the entrance of the house, Jennifer Lawrence is slated to play Lydie in an upcoming movie. After the main house was sold, E. W. and Lydie lived in this cottage which was originally the chauffeur's home.
 Also in Ponca City is L.A. Cann Memorial Gardens. Its a 10 acre garden which  was donated to the city by the Canns. Bob and I walked through the garden and of course found the geocache located in a nearby tree. This unusual plant and the bugs attracted our attention.
We sat on one of the benches and enjoyed all the plants and the sounds from the water feature.

 From the garden we drove a short distance to the Pioneer Woman Museum. The museum was closed, but we had already seen a portrait gallery in the Marland home of the recipients of the  Pioneer Woman Award.
On our way back to the campground we stopped on the east side of the dam to find a geocache. Yes, it was hidden in the rocks!
 The picture of the sunset Tuesday night is definitely misleading as the colors were not this deep. Tuesday night, there were no clouds in the sky to reflect the colors of the sun.
And so comes Wednesday morning and it is time to move westward once again. Watch out Fort Supply, here we come!