May 27, 2010

Travelogue Day 7

Utah - Colorado

After a wonderful, organic breakfast of blue corn pancakes in Bluff, UT, we headed down the road to visit one of Utah's most famous parks, Arches National Park. Again, the golden senior card let us pass through the gates free of charge, but of course we always spend money when we get inside these parks, so it's probably a really good deal for the parks to let us come in anytime we want to! We decided to rent an auto tour of the park for $5. We really enjoy doing this since it's like having a ranger along with you. Here's an overlook of the visitor's center (far left bottom of picture) as we are ascending into the amazing park. The snowy mountains you see in all of these photos are the La Sal Mountains (Salt Mountains) named by Spanish explorers.

This park has over 2000 sandstone arches and many other unusual rock formations. The first one we photographed was called "The Three Gossips" - and it really does look like three ladies having a good talk!

This one is called "Balanced Rock" - not such a clever name! It does have some amazing stats though. The rock that appears to be balancing is as tall as a 6 story building, and weighs 3,577 tons!The park was full of blooming plants as well. There are really strict rules about getting off the paths, so for the most part it was hard to take pictures, but we really liked this bunch of flowers with "Balanced Rock" behind it.

Most of this park is set up so that you hike back to see many of the arches. Since it was 94 degrees and blowing at about 40 miles per hour today, we took just one short jaunt to photograph "Delicate Arch". At one time it was called "Cowboy Chaps Arch", which we thought fit a little better.
This one was called "Cove Arch". I don't know what was up with our camera today, but this shot looks like a View-Master picture!

We were very glad to have seen this amazing place, and our last view as we exited the park was no disappointment either!
Tonight we are in Grand Junction, CO and for the next two days we'll be in Denver and Ft. Collins visiting family and celebrating our anniversary with them. Our plan is to have dinner with them all at the restaurant where DH and I met. (It was a blind date set up by friends, and they were all on the date with us too!) We're looking forward to ending our vacation on this glad note. I'll be back to blogging once we're home in Iowa.

May 26, 2010

Travelogue Day 6

Arizona - Utah

I'm blogging from a long porch that runs in front of the second floor rooms at the Recapture Lodge, in Bluff, UT. This town is an interesting mixture of tourists, artists, authors, and river expedition guides. We had a wonderful dinner across the road at one of three organic restaurants in this town of 200 people! We took their option of splitting a plate, which in our case meant that we each had salads, a polenta cake, incredible steamed veggies, sour dough bread, and we split the pecan crusted chicken breast. Sounds so healthy huh? Well it was, but the real reason that we split the plate was because this place is known for it's homemade ice cream - we had to leave room of course! We also enjoyed two different local beers, mine being an orange "tingled" wheat beer and DH opting for the porter - very relaxing after all the driving, and stopping to take photos over and over!

This was another day of incredible sights and fascinating history. The Navajo National Monument was our first stop. Fossilized dinosaur tracks were in abundance throughout the park.
As were interesting little creatures like this one.

There were also many unique plants, like this "Grizzlybear, Pricklypear" cactus! The signs along the trail told the many uses of all the plants growing in this region. This cactus of course was commonly eaten by the native people here. Can you imagine the prep on this one?!
But the real reason for taking this one mile hike was to see the remains of the cliff dwellings that are being preserved in this park. Yes, today we saw ACTUAL cliff dwellings rather than the made-up name of a dinky town! Here is the overall view of one of the caves, called Betatakin, where the homes were built, and the park signs noted that eventually every little ledge and dent in this rock became home for the Puebloan people that inhabited this area from about 1250 to 1300.
A closer shot shows the incredible detail of this dwelling. These people were hunters and farmers, growing beans, corn and squash that were in fields as far as a mile from the caves, but the caves offered such ideal living conditions that the trek was apparently worth it.
The closest shot that DH took shows the archeologists who were at work in the caves this morning. Wouldn't that be a cool job?!
BTW, these were discovered by a rancher who just happened to pass by them, and they were full of pottery, baskets, and stored foods. It appears that these homes were abandoned very quickly, but no one knows exactly why.

The next part of our journey has a theme. Today was John Wayne's birthday, we are from John Wayne's birthplace, and today we visited Monument Valley where John Wayne filmed many of his movies, including Stagecoach, which was the very first film every made in Monument Valley. Do these scenes look familiar to you?
Beyond Westerns there were many other movie scenes shot here, including parts of Forrest Gump, and 2001: A Space Odyssey - but the magnificent landscape was much more impressive to us.

And to this man on horseback, this landscape is home.
See you later.

May 25, 2010

Travelogue Day 4 and 5

Get your best reading glasses on for this lengthy post!

Day 4
Flagstaff - Grand Canyon

This is the scene that we woke to on Monday morning in Flagstaff. It really was snowing here! We were so impressed with this town, even though it was 42 degrees when we left!
The first stop we made on our way to the Grand Canyon, was at this historic Cameron Trading Post. At first we thought it was just another tourist trap, but a quick look in the guide book revealed that it's on the National Historic Registry! It was built in 1916 and sits on the Navajo Reservation. Because of that, much of the store is dedicated to authentic native crafts and jewelry. There was even a pawn case - not what I expected to see!! I must confess we did purchase a beautiful necklace from this case!
We also had the fun of seeing this woman weaving a beautiful blanket in the trading post. She said that it takes her a year to make a rug this size. All of the rugs were handmade works of art.

Next we came through Marble Canyon and the Painted Dessert. It's a wonder we ever made it to our destination since we couldn't stop taking photos in this area! How could you not want to come and see this part of our country?!

This stand is typical as you drive through Navajo land. Crafters sit and sell their handmade items in these stands. It may be humble office space, but you know what they say - location, location, location! I think they have that part solved, don't you?!!

One little note - as we drove through this beautiful scenery, we were listening to perfectly suited music that my sister gave us. It was a CD from a group in Alaska called 10 Mile Junction, and I highly recommend them if you can find them online - thanks sis!

Ahhh...
Finally here! We arrived mid-afternoon and had a very nice beginning to our visit because of this little card...
Since my husband turned 62 this year (is anyone shocked by his age - ha!), he was eligible to buy this lifetime pass to all National Parks for $10 - I know!! And that means that everyone else in the vehicle gets in free too. Is that sweet?!!

Our adorable cabin for the night. Very clean and cozy.
The North Rim Lodge, where we had our celebratory dinner. It was re-built in 1937 by the Utah Parks Company, part of the Union Pacific Railroad, after the original one built by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1928 burned down.
The lodge dining room. We watched the sunset from the lodge and then had our dinner - bison for both of us - very good!
The shot of the outside of the lodge was taken from this path...
...which we hiked in order to have this view...
This lovely guy has been my best friend for 25 years of marriage and never a day passes when I don't thank God for him and pray for him. We are a match made in heaven for sure - each of us just a little off the norm and a perfect compliment to one another!

We took so many photos of the canyon and I'll just put them all together here. Our first site of it brought me to tears, since it's like nothing else you could ever imagine.
Each view was more amazing than the next and then at sunset, there was a special glow that people come to see from far and wide. The buzz at the lodge around sunset was something to experience! A fitting end to a wonderful day.

Day 5
Grand Canyon - Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam

Today is our actual 25th anniversary! We skipped the Grand Canyon sunrise experience - it was 37 degrees when we woke up! Instead, we drove up to Imperial Point to see the highest viewpoint of the canyon in the entire park.
Wow! Our last view was a doozy!

As we drove out of the park, we stopped to take a photo of the aftermath of a spectacular fire in 2006. The ranger told us it was caused by lightening. Even though it's a natural cause and actually helps the forest in many ways, it's still a disturbing site.

As we made our way back out of the park, we stopped to photograph an area we had seen the day before. This is in a little town called Cliff Dwellers, which oddly enough has nothing to do with Native American tribes who dwelt in cliffs. Instead a husband and wife who crossed the Colorado River on Lee's Ferry (pictures of that coming up), built a trading post at this site right around this boulder! The cowboys who drove cattle in this area named the homestead Cliff Dwellers since it was so close to the Vermilion Cliffs surrounding the property!
There were more quirky boulders on the property too.
And then there was this restaurant that is on the original property, but in a different location. We actually just intended to ask some questions about the little town, and ended up having lunch there.
We were so pleasantly surprised by the amazing lunch we had. We think the quality of the food is so good because there was a high-end fly fishing guide service right near. Undoubtedly this little place draws in their customers. Just look at this salad (with plenty of caramelized walnuts) and burger with sweet potato fries - mmmmm. I think we may have found a good spot for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to visit!
Another music note - today we listened to Native Public Radio broadcast from the Navajo Reservation at 100,000 Watts - which my DH tells me is very strong. It was a delightfully quirky mixture of Native American songs (including some contemporary arrangements) and jazz and 40's standards. It all fit the landscape perfectly!


We also stopped at Lee's Ferry Crossing, which is now the site of the Navajo Bridge that spans the Colorado River, but was once an actual ferry crossing for early settlers.

Here's a shot of the Colorado River below this bridge, and it's the same river that flows at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
We arrived at our final destination for the day - Page, AZ, which is known for Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam. We're now very near the Utah border. Lake Powell is a large water reservoir that was created when the dam was built. There has been controversy in it's past and present. You can read about it on Wikipedia if you are so inclined! This is part of the 186-mile long lake.

Looking toward the site where the lake drains into the dam.

The top of the dam.

The wall of the dam. Look closely for the man (little black speck) crossing the dam on the concrete road. This thing is massive and took 8 years to build.
A plummeting look down to the bottom!
I've been weak in the knees with all our steep views lately! What will tomorrow bring?! BTW, we have internet access on our phones, but our coverage has been spotty as you can imagine. If your emails are slow to be answered or your comments slow to be posted - that's why! Back soon.

May 23, 2010

Travelogue Day 3

New Mexico - Arizona

Today took us across the Continental Divide, and once again we're in a different time zone. Part of the day was quite beautiful for traveling, and the other part was a little gritty. More on that. Did you know that this Continental Divide marks the line along which river systems drain to the Atlantic on one side, and to the Pacific on the opposite side? The one we crossed today is considered the Great Divide since it follows a line at much higher elevations than other divides. Also, did you know that AZ doesn't use daylight savings time? So, we got to set our watches back yet another hour today and believe me we needed it!

Our first discovery of the day was about an hour outside of Albuquerque, in the town of Grants, and it's located on what is considered a young volcano field called El Malpais (the badlands). We definitely did not expect to see lava here!



Next, we were "welcomed" into AZ at a visitor's center which included this sign...
We thought this one was kind of charming, however this next sign was not at all what we wanted to see!
Yes sir, the route we thought would be an easy shot to Flagstaff, was closed because of a dust storm! The wind was incredibly high and the red dust was in the air for sure. So, we picked an alternate road and headed out, but not before taking a photo of this painted cliff, which was part of the visitor's center - so beautiful!

Our ride along the alternate route was quite an adventure, and we literally had sand in our teeth and hair by the time we arrived in Flagstaff. My incredible husband drove through this dust storm like an expert and helped us both enjoy our time, rather than be annoyed at the extra time on the road and the nasty little weather event! We crossed through a Navajo Reservation and the edge of the Painted Dessert. You can see from these photos that we had more than enough reason to feel grateful for this day!

What an amazing world huh? "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." Gen. 1:31

We arrived safely in Flagstaff, where it was 50 degrees and spitting snow!!! It is a lovely town and we were so glad to be out of the dust that the cool air didn't deter us one bit. We shopped in the charming downtown area, where we found local crafts and authentic jewelry, then we ate dinner at a Latin kitchen called Criollo - tapas, salmon tostada, and quinoa fritters - oh my, my. The bonus was the organic wine, and the local and sustainable food they strive to serve. Another bonus, the people in this town are incredibly friendly, which is always so welcome.

Tomorrow we head for the Grand Canyon and we'll enjoy an anniversary meal (a day early) at a fine restaurant in the park. On the morning of our anniversary, Lord willing, we will be watching the sunrise at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I won't be blogging tomorrow, but I'll get back to you in a couple of days!