Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Many travelers like the Interstates. We do not, and prefer to take secondary roads whenever possible. Even with a 45' coach, we have only had one small glitch which took us about 20 miles out of our way before we could turn around. With the car attached, we are right at 65' long and have found most secondary roads are adequate. Now, if you're in a hurry, stick to the Interstates, but remember, you will miss a lot of what makes this country great. Visit all the small towns, eat at some cute diners, enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the locals. See some spectacular scenery that you would miss on the Interstates. Think about this when you are planning your next getaway.....

Leaving Gallup, New Mexico, US Hwy 491 travels north toward Shiprock and Colorado. An excellent two lane road with little traffic.

Since our destination was Durango, Colorado, we skipped off US 491 and headed east on US 64 and north to US 550. The approach to Durango is pretty dramatic.

The area around Durango is surrounded by many pine trees and spectacular scenery. This was shot on US 160 near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

When we left Durango, we took US 160 West toward Cortez, as Moab, Utah was our next destination. These hills, with snow capped mountains in the distance are just west of Durango and are part of the San Juan National Forest.

Nearing Cortez on US 160, you can see we encountered very little traffic. Wide open spaces and peaceful traveling. Out here no one cares how fast, or slow, you travel. We moved at a leisurely pace, stopping along the way to see some deer and an occasional coyote.

US 160 terminates in Cortez at the junction of US 491. We turned north toward Utah. Traffic is still non existent.

We are still on US 491 just inside the State of Utah. The pine trees have given way to meadows and flat lands. We saw several large farming areas but most of this area is used for cows, steers and horses.

US 491 terminates in Montecello where it intersects with US 191. Heading north on US191, the area changes from meadows to rolling hills. We climbed up and over a mountain pass and were treated to colorful rock formations, hills and beautiful scenery. This is the southern portion of Canyonlands National Park. Moab, Utah and Arches National Park are our next stops.

Our next stop was Rifle, Colorado and then on to Denver. Leaving Moab, the shortest route is north on US191 to Interstate 70 and east. Since we don't like the Interstates, we decided to head east on Utah 128 which follows the Colorado River and the south side of Arches National Park. Here's a shot of Utah 128. No traffic, yet an excellent 2 lane road.

Did I mention spectacular scenery? These rock formations were formed millions of years ago as the Colorado River cut through this area on its' way to the Gulf. You can see Utah 128 on the lower left of the picture. The river is just to the left of the roadway.

Camping is allowed at many locations along the Colorado River. In fact, Utah has many primitive campsites throughout this area. Awesome rock formations, beautiful farmlands and even a dude ranch were found along this roadway.

We finally came to the end of Utah 128 and my GPS begged me to turn left and hook up to the Interstate. A check of my paper map showed this road would eventually take me to the interstate but further east. So we turned right. Debi was a little skeptical since there were no pavement markings. The buildings in the distance on the right are the remnants of what used to be a town called Cisco, Utah., (Clicky), now long gone, with most of the buildings falling down.
Eventually though, we ended up on Interstate 70 headed east toward Denver. Our destination was Rifle, Colorado which is about halfway from Moab to Denver. We usually travel no more than 3 hours a day and Rifle was a perfect stop. From there we could visit Grand Junction, Parachute and Glenwood Springs. I'll try to post some more pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Just what, exactly is Lee's Ferry ? In 1871, John Lee and his wife Emma, at the request of the Latter Day Saints church, built a ferry across the Colorado River. This site was chosen as there was a natural slope from the cliffs to the river. It was the only safe crossing of the Colorado between Moab, Utah and Needles, California, and was heavily used by travelers to Utah, Arizona and California. It was operated by Emma until 1879 when she traded it to the LDS Church for 100 milk cows. The church operated it until 1910 when the State of Arizona assumed control. The ferry was finally dismantled upon the completion of the Navajo Bridge, just south of the ferry's location. Today, the site is used mainly by fishermen and a launching site for river trips. It is the start of most of the river boat trips that tour the Grand Canyon.

Heading south on US 89 from Page, Arizona, we stopped at an overlook. If you look closely, you can see the canyon on the floor below on the left side of the picture. This is the canyon formed by the Colorado River as it moves through this area.

Imagine yourself as a pioneer and pulling a wagon train over this land. While it looks relatively flat, you can see the gorge that lies ahead. From the desert floor below, you cannot tell that this massive canyon is there until you encounter it.

This is the same canyon pictured above but viewed from the safety of the Navajo Bridge.

Pioneers used ropes and pulleys to lower their wagons, families and animals to the bottom of the canyon. Once on the canyon floor they encountered the fast moving Colorado River.

Lee's Ferry provided safe access across the Colorado River. Also, with natural slopes from the cliffs above, access to the river was easier and faster.

The ferry was dismantled upon the construction of the Navajo Bridge in 1928. This is the bridge on the left which is now closed to vehicular traffic. The bridge on the right is part of US 89A and allows traffic to cross the canyon.

This is the original 1928 Navajo Bridge as seen from ground level. The picture of the Colorado River above, was taken from this bridge. Today it's only traffic is foot traffic. There is a gift shop, restrooms and picnic area adjacent to the bridge.

The next few pictures are of the area surrounding Lee's Ferry. Towering cliffs, large boulders and endless desert area await today's travelers.

Today's travelers are treated to air conditioned cars, cold refreshing water from a fountain and flush toilets. The pioneer's had none of those things. We should take a moment and ponder the sacrifices they suffered while trying to forge a better life.

We encountered several of these large boulders along the roadway. Because of the makeup of the soils in this area, these large boulders broke loose from the cliffs above and tumbled down to the valley floor below. Here they sat for hundreds of years while the wind and rain whittled away at the soils surrounding them. Now they appear perched on a pedestal waiting until the pedestal can no longer hold their weight when, once again, gravity will move them to lower ground.

So what do you do when you encounter these massive rocks. Why, you climb them, of course. Actually, I climbed the one you see above to put it's size in perspective. (Well, it was kinda fun too :))
Here is a picture of the two Navajo Bridges taken from a vantage point south of the bridges. Lee's Ferry is just around the bend at the top of the photo behind the bridges. The bridges are 640' above the Colorado River at this point.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Today we toured the Glen Canyon Dam. It was a very nice tour compared to the one we took of Hoover Dam. Our tour guide was very informative and we descended to the bottom of the dam and got to see some of the inner workings of this massive structure.

Your first stop is along the Glen Canyon Bridge for a photo op, then head to the visitor's center. You can see the Visitor's Center on the left side of this photo. This picture also shows what Lake Powell is like during the drought years. This year it's less than 50% of capacity. Note the "bathtub ring" at the water line. Normal capacity is at the top of the white ring.

The Visitor's Center houses a gift shop and numerous photos of the area and the early pioneers. Looking out the windows of the visitor's center gives you some perspective of the height of the dam and the bridge. The dam tour starts here.

This is a picture of the Glen Canyon Bridge from inside the visitor's center. Notice the steep canyon walls and the height of the bridge. It is now the eighth highest arch bridge in the world. At the time of it's completion in 1959, it was the worlds highest arch bridge.

Here, we are on top of the dam looking down it's face. Pretty spooky and a little unnerving for those with acrophobia, or fear of heights. Count me in that group, but on this trip I was able to control it pretty well.

This photo shows the Glen Canyon Bridge from the top of the dam. I took this photo to put it's size in perspective. Notice the semi traveling across the bridge. It's over 700 feet above the Colorado River.

Another look down the face of the dam from the top. We remarked at what appears to be a putting green between the dam face and the support buildings. Those buildings house the hydroelectric generators that provide the electricity sold to pay for the construction and continued upkeep of the dam.

Leaving the top of the dam, we proceeded down an elevator almost 450 feet to the bottom of the dam. The concrete is 300 feet thick here. Upon exiting the elevator we walked down several of these immaculate corridors which are used as passages inside the dam itself for inspections.

As you exit the corridors you're presented with a massive and inspiring view of the dam from the bottom. A picture cannot do this view justice. This structure is massive and awesome.

We found out this was not a putting green, although it is natural grass. There's really no reason for it other than someone wanted something different than just a concrete finish. It provided a homey touch to an otherwise stark facade. A few plants would have completed the effect...

Looking up from our vantage point at the bottom, we see both the Glen Canyon Bridge and the Visitor's Center.

We finished the tour with a visit to the generator room which had all eight generators active. Once the tour is finished we retraced our steps and ascended back to the top of the dam and returned to the visitor's center. If you are in the area, the tour is very informative. They limit the number on each tour so it's more personal than some. The price for the tour is a reasonable $5.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area encompasses almost  1.2 million acres of mostly desert land in Arizona and Utah. The centerpiece of the area is Lake Powell, a jewel in the middle of the desert surrounded by  spectacular canyons and cliffs. Lake Powell was created with the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. It is the second largest reservoir in the United States, storing almost 25 million acre feet of water when full. It is 186 miles long, 25 miles wide and has almost 1900 miles of shoreline. As such, it is the most popular house boating and water skiing area of the United States. The views of the canyons are an added bonus. Every year, over 1.9 million people visit this area. We joined them this year.

Here's a picture of the dam taken from a vantage point downstream. It took 10 years to build this dam. It was built to hold back the Colorado River and allow the upper basin to better utilize it's allocation of river water and to provide water storage for the lower basin in times of drought. It is 710 feet high and 1,560 feet wide. Lake Powell Reservoir rests directly behind the dam.

Access to the dam is achieved by crossing this steel arch bridge via US 89. It was constructed in 1959 and at that time was the highest arch bridge in the world. It is now the world's eighth highest, so it's still way up there. It stands 700 feet above the Colorado River below.

Here is a view of the downstream side of the dam. The Colorado River downstream of the dam to Lee's Ferry, 15.6 miles, remains a constant 47 degrees, 24/7/365, as water released from the dam comes from a depth of 600 feet and never has a chance to get warmer. Before construction of the dam, water in this area varied from 80 degrees in summer to 34 degrees in winter.

A short hike, 1.5 miles off US 89 provides you with an awesome sight. The Colorado River enters this area on the right, flows around the large formation in the middle and flows out the left, creating a horseshoe bend. For only $87 you can take a guided tour aboard a pontoon boat from the dam to Lee's Ferry and get up close and personal with this area.

We left the dam area and headed south to visit Lee's Ferry and the Navajo Bridges. I'll post more on those later. We also intend to tour the dam itself and that will take up an entire post. This is the area south of Page Arizona off US 89.

This area is off US 89A towards Kanab, Utah. The sheer cliffs are the result of wind and rain on sandstone.

After visiting Lee's Ferry, we headed back to our coach. We are staying at the Wahweap RV Resort which is in the Glen Canyon NRA on the banks of Lake Powell. This was a part of a cliff hollow containing a natural amphitheater. I took this picture as it appears to be a huge rhinoceros. Can you see it as clearly as I did ?

Here is a view from the dining room window of our coach. It's views like this that reinforce our decision to motor home full time and tour this beautiful country of ours. This area was deathly quiet at night and the number of stars astonishing.
Mother Nature uses wind and rain to create masterpieces in the desert landscape. We watched this spire change colors as the sun was setting. It was spectacularly beautiful. Tomorrow, Lee's Ferry and the Navajo Bridges...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Many of you have asked about some of the campgrounds/resorts we have stayed in. I am looking into starting a blog about those sites with a little history of each. Since our coach is 45' long, some sites are simply too short for our rig. Those of you who own big rigs are always looking for enjoyable places to stay, so I'm hoping a short description of places we've stayed might help someone. If this is something you might be interested in, please drop me a line or post a comment and let me know...Thanks.

Today's post will feature St. George, Utah and the surrounding area. I hope you enjoy it.......Dennis

The Federal Government owns a whopping 84.5% of all Nevada lands ! Compare that with the miniscule 0.4% of Connecticut. That's why there is so much open space between cities. This was taken just outside Las Vegas traveling toward the Arizona State Line.

As many of you know, we prefer two lane highways to the Interstates. You simply don't have the traffic on the back roads but you still have the views. We have just entered Arizona and are headed north toward Utah.

Once inside Utah State lines, you begin to see the colored cliffs that adorn National Parks such as Zion, Bryce and Grand Escalante-Staircase. Here we see one of the small towns in the foreground with the towering cliffs in the back. Many large firms are locating their warehouses in Utah because of good weather, cheap land and easy access to the Interstates.

As we approach the St. George area we noticed flat plateaus or mesas dotting the horizon. We also noticed varied coloring along the ridges. Many of the highways are built above the residential areas giving you an unobstructed view of the mountains and the plains below them.

St. George, Utah sits in the middle of what's referred to as Utah's Dixie. This region was first settled around 1854 by members of the Mormon Church. (Latter Day Saints) At the outbreak of the civil war, LDS president Brigham Young felt it was necessary to grow cotton in this region. Since many of the settlers were from the south, they possessed the necessary skills to grow cotton and established communities. In honor of their southern traditions, they referred to this region as Utah's Dixie. That name has stuck and is an honored tradition in this area. The home pictured in the two pictures to the right was the winter home of Brigham Young. The plants you see in the top picture are grape vines although a complete garden containing vegetables was directly behind the vines. The home is on Utah's Places of Historical Interest and is open for tours daily.

Our first night at St. George and we were treated to a very beautiful sunset over the mountain ranges surrounding the campground.

The second night's sunset was even more spectacular than the previous one. Lots of blues, reds, oranges and purple.....simply beautiful.

St. George RV Resort is an Encore park and sits just north of the Quail Creek Reservoir. Lots of great fishing at this reservoir. There is a non hookup campground right on the reservoir itself. We did see lots of fishermen and several water skiers on the lake.

In keeping with the tradition of the Church of Latter Day Saints, many of the cities throughout Utah have a central religious teaching spot called temples. This is a picture of the temple in St. George.

I've included this picture simply because I like it. The colors of the rock formations with the blue sky as a backdrop and the desert landscape in the foreground are indicative of the daily show Mother Nature puts on in this area daily.

Now for some fun stuff...You know how we prefer back roads..well, this is a portion of old Hwy 91 leading up to the resort seen on the right. We came down this road three days ago.

Here is that same stretch of road as photographed tonight. No, I didn't photoshop it ! The day after we arrived, they dozed the pavement, removed it, leveled the roadway and paved it today. That's the complete job, less painting done in four days..!! Now that's unbelievable...

If you're a college kid and have way too much time on your hands, what do you do? Why, start a shoe tree, of course..! There are all kinds of shoes here, take your pick. We've seen similar trees in California but this was a first in Utah. If you ever need a pair and are in this area, help yourself....

GPS coordinates: N  37.197320
                           W 113.163350

Not to be outdone, the ladies decided to make a lasting tree of their own. Five miles east of the shoe tree we found the "bra tree". I've heard of burning your bra, but simply hanging them in a tree? All sizes and colors are available......

GPS coordinates: N  37.17181
                           W 113.08862

Tomorrow is a travel day. We are meeting up with some friends from Phoenix near Page Arizona in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Should be four days of touring, dining and enjoying the company of friends. This is what RVing is all about....Dennis