Now where were we? Oh yeah – Moab, UT!

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It’s been several weeks since I returned from the Philippines, and just like my previous visit I came home coughing and sick, with about a week required to deal with jet lag.  But I had a grand time with family, former high school classmates, coworkers and friends in the sweltering heat and humidity.  I survived that journey, and I’m sure glad to be back home!

So where were we?  Oh yeah, having a blast with friends in Moab a few weeks ago!

We stayed in Moab for two weeks, exploring and hiking trails we had missed during our first visit.  Although it’s been a few weeks, the photos I took then are bringing it all back to me now…

Beautiful freestanding Delicate Arch sits on the edge of a natural sandstone bowl, as seen through Frame Arch

We revisited Arches National Park to see a few new-to-us arches, and to get up close to Delicate Arch which is a widely recognized symbol of Utah.  It’s described as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area.”  Although sunset is said to be the best time to photograph it, we are morning people so we hiked out to it at sunrise before the crowds arrived.

Delicate Arch

Depicted on Utah vehicle license plates, Delicate Arch is 60′ tall

We then continued our explorations, checking out Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch, all of which we hiked in one big loop.

Sand Dune Arch

The base of Sand Dune Arch is covered by wind-driven sand and is hidden within a slot canyon created by two massive, adjacent sandstone fins

Broken Arch

Broken Arch is not really broken, although it is wearing a bit thin at the top with a crack running through the middle of the span

Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch shares a sandstone fin with two “proto-arches”

The La Sal mountains were covered in snow during our visit, a gorgeous contrast to the nearby formations

Here is more information on the other popular arches we visited at Arches NP.

The small resort town of Moab is surrounded by stunning red rock landscapes, making it a huge playground for outdoor enthusiasts.  We tackled as many hikes and activities as we could during our stay.

Rock climbers along Potash Road

Hidden Valley Trail

A thunderstorm with hail made us turn around during our first attempt on this trail a couple of years ago.  The first part of the hike is a steep uphill climb, then at the top we reached a low divide to the valley as it traversed between awesome towering cliffs.  We were rewarded with scenic views, solitude, and a fine rock art panel.

Hidden Valley was a beautiful surprise

Looking down at a rock wilderness

Overlooking the south end of Moab

Colorful lichens brightened some of the rocks

Long Bow Arch

One of the many trails along Potash Road, this trek is known for the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs that can be seen along the way.  Wildflowers had already started showing off blooms while we were there.

Tracks of theropod dinosaurs left behind some 190 million years ago

Petroglyphs on the walls

Long Bow Arch

Long Bow Arch has a span of 60′

La Sal mountains peek through gigantic sandstone fins

Jeep Arch Trail

This trail is also accessed from Potash Road and leads to a photogenic, jeep-shaped arch situated in a large sandstone cul-de-sac.  On our way in we followed the trail along the canyon ridge, then climbed high above the side of the wash.  On the way back we wandered through the canyon bottom for some variety.  The views here are wonderful and impressive, with multi-hued sandstone walls lining both sides of the canyon.

The trail begins with a walk through a large culvert

Can I climb up there?

Steve “driving” the Jeep Arch, although he didn’t think it looked like a jeep at all

Pondering how to get to the bottom of the canyon

Water in the desert canyon – we really enjoyed this route less taken

Water marks on the canyon floor

In sandy areas we got a whiff of fragrant yellow Desert Holly flowers

Stair Master Trail

This trail lived up to its name, gaining over 900′ in the first mile on slick rock.  After catching our breath at the top, the reward was excellent views of the Colorado River, Moab Valley, La Sal mountains and even part of Arches NP in the distance.

Window Arch in Arches NP was visible from this trail

Looking down at the Colorado River and towering cliffs along Potash Road

We had some fun with friends Dave and Sue during this hike.  We could see our RV park from the summit, so Steve called them to see if they could spot us with their binoculars.  After we waved frantically like a couple of maniacs, they finally did see us!

Portal RV Resort was waaaaaaaay down there!

Zooming in on Dave and Sue as they zoomed in on us

The trail runs along a ledge of purplish sandstone on an anticline rising next to the Colorado River.  It forms the cliffs that define the western side of Moab Valley, and also a gnarly jeep trail for “extreme jeepers”.

The trail runs parallel to the Moab Rim Jeep Trail

The guy in the pickup didn’t do so well!

Taking it all in – Moab Valley and the La Sal mountains in the background

Heading back down the Stairmaster Trail – this one didn’t disappoint!

 

Next Up:  Enjoying Moab sights with friends



 

Moab, where outdoor adventures abound!

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By the time you read this, my vacation across the Pacific Ocean to my home country of the Philippines will be well underway.  My storytelling will be on hold while I’m having fun in Moalboal, my hometown where I’ll be attending my high school Golden Jubilee celebration.

Goodbye Bluff, Moab here we come!

We stayed in Moab for two weeks and we were quite active while there.  Betsy is currently parked near Salt Lake City, as I enjoy my jouney and Steve does some traveling of his own, including a trip to Tucson for his periodic medical checkup.

This stop in Moab was our second time through, and below are the posts from our first fun stay there.  Feel free to check them out until I return to resume my blogging chores:

For now, here are photos taken on the road to Moab:

Perfect timing – I snapped this photo of Wilson Arch as we whizzed by in Betsy

Snow-covered La Sal mountains

Approaching Moab

La Sal viewed from our campground, Portal RV Ranch

Next up: ?????



Bluff, Utah the second time around, Part 2

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Bluff is a great home base for several adventures in the area, all surrounded by incredible scenery.  As I mentioned in my last post, this was our second visit here and I’d published two posts of our previous explorations a couple of years ago:

Having experienced/viewed/photographed the jaw-dropping scenery here, we focused our energy this time on exploring more ancient ruins.  You see, the southwest and in particular the Four Corners region (CO, AZ, UT, NM) was the heart of the ancestral Puebloan culture.  They lived here eight centuries ago and left behind impressive and well preserved rock art and village ruins.

Also known as the Anasazi Basketmakers, the ancestral Puebloans were the first humans to establish permanent settlements in the area – building small pit houses at first, then larger, multi-roomed cliff dwellings.  Some now have well-marked trails to them, while others are not shown on maps, remaining unknown and maybe even undiscovered.  During this visit we checked out Hovenweep National Monument and the Citadel Ruins.

Hovenweep National Monument

This monument is an hour’s drive from Bluff, located in canyon and mesa country north of the San Juan River.  It spans the UT/CO border and consists of six separate village ruins.  Of the six, we visited Little Ruin Canyon, which featured a collection of structures clustered along its rim.

Hovenweep

Hovenweep is the Ute Indian’s way of saying “deserted valley”

We followed the Rim Trail loop, where most of the dwellings stood right on the canyon rim while others sat atop irregular boulders.  The unusual architecture featured round towers and square or D-shaped structures grouped at canyon heads.  These fine ruins have withstood 7 centuries of weathering and were designated as a national monument in 1923.

Square Tower rises from the bottom of the canyon, with Hovenweep House in the background

Eroded boulder house features a double-sided wall

Twin Towers, among the most carefully constructed dwellings in the southwest, had 16 rooms

Hovenweep

Skillfully laid thick and thin sandstone blocks built on solid rock

Hovenweep Castle is perched on the rim.  The people who lived here were farmers, not kings and queens

We pondered what life must have been like way back then, the canyon abuzz with sounds and activities.  The fact that parts of these structures remain standing is a testament to the skill used to build them.

According to the visitor center movie, this is how part of the village probably looked 700 years ago

Citadel Ruins

On another day we intended to hike the Lower Fish Creek Ruins only 18 miles from Bluff.  But after driving 4 miles on loose and sometimes deep sand, we gave up after getting stuck a couple of times (no AWD on our CRV).  With the winds here, a lot of sand can collect on the roads in a short amount of time.

Cleaning sand out of the tailpipes after sinking deep

Is he laughing at us?

Figuring out a Plan-B, we proceeded to drive an hour to Cedar Mesa to hike the Citadel Ruins, a trek John and Pam had completed a couple of days prior.  Using their post as our guide, we heeded their warnings about the rough road out there and parked the car about a mile short of the trailhead.  But just the drive to Cedar Mesa brought back fond memories:

Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears National Monument in the distance

Passing Valley of the Gods

Driving Moki Dugway again – three miles up steep and sharp curves for a fabulous view!

Raplee Anticline – aka Navajo Rug – is like abstract art painted by natural minerals in the rocks

The first part of the hike to the Citadel was fairly easy, but we eventually had to figure out how to get down to the “land bridge” leading out to the end.  We finally found a route across slick rock and scooted on our butts a couple of times to resume our route.

The only wildflower we saw – Indian Paintbrush

There were several Anasazi ruins on the many ledges along the canyon walls

Oh, maybe that isn’t the easiest way down!

Citadel Ruins

The ruins are near the top of that peninsula of rocks

It’s only when you’re at the base of the Citadel that you can see the ruins.  Hidden under a ledge, it would have been an excellent place for a defensive stronghold.  But we did wonder about the effort it must have taken to get water up here from the creek bed some 500′ below!

We puzzled over why there was no rock art here…

We were told these are the original straps that hold the window headers together – amazing!

Looking north – Steve thought this was one of the most amazing canyon hikes we’ve taken

Looking south, see the two hikers?

Looking down 500′

Looking back at the Citadel ruins, overlooking Road Canyon with a 360º view – it’s a wow!

Bluff’s Founder’s Day and Fry Bread Festival

Our stay also happened to coincide with Bluff’s 2nd Annual Founder’s Day and Frybread Festival.  The city of Bluff was founded in 1880 by the famous “Hole in the Rock” expedition of Mormon (Latter-Day Saints) pioneers, whose mission was to establish an agrarian community on the San Juan River.  We patronized the event by purchasing pizza from the lunch truck, and by clapping loudly when descendants of the pioneers walked by in the parade so they’d throw lots of candy at us!

The gang heads up to check out the food trucks – first things first!

We watched a Navajo mother and daughter demonstrate how to weave a wedding basket, explaining the design symbolism just as our guides at Monument Valley and Betatakin Ruins had:

Navajo fry bread with honey on top – incredible!

We were a bit melancholy at our goodbye happy hour, as John and Pam were heading back to Boulder City to finalize the purchase of their new home.  But at the same time we were glad that we’d be meeting up with Dave and Sue at Moab, our next stop.

The bluffs of Bluff as the background during our final happy hour with John and Pam for a while

 

Next up:  Moab, a city teeming with adventures



Bluff, Utah the second time around – Part 1

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Bluff, Utah is an unassuming, sparsely populated little town in the southeastern corner of Utah.  Although seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it’s surrounded by opportunities for adventure.  Along with John and Pam, and Dave and Sue, we totally agree this is a place worthy of repeat visits.  Not that we wouldn’t happily meet up with these fine folks anywhere in the U.S., or beyond!

John and Pam’s coach on the left, then Beluga and finally Betsy lined up at Cadillac Ranch RV Park

San Juan Hill

When we arrived in Bluff, our friends were waiting and ready to take us, the “jeepless travelers” for a ride along a narrow, sandy and rocky road to the San Juan Hills.  They had been on this trip before, but because they are such thoughtful and nice friends they offered to share this fun trek with us – or perhaps it was another not-so-subtle hint that we simply must get ourselves a Jeep?

Upon our arrival we were reminded how incredibly tough and determined the Mormon pioneers who passed through this area were.  Hole in the Rock tells the story of their crossing of the Colorado River, and this, the last obstacle as they climbed over what they called San Juan Hill.  It’s a tale of faith and tenacity, all in answer to God’s calling.

San Juan Hill

We retraced the amazing path the pioneers traveled in 1879 – with wagons full of belongings!

Lewis was our leader and very proficient at “herding humans”

When the pioneers finally reached the top, they carved their thanks to God into the rock, as pointed our by our red-shirted historian

San Juan Hill

“Here’s a wagon track,” says Dave.  “There’s one over here, too,” says John.  “Help me find a track, Lewis,” says Steve.  And Lewis asks “What are my crazy friends doing on top of this cliff?”

San Juan Hill

The wagon wheel ruts remain on the rocks almost 140 years later – incredible!

Can you spot Sue exploring near the trailhead way down there?

Lewis searches for mom as some cowboys ride through the area

From below the route taken by the pioneers’ wagons is clearly visible

Remains of the Barton Trading Post

The Rincone

The Rincon

Steve and John contemplate the remains of a waterwheel platform, circa 1880

140 year old logs

River House Ruins

Just half a mile or so further down the “road” we stopped to check out a stabilized ruin by the San Juan River, appropriately called River House Ruins.  It was occupied by Ancestral Puebloans between AD900 and the late 1200’s.

Ancient ruins under assault by modern machines

River House Ruins

These ruins are inaccessible to most people, therefore in pretty good condition

Soot marks indicate a kitchen area

River House Ruin

The River House Ruin is also known as The Snake House, due to a huge snake pictograph on the back wall

Pottery fragments were everywhere

Three men and a dog having a serious discussion

The scenery in the area

Multi-hued rocks

San Juan River

Do you see the feathered cliff dweller I spotted?

Another way of visiting the ruins – bring your own horse!

Homeward bound after yet another awesome trek

If not for our friends, we could not have enjoyed this wonderful place – thank you!

 

Next up:  More Bluff explorations



 

Into the Heart of the Valley of the Monuments – AZ/Utah Border

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Totem Pole

We first saw the incredible formations in Monument Valley during our drive through the area on highway 163 a couple of years ago.  At that time I was reminded of the amazing scenery of many western movies and photos from the distant past.  I only had time for a few photos during that passage, but we vowed to spend more time here and did just that during the last week of March this year.

Monument Valley was destined to be a hidden natural treasure, enjoyed by only a few intrepid travelers venturing into this area wilderness.  But we learned that thanks to Harry and Leone “Mike”  Goulding, it was transformed into an icon of the American west.  During our stay at Goulding’s RV Park, our eyes were opened to how it became a popular place to stay and play for Hollywood stars and many other folks passing through.

Harry Goulding posed at John Ford’s Point in the late twenties

And the story goes …

In the early 1920’s, Harry, a sheep trader and Leone (nicknamed “Mike”) came to Monument Valley looking for a business opportunity.  They were very fortunate to buy a substantial plot of land when the Paiute Indian Reservation relocated and many acres became available for sale.

The Gouldings immediately set up Goulding’s Trading Post at the base of Big Rock Door Mesa, while befriending and conducting business with the local Navajo people who accepted them.  Unfortunately, when the great depression hit the Navajo Reservation suffered immensely.

Harry and Mike went to Hollywood to show pictures of the beautiful valley to director John Ford.  They convinced him that Monument Valley was perfect for his next movie, and in less than a month Ford began shooting “Stagecoach”, which starred John Wayne.  Nine more Ford films were shot here, which not only helped the Navajo with much-needed money, but also opened to the world the stunning red rock formations standing tall in the middle of the desert.

Gouldings- the hub at Monument Valley

Many decades later, Goulding’s Lodge consists of a lodge, cabins, museum, restaurant and an RV campground.  Goulding’s businesses have grown and changed hands through the years as Monument Valley has continued as a backdrop for many movies and television shows and ads, as well as a popular tourist destination.

Goulding’s Lodge was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 for its importance to the local area.

New Goulding’s lodges and cabins at the foot of Rock Canyon

This iconic stretch of land is in the heart of the Navajo Indian Nation, and home to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which spans the Utah/Arizona border.  The Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation manages the park valley, not the National Park Service.

The valley viewed from the windmill formations

To see what is beyond the walls of the monuments, several tours are offered by various Navajo operators located near the visitor center.  We opted for an all-day tour offered by Goulding Tours, which took us down not only the rugged 17-mile loop of Monument Valley to view the famous monuments, but also the restricted backcountry and Mystery Valley, amazing areas far away from public access.

All bundled and layered up this bright early morning!

Most areas here are off limits unless you are with a Navajo guide, and our guide Larry took us into several restricted areas.  He told many stories about Navajo culture and history during our excursion.

Our first stop was at a hogan, which was a primary traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, although today it is used for ceremonial purposes.

The entry to a hogan always faces east to welcome the rising sun for good wealth and fortune

Hogan

The roof is constructed by criss-crossing Cedar tree sections.  No nails are used, and the exterior is covered with mud for structural strength and as a barrier against the elements

Inside the hogan, a grandma demonstrated the Navajo technique for processing raw wool fleece from sheep into a weaving yarn and ultimately looming it into a beautiful rug.  What’s amazing is there are no patterns to follow and the design comes completely from the weaver’s imagination.  She also showed us how blue corn is ground and some basket weaving techniques.

Grandma does not speak English so Larry interpreted for us the yarn weaving and rug making techniques

I was attracted to the beautiful jewelry as she ground corn

We continued our sandy and dusty excursion, as Larry narrated through a speaker system that was set up in the back of the vehicle.

Our open-air tour vehicle

When we were on top of a hill he related the story of how in 1863 the Navajo people were mistreated and forcibly removed from their ancestral land to begin The Long Walk of 425 miles from Fort Defiance, AZ to Fort Sumner, NM where they were exiled.  This year marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Navajo Treaty of 1868 between the Navajo and the United States government, which gave them the freedom to return home after four years of internment.

Larry showed us the area where uranium was used to be mined

For the next 29 miles we were led into Mystery Valley’s side-box canyons, visiting much of the valley’s secluded natural arches and windows.  There’s also an abundance of concealed and undisturbed Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, and pictographs in this area.

Skull Arch

View from the right eye of the Skull Arch

We just had to pose on top of Honeymoon Arch, which got its name from the small “honeymoon suite” ruins located inside it

Honeymoon Suite Ruins

There was lots of this – short and strenuous hikes up and down slick rocks to rewarding views

Undisturbed House of Many Hands

Pictographs and petroglyphs

At the top left are the many hands which gave name to these ruins

While Larry prepared lunch we checked out more ruins and petroglyphs within the huge box canyon:

These unnamed ruins were reduced to rubble

Large goat petroglyphs

Soaring cliffs within a box canyon – our beautiful lunch spot

After lunch Larry drove us deep into the backcountry, where he continued his narration of the valley’s history, geography, culture and lore.  As we passed clusters of Navajo communities, he mentioned that 30% of Navajo people have no electricity and no running water.  Income is derived from tourism and sales of handmade trinkets, jewelry, and beautiful intricate rugs.

Clusters of Navajo families can be seen scattered across the valley

Monument Valley

In some places we saw hogans alongside modern homes and cars

It was common to see cows and horses roaming along our route

A Navajo Indian coming home from shepherding

Big Hogan

The Big Hogan arch is like an amphitheater

Big Hogan

Inside the Big Hogan Arch Larry performed a Navajo ceremonial chant

After his chant we were asked to lie down on our backs along the rock wall, and to look up at the arch to see the eye and beak of an eagle:

Big Hogan

Can you discern the eagle’s head and eyes?

This lone tree blended well with the surrounding cliffs

Erosion has caused some interesting patterns here

For perspective note our tour vehicle under the Eye of the Sun arch

Running goats at the base of Eye of the Sun Arch

Large sand dunes are the result of monument erosion

The Valley

Finally we were in the shadows of the amazing rock statues, the monuments that Harry and Mike introduced to the world.  Our tour’s final stretch was over the rugged 17-mile loop that is open to the public.  Larry pointed out places where famous scenes from movies, TV shows and commercials had been filmed over the years.

The dusty and rugged 17-mile loop can be driven by folks in their own vehicles

Monument Valley

Scene from the 1939 movie “Stagecoach”

Monument Valley

The valley that made John Wayne exclaim, “So this is where God put the west.”

John Ford's point

A resident cowboy poses for tourist’s tips at John Ford’s Point, mimicking a scene from the 2013 movie “Lone Ranger”

Monument Valley

Totem Pole and Yei Bichei rise from the valley’s dusty landscape

Totem Pole

Clint Eastwood stood on top of the 450′ tall Totem Pole in the movie “Eiger Sanction”

Monument Valley

North Window framing the King’s Throne and Brigham’s Tomb buttes

West Mitten Butte – that sliver of rock appears to be God looking down at the valley

We were completely covered with orange sand at the end of our bumpy, dusty ride, but through Larry we had learned a lot about the Navajo Indians and what exists behind the Navajo Nation wall.  This all-day tour is the only way to see the heart of the valley of the Monuments!

Monument Valley

Larry and our tour ride

Native Americans’ name for Monument Valley translates to “the sand that lights up the valley,” and below you can see why:

Monument Valley

Moonrise over Sentinel Mesa

Peace, says the Big Indian Chief

Steve’s enjoys his daily sunrise view from our dining area window

This formation is King on the Throne, but Larry says it’s John Wayne sitting on a toilet 🙂

Monument Valle

West and East Mitten buttes, note the tourists below for perspective

Golden hour

Shadows form on the King’s Throne as the sun gets low in the horizon

Forest Gump Hill

Betsy and Steve pose at Forest Gump Hill

 

Next up:  Hiking the Betatakin Ruins



 

 

Hitting Scenic Byways and Backways – Flaming Gorge, Utah

Comments 9 Standard
Marmot

Mellow sightseeing day trips in Flaming Gorge country is just what the doctor ordered, after our last few frenetic stops.  The home base here was at Pine Forest RV Park in Dutch John, Utah (Steve’s review here), which was central to our sightseeing adventures.  Virtually every road we drove was designated a national or state scenic byway or backway.  What a great way to enjoy and explore the area as my knee continues to mend – although I know I’ve missed a lot of good hiking trails!

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When a place has a catchy name such as Flaming Gorge, we wonder how that name came about.  In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell and his men saw a red gorge that looked from a distance like it was on fire due to the way the sun hit it.  We discovered three spots during our auto hikes of the area that we thought manifested that play of light; Red Canyon overlook, Sheep Creek overlook and Antelope Flats – where Powell thought the water appeared to be flaming.

Red Canyon

Red Canyon frames the reservoir

Sheep Creek Overlook

Sheep Creek Overlook off of Highway 44

Flaming Gorge

Flaming Gorge is best dramatized at Antelope Flats.  Doesn’t it look like the gorge is flaming?

The heart of this country is the 91-mile long reservoir – also called Lake Flaming Gorge – created by Flaming Gorge Dam which spans the Utah and Wyoming border.  With more than 300 miles of shoreline for water activities, the Utah section of the lake winds through colorful narrow canyons, while the Wyoming portion is wider and surrounded by high sagebrush deserts.  The Flaming Gorge Recreation Area is a popular Utah attraction, although we were happy to see that it wasn’t overrun by people during our stay.

Lake Flaming Gorge

A small section of the 91-mile Lake Flaming Gorge

Of the many byways and backways here, we chose four for our roadway adventures; Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway (green line on the map), Sheep Creek Geologic Loop, Spirit Lake Backway (pink line) and Red Cloud Scenic Backway (red line). The route we took as we moved our home base from Vernal to Flaming Gorge was also part of the scenic byway.

Flaming Gorge byways

Flaming Gorge-Uinta National Scenic Byway

This drive traversed a wide variety of landscapes.  It was a full-day trek that crossed the Wyoming/Utah border while winding through high desert, astonishing rock formations and the glistening eastern flank of the Uinta Mountain peaks.

Art Gallery of Time

Art Gallery of Time overlook – Wyoming Hwy 191

Cart Creek Bridge

Cart Creek Bridge on Hwy 191 spans the reservoir

We stopped at Flaming Gorge Dam, just up Hwy 191 from our campground.  Impounding the Green River and creating the reservoir behind it, the dam stands 502 feet above its foundation, and 448 feet above the river.

We joined a free tour (our favorite kind!) which gave us an up-close view inside and around the structure.  It was built to provide water storage, with hydroelectric power capability added halfway through the project.  Completed in 1964, it took six years to build and 12 more years  for the reservoir to fill behind it.

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Unseasonably high temperatures during our stay caused excessive runoff into the reservoir, so we were able to view all of the generators running plus water cascading through the dam’s two 72-inch water gates – a rare occurrence.

Flaming Gorge Dam

The rushing water from these pipes was deafening!

This poster caught my attention:

Colorado River Plumbing

A good illustration of why so little water if any makes it to the Gulf of California nowadays

Crossing the Utah/Wyoming border, we stopped for lunch at Rock Springs, WY.  Then we continued to the Wild Horse Scenic Loop, which was a bust.  We didn’t see a single one of the 250 wild horses that roam this vast 392,000 acre area while driving the 24-mile gravel road that exited at Green River, WY.

Wild Horse Scenic Drive

In search of a wild horse – none over here!

Wild Horse Scenic Loop

Finally a wild horse!  Oops, just a lone fat sheep in the middle of nowhere

Next we took Hwy 530 south and continued along the west side of Lake Flaming Gorge. Going through Manila, we took Hwy 44-E  back to the campground.  It was a long 200+ mile driving day, but we enjoyed each overlook showcasing the splendor of the gorge.

Highway 44

Beautiful green mountains along Hwy 44

Sheep Creek Overlook

Sheep Creek Overlook on Hwy 44

Sego Lily

Sego Lilies were abundant here

Unita Mountain Range

The Uinta Mountain Range is the tallest in Utah, and the only one with an East-West orientation

Red Canyon Overlook

Flaming Gorge Reservoir framed by the Red Canyon, viewed from the visitor center

Big Horn Sheep

Nice earring, Miss #13

Sheep Creek Geologic Loop

This backway took us through some dramatic geologic features.  Despite our recent experiences with spectacular rock formations in southern Utah, we were still in awe of these.  More than a billion years of geologic history is showcased on this loop.  What’s unique here is that the formations are labelled, allowing folks to identify specific ones from the map and relate to what they’re seeing.

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Another interesting feature here is what’s called the Uinta Fault, which runs for more than 100 miles along the north slope of the Uinta Mountains.  One formation that really got our attention was the extremely twisted rock layers along the upper part of the loop we drove.

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This whole mountainside was severely twisted

Spirit Lake Backway (pink line)

The Spirit Lake backway spurred off the Sheep Creek Geological Loop.  It’s a dirt road that winds through pine and aspen forests, and wildflower-filled meadows.  The alpine vistas of the High Uintas was a gorgeous backdrop as we moved along.

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Steve was disappointed that the tower was closed and he couldn’t go to the top

Deer and Fawn

A new family strolls in a meadow

Uinta Mountains

The Uinta Mountains still had plenty of snow

Red Cloud Scenic loop (red line)

This drive crossed broad meadows, aspen groves and a sea of lodgepole pine forests.  The vibrant wildflowers along the road made me force Steve to stop several times so I could capture them.

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Ashly National Forest

I took a rest from all of the auto hiking 🙂

Back at the campground we had lots of entertainment – a herd of cows passing through, marmots scurrying around our site and birds stopping by for a snack.

Marmot

A magpie and marmot check each other out

Herd of Cow

Moo

Hairy Woodpecker

A hungry Hairy Woodpecker

Steve had a conversation with one of the locals:

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Does this coat make me look fat?

The Flaming Gorge landscape is aptly named, and there is plenty of room to play in this beautiful scenic place.  But our week came to an end, and it was finally time to say goodbye to Utah.

 

Next up:  Steve’s latest project



 

A logjam of fossils – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

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Dinosaur National Monument

In 1909, Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg, PA discovered a formation layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils.  What he found that summer day turned out to be part of the most complete Apatosaurus skeleton ever discovered.  He called the digsite Carnegie Quarry.

For several years he was busy digging, excavating, documenting and shipping out fossil bones for the Carnegie Museum, which funded his efforts.  The original monument was established in 1915 to protect 80 acres in the quarry area.  Today, Dinosaur National Monument has increased its size to 210,000 acres, and not only is the quarry protected, but also the scenic canyons cut by the Green and Yampa rivers, and many cultural features left by ancient cultures.

Dinosaur National Monument

We didn’t know what to expect when we visited the quarry, since neither one of us are really into dinosaurs.  What we saw was a preserved cliff face enclosed within a large building and covered by hundreds of large fossilized dinosaur bones.  It was what remained of the ridge that Earl Douglass had excavated for 15 years.

Dinosaur National Monument

Timeline of how the quarry was discovered and later protected

Fossil Quarry Exhibit Hall Map

The brown area details the fossil quarry exhibit hall

Fossil Quarry, Dinosaur National Monument

The newly refurbished building

Inside the hall we saw fossilized bones embedded in a sloping rock formation.  From the plaques we learned it was once a sandbar on the edge of a large river.  As the river carried animal carcasses downstream, many became stuck on the sandbar, which eventually turned to rock.  As a result, fossils from hundreds of creatures were concentrated into a small area. The fossilized bones we saw were partially exposed and left intact in the rock.

Fossil Quarry Exhibit at Dinosaur National Monument

At the mezzanine

In 1923, Douglass recommended that the government leave the bones and skeletons in relief and house them.  He believed doing so would create “one of the most astounding and instructive sights imaginable.”  It took more than 30 years for his vision to become reality, but his assertion was correct – this place is truly unique.

Dinosaur National Monument

Ground floor level

We viewed approximately 1,500 fossilized bones from 100 individual dinosaurs and other ancient animals that make up the “logjam” on the quarry wall, including AllosaurusApatosaurusCamarasaurusDiplodicus, and Stegosaurus.

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument

There were a few huge bones we were allowed to touch, this one almost as big as me!

There are two ways to get to the exhibit hall, shuttle bus or hike.  The hike would have allowed us to see more bones along the trail, but my current “bone issue” forced us to take the shuttle.

Back at the visitor center, the park rangers were running a special event titled “Safe Views of the Sun”.  It was excellent, and we were happy our timing was perfect to catch it.

Sun Viewing

Through the telescope we saw our star in real time, including some disturbances rising out of it that the ranger informed us were “prominences.”  Very cool!

The sun viewed from a

Although the quarry is the main attraction here, there are other unique features worth exploring.  With the help of the $1 auto guidebook we drove the 24-mile roundtrip scenic drive.  Features along the route include petroglyph and pictograph panels, Josie Bassett’s cabin built in 1913, and great views of geologic layers.  I snapped a few dramatic sceneries:

Split Mountain, Dinosaur National Monument

Split Mountain – geologists believe the Green River split this mountain

Green River, Dinosaur National Monument

The Green River was running high due to high temperatures and excessive snow melt

Dinosaur National Monument

Upturned rocks

Evidence of the Fremont people who lived here were displayed on rock ledges high above the road:

Josie Basset Morris was a homesteader and local legend who lived here for 50 years. Walking through her home and experiencing the beauty and solitude of her land got us to thinking about what life must have been like here over 100 years ago.

Turtle Rock, Dinosaur National Monument

Can you see the turtle on top? This is entrada sandstone, the same type of rock that formed the arches in Arches National Park

Quarry Exhibit Hall, Dinosaur National Monument

Quarry exhibit hall as seen from the scenic drive

Tilted Rock, Dinosaur National Monument

Tilted rocks seen from Hwy 40

And with that adventure completed we’re moving on to our last stop in Utah!

 

Next up:  This gorge is flaming!



 

Getting caught up at Utah Lake State Park – Provo, Utah

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Yellow-headed blackbird

Continuing on our northbound route after weeks of hiking and socializing, our next destination was Provo, Utah.  We had lined up several tasks, including an annual chassis maintenance for Betsy and maintenance for the car, plus we wanted to re-stock our fridge and cabinets after so long “in the sticks.”  Our home base was at midge fly-infested Utah Lake State Park (read Steve’s review here) where we enjoyed wonderful views of peaks still covered with snow the first week of June.

Utah Lake State Park

Site B23, nice spot with trees to provide shade in the afternoons

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Betsy prepares to enter the operating room

For unknown reasons, the Freightliner shop hadn’t made sure they had all of the parts for the maintenance, which Steve covered in detail with them previously.  That meant we had to either spend a night in their noisy trailer lot (no hookups) while the part was overnighted, or get the air filter replaced elsewhere.  Since this shop was over 35 miles from our campground and we didn’t want to re-schedule elsewhere, we decided to bite the bullet and spend the night in Salt Lake City.

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Our parking spot was apparently upgraded to “cattle hauler class”.  Steve went out to see if there were actually bovines in there.  Nope, but the odor kept our windows sealed up for the night!

When we returned to the state park the next afternoon, I requested a different site away from the trees where I thought most of the midge flies were hanging out.  There were fewer flies, but we ended up in the blazing sun for a week during the heatwave because the new site had no trees.

Utah lake State Park

Our new Site B12 away from the swarms of midges

After first thinking those buggers were mayflies, I learned they are actually midge flies. They belong to the Chironomidae family, and individual adults will live about seven days, depending upon the species and weather conditions.  Fortunately they don’t bite like mosquitoes or we would have been in big trouble.

Midges

Found near lakes and ponds, they’re known by many common names including blind mosquito and fuzzy bill.  They were perched all over Betsy, and Steve thought they preferred the darker colors.

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Midges

The birds weren’t fazed by the swarming midges

We observed them flying in swarms or “clouds” overhead, filtering through rays of the setting sun – especially near the trees.

Midges

Clouds of Midges at dusk

Midges

They even look like stars in the daytime

On the plus side, many of my feathered friends made the state park their home.  But sometimes there were so many of them they became annoying!

Yellow-headed blackbird

A treeful of Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Yellow -Headed Blackbird

Quite a handsome fellow but a little too noisy

And then it happened…

With all our business completed we began exploring the park on a sunny Saturday morning.  We were walking leisurely toward the lake when BAM!  I slipped and tumbled on a concrete walkway, of all places.  My face, camera and elbows were saved, but not my left knee.  It hit hard, and by the time we struggled back to Betsy it had blossomed quite nicely.

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After three days of elevation with ice packs, I visited a doctor and got X-rays.  Fortunately no broken bones or fractures on my knee cap.  Whew, I thought my hiking days would be over for a long time.  But doctor’s orders were to take it easy for at least a month while continuing with ice and elevation when possible.  The upside is that I’ve been able to catch up on my blogging even faster!

And with a loving and attentive caregiver, being couch-bound for a few days wasn’t too bad at all!

Steppin' out in style...

Steppin’ out in style…

So hiking is out of my agenda for a few weeks, but the journey continues.  We have passed by many good trails, and it makes me sad to miss them.  Fortunately this is an area we’ll definitely be coming back, so we have that to look forward to.

Utah Lake

Sunset at the lake

 

Next up:  Dinosaur National Monument