Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tour de National Parks

I've had no internet access most of the way so the first week has been completed.  I'll get as much recapped and updated as I can.

The route:

We did 2015.5 miles in 6 days.  We started out heading south out of Denver.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On the way to the first stop...


"SHEEEP!!" became the cry for anything worth slamming on the brakes and stopping for.  We did a lot of that.

Zapata Falls on the way to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  

The falls themselves.

They're not big...  we were standing right next to them when I took this pic.  It was pretty cool.

Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The dunes were formed from wind blowing sand across the open plains, hitting the mountains, and the sand falling out at the base of the mountains.  The pics don't do it justice - it's difficult to get a sense of scale of the place.  

Those little dots in the above pic - those are people.

I had climbed up the first set of dunes and was standing on the top when I took this pic of my friend Tina sitting on the small dune I had just trundled across.  She's the little white dot.

A couple of pics from along the road.

Storms were building nearby so we hustled over to San Luis State Park to set up camp before the downpour.  We then drove into Alamosa for dinner at the San Luis Brewing Co. - a very good place to eat.  

It was a bit cloudy for star gazing so we hit the sack early to the sound of coyotes yipping in the distance and nighthawks calling overhead.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

We awoke early to the sounds of the nighthawks.  It was really cool how they all quit calling all at once and flew off when the sun rose signaling nighty-night for nighthawks.

We packed up camp and went into Alamosa for breakfast.  Then we headed west for Shiprock AZ.  We went over Wolf Creek Pass on a dirt road which was really cool.  I don't know why I didn't get any pics there.  Too busy looking at scenery I guess.

Here are a few pics near Pagosa Springs.

Varmint!!  So cute!

After we passed through the tunnel, there were a lot of dead trees.  We think it was a beetle infestation that killed the trees.  It was a pretty awful sight.  That sort of thing is happening all over the country.

One of the check boxes on my list was to get some pics of Shiprock.  This is on the Navajo reservation just west of the town of Shiprock AZ.

Then we drove on to Four Corners Monument.  This is also on the Navajo reservation and where the states of CO, UT, AZ, and NM meet.  Here's Tina...

Here's both of us...

Next we headed to a hotel in Chinle AZ for the night.  We would camp out a night and hotel the next which worked out really well.  The restaurant associated with the hotel served traditional Navajo food so we had some of that.  It was YUMMY!!  Navajo fry bread is awesome!  

Monday, August 12, 2013

After breakfast, we went to Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced ... de SHay).  For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons - longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau.  Their homes and images tell us their stories.  Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyon.  The National Park Service and Navajo Nation are actively working together to manage park resources.

We hiked to the bottom of the canyon to see the cliff dwellings there.

View of the trail from the top...

On the far right of the above pic, you can see a crack in the rock and some steps.  That's part of the trail and this is looking through that crack in the rock...

The trail winds all the way down to the bottom of the canyon.

We earned our hiking badges for day!  It was fun!

We decided to head up to Navajo National Monument to find a campsite.  A few pics from along the way...

Desolate landscape.


We arrived at a nearly empty campground and had our choice of spots.  We chose one next to a site that was closed due to rattlesnake activity because it had the best view.  We ain't skeered of no rattlesnakes!!

After setting up our tents, we went to Monument Valley.  It was a busy tribal park and we didn't feel like messing around with a bunch of people so we took a few photos and left.

We stopped at a grocery store on the way back and picked up some charcoal and hotdogs for dinner and donuts for breakfast.  We must have been really tired and hungry because I didn't take any pics of the feast!  Hopefully Tina got some that I can post later.

We hiked one of the trails at the Navajo NM and took a few pics.

It's a looooong way down.  There are cliff dwellings in that arch.

We had marshmallows for dessert and sat and watched the stars for a while before we went to bed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

After a breakfast of donuts, we headed for the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  Along the way we crossed the Colorado River at Marble Canyon and Lee's Ferry.  This is just south of the dam at Glen Canyon.

On the way, we got the brilliant idea to do one of the mule rides down into the Grand Canyon.  We had no idea if it was even feasible cost-wise and time-wise.  When we arrived, we went straight to the sign up desk.  Yes, they had a couple spaces left if the 4 people who signed up and hadn't arrived yet didn't show.  We had 5 minutes to get ourselves on the bus to the ride start.  I ran back to the car (thank goodness for a front row parking space!!), put our stuff away, and loaded up in the bus.  I can't believe we made it!!  

What a fantastic ride!!  I think that was probably the highlight of the trip for me.  First, that we actually got to go!  Quelle chance!  And second, the ride itself was great.

One of the critters on the way...

That's a California Sister butterfly.

I think this one is a Spring Azure.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon.


We drove up to Kanab UT for a hotel room for the night.  We had dinner at a mexican restaurant that was really good.  Although we were starvin' marvin's and they could have served us armadillo ass and we would have liked it just as well.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Breakfast was at a place called the Jakey Leigh Cafe.  So good!!!!  

Then off to Zion National Park.  


Zion was a crowded but beautiful place.  But trying to pull out pictures of it and all the other parks is difficult because it's all...  rocks.  How many pics of rocks do we need?  So what I'm going to do now is to rest this post for a while and then come back later with a fresh mind and go at it again.  I have over 2800 pics and I'd like to pick a few from each park that give you the flavor of the park - not overwhelm you with rock after rock after rock.

As the tour continues...