Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hanksville Loop

Having decided to cut short our stay in Hanksville, Utah during our recent trip West, we had laid out a pretty agressive agenda for ourselves during our one full day in the area. That agenda called for us to drive a 400-mile loop drive, which took us through some amazing scenery and included visits to various national lands.

It was an absolutely gorgeous drive.

This is the sort of scenery that we drove through as we headed south on Utah Highway 95.

Our route took us through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, pictured above.

The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is just amazingly beautiful, with Lake Powell and the gorgeous red rock walls of the canyon. We met a couple from Austria there, who were touring Utah in a rented motorhome. They were shy about speaking English, but they both did very well. They told us that what they found most remarkable was the vastness of the countryside. They described the size of Austria, then held out their arms to indicate the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where we were standing, and said "Our whole COUNTRY could fit here."

More of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Part of Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

The Natural Bridges National Monument was also on this loop drive. Following are some pictures from that area.

Above is a picture of the Sipapu Bridge. Natural bridges can sometimes be hard to see. This one is almost smack in the center of the photograph.

As a side note, the choice of terms, between "bridge" and "arch," appears to be somewhat arbitrary. The Natural Arch and Bridge Society identifies a bridge as a subtype of arch that is primarily water-formed and flat on top. Using that definition, we've seen some "bridges" that probably should be called "arches" and vice versa. In the Natural Bridges National Monument, all of them are called "bridges."

Kachina Bridge

There are no bridges in the above photo, so don't strain your eyes looking for one. This was taken at the overlook for the Kachina Bridge, and the bridge itself is out of the picture, to the right. This was just such a pretty scene I couldn't leave it out.

Owachomo Bridge (slightly above center in the photo)

Remember, this was a 400-mile loop drive, and there was a lot to see. Rather than wear you out by trying to show you too much in one post, I'll continue the story on another day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

From Rifle Falls, Colorado to Hanksville, Utah

I've been trying to decide how much to share with you about our recent trip out West. Having just completed a rather lengthy account of our 2007 Alaska trip, I didn't want to bore you to death with another travelogue. But, of course, you know I can't resist sharing at least some of the highlights.

I've already written about Rifle Falls, Colorado here. That was our first place to do any sightseeing. Our next destination was Hanksville, Utah. Here are a few of the scenery highlights between Rifle and Hanksville.

Taken through the windshield between Rifle and Grand Junction, Colorado

Near Palisade, Colorado

The following pictures represent some of the scenery along Utah Highway 24, southbound from Interstate 70, en route to Hanksville.

This scenic pullout had these vertical posts, topped by small hollow horizontal pipes. Most of the posts had small signs on them with the names of some of the distant buttes. Not being the sharpest knives in the drawer, it took us awhile to figure out that, if we looked through the small hollow pipes, our eye was guided to a specific point on the horizon; and the sign on the post gave us the name of the butte that we were seeing. Pretty nifty, huh? Of course, some of those posts were a little too tall for us. The clever person who came up with the idea should have included a rock for vertically challenged people like us to stand on.

Whispering Sands Motel in Hanksville

Hanksville was a bit of a disappointment. We had booked a room at the Whispering Sands Motel for four days, planning to take our time in touring the area. But we found this tiny town all but abandoned. Our motel, pictured above, appeared to be the only motel in town still in operation. Our room was on the upper floor of the two-story building. The room itself was okay, but the town was depressing. We had seen a number of abandoned cars at the edge of town, and there were lots of abandoned and rotting buildings in the town itself. For restaurants, there were two burger joints and one sit-down restaurant that was operated in conjunction with an RV park.

As we sat in our room that first night, looking at our options and reworking our schedule, we decided that we could do a loop drive the next day that would include a visit to Canyonlands. Then, on the following day, we could visit Capitol Reef and stay that night in Torrey, Utah. Thus, we would be able to get by with only two nights in Hanksville. Our spirits lifted at that thought.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Coopster

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that I have three great-nephews who live about an hour away and who are active in a number of extra-curricular activities. Doug and I try to get to as many of those activities as possible.

The youngest, seven-year-old Cooper, started playing soccer just before we left on our 24-day road trip, so we missed several games. But we've been to two since our return.

I love this picture. I know nothing about soccer, but it appears that Cooper was kicking the ball into play. Anyway, the effort was accompanied by a loud yell, which you can almost hear as you look at the photo.

Apparently getting a word of advice from an official.

A little fancy footwork.

The fall air was a bit chilly, so the hat came out.

I'm pretty proud of all three of these boys. If you stick around for awhile, you'll be hearing more about all of them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beginning at the End

I's about time. Right?

We took an extended road trip during the latter part of September and early part of October, and it's taken me awhile to get back into blogging since our return. We were on the road for 24 days and covered a lot of territory...probably more than we should have tried to do in that length of time. Our minivan accrued roughly eight thousand miles during those 24 days.

Anyway, I'm back now, and I thought I'd share a bit about our trip. Ha! A bit? You're going to get it all, you know, just not all at once.

You're welcome.

Our travels took us through part of Colorado, and I've already shared some of that in my post about Rifle Falls. From there, we went to Utah, where we visited four national parks plus the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Next was the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. And then we went on out to California to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, wrapping up our our vacation with a visit to Yosemite National Park.

I thought I'd begin at the ending with my blog posts, telling you about our trip home. You see, we had traveled through a lot of desert in Utah, Arizona, and California; and Doug really didn't want to drive through the desert again on our way home. So we decided to come home on I-80, through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

Well, winter came early on Highway 80. It had begun snowing while we were in Yosemite. That should have been a clue to head south. But we didn't. We wound up driving in snow for three days. On the third day, between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, it got so bad that traffic on I-80 slowed to about 30 miles per hour. So we made the decision to get off that highway at Cheyenne and drop south to I-70. That was a good move. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, we were out of snow and into rain. And it wasn't too long until even the rain cleared up.

Here are a few photos from that three days in the snow. I figured, if I waited and posted them in a couple of months, the snow wouldn't impress anyone.

In Nevada, the snow wasn't accumulating on the roadway...just on the mountains.

At a rest stop in Wyoming, a trucker scrapes the ice and snow from the grille of his truck.

A group of antelope in the snow alongside the highway, with a big snow fence in the background.

The view out our windshield before we turned south at Cheyenne.

We were talking with a friend this week, who was thinking about taking a trip out West. He asked if we had any recommendations to share with him. Doug said, "Yes. FLY!"

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Coyote and a Lesson from a Road Trip

When we were at Yosemite National Park recently, there was a coyote who had staked out a spot in a turnout on the road into the park, from which he begged treats from motorists. We saw him begging the first day that we entered the park. The next day, he was in the same turnout, but there were no cars stopped at the moment. He was just lying there, looking handsome and trying to lure a motorist from whom to beg.

We had driven past him and planned to turn around and go back to take some pictures. Doug found a place where he could pull off the roadway until traffic cleared enough to make a U turn. But the coyote had seen us stop; and, just like a hitchhiker running to catch a car that has stopped for him, the coyote got up and began trotting to us.

Of course, that caused more cars to stop. The coyote had to investigate them first, because they were closer. When they moved on, he continued on his way toward us. He approached the driver's side of our minivan first but soon saw that no treats were forthcoming from Doug. So he came around to my side. Of course, I offered him nothing, but I did get this photo of the little beggar before he moved on to another car that had pulled off a little further up the road.

Of course, aside from my pleasure over the photo opportunity, it was disturbing to see that this animal had apparently become dependent on humans for its food. It's a behavior that the parent will most likely pass on to its offspring, and the result may be a generation of coyotes who will never learn to hunt their natural food sources and who will put themselves at risk of being hit by a car on the busy roads of Yosemite National Park.

On a lighter note, you know all those "You know you're old when..." jokes? Well, Doug came up with his own version of that today: "You know you're old when you use your pill organizer for a calendar."

I believe our more than three weeks on the road, living out of suitcases and pill boxes, may have prompted that profound thought.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Critter Pics

Here are a few images of some of the critters seen recently during our travels.

This trio of turkeys was just strolling down the road in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

A Chukar Partridge, spotted at Capitol Reef National Park

Much of the West is open-range country, so cattle may frequently be seen in the road. Judging from the skid marks on the pavement, someone else had a close call.

A rare treat...for me, at least...was the sight of this Golden Eagle.

A Pinyon Jay at Zion National Park

This is a Great Blue Heron, seen during a float trip down the Colorado River in Glen Canyon. The red walls of the canyon are reflected in the water. It's not a great shot, but I loved the colors in the water and the silhouette of the flying bird.

A group of Bighorn Sheep, seen near the end of our river float trip in Glen Canyon.

Grand Canyon Rock Squirrel

Please accept my apologies for the graininess of this image, but the bird was very far away. The detail is not sharp, but I'm pretty sure it's a California Condor. We spotted him soaring in the Grand Canyon.

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