Saturday, April 13, 2019

Great Sand Dunes National Park...And An Announcement

Our final sightseeing stop on our Last Hurrah trip out west in October was a very brief one at Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Alamosa, Colorado, on Monday, October 15. It was brief because we were homing. We'd had enough of motels to last us for awhile.

So, really, this visit to Great Sand Dunes involved only a few photos from the road to the Visitor Center and the scenery visible from the area around the Visitor Center. We didn't take time to do any deeper exploring.

Approaching Great Sand Dunes

One doesn't normally expect to find sand dunes so far from large bodies of water or nestled at the base of snow-capped mountain peaks or containing dunes in excess of 700 feet tall, all of which combine to make this a special place indeed.

The main dune field, at its widest point, runs six miles and, at its greatest length, eight miles.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the dunes.

To lend perspective to the size of the dunes, those tiny specks on and at the base of the dunes are people.

And thus concludes the saga of our Last Hurrah trip out west. Thank you all for letting me share the memories with you.

And now the announcement. I've decided to retire from blogging. This will be my last post. It's impossible to adequately express my appreciation to all the bloggers who have encouraged and supported me since I started this journey back in 2010. Many of those special people are no longer blogging, and I've lost contact with them. Some of you, however, have been faithful encouragers almost from the beginning. Others have come along more recently. But all are truly appreciated. Each one has been a blessing, and I'll miss you.

As for the blog itself, my plan is to leave it active for now.

So my friends, thank you and farewell. May God greatly bless you and yours.

The End

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Our tour of Monument Valley on October 14, 2018, was truly a highlight of our Last Hurrah trip in October. The drive from Blanding, Utah south to Monument Valley is, itself, stunningly beautiful.

Approaching Monument Valley

Can you see the tour bus and all the people standing in the middle of the road in the above photo? That marks the exact location where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie of the same name. Those folks standing in the middle of the road are attempting to capture that iconic image featured in the film.

The View from the Visitor Center

On a previous visit here, Doug and I opted not to spend the money for a tour of the valley that would get us up close and personal with these impressive sandstone monuments. But, since this was our Last Hurrah, we hired a tour guide this time. It was definitely worth it. The following images were captured on that tour. Look at how tiny the cars appear in the photos, to get a better perspective on the size of the monuments.

The picture above isn't a great photo. I included it because it shows some Navajo hogans. There are a few Navajo families still living in Monument Valley in these traditional dwellings.

Big Hogan

We spent more time at Big Hogan than we did anywhere else on the tour. Our tour guide, Tony, had a drum and drumstick with him and played and sang a couple of Navajo songs here, where the acoustics were great. 

Sun's Eye


The Totem Pole

My left hip and both knees were in very bad shape during this entire trip, but they reached new levels of pain and stiffness on the day of our Monument Valley tour. Originally, the vehicle for the tour was to have been an open-air vehicle, but they substituted the truck seen in the photo of Tony, Doug, and me because of cold temperatures (46° F) and strong winds, creating blowing dust.

Six of us showed up for the tour. One couple dove for the two captains chairs in the middle. One tall man (Ed) took the front passenger seat for the leg room it offered. That left his wife (Wendee) and Doug and me to sit in the third-row bench seat. 

It was so difficult for me to even get into the truck that Doug had to do some pushing and praying. Finally, I was on my knees on the floor of the middle section, trying to figure out how I was going to get to that third-row seat. With the other two people already in the center seats, I had nothing to grab onto to try to pull myself up, and there just wasn't much room to allow me to crawl through the opening between those two captains chairs. It was ugly, I tell you.

Finally, I was in the back seat, by the window on the left side. Wendee was by the window on the right side, and Doug sat between us. I was doing some self-talk by then. I knew I'd never be able to get out to take pictures at any of the scenic stops along the way, so I decided that I'd just stay in the truck and enjoy the views through the window. Doug had our video camera, so I knew I'd be able to relive the trip later through his video.

As the tour began, our driver's cell phone rang. It turned out that the couple who had grabbed the middle seats were on the wrong tour. So Tony turned around to take them back to the Visitor Center to pick up their correct tour. And the other two people who were supposed to be on our tour didn't show up. So that meant there would just be Tony and four passengers. Hallelujah!

Ed still stayed up front with Tony. Wendee insisted that Doug and I take the middle section. She didn't mind sitting in the back, and her much younger (and thinner) body could navigate the process of getting in and out better than my somewhat older and stiffer (and not so thin) one could.

The tour was wonderful after that. A portable step was found that made my getting in and out of the truck something that I could do without a push and a prayer. Well, there may still have been a prayer. Exiting the truck from that center seat was just a matter of hanging my feet over the edge and sliding out. So I got along fine, even without the helping hand that Ed offered me at every stop.

Just to let you know, virtually all that pain and misery left my body unexpectedly about five weeks later. I still have some residual effects, both in the hip and in the knees; but I'm so, so much better than I was that day at Monument Valley. And I'm working at dropping some pounds, in hopes that my joints will forgive me for the stress I've put them through in recent years and will be nice to me from now until the Lord returns or calls me home.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Canyonlands-Needles District

We weren't too pleased with our lodging accommodations in Moab this time; so we were glad to leave it behind on the morning of October 13, 2018, after two days there. Our ultimate destination for the day was Blanding, Utah, from which we would travel to Monument Valley for a tour of that area the next day. The route to Blanding passed the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, so we turned in and spent several hours there.

First, though, we had to stop for pictures of Church Rock, a very picturesque rock formation located near the entrance to Canyonlands. If you've been a long-time reader of this blog, you've seen this beautiful rock before. Today, the weather was perfect, and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains provided a beautiful backdrop for the photo.

Church Rock

In Canyonlands, we took a short hike to the Roadside Ruin, pictured below. A sign at the beginning of the trail dates the ruin about 700 years ago and attributes it to ancestral Puebloans. The use of such structures is thought to be for storage or for ceremonial purposes.

Roadside Ruin

Next, we took another short hike on Cave Spring trail. Interesting features along this trail include a Cowboy Camp, tucked under a rock ledge; a small spring, or seep, tucked under another rock ledge a short distance from the Cowboy Camp; and some pictographs on the rock wall near the spring. The trail passed several clumps of prickly pear cactus, which I found interesting, as well.

Cave Spring Trail

The collage above shows the ledge under which the Cowboy Camp is located, the Cowboy Camp itself, Cave Spring, pictographs of hands, a rusty pictograph of something, and a clump of prickly pear cactus.

An interesting rock formation in this part of Canyonlands is Wooden Shoe Arch, pictured in the collage below.

Following are assorted images from a driving tour through this national park:

Next up, Monument Valley, with iconic landscapes seen in numerous western films. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Canyonlands-Island In The Sky

On Friday, October 12, 2018, we spent the day touring Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky district. We have visited and documented this park before, so I won't try to include pictures of everything we saw, just some that are representative of the park.

A short hike leads to Mesa Arch, a must-see feature of Canyonlands. You may have seen photos of this arch on calendars or even as a Windows wallpaper, but those photos were always taken at just the right moment of a sunrise. It would be a glorious sight to see. Unfortunately, sunrise occurs way to early for me to make it to Mesa Arch to experience it.

The above collage shows Mesa Arch and the view through it, as well as the view from a scenic overlook a few feet to the side of the arch. (If you want to see these individual images in their full size, just click on the collage. That will take you to the album where they're stored.)

Green River Overlook
Buck Canyon Overlook
Grand View Point
Doug and me at Grand View Point

Our first stop of the day had been at Shafer Canyon, and it was also our last stop of the day. I liked the late-afternoon lighting better, so that's the image that I chose for the blog.

Shafer Canyon
Doug and me at Shafer Canyon

The next day, we toured Canyonlands National Park, the Needles District. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Arches National Park

Continuing the saga of last October's Last Hurrah trip, we awoke to rain in Moab, Utah on the morning of October 11. We decided to go ahead with our plans to visit Arches National Park. We'd been there several times before, so getting more photos wasn't critical. We reasoned that, if the rain continued, we would just enjoy a drive-through tour and then maybe find a place to park where we could enjoy the view and read for awhile. We bought some sandwiches at a local convenience store for a lunch to be eaten later at the national park.

By the time we arrived at the park, the rain had let up considerably, and we began hopping in and out of the car during the light drizzle to get a few photos.

Park Avenue, from the overlook
Ship Rock
Balanced Rock
Doug and Me at Turret Arch
North and South Windows

There are a number of people under the North Window, to the left. If you can find them in the photo, you'll get some perspective on the size of the arch.

Turret Arch

That speck on the upper right of Turret Arch is a woman who decided to climb to the top. See the picture below for proof.

The top left photo in the following collage shows the entrance to Sand Dune Arch, between large sandstone "fins." Under that photo is a picture of the arch that is found in this cave-like setting. And, on the right, is the view when exiting. 

One thing that makes Sandstone Arch so special is that those tall sandstone fins keep the spot in shade almost all day. Arches National Park is usually a very hot place to visit. This time, it was so cool that we needed winter jackets. I loved it! Anyway, on those hot, hot days, the shade available at Sandstone Arch is truly a blessing.

When we exited Sandstone Arch, we found that the last of the rain had left; and the late-afternoon sun was lighting the rock formation directly opposite the entrance to Sandstone Arch. 

View of Rocks Opposite Sandstone Arch

As we were walking back to our car, Doug saw another path through more sandstone fins and just had to follow it.

The photo on the left shows the path leading between the fins. The image on the top right shows Doug at the top of the path, just entering what we would refer to as a box canyon. The photo on the bottom right shows Doug at the back wall of the space.

A return visit to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky, was on our agenda for the next day. More on that next time.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dead Horse Point State Park

It was raining in Vernal, Utah when we got up on the morning of October 10, 2018; and it looked as if the rain had come to stay for the day. We had planned to stay another day in Vernal but talked it over and decided that, if we could get a room in Moab, our next scheduled stop, we’d just go ahead and check out of the Dinosaur Inn and Suites in Vernal and move on to Moab for the next three nights. I found a room at the Super 8 in Moab and booked it.

We chose to take U. S. Highway 191 to Moab. Our GPS wanted to take us to Colorado on U. S. 40, then down Highway 139. It might have been shorter, but we liked the looks of 191 better. It was a beautiful drive, going up to 9,000 feet in elevation, with snow on the mountains around us but none on the road we were traveling.

We arrived at Moab about 4 PM, and went out to do some sightseeing as soon as we'd gotten checked into our lodging. It was 22 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park, and we ran the risk that the fading afternoon light would make photography challenging; but we still managed to get several nice shots.

The light was fading fast by the time we left Dead Horse Point State Park, but Doug wanted to drive the three more miles to Canyonlands "Island in the Sky" National Park. There, we strolled out onto the rocks by the visitor center to take a few pictures of that view. 

Then the setting sun caught our attention, and we dilly dallied around the area until it put on it’s final spectacle, taking some shots of its dying glory.

We returned to Canyonlands a couple of days later, in the daylight. But that's another post for another day.

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