Moab – Mesa Verde – Monument Valley

Seems ages since I last blogged, but it’s only a few days.

From Moab we drove more long distances, crossing and re crossing the borders of Utah, Arizona and Colorado where they all meet, on what is a huge area (17,000,000 acres) of Navajo reservation land.

When they were originally forced to leave their lands – The Long Walk – many perished on the journey from illness, cold or starvation, and they were initially given 3,000,000 acres, not enough to sustain them. They became sheep farmers to provide meat and clothing for their people, then the government ordered them to drastically reduce their flock numbers because of over- grazing, and many more perished. It took many years and a lot of negotiation before they were granted the land they have today.

In many areas, including the one we stayed, there is no alcohol permitted – a ruling by the Indians.

We stopped at Mesa Verde NP, where there are well-preserved cliff dwellings, made from sandstone blocks carved from the cliffs. Built in the 600-700s, they are usually situated under overhanging cliffs, with only one way of access – very strategically positioned. The one we saw was in such good condition when discovered, only about 10% needed any restoration.

From there we drove to Monument Valley, through occasional heavy rain, to Goulding’s Lodge, where many crews from MNY Western movies stayed, including John Wayne, who loved it there. With rooms looking out over plains with huge rock formations rising up out of the mist. If you were a fan of Westerns, there would be many familiar scenes there for you.

We were to have a Navajo style cookout for dinner that night but, because of the dodgy weather, we had it indoors instead. A local Indian, Henry (he doesn’t have a Navajo name, as he was taken as a young child and sent to boarding school, where they were forbidden to speak their own language, talk about their culture and traditions or where Navajo clothes – sound familiar?) told us a bit about his life then and now. Many Indians live and work in the larger towns in the area, but many live in small towns on the reservation, using wind generators or solar panels for their power supply. Some still choose to live in isolated little valleys, with no water supply and some with no power. Unemployment is a huge problem.

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Dodging the Rain

As the forecast predicted, it rained heavily as we left this morning, but stopped as we arrived at Arches NP. Not quite what I expected – the “arches” do not all look like arches, most are holes in the rock.

Back on the bus, and down came the rain again, so heavy that Adriaan had to drive quite slowly for a while. However, as we wound our way up to the top of the Mesa at Mesa Verde (green table) NP, to see the sandstone village built by the Puebloan Indians around 600 AD. They were such skilful builders, and the position they chose, under an overhanging rock ledge, was well hidden from any enemies, and gave great protection from the weather, hot or cold.

Back on the bus, and more rain! Even a thunderstorm, but again it cleared after an hour or so as weasel through Medecine Hat, and the rock formation it was named after, and finally onto the Navajo Indian Reservation where we are spending the night. Opened my curtains to reveal a sweeping vista complete with stunning rock formations – talk about a “room with a view”!

Just one more night to go of the tour, at the Grand Canyon, then back to Vegas the next day.

Denver to Moab

Left later this morning because of a fun run causing road closures. Started with some light fog, which quickly cleared as we climbed over the Rockies, crossing the ContinentalDivide, where the rivers flow east to the Atlantic or west to the Pacific.

Our first stop was at Vail, the famous ski resort – such a pretty little place, built to resemble a Swiss village. Farmers Market day, so we wandered through the stalls sampling goodies.

Through a canyon beside the Colorado River, which we then followed most of the way.

Terrain changed from the Rockies (pines on the east, scrubby trees and then autumn yellow aspens on the west as we descended) to mesas (flat topped formations) as we followed the Colorado Plateau, with colors from grey to cream.

Then back to red rock country as we neared Arches NP. Most went for a jet boat ride along the Colorado River, between soaring red rocks, most stained with shiny black manganese. Saw some Indian petroglyphs carved into the manganese, and there were lovely reflections on the water. After dinner, it was 8:00 before we reached our hotel in Moab, Utah. A long day, but full of such beautiful sights.

More tomorrow, but rain is forecast. Hope there are some breaks!

Long Haul to Denver

At last! My turn to be in the front seat of the bus! What a waste – started off in the rain, which morphed into fog, then back romain again. Eventually dried up, but cloudy all day as we covered mile after mile of rolling prairie, covering weeks of travel for the pioneers in just a few hours.

Lunch and comfort stops were in tiny, unremarkable places, with nothing of any interest, except for the skeleton of a huge woolly mammoth at a Visitor Centre, retrieved from what used to be swamp land eons ago. Korie kept us entertained with a couple of episodes of Little House on the Prairie, quite poignant knowing a bit more about the trials of the pioneers as we now do.

Saw several little oil wells bobbing up and down on private land. They reminded me of those birds that bob up and down into a glass of water.

Finally made it to the Sheraton in Denver, the Mile High City (5,500′ above sea level) and walked down the mile long mall which starts almost at the hotel doorstep. It’s a huge hotel, with the foyer so busy they have zig zagging lines like at airports at the registration counter.

Don’t have to get up early tomorrow, as there’s a big foot race – roads closed from 6am-9am, changing our departure time from 7:00 till 9:00 – didn’t hear any complaints about that!

Now Thursday here, so the new pre Grand Final holiday will just be getting underway – can’t see it’s necessary, but when did that ever mean anything? I know there will be some of my family and friends who will be getting VERY excited about the game, and not all will be barracking for the same team. Hope it’s a good game, and close but not TOO CLOSE – too nerve-wracking.

Miles and miles of rolling hills and prairies today as we travelled through Montana and into South Dakota.

Stopped at the site of the battle of Little Big Horn, and Custer’s Last Stand – my sympathies were all with the Sioux. With no trees for cover, and splitting his relatively small force into three groups, Custer didn’t realise until too late that he was outnumbered and out-manoeuvred. However, it wasn’t too long after that that the Sioux were forced to surrender, losing their land, their lifestyle and their pride, submitting to life on reservations. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world you go, “White is Right” seems to be the prevailing attitude, even to this day – sad.

As the scenery was not as spectacular as we have come to expect, Korie played “Dances With Wolves” – very appropriate after our morning visit to Custer’s battlefield. I hadn’t seen it, and enjoyed it. Couldn’t believe it was made 25 years ago!

Our comfort stop this afternoon was at Deadwood, just for fun – usually we stop at a roadside service centre. We had a choice of two casinos/saloons we could go to, both with lots of “bling” and bright lights. Almost all the shops have references to the lawless days during the gold rush, and/or Wild Bill Hickock. Heading for Rapid City, the biggest city in the Black Hills/Badlands area.

For some reason, can’t add photos to this – they just come up as a series of letters and numbers. Not many, anyway.

Cloudy all day today, could rain tomorrow! Been so blessed with the weather so far.

Two nights here, so no need for cases out this morning,

Set off on a long drive through this huge park, stopping at a waterfall on the Yellowstone River, which has carved the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone out of the rock. The canyon walls are yellow (sulphur) orange (iron) and some purplish bits (manganese).

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Next stop an area where there is lots of geothermal activity – geysers, bubbling mud pools, thermal springs, with beautiful blue water, and fumerols (small pools of underground water which surface as spouts of steam. Other wet areas are red, brown, yellow or orange, depending on the water temperature, which determines the type of bacteria which can live there and give it its color

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On to Old Faithful, not the biggest geyser, but the most reliable – every 88 minutes, plus or minus 10 mins. Seating gives all a good view, and we were there in plenty of time to see it go up. Spectacular against the bright blue sky.

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Then back to the hotel, a journey lengthened considerably by a “bison jam “, about twenty bison calmly walking along the road blocking traffic. Animals have right of way, so there was no way we (or dozens of other vehicles) could push through. With a steep drop on one side, and thick pine forest on the other, we had to wit until there was an escape route for them to clear the way.

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Back at the hotel, some of us were dropped off at the Travertine Terraces, which cover one of the hillsides. Water laden with limestone pours out of the hill, with the limestone deposited as the water slows, forming shelves descending down the hill.

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Walking back, I was caught in an “elk jam”, with the resident elks moving around the area at the end of the boardwalk, with some crossing the road to prevent us finding our way back. Had to wait 3/4 hr till all were in one area. They’re beautiful animals, but can be a problem at times.

After experiencing a bit of altitude sickness for most of the day – we were going from one level to another all day – I’m happy to be tucked up in bed.

Jackson to Yellowstone NP. (1)

No internet for two nights, so catch up time.

Left Jackson, early as usual, and passed a meadow area of hundreds of acres which is a refuge for the elk when they come down from the high country in winter. Part of the money raised from the sale of their antlers buys food for them. Very soon after we went round a bend and, behold! The Grand Tetons, a mountain range which is part of the Rockies. Beautiful, of course.

Had booked in to do the rafting trip down Snake River, and we drifted along, occasionally going over some ripply bits, not enough to be called Rapids. Just enough water in the river for us to go ahead. Lovely autumn foliage.

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We saw a deer crashing out of the brush, jumping into the river and swimming across behind us to the other side. The raft behind us saw the wolf that was chasing her, but it didn’t cross the river.

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Also evidence that beavers have been at work.

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Scenery from here wasn’t quite as spectacular as before – more farming land – but our lunch stop was in the Mural Room – huge wall of glass looking out on a lake with a raft of birds floating on it, and mule deer grazing on the meadow. Could have stayed much longer. Lunch didn’t match the view – a harmless Turkey, ham and cheese sandwich, called a Monte Cristo, turned out to be made with two doorsteps of sourdough bread, then all was dipped in batter and deep fried! Only ate the insides, after giving half to our bus driver.

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Stopped at a little log church built for the pioneers, still having weekly services during the summer season.  Would be hard to concentrate on any message other than the marvels of creation!

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Onward into Yellowstone National Park, lots of mountains, rivers, ponds and meadows. Saw hundreds of bison, mostly on the right side of the bus – and, of course, I was on the left.

Arrived at our accommodation, which we had been warned was basic, but it’s so cute! Little cottages with their own little veranda. Tiny shower/toilet, with basin in the bedroom, but very comfortable.  A herd of elk lives around the hotel and, with the rut starting, the bull was very busy keeping his girls close, and “bugling” (more like a squeal than a roar) to warn any potential rivals.  Rangers are always present to keep the risk-takers at bay – “But they’re so quiet, they wouldn’t hurt anyone!)  they didn’t see him attack a car which had stopped right next to him together some close up photos.  Just as well he hit the lowere part of the door (3 times!) or the passenger would have been badly injured.  And then the next car did exactly the same thing!  Walls would have said, “You can’t put brains in a monument” among other things.

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Bugling

Salt Lake City to Paris!

Left Salt Lake City, so clean and neat, all the buildings and gardens so well-cared for, at 8:00 – sleep in! – and headed north. at one stage we saw the Great Salt Lake way in the distance, but just a sliver of blue – doubt that it will sow up in a photo. Then continued beside the Wasatch Mountains (not sure of the spelling), a very pretty drive.

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This is an arm of the Great Salt Lake, but not salty.

Drove through the Cache Valley, a very productive agricultural area. Lots of cropping and beef cattle, and even a small flock of black-faced sheep, the first sheep I’ve seen. Utah State University is situated here, with a big Ag. School – over 30,000 students.

Then off the highway up through a beautiful River valley, between limestone crags with autumn foliage softening them. The whispy “wind” clouds above added to the effect.

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We were climbing all the time, a and eventually stopped at Blue Lake, a large lake near the Idaho border, for photos. There are lots of holiday homes here, as people from Utah and Idaho enjoy the water sports.

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Shortly after we popped into Idaho for a short time, stopping to experience the trials and tribulations of those who followed the Oregon Trail, 2,000 miles from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon. It cost 10 yrs wages to purchase a wagon, oxen, supplies, etc, for a family of six for the five month journey. Although the pioneers walked beside their wagons, we sat in simulated wagons and creaked and bumped our way along the trail while listening to letters written by two young girls in the 1850s. One in six travellers didn’t make it, because of illness (mostly cholera), injury or Indians.

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Shoes for the cloven-hoofed oxen, worn thin after 4-5 weeks.

imageLunch in  a covered wagon.

We passed through Paris on the way, but couldn’t spot the Eiffel Tower – or Cathie and Sascha, although I did keep my eyes peeled!

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typed this in Notes on the bus, wouldn’t fit any more, so need another page.

Bryce Canyon to Salt Lake City

Left early for Bryce Canyon, passing a little group of Mule deer, including a still-spotty fawn, on the way.image

The Amphitheatre was flowing in the early morning light.

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Off again,, through more beautiful rock formations, including the Salt and Pepper Shakers

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Then a long drive to Salt Lake City, a beautful city, with streets full of people dressed as comic characters – it’s Comic Convention weekend.  Visited Temple Square, with a tour of the meeting hall and surrounding areas, including a talk on some of the Mormon beliefs.  Statue commemorating the time seagulls saved their crops from locusts.

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And beautiful gardens over underground parking areas.

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Beehives are everywhere – state flag, street signs, indoors – symbolise unity, working together to support and encourage, working towards a common goal.

Vegas to the Hoodoos

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Mojave Desert – straight into it when we left Vegas. Fairly grim and bleak.  Into Arizona for a few mins, then into Utah.

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Colors cahanged, rich golds and creams, green Cotonwoods by the river banks.

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Zion NP is spectacular!

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Up on the plateau, autumn has come – the aspens’ inch colors contrast with the dark pines.

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Almost to Bryce Canyon, and there are the Hoodoos, like stalagmites, which the Indians believed were. People turned into stone.

Sorry about minimal comment – this is my 4th attempt, wifi keeps dropping out.