Petrified Forest National Park Tuesday, May 29 2018 

On our 299-mile drive from Santa Fe to Holbrook we stopped for lunch at the I-40 Continental Divide in New Mexico, elevation 7,275 feet. While there two trains traveling in opposite directions passed by below us simultaneously. After checking in at the Holbrook KOA, we drove to Winslow for a gourmet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, La Pasada’s Turquoise Room.

Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa

We arose early Tuesday morning for our Petrified Forest National Park visit not realizing the gates don’t open until 8 a.m. In my opinion this should be better advertised. We parked in the shade by the Petrified Forest Information Center at 6:45 a.m. A common raven returned to feed her three young in a nest on the Center’s sign. We met a couple who took advantage of the Center’s free camping offer for RVers and talked them to pass the time.

When the gates opened, we headed to the Blue Mesa trailhead. This one-mile trail is paved with a steep path down to great views of the surrounding blue, purple, and gray badlands dotted with colorful petrified wood. After our hike, we drove passed the Teepee formations on our way to the Puerco Pueblo site and its toilets. This stop features a 100-plus Village on the Rio Puerco that archaeologists consider was inhabited from 1250-1380 CBE. We then backtracked to the Jasper Forest parking lot for a 2.5-mile round trip hike toward Eagle Nest Rock. This is not an official trail but, if you can find it, follows a 1930s road that was closed in 1965. We wandered around for a while before finding a trail that connected with this old road. Known as the First Forest Road, we were surrounded by one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the park. And, we were the only ones attempting this experience. We completed our day with a visit at the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center at the southern end of the park. After eating lunch, we watched the informative 20-minute film loop, “More Spectacular Than Ever,” before walking the short trail behind this museum that is packed with examples of petrified wood, including some large logs. We are fortunate that this area was preserved in 1906 as a national monument and in 1962 became a national park.

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Santa Fe Adventures Monday, May 28 2018 

On Friday, our shorter drive from Eagle Nest to Santa Fe gave us time in the afternoon to explore the Museum of International Folk Art. With more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries, the museum is home to the largest international folk art collection in the world. The Girard Wing opened in 1982 with the long-term exhibition “Multiple Visions: A Common Bond.” This exhibit displays approximately 10,000 pieces of folk art, toys, miniatures, and textiles from the 100,000 items in the Alexander and Susan Girard Collection. Susan Girard’s favorite quote, “Tutto il mondo ѐ paese,” that is, “The whole world is hometown” is especially relevant in today’s connected world. The Bartlett Wing featured “No Idle Hands: The Myths & Meanings of Tramp Art,” a remarkable, wide-ranging collection displaying creativity from using only a knife, discarded wood, and V-notch carving. Henry J. Bolieau, for example, cleverly created a frame filled with carved and rhinestone inlaid peach pits. The Hispanic Heritage Wing is showing “Crafting Memory: The Art of Community in Peru.” We were especially impressed with the three-dimensional weavings of Alfonso Sulca Chavez. The exhibit also documented Peru’s difficult historical period from 1980-2000 when social justice activists end up as “disappeared people.” The Neutrogena Wing has a very interesting exhibition on beads that looks at how beads have been used around the world, including by Native Americans. I liked the weasel-tall shirt and leggings of the Blackfeet peoples, a scout coat of the Lakota peoples, and saddle, saddle bags, and saddle blanket of the Lakota Nation. Bead work from other parts of the world that impressed me: a woman’s wedding dress from Pashton, Afghanistan, a Haitian vodou flag designed by Evelyn Alcide, a Yoruba diviner’s necklace from Nigeria, and a sun hat from Kenyah peoples in Indonesia. Finally, let me mention the Mark Naylor and Dale Gunn Gallery of Conscience. Since 2010 this gallery is devoted to the examination of how traditional and folk artists navigate social issues by preserving traditions, expanding traditions, raising awareness, and transforming communities.

Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer

Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer

Although we didn’t visit the nearby Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, I spent time contemplating the dramatic sculptures around the plaza. “The Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer” by San Carlos Apache Craig Dan Goseyun is breath-takingly awe-inspiring. Other interesting pieces include “Sacred Knowledge” by Doug Hyde [who we later discovered lives in Prescott], “Prayers for the Future” by Rollie Grandbois, “Courage” by Retha Walden Gambaro, and “As Long as the Water Flows” by Allan Houser.

On Saturday, appropriately on Memorial Day weekend, we drove fifty miles to Los Alamos to learn about this secret city on the hill. At the Los Alamos Visitor Center we picked up area literature and tips about how to use our time. Our first stop was at the Bradbury Science Museum that has exhibits about the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory and its ongoing science and research. In the History Gallery we watched “Racing Toward Dawn,” a 15-minute films about the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos from 1942-1945. In the Research Gallery we learned about the Laboratory’s research in many areas of science and technology to help solve problems related to energy, the environment, infrastructure, and health. In the Defense Gallery Theater, we watched the 16-minute film, “Stockpile Stewardship: Heritage of Science at Los Alamos” which tells about the Laboratory’s mission to maintain aging weapons without nuclear testing. Of course, there are replicas on display of both Little Boy and Fat Man. Interestingly, this museum offers public space for alternative views such as given by Shannyn Greene Sollitt who pleads that “…all beings practice peace.” After lunch, we visited the Los Alamos History Museum, part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Built as an infirmary in 1918 and later used as the guest cottage for Los Alamos Ranch School, the museum is the oldest continually occupied structure in town. We especially enjoyed their special exhibit of 50 photographs covering the life of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the first director of the Los Alamos Laboratory and instrumental in selecting its location.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

Ashley Pond, Jr. founded the Los Alamos Ranch School in 1917 and director A. J. Connell ran it until the U. S. government acquired it during World War II. By combining Boy Scouting with first-rate college preparatory academics, the school promoted health, outdoor activity, responsibility to self and others. We were impressed with the massive logs that are part of Fuller Lodge, the Ranch School dining hall and now a public cultural event center. The Romero Cabin was built in 1913 on a nearby mesa, moved to its current location in 1984, and rebuilt in 2010. Adjacent is an ancestral pueblo site. The Hans Bethe House displays Cold War exhibits and proudly displays Frederick Reines’ Nobel Prize for his work at Los Alamos. We were impressed with the size of the Mesa Public Library. We enjoyed the flowers surrounding Ashley Pond. We drove to the nearby Aquatic Center where we hiked the 0.9-mile Acid Canyon Loop. Most of the loop follows a bedrock fire road through open pine stands. The return leg uses a steep trail built around 1920 by the Los Alamos Ranch School.

On Sunday, we attended an hour-and-a-half mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. We had lunch at La Plazuela in the La Fonda Hotel. We walked around downtown Santa Fe, viewing the work of local artisans. Santa Fe is the city different!

Eagle Nest Adventures Friday, May 25 2018 

Mapquest estimated the distance between Durango and Eagle Nest as 193 miles. The Via’s navigation system indicated that the distance would be 234 miles. We initially followed its recommendation and found ourselves at an elevation over 10,000 with a curvy road descent. We then chose a more direct, although still curvy, route. Eagle Nest is perched at 8,238 feet with a population of only 257 people.

Palisades Sill

Palisades Sill

On Wednesday, we drove to Cimarron Canyon State Park where we located the Clear Creek Trail parking area but initially walked on social trails before finding the trailhead. The trail steadily ascends following the gurgling Clear Creek. We hiked in and out about 2.5 miles, maintaining our balance while crossing the creek multiple times on wooden planks. As we continued driving through the park, we were awestruck by the spectacular cliffs called “Palisades Sill.” The southern Rocky Mountains have a lot to offer.

We had lunch at the historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron. The dining rooms are decorated with animal heads and Western paraphernalia. Some 20 bullet holes in the tin ceiling attest to the hotel’s Wild West history. We learned that this city with a population of 888 at an elevation of 6,427 feet was a stop on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It was also the home of Lucian B. Maxwell who controlled some 2-million-acres through various land grants.

Eagle Nest Lake Dam

Eagle Nest Lake Dam

In the afternoon, we hiked parts of the Eagle Nest Lake Trail, from both the Six Mile Day Use Area and from the Moreno Day Use Area. On Thursday, we took an excursion on the lake with knowledgeable guide Gary Bowen of Eagle Nest Adventures. We circled the lake including a look at the 100-year-old dam and adjacent to it an opening of an unused tunnel for a narrow-gauge rail line. We saw pelicans, blue heron nests, and an eagle nest.

In the afternoon, we drove to Red River at an elevation of 8,671 feet and a population of 477. We hiked more than a mile on the Red River Nature Trail. Unfortunately, only a couple of signs are currently in place. Perhaps an eagle scout or some other interested person will take up the cause and help this trail. In town we discovered that preparations were underway for the 36th Annual Red River Memorial Motorcycle Rally. More than 20,000 enthusiasts are expected!

Durango Adventures Tuesday, May 22 2018 

On Friday, we arrived in Durango. We stopped at the Welcome Center for information about the train to Silverton, hiking in the area, and local restaurants. We made our way to the train station where we purchased tickets for Sunday and toured the Roundhouse Museum. Within its 12,000 square feet area is a collection of railroad memorabilia such as the cab of a locomotive that shows the view from the fireman and engineer’s seats, a baggage car used in the 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” that is now a movie theatre, and an 800-square-foot model railroad. The eclectic collection also houses antique cars, military uniforms and paraphernalia, and stuffed animals. We then explored Main Street looking for a restaurant. We decided on Himalyan Kitchen where we tried yak for the first time.

Firefighter with Slurry Bomber

Firefighter with Slurry Bomber

On Saturday, we drove to Vallecito Lake, about 22 miles NE of Durango, to explore the “Tour of Carvings.” Fourteen carvings are located around the valley commemorating the firefighters and support personnel that fought the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002. Between June 9th and July 28th more than 70,000 acres were burned involving some 4,000 firefighters and support personnel. The Vallecito Valley lost 28 of the 58 homes lost in the fire and one firefighter, Alan Wyatt, lost his life. Vallecito, a Hispanic word for “Little Valley,” is a valley where the Los Pinos (Pine River) joins Vallecito Creek. The Vallecito Dam was constructed between 1938-1941. Most carvings stand about 18 feet high. We learned that they are being systematically replaced because the originals were not properly preserved. We found the following carvings: “Black Bear & Cubs,” “Sheriff with Radio,” “Alan Wyatt Memorial,” “EMT & Eagle,” “Rebirth of Vallecito,” “Oregon Firefighter with Chain Saw,” “Firefighter with Slurry Bomber,” “Firefighter with Racoon,” “Doe & Fawn,” “Lynx & Eagle,” “Fireman with Hose,” and “Colorado Mounted Ranger.”

After lunch at the Rusty Shovel, we hiked on the Vallecito Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. We hiked uphill about a mile with nice views of the Los Pinos River.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

On Sunday, we boarded the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for the 45.4-mile trip along the Animas River to Silverton. It took eleven months in 1881-1882 to build the original track which was used to transport ore from Silverton to Durango. A hundred years later new track was laid to accommodate passenger traffic. We were in the Alamosa Parlor Car featuring tables and chairs for two dozen passengers with complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and a full bar. We were at the at the end of nine cars which gave us great views from the outdoor viewing platform. Because of fire danger from a steam locomotive a helicopter with bucket monitored us from the air and a small car followed us. During the slow climb from Durango’s 6,512-foot elevation to Silverton’s 9,318 feet we experienced a change in weather conditions. While we were in Silverton, a rain sleet greeted us. We had lunch at Handlebars Restaurant before exploring the only paved street, city hall, the public library, gift shops, Victorian-style homes, and picturesque churches. No wonder this city is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. When the last train departs as we did at 2:30, all the businesses shut down. We arrived in Durango after 6 p.m. and found an interesting menu and experimental beers at Carver Brewery.

Animas River Rafting

Animas River Rafting

On Monday, we explored Durango by hiking two trails. First, we found the Rim Trail adjacent to the impressive Fort Lewis College campus. This trail has great views of Durango asset against Smelter Mountain. We then parked in Santa Rita Park and hiked about two miles on the Animas River Trail to the modern Durango Public Library. Early in the hike we passed some unusual looking poles with strings and attachments above the river with its rapids. I later learned that Durango annually hosts a major kayak and canoe slalom event and that this year it is on June 2nd. We saw several rafters and kayakers enjoying the river.

Durango has changed significantly since my previous visit in the early 1980s. What did I learn about Durango on this visit? The Utes lived in small bands until gold was discovered in the San Juan Mountains in the 1860s. In 1882 the San Juan and New York Smelter processed lead, silver, copper, and gold. In early World War II there was a vanadium processing mill that was used to harden the steel for tanks and battleships. One of the by-products was uranium. In 1943 14 percent of the uranium used by the Manhattan Project came from here. Historically, Durango has been home to immigrants such as Italians, German, Irish, Japanese, and Finish early on for coal mining. One of the signs has a great quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants.”

Durango is a great place for outdoor activities such as hiking, golfing, mountain and road biking, off-roading, backpacking, rock climbing, hunting, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.

Anasazi Heritage Center Saturday, May 19 2018 

Escalante Pueblo Kiva

Escalante Pueblo Kiva

On our way from Moab, Utah to Durango, Colorado we stopped at the Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores, Colorado. We were especially interested in their special exhibit, “Trowels, Trading Posts, and Travelers: The Wetherill Family.” We learned that all the Wetherills were involved in southwest trading posts: 1897 Al and Clayton in Chaco Canyon, 1898 Richard and Marietta also in Chaco Canyon, 1900 John and Louisa Ojo Alamo, Win in Tiz-Nat Zin, 1902 Al partners in Thoreau, 1902 Win purchases Two Grey Hills, 1910 John and Louisa open a trading post in Kayenta and more. Members of the family discovered important southwest locations such as Cliff Palace (Al in 1887) and Rainbow Bridge (John 1909). Many interesting people visited John and Louisa including Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Grey. It is also very interesting how this family related positively with the Native population. Other exhibits at the Center were well done, too.

We had lunch on the grounds and then walked a half-mile to the Escalante Pueblo with great views of the recently completed McPhee Reservoir and surrounding mountains such as Sleeping Ute Mountain, Colorado. The Anasazi Heritage Center is well worth a visit.

Moab Adventures Thursday, May 17 2018 

Corona Arch

Corona Arch

On this visit to Moab we decided to explore areas that we haven’t seen on two previous trips. On our first morning we drove 10 miles west on Utah 279, the Potash Road, along the Colorado River to the Corona Arch Trailhead. It is a 1.5-mile hike through a large slickrock canyon to the Corona Arch, a 140 by 105-foot opening. Adjacent to it is Bow Tie Arch. Earlier in this hike another arch was visible. The trail has a 440-foot elevation gain and a high elevation of 4,400 feet. The trail features two safety cables and a small ladder to assist traversing steep portions of the slickrock. A railroad completed in 1964 is still in use taking potash from a nearby plant to Crescent Junction. The Corona Arch Trail crosses this rail.

In the afternoon we backtracked to U. S. 191 and followed Kane Creek Canyon Road which follows the Colorado River opposite Utah 279. We needed to drive 3 miles on a gravel road that involved a steep section with switchbacks to reach Hunter Canyon. We followed the hiker-established trail along the canyon bottom about 1.25 miles at an elevation around 4,300 feet. About a half-mile in we spotted an arch. The trail is green along the creek, has large cottonweed trees and a variety of wildflowers. Although the stream was no longer freely flowing, there were several clear pools of water.

On Wednesday we traveled south on U.S. 191 to the Hole ‘n the Rock attraction. We paid fifty cents per minute for a twelve-minute tour, no photographs allowed. We toured the 14 room, 5,000 square foot home of Gladys and Albert Christensen who literally blasted their home out of the sandstone over a twenty-year period. In the 1940s and early 1950s they ran a diner. Albert, originally from Denmark, loved Franklin D. Roosevelt. He carved a likeness of this President on the outside face of the stone. The grounds have three different gift shops and a menagerie of metal sculpture by Lyle Nichols. His jeep look alike is especially interesting.

The nearby rest area has a sign recognizing Arthur Ray “Hardwater Rock” Knight (1924-1998) whose likeness is said to be found on a rock to the north. We needed some help to identify it.

On our return to Moab, we detoured to see Ken’s Lake. This 2,610-acre-foot capacity open water reservoir was completed in 1981. It has a 96-foot earthen fill dam that stores water from Mill Creek.

Birthing Scene

Birthing Scene

After lunch we returned to near where we were yesterday on Kane Creek Drive. We found the “Birthing Rock” with petroglyphs using the Abajo-La Sal style. In addition to a “birthing scene,” there are images of centipedes, a horse, bear paws, and a snake.

We discovered that we had previously toured the Museum of Moab but appreciated learning more about the area there. Uranium, of course, plays an important role in the development of this community. In 1951, Charlie Steen staked 12 claims on the southern rim of Lisbon Valley. His Mi Vida Mine produced the highest-grade uranium ore found in the United States. By 1953, Steen was a millionaire. The second-floor art exhibit featured landscapes by local artist Tim J. Morse (1955- ). He works in oil and watercolors.

We had dinner at Canyonlands by Night & Day before taking their two-hour Sound & Light Show on the Colorado River. We learned that the river was earlier known as the Grand. Is that why where the name “Grand Canyon” comes from? We also learned that Moab economically transitioned from cattle to fruit such as peaches, pears and apples before becoming a mining town and now its emphasis on tourism. We went upriver about eight miles before turning around and returning in the dark entertained by a recorded tape of biblical and Native American legends coordinated with a truck throwing light on the canyon walls.

On Thursday we drove on U. S. 128, locally referred to as the River Road, to the Fisher Towers hiking area near signpost 21. We started on the trail but seemed to detour to a social trail with treacherous stretches along a scenic canyon. We then returned by car on two miles of washboard road and followed the River Road to the Dewey Bridge. There we turned around and stopped at the Red Cliff Lodge near signpost 14 for lunch. We finished our afternoon with a 43-mile drive on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road. We didn’t know that major construction is taking place with several miles of gravel and avoiding large trucks. The temperature was 67 degrees while in the high 80s back in Moab.

It has been interesting to discover the diversity of Moab adventures. Little did we know that Discount Tires’ “Rally on the Rocks” would be taking place at the time of our visit.

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