Colorado National Monument Monday, Jul 29 2019 

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex

On Sunday we departed Montrose, Colorado for a short seventy-mile drive to Fruita, Colorado. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we ventured to nearby Dinosaur Journey, one of three Museums of Western Colorado. We learned that this is a prime area for discovering dinosaur remains. The Uncompahgre Plateau is an uplifted region in western Colorado. Fossil-rich rocks from the Mesozoic Era, known as the “Age of Dinosaurs,” were exposed by this uplift. In 1901, Elmer S. Riggs of the Columbian Field Museum in Chicago was the first to scientifically explore what now is called Dinosaur Hill. He unearthed the 70-foot long Fruita Apatosaurus skeleton. This is an interesting museum to learn about dinosaurs.

Independence Monument

Independence Monument

We stopped at the Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Visitor Center and watched two informative 12-minute films, “The Spirit of Colorado National Monument” and “Geologic History of Colorado National Monument.” We learned that John Otto’s advocacy resulted in establishing Colorado National Monument in 1911. He was named the park’s caretaker which he continued until 1927. We stopped for a picture of Balanced Rock, a 600-ton boulder perched on a pedestal, and were gifted with a sighting of six desert bighorn sheep. On Monday we returned to drive the park’s 23-mile scenic drive. We stopped to hike the quarter-mile Window Rock Trail through pinyon juniper woodland with views of Monument and Wedding canyons. The half-mile Canyon Rim Trail followed the cliff edge above colorful Wedding Canyon. Just beyond the Saddlehorn Visitor Center we encountered a herd of desert bighorn sheep. Two rams grazed near the edge of the road while we were parked in the middle of the road. The gently sloping half-mile Otto’s Trail offered a view of the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and various monoliths including Pipe Organ. We learned that on July 4, 1911 John Otto started a tradition that continues to today of climbing the 450-foot Independence Monument to fly the American flag. A park ranger was answering questions about the area’s geologic formation at Independence Monument View. We got our best pictures of Independence Monument from Grand View. The lower part of the Coke Ovens Trail was closed for repair, nevertheless we got a dramatic view of its monoliths. At Artists Point we learned that clay minerals produce brown, yellow, blue, and green rock colors that can be supplemented by colorful lichens. The Upper Ute Canyon Overlook and Cold Shivers Point were both worth stopping for. I left Devil’s Kitchen Trail and Serpents Trail for future visits. Colorado National Monument preserves towering masses of naturally sculpted rock within 32 square miles of rugged terrain.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Sunday, Jul 28 2019 

Cedar Point

Cedar Point

On Friday we departed from our RV resort near the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park and drove to Cortez, Colorado before heading north. The Delores River kept us company for many miles. Then, we drove through forests below the Rocky Mountains. After setting up camp in Montrose, Colorado, we made our way fifteen miles east to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The steep walls of the Canyon range from 1,750 to 2,700 feet. It received the name “black” because the bottom of the canyon receives only 33 minutes of daily sunlight. At the South Rim Visitor Center, we watched the 20-minute film about the history of this national park.  The river was named after explorer and engineer John Gunnison who in 1853 judged this area impenetrable as he sought railroad passage from St. Louis to the Pacific. In 1901, William Torrence along with Abraham Lincoln Fellows surveyed the Gunnison River. The six-mile Gunnison Diversion Tunnel was completed in 1909 and continues to provide water to lands around Montrose. Presbyterian minister John Warner was an advocate for the preservation of the canyon. It became a National Monument in 1933 and its 30,750acres were upgraded to a National Park in 1999. Tomichi Point is the first overlook after entering the South Rim entrance. It awes visitors with the steep walls of the park. Gunnison Point, another popular viewing spot, is located immediately below the South Rim Visitor Center. Pulpit Rock Overlook offers a view of the river looking east. Cross Fissures View has two separate viewpoints in opposite directions showing the dramatic rock formations. We didn’t walk out to Rock Point, but Devil’s Lookout shows a side canyon and steep rock walls. Chasm View shows the short distance between canyon sides. At 2,300 feet, Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado and, as the name implies, varied coloration. Cedar Point, with its informative nature walk, and Dragon Point both offer expansive views of the Gunnison River. Sunset View is also a good vantage point in the morning. Warner Point features a 1.5-mile hike with views of the Rocky Mountains.

Montgomery Ward Catalog Home

Montgomery Ward Catalog Home

On Saturday morning we continued our visit of the South Rim scenic drive as mentioned in the previous paragraph. We returned to our RV for lunch and waited for a ran downpour to end before venturing to the Museum of the Mountain West for a two-hour tour. We learned that Richard Fikes, whose professional career spanned 20 years as an archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Utah and ten years in Colorado, founded the museum in 1997 on six acres of land on the edge of Montrose. The museum features 25 historical buildings displaying more than 500,000 artifacts, including many found in outhouses. There is a post office, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, a drug store, saloon, and dry goods store. We especially enjoyed listening to the Seeberg Derby player piano. We were surprised to learn that heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey trained while in Montrose. We toured the 1913 German Lutheran Church, the 1882 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad section house, an 1890 school and teacherage. Montrose has two more museums plus we could explore the East Portal and North Side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on another visit.

Mesa Verde National Park Thursday, Jul 25 2019 

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

On Tuesday we drove from Blanding, Utah to Mancos, Colorado without incident. We set up camp only a half mile from the road to Mesa Verde National Park. After lunch and a swim, we stopped at the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor Center and purchased tickets for cliff dwelling tours on the next two days. We learned that “Local rancher Ricard Wetherill and his brother-in-law, Charlie Mason, spotted Cliff Palace on December 18, 1888. Although other explorers had been in the site earlier, it was the Wetherill family that publicized the cliff dwellings and solicited organizations such as the Smithsonian for archeological assistance.” This is interesting to us because our Prescott neighbor is related to the Wetherills. This national park, established in 1906 and covering 52,485 acres, has more than 200 bird species, 5 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 74 mammals, and 4 endemic wildflowers. In 1978, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural significance. There are 600 cliff dwellings and more than 4,500 archaeological sites.

Near the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, we viewed the Spruce Tree House alcove, the third largest cliff dwelling in the park. It was constructed between 1211 and 1278 with 130 rooms, 8 kivas, and housing between 60 to 80 people.

Long House

Long House

On Wednesday we drove the steep, winding Wetherill Mesa Road to the orientation starting point for the Long House cliff dwelling tour. Five years ago, we boarded a tram. Because the tram Is no longer running, one is required to walk one mile to the trailhead before descending to the Long House, the second largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park with 150 rooms and 21 kivas. The park ranger who gave the 10 a.m. tour did an excellent job of providing information and instilling reverence for the Ancestral Puebloans who lived here.

Square Tower House

Square Tower House

After lunch, we drove the 6-mile Mesa Top Loop Road which introduces twelve archaeological sites. Highlights included the Square Tower House with 8 kivas and at least 60 rooms, examples of pithouses and early pueblos, views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point View, and the Sun Temple.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

On Thursday we toured Cliff Palace, the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park. This architectural masterpiece is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. According to the Cliff Palace publication written by Rose Houk, the Cliff Palace alcove is 89 feet deep and 59 feet high and 288 feet long. Constructed continually from 1190-91 to 1260-1280, it has 150 rooms and 23 kivas that were inhabited by 100 to 120 people.

Blanding, Utah Adventures Tuesday, Jul 23 2019 

Our Sunday drive from Flagstaff, Arizona to Blanding, Utah included a scenic interlude through Monument Valley. After setting up camp, we met with friends for dinner in Bluff, Utah. After dinner we explored the Bureau of Land Management’s Sand Island petroglyphs, a wall of multiple overlapping images ranging from early Basketmaker through Pueblo III.

Muley Point

Muley Point

On Monday we joined friends doing archeoastronomy research on Cedar Mesa who shared a couple of their favorite sites with two interested older adults. A challenging bushwhacking hike resulted in viewing interesting sites that I would be happy to personally share with you. After a picnic lunch at the Natural Bridges National Monument Visitors Center, we made several stops on the nine-mile Bridge View Drive. Our focus was on petroglyphs and kivas although we did see the Owachomo Bridge. Our afternoon finished with a drive to the Muley Point Overlook off Utah 216 on the edge of Cedar Mesa. It offers dramatic views of the San Juan River Canyon with distant views of Monument Valley. What a great visit!

Flagstaff Adventures Sunday, Jul 21 2019 

What Flows Beneath Our Feet

What Flows Beneath Our Feet

Our drive from Prescott to Flagstaff was without incident. After setting up camp, we headed to downtown Flagstaff where we figured out how to pay for a parking space.  Flagstaff has several breweries. We visited Lumberyard Brewing, housed in an 1890 Flagstaff Lumber Company building. My six-beer flight included Diamond Down Lager, Red Ale, Flagstaff IPA, Pumphouse Porter, Backcountry Blonde, and Apollo 11 Belgian Strong. While eating we observed multiple trains heading through the city in both directions. After eating we walked around the downtown. I was impressed with the stately Coconino County Courthouse. A Free Library on the grounds featured a tower like the one on the Courthouse. Hotel Weatherford, which opened on January 1, 1900, was purchased by Henry Taylor, the current owner, and his brother in 1975. Efforts to restore its original grandeur are evident. The city has many murals. I liked the vibrant colors of “What Flows Beneath Our Feet” designed by the Black Sheep Art Collective.

Grand Falls

Grand Falls

Saturday morning, we drove to Grand Falls. The last eight miles was on a washboard dirt road. Unfortunately, the Little Colorado River was dry and there was no waterfall. We learned that the San Francisco Volcanic Field includes more than 600 volcanoes. Current scientific thought believes that when the Merriam Crater erupted 150,000 years ago, its lava flow disrupted the Little Colorado River Gorge causing it to divert its course to the northeast. We must try this trip in the spring or after heavy monsoon rains in a vehicle with better suspension.

Pluto Discovery Telescope

Pluto Discovery Telescope

In the afternoon we visited the Lowell Observatory for “Lowell’s Lunar Legacy,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The “Story of Pluto Tour” explored the discovery of Pluto in 1930 by Clyde William Tombaugh followed by a walking tour to the Pluto Discovery Telescope. The Putnam Collection Center featured a “Lunar Legacy Exhibit.” During the “Lunar Omniglobe Presentation” we could visualize some of the scientific discoveries about the moon. For dinner we visited the Beaver Street Brewery where my six-beer flight included a BS Shandy, Bar Head Red, Hopshot Red IPA, Midnight Black Pa, R&R Oatmeal Stout, and Del Sol. We listened to some of the Flagstaff Community Band Concert while exploring the Clark Dome Weather Telescope and the McAllister Telescope. The highlight of our visit was a panel discussion by past and current scientists (Lunar Legends) talking about Flagstaff’s role in the Apollo Moon missions. We concluded our visit watching a video from a 2012 visit by Neil Armstrong where he narrates the harrowing moments leading up to landing on the Moon. The video ended with footage of Armstrong taking his “One Giant Leap for Mankind.” It was pure serendipity for us to be in Flagstaff 50 years to the day from this historic event.

2019 Prescott Frontier Days Parade Sunday, Jul 7 2019 

Life of Riley

Life of Riley

We were the first to claim seats at the intersection of Goodwin and Montezuma for the 2019 Prescott Frontier Days Parade. Blue skies and warm temperatures greeted some 40,000 to cheer about 140 parade entries. Camp Verde Calvary introduced this year’s “Authentic Western Tradition(s)” theme. Two of the Prescott Rodeo entertainment acts: The Diamond Z Ranch with their English shire horses and John Payne, the one-armed bandit, joined the fun. The Dancing Horses of Arizona wowed us with their number and moves. We enjoyed seeing the costumes of the Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies and those sitting on a Prescott Transit Authority float. Zebra Scapes Landscaping & Services used a giant zebra balloon atop an especially long float. Frontier Excavation & Gravel westernized their equipment float with a covered wagon cover. We liked the cute Life of Riley entry although we have no idea who sponsored it. The children next to us gathered lots of candy treats while I enjoyed an ice-cold Pepsi from the A Pepsi Traditional 4th float. Prescott is rightly proud of their Frontier Days Parade.

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