Next Stop… Cortez

Just Outside Mesa Verde National Park…

Another travel day, but a short one, and then 7 days to explore Mesa Verde, take a day trip, relax, do laundry, clean the windshield on the RV, and prepare for my trip to London to visit my son, Andy. (I fly out of Denver, nonstop, May 13th, soon after we arrive in Jernigan Land.)

We continue northeast on US-163 through the rest of Monument Valley and head to Mexican Hat, Utah.

The last time we traveled this way was in 2016. We were headed southwest on US-163 and we caught the famous scene from Forrest Gump where he finally stopped running.

mstecker.com

Here’s a pic to refresh your memory…

mstecker.com

We also spent an awesome night in Goosenecks!


After crossing the San Juan River…

…we see the famous rock formation the town is named after!

Still in Utah, we pass through Bluff and take Route 162 past Aneth and into Colorado.

Below is a pic showing why Bluff is so appropriately named…

An hour later we are across the state line and into Colorado heading north on US-491 to Cortez.

I can’t help myself from taking more pictures of cool rock formations!

And now we arrive at La Mesa RV Park…

We take off our shoes, unhook the car, and settle in…

Monument Valley Part 2

Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley is a 30,000 acre Navajo Tribal Park  on the border of Arizona and Utah. Established in 1958, it is located within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation.

In the afternoon we take a 2.5 hour guided tour of many of the famous rock formations named after animals and other familiar images they resemble. (For example, the 2 rocks above are Left Mitten and Right Mitten.) Others are named for important persons or historical events.

We begin our tour by visiting a hogan.

This one is a female hogan because of its rounded shape representing a woman’s womb. Male, or forked-pole conical hogans were more predominant in the 1800s.

Wood from the piñon pine and to a lesser extent, the juniper tree is used to build the hexagon-shaped hogan. The doors always face east toward the rising sun. This first sun provides good blessings for the start of each new day.

The frame is covered in bark, weeds, grass, and mud, leaving an opening in the center of the roof for smoke to escape from the central fire pit on the floor.

This lovely woman, named Marian, demonstrates how shorn sheeps hair is spun into yarn that eventually is woven into an intricately designed Navajo rug.

Dyes from native plants are used to color the yarn.

Corn is ground on a large flat rock by using a hand-sized rectangular rock to crush and roll the dried kernels into flour.

A small brush made from a bundle of sticks is used to sweep the residue into a pile and clean the stone tool.

Below, by our guide’s feet, are 4 more household tools used by the native Navajos:

The top bundle of sticks looks like the brush used in grinding corn, but is actually longer. This brush is used to comb hair. The stone to the left is used to dye or bleach the sheep wool. The yucca root is used as a soap and shampoo. And the long bundle of thick sticks is a cooking utensil.

Hanging on the wall is a cradleboard made from 5 pieces of wood and laced with leather. Babies from birth to a year-old can be carried safely when necessary.

The 2 bottom boards strapped together represent the mother and the father. The bottom flap is for the baby’s feet.

On the back, representing the baby (the union of the mother and father) is a small piece of wood joining the 2 larger pieces. The handle-like headpiece could be covered with a blanket to protect the child from the sun or cold. It also provides extra head protection should anything bump or fall on the cradleboard.


Next, we hop back aboard our touring vehicle and head for the red dirt road.

Ten of us are on this tour and, believe it or not, 2 gentlemen are from Palm Springs. But wait, there’s more! They are driving back to Ohio where the one guy is from Dublin, OH, just outside of Columbus. Small world!

Sometimes we stop for a photo op and sometimes we get out. Unfortunately our tour guide is driving in an enclosed truck and his soft voice does not amplify well as we bounce along in the open-sided vehicle.

So, buckle up and enjoy the scenery with me. Later I will name some rock formations and explain how they were formed.


Some formations I can name…

Three Sisters… not siblings but Catholic nuns dressed in their habits

From my Catholic schooling, that’s (right to left) Sister Miriam Therese, Sister Saint Jude, and Sister Mary Stephen…

Totem Pole

Yes, the tall and slender formation to the right…

Rooster… on the left

Cube

Thumb

Left Mitten

The Right Mitten is the site of a dramatic automobile commercial where the car was airlifted and placed on top of the rock formation.

John Ford’s Point… named for the first Hollywood film director to use the Monument Valley location for a film set

That first film was Stagecoach starring John Wayne.

And now I can identify these formations I captured earlier today…


How the Valley was formed

Before human existence Monument Valley was a vast lowland basin. For hundreds of millions of years, layer upon layer of eroded sediment from the early Rocky Mountains was deposited in the basin and cemented into mainly sandstone and limestone rock. Then a slow, gentle uplift created by a constant pressure from below the surface elevated the horizontal strata. What was once a basin became a plateau of solid rock 1000 feet high. Wind, rain, heat, and cold have spent the last 50 million years cutting and peeling away the surface of this plateau. The simple wearing down of alternate layers of hard and soft rock slowly created the natural wonders of Monument Valley that today stand between 400 and 1200 feet tall. (Goulding’s tour brochure)


Jeff and I don’t usually take tours and today we are reminded why. Today’s adventure was okay to disappointing for what it cost us… $76 apiece… ouch! Our guide never introduced himself, could not be heard while we were riding in the vehicle (and that’s when he explained everything), and he didn’t even drop us off at the campground when the tour was over. He told us to take a shuttle back, but the shuttles only run from 5 pm-10 pm! I had to go into the Lodge and ask the concierge about shuttle service. Even he was surprised by our guide’s lack of courtesy.

On the positive side, however, the 8 other guests on our tour were fun to be with as we all chatted away and got to know each other a bit. And while the concierge personally drove us back to the campground, we learned that he lived in a hogan with his family until he was 10 years old and they had enough money to buy a house. He also shared his desire to leave the Reservation, join the Navy, and see the world. (We should have tipped him instead of our guide who we really overtipped… I’m just saying…)

Monument Valley Part 1

Goulding’s Campground

That’s us! I like how the rock formations are reflected on the windshield. They surround our little “RV spirit guide” pot head I bought in 2013 in Madras, NM when Jen and Brian lived in Albuquerque. He sits below our alien “RV spirit guide” I purchased in Roswell on the same trip.

Ah, 2013… the year Jeff and I conceived of our plan to full-time RV when I retired. AND 2013 is the year that the Center for Natural Land Management completed its purchase of the 880 acres of Thousand Palms Oasis!

Yes, we miss the Preserve and our friends. Yes, I still have posts to finish writing. Yes, we will return.

So, back to the campground…

We are located about a half mile uphill from the Lodge. Several short trails surround us but we take the road downhill before discovering a trail that leads down to the Lodge, Stagecoach Dining Room, Gift Shop, Museum, and Theater. (Shuttles run from 5 pm – 10 pm.) At 5500 feet above sea level, the morning sun beats down on us.

We arrive at the upper level of the Lodge and enjoy some spectacular rock formations.

I don’t know what this building is all about, except that it’s built into the hillside.

We check out the amenities (did that, done…) before heading back along one of the trails leading back to our RV. Of course I take some pics along the way…

What a beautiful place! Who knew we were walking parallel to the road!

Through the Navajo Reservation

On to Monument Valley…

Leaving Kingman On I-40 East, we still have a pretty clear windshield and scenic views.

In Flagstaff we head north on US-89. The scenery changes as we travel through the Painted Desert and the Navajo Nation.

Off the highway dirt roads lead to scattered clusters of trailer homes, hogans, sweat lodges, and 3-sided shade dwellings (upright logs with a roof of dried tree branches.) Colorful horses roam freely.

The windshield is starting to collect insect specimens that mar the marvelous views from the front seats when seen through the lens of a camera. But that doesn’t stop me from capturing images of the flavor of our drive.

Check out this series of 3 photos I quickly took out Jeff’s side of the RV:

Outside Tuba City we pick up US-160 as we head northeast toward Utah. I start opening my window to get better pics.

But sometimes a cool sight catches our eye and I have to sacrifice quality.

Below a cloud shadows part of the sandstone hills.

And these rocky mesas start appearing above the hills while hoodas start rising.

Finally we reach the last 25 mile stretch in Kayenta, Arizona as US-163 takes us across the border into Utah and the heart of Monument Valley.

We are staying 2 nights at Goulding’s Monument Valley Trading Post and Lodge Campground.

Harry and Leone, aka Mike, Goulding purchased land and started Goulding’s Trading Post in the 1920s. During the Great Depression they saw an opportunity to bolster the local Navajo economy by bringing in movie production companies. Harry met with director John Ford and soon after the film, Stagecoach, started production in Monument Valley.

Since then Goulding’s has hosted film crews, photographers, artists, and tourists from around the world. The Trading Post has expanded to include a lodge, campsite, tour operations, restaurant, convenience store, and a private airstrip. In 1981 the LaFont family bought Goulding’s Lodge. (gouldings.com)

Not too shabby!

A Great Day On The Road

Interstate 80 West

The Pony Express RV Resort in Salt Lake City is beautiful but we have to leave as we are already one day behind schedule. Port Orford, Oregon is waiting for us.

But before we take off I need to show you some of the niceties here.

Each site has a paved pad, a grassy area, picnic table, and a flowering pear tree.

There are several fenced in dog areas, soccer nets, a giant chess game, and access to an over 50 mile running/walking/biking path.

This RV Park is appropriately named a Resort. Most of the RVs here are new and in impeccable condition. Our 2015 Forest River Georgetown Motorhome almost pales in comparison, especially with our shorn off awning.


Today is just a straight shot west on Interstate 80 from Salt Lake City to Winnemucca, Nevada.

We cross the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake and notice this magnificent building.

A quick search on Google identifies this edifice as Saltair, aka The SaltAir, Saltair Resort, and Saltair Pavillion.

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, the building is a resort located on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, about 15 miles from Salt Lake City.

In 1893 the Mormon Church and the Salt Lake-Los Angeles Railway jointly owned and built the first Saltair. The resort was a family place providing a safe and wholesome atmosphere supervised by Church leaders. Saltair was a popular and appropriate spot to take a date in those days.  A young Mormon couple could conveniently take a train from Salt Lake City and spend the evening dancing, chaperoned by trusted members of the community.

Besides a dating and dancing venue, Saltair was one of the first amusement parks, the western counterpart to Coney Island in New York.

In 1906 the Mormon Church sold the resort. Then a fire destroyed the pavilion in 1925. Prominent Mormon investors built a new resort but the advent of motion pictures and radio and the interruption of the Great Depression competed with Saltair’s popularity. It’s huge new dance floor, however, recreated the resort into a dance palace featuring the likes of Glenn Miller and other traveling bands.

More fires, receding lake waters, the Second World War, and other entertainment options closer to home forced the resort to close in 1958. Arson destroyed the second Saltair pavilion in 1970 but in 1981 a third Saltair was constructed a mile west of the original. But once again the resort could not compete with other larger venues more conveniently located, until several music industry investors purchased the building in 2005 to hold music concerts of popular acts and it has now evolved into the Great Saltair.

The Great Salt Lake…

The Morton Salt Refinery… I wasn’t quick enough to get a good shot of the iconic logo so I circled it in the picture below.

  addison.com

More salt piles…

The Great Salt Lake Desert…

All along the drive you can see where people have stopped to spell messages in the sand with rocks and beer bottles.

Then this sculpture pops up.

I later find out this concrete “trunk” supporting 6 spheres coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah is called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah. It was created in the 1980s by Karl Momen, a Swedish artist, who while traveling across the salt flats had a vision of a tree. In 1986 he donated the sculpture to the state of Utah and returned to Sweden. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

So, there you go. Who would have thunk it?

The Nevada border… Out of a desolate landscape casinos emerge and then disappear again.

Continuing west on Interstate 80…

At the end of the day we pull into the Winnemucca RV Park.

Tomorrow we depart Interstate 80, head north on I-95, and then continue west on Highway 140.

Should We Go or Should We Stay?

April 12th

The weather forecast does not look good. A snow storm, Xanto, is making its way across the high plains bringing blizzards, cold temperatures, and high winds with it. If we travel today we will be heading right into its path.

Jeff calls ahead to the place in Salt Lake City where we plan to spend the night. The blizzard is hitting there right now. And the winds in Rawlins are already shaking the parked RV.

We decide to stay put for one more day and hunker down for a cold night.

Meanwhile Jeff waits in between wind gusts to climb onto the roof of the RV and cut off the raveled awning over the slide-out. While up there he discovers a broken bracket. We don’t plan on replacing the awning any time soon.


April 13th

We wake up to a dusting of snow covering the ground and vehicles. The water in the hose is frozen and the water pump is not working properly. Outside the temperature is only in the mid 20s. It is Friday the 13th, after all.

But we need to continue west on Interstate 80 to Salt Lake City.

Five minutes after joining the traffic on the interstate the clouds explode.

But less than 10 minutes later the weather has tamed back down again.

So for the next few hours we take it slow and steady, one mile at a time, rolling on the highway toward the border of Utah.

But as we approach the state line…

…The weather can’t make up its mind what it wants to do.

This is what greets us in Salt Lake City:

Then we arrive at our destination…

And all is beautiful again.

Leaving Zion

Denver, Colorado Bound

MARCH 21ST

We break up our trip east into 3 days of travel on I-70.

First stop… Salina, Utah where we spend the night at Butch Cassidy Campground. A short day…


March 22nd

The landscape of Utah never fails to impress me. The tall rock structure below reminds me of a rook piece in a chess game or a giant you know what…

We enter Colorado and spend the night in Grand Junction.

We’ve stayed here once before at Junction West RV Park.


March 23rd

What a day of extreme weather! It’s our last stretch into Denver where we will park the RV at “Campbell Campground”, otherwise known as Patty and Mike’s driveway.

The day starts out with cloudy gray skies.

The further east we travel, the clouds spill raindrops.

Approaching Vail we ascend into the clouds.

It takes us over an hour to get through Vail as we get sprinkled with snow.

And an accident delay…

And a chain requirement for all commercial vehicles…

And finally the weather clears up…

And an hour later in Lawson the sky turns bright blue…

Fifty miles later we travel through the outskirts of Denver and arrive in Jernigan Land!