Four Corners and Friends

Continuing our catch up posts of our tour last year around the four corners, we could not resist a couple of stops on our way to our next destination just east of Durango to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, and their adorable pup, Lucy.

First on the way was the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah –  intersect at a single point. It had rained recently, so the parking lot and park area, which are not paved, were quite muddy.

Interesting

The monument is a tribal park in the Navajo Nation. There is a granite and brass marker and a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans and vendors who sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. We managed to take the obligatory touristy photo “touching” all four states.

The next much more interesting side trip was to Mesa Verde National Park. We visited this park years ago, before we became fulltime RVers and knew that we could only make a very brief stop this time around.

So we took the 6-mile driving tour. With short paved trails to views of the Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace, it was just enough to wet our appetite to return. Way too short a visit but fine for us at that moment.

There are several breathtaking overlooks of the various groups of ruins along the way.

Of course we ran quite late when arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, but they were completely unfazed (we do appreciate such flexibility!). This was our second experience “moochdocking” –  enjoying the comforts of the RV while parked at a friends’ house.

Linda had cooked a Cuban dish, picadillo, for dinner in honor of Hector and it was delicious. We met these two wonderful people while we were all fulltime RVers. They had sailed around the world prior to that and now they live in a lovely cabin in Colorado. It is a very pretty spot surrounded by big trees and frequented by lots of wildlife. Our kind of place.

We woke up the next morning to a big surprise: SNOW! One of those late spring snows that happens in Colorado. Big, fat, kind of wet snowflakes and just beautiful. Angel particularly appreciated the snow, although she slid around a bit on the wet porch.

If we had to encounter snow while RVing, this was the day to do it. With friends and a warm wood stove to sit by. We had a fun and relaxing time catching up and took a couple of drives including a drive out to dinner in Durango.

Durango is a fabulous town and the area has every possible outdoor activity opportunity (except the ocean). Mining and the railroad made this an important commercial center in the late 1800’s and the discovery and subsequent creation of a National Park at Mesa Verde made it an even more desirable location.

Nowadays, with Purgatory Ski Resort nearby, the town is a combination of a ski town with lots of restaurants and shops and a charming historic town with historic buildings and landmarks. And, nearby, the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a really cool experience to another historic mining town.

But the focus of this trip was spending time with friends.  It was a perfect stop before our next stop in Albuquerque to look for a house once again.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Bridges National Monument

As long as we were in this remote southeast corner of Utah we couldn’t resist a stop at another nearby National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument. This time we left Angel in Island Girl, knowing that they don’t allow pets on any of their trails.

Natural Bridges National Monument has three spectacular stone bridges that were sculpted by water, along with a very well-preserved ruin, Horse Collar Ruin.

The park has a loop road that goes by each of the Natural Bridges as well as Horse Collar Ruin, hiking trails to each of the Bridges and the ruins, as well as a full loop hiking trail (8.6mi) that goes to all of the Bridges. With Hector’s broken ankle, we planned to do very minimal hiking.

So we got started on the loop drive. The first stop on the drive is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon Utah is the largest).

The bridge is named after a gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology.

Although the trail down to the bottom is fairly short it is the steepest one in the park, so we were happy that there was a pretty decent view from the side of the road.

The next stop on the loop drive is an easy trail (.6 mi) to the edge of White Canyon, where there is a view of Horse Collar Ruins in an alcove below.

Ancestral Puebloans moved here around A.D. 700 and left around the 1300s but rock art and stone tools in this area can be traced to people who came here as early as 7,000 B.C. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area after the Ancestral Puebloans and some may have lived here alongside the Puebloans.

Even though these ruins were abandoned 700 years ago, they are very well-preserved. The most interesting is an undisturbed kiva that still has its original roof and interior, but there are also walls of two other structures, another barrel shaped structure and six or so rooms on the ledge. Although originally discovered in 1907, they seem to have been forgotten after President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a National Monument (Utah’s first National Park service area) in 1908.

They sat undisturbed until 1936 when they were rediscovered, but this inaccessibility is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so well preserved. And as always, there are several mysteries about these ruins and their inhabitants, the most obvious one is why the structures were not built with their backs against the wall of the alcove.

After spending some time looking at and photographing the ruins we continued on the loop drive to the next Natural Bridge, Kachina Bridge, named after the Kachina dancers in the Hopi religion. This is considered the “youngest” of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span. Although there is not a great view from the overlook, the trail down is another steep one so we skipped it.

Our last stop was at Owachomo Bridge. Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, named for a rock formation on one end of the bridge. This trail is the easiest of all, and .4 miles total, so it was the perfect one for nursing the broken ankle. It was really cool to stand under the bridge and wander around the slick rock that was all around.

The drive and two short hikes allowed us to get back to our RV without leaving Angel for too long.

We highly recommend this National Monument, check out details of the park, the loop drive and the trails here.

~ Brenda

 

Hovenweep National Monument

As we left Moab our plan was to explore a few more places in the four corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). This is one of our favorite areas in the Southwest. Hector suggested we visit Hovenweep National Monument, which frankly I had never heard of, but I am always up for seeing another of our nationally protected sites.

We camped at Cadillac Ranch RV Park, which had been recommended by friends. Check out my review of the RV park here.

We headed out to Hovenweep National Monument in the afternoon after checking in at the park. It was a long drive across a remote corner of Utah, so I was becoming kind of dubious about the whole thing. But it was a really pretty landscape along the way and we continued.

The Visitor Center was closed by the time we arrived and the ruins are only viewable along trails. But we discovered that a couple of the shorter trails were open from sunrise to sunset. And a happy surprise – dogs were allowed on the trails! Yay!

Since Hector still had what he thought was a sprained ankle (which we later found out was actually broken) we decided to take the shortest trail – one mile. That also was best for Angel with her arthritis. Plus it was less than two hours before sunset.

We set out on the path, not fully knowing what to expect since we weren’t able to check out the Visitor Center. Luckily, trail guides were available at the entry to the trails. To my surprise, there were a number of different ruins on this short path. The ruins are situated in a canyon and along its rim. It was a much more interesting place than I had initially thought.

This area was said to have been inhabited over 10,000 years ago by people who moved according to the seasons. Ancestral Puebloans started to settle in the area year-round about A.D. 900, and by the late 1200s about 2,500 people lived here.

They built many types of structures at between A.D. 1200 and 1300 that are known for their careful construction and attention to detail. These include D-shaped dwellings and many kivas, which are ceremonial structures. Some structures that were built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

The Ancestral Puebloans prepared the land for cultivation by creating terraces on hillsides, forming catch basins to hold storm run-off, and building check dams to retain topsoil.

The square and circular towers that they built are particularly striking, but although archaeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their function remains a mystery.

Theories about the purpose of the towers are many: they may have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or a combination of some or all of those. Still a mystery.

The sites were thought to be abandoned when the Ancestral Puebloans migrated south to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona at the end of the 13th century. Although preceded by a prolonged drought, it is still not clear what different factors drove the migration. Another mystery.

As we took in the sights and read about the history, my husband the photographer was getting extremely excited about the fabulous ruins and the beautiful light. It always takes us much longer to cover ground than most other people, even when he doesn’t have any injuries. So it was slow going but very enjoyable.

We were enthralled by the towers and watched the sun set over some of the ruins that sat in the canyon. We only encountered a couple of people on the trail, and only one other this late in the day, another photographer that we spotted on the other side of the canyon. We stood still and enjoyed the beauty and quiet of the place.

Now we had two choices for returning to our car: turn around on the same path we walked out on, OR continue (adding ½ mile) and cross the canyon. Hector decided to go down the canyon. It was only an 80-foot descent, with mostly stone steps, but had some steep spots. So there we were, a guy with a broken ankle, an old dog with arthritis, and me – the only fully healthy one – descending into the canyon.

It was slow going and the light was dimming but we made it to the bottom. After a short walk came the climb back; up another 80 feet. Once back at the top, we just had a final, flat section of the trail back to the parking lot. No photos on this part since it was getting dark and we were focused on getting back.

We barely made it out to the parking area before total darkness. Not our wisest decision-making, but all turned out well. This National Monument is totally worth seeing, and we would definitely visit again to see more of the ruins.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37 Continue reading

Lake Powell

Lake Powell-19Lake Powell-1Many years ago, we spent several nights in a houseboat in Lake Powell and fell in love with its multi-colored rock formations and the beautiful light reflecting from the sun into the canyon. So on this visit we were hoping to spend some time on the water once again, kayaking or renting a boat, or hopefully both.

Lake Powell-4Lake Powell-9We read about a beach that allowed camping right by the water, Lone Rock Beach. We also read that it had several areas with soft sand so we carefully scouted the beach in our car. And we found a lovely site on hard packed sand and gravel. Check out my review of the campground here.

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Monument Valley and the Milky Way

MonumentValley-11MonumentValley-65MonumentValley-32Hector has been interested in photographing the Milky Way for a long time. But we haven’t really been in the right place at the right moment: a place with limited light pollution with a view in the correct direction, on a clear, dark night, at the right time of year – spring or summer. Not easy. Now that spring is here, the galactic center of the Milky Way begins to make its appearance in the sky. So we made a specific plan to go photograph Monument Valley and the Milky Way.
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This is our third time visiting Monument Valley. The first was a brief drive through the area. On the second visit, we drove from Denver in our Airstream, Luna, and camped in the area. Unfortunately, there was a huge sandstorm for several days during our visit, but we finally had a chance to take a guided tour after the storm subsided.

MonumentValley-1MonumentValley-31MonumentValley-40We were hoping to skip the sandstorm this time and happily the forecast was for good weather, either clear or partly cloudy. There were two nights left before the new moon, so we had a good chance for a clear night on at least one of those.
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To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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The Mouth of the Columbia River

Astoria-56Astoria-1Last year we paid a brief visit to Astoria, a funky town at the mouth of the Columbia River, and really liked it so we were determined to spend a little time there this year. As Thanksgiving approached, we knew it was time to get to the coast and begin our (slow) drive south, but instead we made a slight detour north to Astoria.

Astoria-33Astoria-32We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park, a beautiful park just outside the town. The campground was pretty empty, so we found a cozy, private spot. Check out my review of the campground here.Astoria-7

Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading port for his American Fur Company in 1811. During its early history, Astoria’s primary industries were fishing, fish processing and lumber.Astoria-19Astoria-20

Astoria’s deepwater port still serves as port of entry and trading center for the Columbia basin. But both the fishery and timber industries declined, forcing the town to reinvent itself. And it did so by supporting a burgeoning art scene and bringing light manufacturing into its fold.Astoria-17Astoria-18
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It also succeeded in growing a tourism industry. With its location on the Columbia River, Victorian architecture poised amongst hills, proximity to the Pacific, surrounding lush forest and fascinating maritime history, it gained the nickname of “little San Francisco”. Astoria’s deepwater port now welcomes several major cruise lines.

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Alaska at last!

Day 12003Yesterday, on the 23rd day after entering Canada, we arrived in Alaska at last! We made it, what a wonderful milestone.

Day 12008We are happy on so many levels, not the least of which is that we have our girl Angel with us. We were not so sure she was going to be with us after she had some medical issues last November and again in February. We had some rough times together during the past seven months, but here she is!

Alaska initially greeted us with a warm beautiful day at the Welcome to Alaska sign and we took some fun photos there. We were now on the Alaska Highway 2.

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The boundary between Alaska and the Yukon is on the 141st Meridian, first described in an 1825 treaty between England and Russia. The U.S. accepted this provisional boundary in 1867 when it purchased Alaska.

There is a clear cut through the forest as far as the eye can see to designate the boundary, something we first learned about last year.  The treaty with Canada states that wherever the border is, it must be visible.

And so it is.Day 12007

Day 12001 (1)The Alaska Highway from the border to Delta Junction was designated the Purple Heart Trail to honor veterans. I was proud to have traveled on this road and thinking of my dad, a patriot who got a purple heart in World War II.

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A Utah Stop and The Golden Spike

Spike006Spike001Leaving Nevada we still had miles of really lonely highway ahead before finally reaching Delta, Utah and the real end of the Loneliest Highway.basin039Spike002

Spike007Spike008After having the car and the motorhome covered inside and out with dust from the desert, and the outside turning to mud while driving in the rain, it was time for a stop to do some Spring cleaning or de-deserting as Hector calls it.Spike013Spike010 Continue reading