Adventures in Moab

Our daughter Heather, who currently resides in London, came for a visit last week.  To celebrate, the two of us went down to Moab, Utah for an adventure.  We started at Sego Canyon viewing the numerous petroglyphs and pictographs left by the ancient Native Americans.

This is Heather at Sego:

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Petroglyphs and pictographs.  Don’t they look remarkably like aliens?

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Our next destination was Canyonlands National Park which Heather had visited with her Dad as a teenager.  I had not been there, and it was a bucket list item for me.  These two buttes near the entrance to the park are called the Monitor and the Merrimac because of their resemblance to the two Civil War vessels.

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The view of Canyonlands across from the Visitors’ Center with the La Sal mountains in the background:

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Katie and Heather at Canyonlands with beautiful views in the background.

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We also got silly and took a selfie with Heather’s camera with a wide angle lens.  Can you say fish face?

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Red Cliffs:

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Our next stop for the day was at Dead Horse Point State Park (Utah).  Another bucket list item for me.  Who remembers that famous scene from the film Thelma and Louise where they drive the car off the cliff?  That was filmed at Dead Horse Point.

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Heather did a good job of scaring me half out of my mind by climbing over the safety wall and walking out on the cliff edge.  That’s a sheer drop of several hundred feet about two feet in front of her.

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This U-turn in the Colorado River is the most photographed view from Dead Horse.

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I liked the look of this wind-bent tree.

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Fortunately, several people told me that if we were going to Dead Horse Point, make sure to see it at sunset.  In addition to the incredible sky, the canyons in sunset-blue hues were beyond description.

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After a delicious Mexican dinner and a nice rest at a Moab hotel, our second day took us out to the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds north of Moab.  I’ve hiked there before so was glad to share it with Heather.  There are over 2,300 dinosaur footprints in the rocks.

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For our trip home, I followed the River Road which meanders along the Colorado River for mile after mile.  The first several miles, you drive deep down in the river canyon with sheer, steep walls of red rock towering above.  As it was getting late, we didn’t stop to take pictures.  I will, however, share one taken from a previous trip along that road.

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Until next time, travel well, my friends.

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Another Great Museum Tour

(Katie here)  Today I was able to take another day trip sponsored by the Museum of Western Colorado.  This time we traveled to the town of Ouray (pronounced You Ray) which lies about a hundred miles SSE of Grand Junction.  As with many of the mountain towns, it was founded as a mining town in the late 1800’s.  It sits at the peak of a river valley surrounded by tall mountain on three sides.  Our first stop was at Box Canyon Falls, a river plummeting through a deep chasm in the rocks.

001 Box Canyon Falls WEB

This chipmunk greeted us as we entered.

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A view of the falls

003 falls 1 WEB

The river exits the chasm deep in the rocks

004 outlet from chasm WEB

In the right of the picture below, you can spot an old piece of mining equipment once used on the local rocks.

005 bit of mining equipment WEB

A view out the chasm bottom

006 view out the opening WEB

Walking the nature trail back to the parking lot, we spotted this house on the edge of a cliff.  One of my fellow travelers quipped:  “Wouldn’t want a few too many martinis out on that deck.”

007 a house on the edge WEB

Our next stop was at Bear Creek falls located just south of town at the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway.  This road runs from Ouray up to the 11,000 foot Red Mountain Pass with some treacherously steep drop-offs and switchbacks along the way.  There are two theories as to the naming of the highway.  One states that when the highway was built in 1920, it cost a million dollars a mile to construct.  A second theory is that much of the rock fill used to complete it was filled with trace amounts of silver and gold from the area rocks, so the bed of the highway is worth a million dollars.  A view of Bear Creek Falls and the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway crossing it.

009 Bear Creek Falls 1 WEB

At the overlook at the falls, I spotted this bright yellow creek.  The discoloration is a result of drain-off from the local mines.

010 a tainted stream WEB

A view of the mountains to the south of Ouray

011 view of the mountains WEB

In the deep bowls on the north-facing slopes, you can still spot snow.

012 still snow in the bowls WEB

Next was a stop at the Amphitheater overlook to the east of town.  From here, you can really get a good idea of how the town sits in a deep bowl.  The beginning of the Million Dollar Highway can be spotted toward the left of the picture.

013 Ouray from Amphitheater overlook WEB

After our lunch, we got a tour of the historic Beaumont Hotel.  The hotel was originally built in the late 1800’s by a consortium of mine owners.  It was built to add some grace and character to the town in the hopes of enticing the railroad to extend their tracks south from the town of Ridgway into Ouray – an endeavor which proved to be fruitful when the rail line was completed.  Closed in 1967, the hotel was purchased in the 1990’s and restored to its original splendor.

014 Beaumont Hotel WEB

The lobby features an atrium overlooking the main lobby.

015 atrium of Beaumont Hotel WEB

The Grand Staircase is said to resemble the staircase in the Titanic – although the one in the Beaumont is not underwater!

017 staircase WEB

The entire main street of Ouray features well-preserved buildings from the mining heyday times.  This is the Wright Opera House.

019 Wright Opera House WEB

Our final stop was at the Ouray Historical Museum.  It is housed in what once was the Miner’s Hospital, and several rooms are dedicated to a recreation of this original use.

022 Miner's hospital display WEB

Throughout the building, rooms have been furnished to recreate the past, this one a Victorian sitting room.

021 Victorian sitting room WEB

Of course, the museum has a display celebrating the area’s mining history.

023 mining display WEB

And to my delight, their featured event was a display of historic quilts.

024 star puzzle quilt WEB

Also on the site, are several restored buildings moved from other locations and re-assembled at the museum.  One such is this small cabin with a single room on the bottom floor and a sleeping loft above.

 

Finally, what trip would be complete without some wildlife?  I spotted this mule deer calmly grazing on the lawn of the house right next door to the museum.

028 buck WEB

Hope you, Dear Reader, have enjoyed this journey!

 

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A Tour of the Mining History of Colorado

(Katie here) With temperatures here in the valley this past Friday over 1000, it seemed like a good time to venture up into the high Rockies on a trip sponsored by the Museum of Western Colorado.  It was a fascinating glimpse into the history of the town of Leadville, site of various mining operations over the past 150 years or so, and some sites of interest in the surrounding area as well.  Leadville is located just east of the continental divide at an elevation of 10,200 feet.  As such, it is the highest city in the U.S.  Our tour guide, Peter Booth, is the executive director of the museum and a knowledgeable historian which made for quite an informative trip.

001 welcome to Leadville

Our first scheduled stop was at Camp Hale.  This camp was built near the beginning of World War II and was the training area for the 10th Mountain Division.  At its height, it was home to over 14,000 soldiers training in mountain warfare including mastering winter survival and combat on skis.  For the history buffs out there, Senator Bob Dole was a member of the 10th Mountain Division and would have trained here.  The only structure left partially standing is what remains of the large social hall where movies were shown and other major gatherings were held.

31 Camp Hale

As we approached Leadville, we got our first glimpse of the still-snow-covered Mt. Massive.  At 14,421 feet, it is the second tallest peak in Colorado.

02 Mt. Massive

It sits next to the tallest peak, Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet.  Frankly, I think Mt. Massive is more impressive.

03 Mt. Elbert

Our first stop in Leadville was the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  The area saw its first settlers around 1860 following the Pikes Peak gold rush when small amounts of gold were found in a valley a few miles from present day Leadville.  It was soon discovered that silver was more prevalent than gold, and prospectors arrived by the thousands.  The town of Leadville was founded in 1877, and by 1880 the population hovered between 30,000 and 40,000 – the second largest city in Colorado at the time.  Although the silver mines were quite prolific, in 1893 the repeal of Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed; and the value of silver plummeted.  Many of the mines in the area continued to produce gold, lead, and zinc; and it was soon discovered the mines in the area were rich in a mineral called molybdenum.  This mineral was used as an additive to steel to make the steel stronger.  Mining of the molybdenum occurred primarily at the Climax Mine and continued until the 1980’s.

04 Mining museum

A few glimpses from inside the Museum:

This amethyst geode measures about three feet across.

05 amythyst geode

So what does one do in their spare time in Leadville during the long, cold winters???  Create models of castles out of the crystals from various mines, I suppose.

07 crystal castle

The exhibit, naturally, includes some old mining equipment

08 mining equipment

And samples of gold

11 gold exhibit

Our next stop was the Leadville National Fish Hatchery where we first enjoyed a grand picnic lunch next to this beautiful mountain lake.

12 lake at fish hatchery

The fish hatchery was founded to provide healthy trout for re-stocking streams throughout the Rocky Mountain area.  Inside are tanks holding hatchlings of varying sizes.

A pond in front of the hatchery holds a few FULL-size trout such as this one which appeared to be between two and three feet in length.

13 large trout

Following our tour of the hatchery, we were toured the Matchless Mine.  This mine, owned by Horace A.W. Tabor produced a very healthy stream of silver and made the Tabors millionaires prior to the Sherman Act of 1893.  Alas, with the downturn in the silver market, the Tabors died paupers.

16 Matchless Mine

Brenda, our tour guide, was quite the character.  We estimated her age to be somewhere in her seventies.  Beginning in the 1960’s, she worked as a blaster (a very unusual career choice for a woman at that time) for the Climax Mine, the area’s primary producer of molybdenum.

17 Brenda, our tour guide

One of the main shafts into the mine, Shaft # 6, has been partially restored.  The second picture is a view down the shaft where the miners were lowered to work their day-long shifts.

The bucket shown below was suspended from a hoist.  At the beginning of the shift, men climbed into the bucket and were lowered into the mine down the shaft.  After all the miners had been lowered, it was used throughout the day to haul up the ore which was dumped into ore carts to be transported to the rail siding where it was hauled into town for assaying.

Of course no good story is complete without a little scandal.  Two of the most notorious characters in Leadville were Horace A.W. Tabor, owner of the Matchless Mine and his mistress-turned second wife, Baby Doe.  Tabor began in Leadville by selling mining supplies and basic necessities of life to the miners.  When miners were unable to pay, he would advance them the supplies in exchange for a share of any profits they might make – a practice known as grub-staking.   His initial wealth came from grub-staking the claim of two miners who eventually struck it rich.  Subsequently, although married, he took up with Baby Doe, a woman reputed to be the most attractive woman in town who was herself married.  After they each divorced their spouses, they married and became part of Washington, D.C. society following Horace’s appointment as a senator.  Alas, their golden period would end with the crash of the silver market in 1893.  Following Horace’s death in 1899, the mine was sold, and Baby Doe now destitute was allowed to live in a tiny cabin on the property until her death in 1935.  The original cabin has been maintained and is included in the tour.

24 Baby Doe Tabor's cabin

Following the mine tour, we got to spend time in downtown Leadville.  Many of the structures built at the height of the silver period still stand, with several having been artfully restored.  Harrison Avenue, the main drag:

24a downtown Leadville

The Delaware Hotel, pictured below, has been fully restored with shops on the main floor and a fully functioning hotel in the upper stories.

25 Delaware Hotel

The lobby of the hotel has been tastefully redecorated keeping many features of the original lobby

26 Delaware Hotel lobby

Including these bison, elk, and moose heads

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The Tabor hotel, built by the notorious Horace Tabor has also been restored with retail shops at street level and apartments on the upper levels.  I think it is quite the impressive building.

29 Tabor Hotel

Several of the original churches remain as well.  The Presbyterian Church, built in 1889, is simply called “The Old Church” by the locals

30 The Old Church

Perhaps the most famous of the churches, The Annunciation Church, sits a block east of Harrison Avenue.  Built in 1879, the steeple is a landmark seen in many old photos of the town.  It was the site of the marriage of the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 1886 and later the funeral for Baby Doe Tabor in 1935.

28 Annunciation Church

So, our dear readers, I hope you have enjoyed our little trip through a bit of Colorado history.

 

 

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One More to Check Off

As some of you may know, last year Tom gave me a book entitled Best Easy Day Hikes, Grand Junction and Fruita written by a columnist for the local paper.  I have set myself a goal of completing each of the hikes in the book that are no more than 8 miles and that do not require a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle to reach.  Last week, I did the main part of the Liberty Cap trail, but the hike listed in the book adds in a side trail called Corkscrew Loop; and I was too fatigued from the main climb to complete that portion.  Being the obsessively honest person that I am, I could not in all good conscience check off this trail without completing that section.  Today, I completed that goal.

One of the joys of my hikes is seeing new wildlife.  I spotted a different type of lizard on last week’s hike.  Small geckos are VERY common in the area, and I have also grown rather accustomed to the beautifully colored collared lizard found in the local canyons.  The new one I spied last week was about 10” long and had spots.  I looked it up on the internet and believe it is a long-nosed leopard lizard.  Today, I was able to get a decent picture of one.

01 long-nosed leopard lizard WEB

 

Back to the hike –Now bear in mind, the title of the book can be a bit misleading!  The author does admit that the term “easy” may not in fact be a good description of this hike.  Out of curiosity today, I checked the information at the trailhead; and they list it as “difficult.”  Today’s hike was only three miles, but it involved a vertical gain of almost 800 feet.  Much of it is nearly as steep and rugged as the Liberty Cap trail.  Here’s a view of one of the cliff areas where the trail runs.

02 the trail WEB

Soooooooo  —-  was it worth it???  I’ll let you decide.  Just look at what I spotted as I rounded a curve in the trail.

 

‘Til next time —

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Liberty Cap Trail

It was one of the shorter hikes I’ve taken – only 3 ½ miles round trip in length.  But it was also one of the more challenging.  Liberty Cap Trail takes the hiker from the valley floor to the rim of the Colorado National Monument.  It’s over a thousand feet of elevation in a mile and 3/4 or so of trail.

I had just started on the trail when I noticed this bumble bee on a small grass-like bush.

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Shortly later, I encountered this cute baby collared lizard.

02 collarded lizard WEB

 

Some of the trail has steps built into it as can be seen in the center right of this picture.

03 steps center right WEB

But much of the trail was steep rocky terrain.

04 rugged terrain WEB

On the lower part of the trail, I looked up onto this cliff edge, but I soon found myself looking down on it.

05 looking down on a cliff face WEB

Something tells me this section was once used for grazing cattle, perhaps “way back when” before it became a part of the National Park system?

06 barbed wire WEB

I was enjoying the scenery and the exercise when I came around the corner, and “what to my wondering eyes should appear?”

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It wasn’t just one big horn sheep, it was a small herd of them.  I counted at least four.  They were quite close to the trail which was populated by several of us humans, and the sheep were grazing as if we weren’t even there.  Guess they know it’s a part of the National Park system and off-limits to hunters.  As I was snapping pictures, several people coming down the trail from the summit reported there was a very large male with a “trophy-sized rack” at the top of the trail.  Alas, I was not in time, and he had left by the time I reached the summit.

At the summit, there were lovely views of Ute Canyon, this one facing south.

11 Ute canyon looking south WEB

A view from the summit to the north looks down on the valley floor and the parking area at the trailhead.  Guess you’ll have to take my word for it that the parking area is in the center of the picture as it is much too far away to make out much detail

10 valley floor looking NE WEB

This is the Liberty Cap for which the trail is named.

13 The Liberty Cap WEB

The trip back down was equally challenging.  For me, the steep drop-offs along the narrow cliff edge are more apparent on the downward leg of the hike.

14 the trip down WEB

And to give the reader some perspective, the little knob on the horizon at the center of the picturebelow  is the Liberty Cap as viewed from the parking area, a mile and 3/4 or so away by trail but a thousand feet above the valley floor.

15 Liberty Cap from parking area WEB

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Junior College (JUCO) Div. 1 World Series

and other good stuff!

First of all we spent last week, with season tickets, to the JUCO World Series here in Grand Junction, Colorado.

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10 Teams in JUCO

We had a great time.  It was a double elimination tournament.  Yavapi College from Prescott, AZ, was the big winner.

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Katie with her JUCO shirt

As you can see not only did we have fun at JUCO, but we also managed to come home with a new 2016 Ford Titanium Edge.  No, unfortunately we didn’t win it.  Katie may have to go back to work to pay for it.  We did score a 0% interest rate from Ford Motor Credit for the duration of the loan.

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Tom in the Edge

I even got to sit in the new car.  Of course I primarily drive the 2015 Ford F-150.  I guess that means Katie will get primary diver-ship rights to the Edge.  I guess another way to look at it is the F-150 is the work truck and the Edge is the family car.  Actually, I’ve driven it more than Katie has.  We really like the ride, but all the new stuff is a bit challenging.  For example, the parking brake is a switch, not the old style foot pedal.  Oh, and there’s no key, just a “fob” and we’re slowly getting used to it.  The back hatch door has several ways of opening and closing with no hands.  There’s a digital touch screen which controls the radio and lots of other cool things.  I’m sure we’ll get to know it as time goes on.

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Dogie Litter

Neither Bonnie nor Stevie Ray seemed at all excited about the new goings on.  They did like the company we had this afternoon.  Cousin Carol, Sandy and her Dad – Lorant, as well as Tim and Maria all came over for a picnic.  Katie did a great job getting it all together and we had a great time.

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Yard Pig

Our friend, Patti Smith will enjoy this picture of our Colorado yard pig.  We hope Patti and Gerald will visit us one day.

So, the JUCO World Series and the new Ford Edge were our accomplishments the other day when I made the cryptic post.  Hope everyone has a great week!

 

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Springtime in the Desert

(Katie here)  I was beginning to weary of all the rain brought by El Nino, but this past weekend several of us went out to the BLM lands on the border to Colorado and Utah to do a little geocaching and photograph the wildflowers.  With all the rain we’ve had, the deserts are now a RIOT of bloom.  Here are a few examples.

The desert primrose tends to be common in many areas around us, but it has been abundant this Spring.  It is a small flower similar to a petunia which lays close to the ground.

06 desert primrose WEB

Similar in appearance, the Sego lily is a little taller.  People who have lived around here for a while say that they have never seen so many in bloom.

17 Sego lily close-up WEB  08 Sego lily with desert mallow WEB

 

And then there are the cacti!  The prickly pear have blossoms in pink:

and in yellow:

01a prickly pear yellow WEB

Some of the areas had a HUGE spread of prickly pear.

13 whole bunch of prickly pear in bloom WEB

We also spotted several “fishhook” cacti.  Their spines have barbs on the ends just like a real fishhook.  Their flowers are brilliant and remind me of the straw flowers I used to grow.

03 fishhook WEB

Another cactus I’ve seen before is the claret cup.  Look at the size of this one!

15 large claret cup WEB

The claret cups also seem to be producing a greater-than-normal number of blooms which are a deep claret color similar to the wine.

05 Claret cup WEB

This plant is called desert four o’clock and produces tiny blue flowers that are close to the ground.

16 desert four o'clock WEB

We don’t know the name of this plant whose flowers resemble tiny pom poms in white with pink highlights.

11 pom poms WEB

We also were unable to identify this plant.  I call it “don’t know what it is, but it shore is purty”

22 don't know what it is but it's pretty WEB

This vine tends to be fairly common in the valley.  In the wild, it lies close to the ground and likes to hide in the shade under other shrubs. Its tiny blue/violet flowers remind me a bit of morning glory.

23 don't know vine WEB

One of the most prolific plants in the open desert is the desert mallow.  Orange blooms sit on stalks about a foot to a foot and a half tall.  Here’s a close-up:

09 desert mallow close-up WEB

Right now, there are acres and acres of the desert mallow in fields alongside a short grass with a purplish head.  The winds were making waves of beauty that is beyond description.  Wish I had a video but the still photos will have to do.

10 a field of desert mallow WEB

23 huge field of desert mallow WEB

And not to be outdone by the plant world, the animal world also gave us a spectacular sight with this collared lizard sunning on a rock.

21 collarded lizard 2 WEB

Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey!

 

 

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