Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 28, 2015

Arches NP

Arrived in Moab, UT about noon yesterday.  Checked in to campground, had lunch, and drove to Arches visitor center to get oriented.  Armed with maps and info. we drove into the park a few miles to see some of the sights that could be done from the road.  Back to Moab to do laundry then back to carbus for dinner and to bed at a reasonable time to be ready for the morning.

Viewing and photographing  landscape objects is all about lighting.  Sun light from above or behind gives flat or dark pictures. Best light is shining on object and preferably from fairly low elevation.  Lights subject and creates shadows for contrast.  Different spots in Arches NP are best viewed at different times of the day.  We had two main photographic sites in mind.  Both involved driving a long distance and then hiking to the landmark.

Left for park at 5:30 am this morning.  Twenty minutes to entrance station and then forty minutes to end of road at far end of park to start our hike.  Sun was just about to rise.  Comfortable temperature for our half mile walk


Start of trail



Early in the morning these guys are everywhere.  Must have seen 25-30 on our short hike.  Half hour later, no sign of them.


Easy half mile hike to base of


Landscape Arch

Won’t be an arch much longer.  That thin area looks pretty shaky.


On the hike back to the parking lot we visited several more arches.  Then we worked our way back out of the park looking at all the sites we could find.  Went back to one area we saw the day before but this time with better light.


Double Arch


2015-08-28 (159) Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock – duh.



Drove spur road to parking area for our afternoon goal to check it out then back to Moab to relax and prepare. 

Left at 3:30 for park.  After entering we first went to a spot we had been to in the morning in order to take picture in better light.

2015-08-28 (162) Fiery Furnace

Fiery Furnace.  Would have been a little later but we had places to go.


Then another drive to a view point for our goal and then to parking area.  We started hiking at 4:50pm.  At home we usually start our day with a three mile walk which we do in less than an hour.  The usual route include numerous ups and downs which we handle comfortably.  This afternoons hike is 3.2 miles round trip.  My hope was to reach our goal about 6:00 to have good lighting for a while before we hiked back.  The 1.6 mile hike to the goal is all up hill.  Gains 500’ from start to end.  The trail is also totally in the sun.  Little better in late afternoon than mid-day but still hot.  High around 95 degrees today.  Trail starts at above 5000’.  Sue has some respiratory issues that are generally well controlled with occasional meds.  About 3/8 of a mile into hike the above factors started to work on her.  At points she was limited to 30-40 yard stretches between rests.  But she hung in.  Took an hour and a half to get there but this was the reward.


Delicate Arch.  Hey, that would look good on a license plate.  Oops, been done already.



Proof she was there.

Purposely did not take picture of all the fellow hikers at the arch site but there were a LOT of them.  Had to catch photos between people waiting to stand under the arch.

Sunset today was about 7:40 pm.  We started down about 7:00 to be sure we had lots of light for hike.  We took our time coming down and were only passed by five people going down.  We passed maybe 30 people who were going up.  The sun set when we were about half way down.  Dusk is 45 minutes.  After sunset we still passed people going up.  When we got to the parking lot it was twice as full as when we started up.  The point: there were going to be a large number of people descending a difficult trail, marked only by rock cairns, in the dark.  We saw no flashlights at all.  Saw a number of flip flops, even some bare feet, and at least one cane but no one prepared to navigate in the dark. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 26, 2015

Durango and Silverton Railroad

Day long trip on train to Silverton and back.  Great experience. 

Train has several types of car to choose from: First class with special seating and private bar, first class open car with clear roof, standard coach, and standard open air.  We took standard open air.  Glad we did in spite of unfortunate weather today.  Best views and seats are assigned so you have different view on return trip.

Some notes and then on some pictures.

First, the river.  I’m sure you all have seen the results of the mine waste spill several weeks ago.  Yellow river.  Scenic wise the river has pretty much recovered – if you don’t look too close.  The running river has returned to normal color and content.  The banks and places where water is still or slow moving have yellow color to varying degree. It will be a long time, if ever, before this is a pristine mountain river.  Still fantastic scenery however.


Arrival in Silverton

Ready to leave Silverton for return trip

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Goin’ round a bend

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Ghost train we passed


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Had a tag-a-long for a while


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River is still pretty spectacular



Note yellow along banks Sad smile


Second, weather.  For the last week there have been increasing afternoon thunderstorms.  Last a short while and gone.  Today was forecast to be the same and then no rain for next week or more.  We woke up to overcast sky – a little ominous.  Temp cooler than previous days but comfortable.  Silverton is about 50 miles north of Durango and 2000’ higher.  The train ride up is about 3 1/2 hours.  There is a two hour layover and then about a 3 1/2 hour return trip.  As we got closer to Silverton the clouds got heavier with occasional drizzle.  Not uncomfortable at all.  It did rain today for exactly two hours.  Guess which two hour period of the day it rained.  We did fine.  Spent much of that time having lunch in a very funky,very busy restaurant. Each mile of return ride became less and less cloudy and arrived in Durango in sunshine.

August 25, 2015

Durango and Aztec Ruins

Started the day with a short (35 miles) to Durango, CO.  Parked in the fairgrounds RV lot. Six spaces total.  Then off to the train depot to get tickets for the Durango to Silverton train ride.  After lunch we drove south 35 miles to Aztec, NM. Home of Aztec Ruins National Monument.   Restored ruins dating back to 1100 AD.  Large community that contains the largest great kiva in North America and possibly the world.  Good self guided tour that takes you through many of the rooms.  There are a number of spots containing original elements (roofs, basketry, and others).  Lots of engineering in the layout and construction of the community.


Inside of restored great kiva


Inside of roof of great kiva.


Room after room after room all lined up


Original roof. Over 900 years old.



Back wall of community.  Lined up perfectly East/West. Sunrise on Spring equinox shines right down length of wall.  Sunset on Fall equinox also lines with wall.


This is about 25% of community.  Great kiva at left.


Back to Durango.

Parked in the same fairgrounds lot is a rarity – a young full timing family.  Lots of older couples full time but young families not so much.  They have two kids, 4 and 1 1/2.  They appear to have all the things a young family might have: bikes for all, a stroller, a radio flyer wagon, table and chairs, surf board Smile, and even a play yard.  The back of their toy hauler 5th wheel folds down and has sides that open up to make a safe place for the kids to play.  Pretty cool.






Surf board, ladder, play yard balcony

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24, 2015

Mesa Verde Pt. 2

Had to split blog to make server happy.

Spruce Tree House – our third tour

Forgot about this one.  Also self guided with ranger supervision.  This one is near visitor center located near end of one of the mesas.  Access is much easier so this is probably the most visited sites.  It is also probably the most restored giving the most people a good idea of what an active cliff dwelling looked like.


View of dwelling from across canyon


Central plaza of Spruce Tree House. Note circular area at rear of picture.  That is a kiva.


Note hole in kiva roof.  Entrance/exit and smoke exit.



One kiva is fully restored and can be entered.







Interior of kiva.  Note ceiling construction.  Fire pit is approximately where base of ladder is.  Guess they moved ladder when they wanted a fire.  Hole in wall at rear is fresh air vent that connects to a shaft that goes to surface.  Wall in front of vent is deflector to prevent drafts and allow warm air to circulate in kiva.



Exiting kiva.


Long House  - first tour of second day


From a distance


Closer view


Step House – second tour of second day.

Self guided with ranger supervision.  Sue took several pictures.  Don’t have them yet.





Statue in front of main visitor center.  Depicts cliff dweller climbing down face of cliff.


Good Bye Mesa Verde.  We had a great time.

August 23, 2015

Mesa Verde Pt. 1

Spent the last two days touring Mesa Verde National Park.  This is not a drive up and quickly be immersed type of park.  The visitor center and park entrance is over twenty miles from any cliff dwellings.  Many are much farther.  The roads to the interior twist and turn up and down around and in one case through (tunnel) several mesas to a central point where roads go to two different mesas containing cliff dwellings.  There is one dwelling tour that is self guided with a ranger in attendance to insure safety of the ruins.  All other tours are ranger led.  Tickets for the tour must be purchased at the visitor center (remember the twenty mile plus drive – one way).  Plan ahead and allow enough time both to see everything and to get to your tour on time.  Two days was perfect for us to see everything.  A day for each mesa and careful tour scheduling each day to allow for seeing non-tour sights on each mesa.  Each tour was very good and very educational and picturesque.  The ancient peoples possessed knowledge of science, engineering, and art that many people today can not grasp.  And,  everything was done without tools.  Couple all that with where the dwelling are placed and how they lived in them day to day – pretty amazing.

We took lots of pictures.  Will only post a few.


Cliff Palace – our first tour


View from trail going down to dwelling. Largest in Mesa Verde.



Closer view of small portion.



Tourist Smile standing above a kiva.  Kivas were places for ceremonies and community gathering.  At some times of the year they also served as living spaces.  Every cliff dwelling community we saw had many kivas.  Even the communities of one or two families had a kiva.  Note: roof of kiva was supported by the stone pillars around the wall.  Roof was as thick as pillar to where Sue is standing.  More later on kivas.


Tourist again looking through a window.


Another kiva.  This one appeared to have additional entrance.  More on that later.


Balcony House – our second tour

Approach to this dwelling is different.  As with the first we walked down a series of sloping trails and stairs to get to dwelling level but on this one the trail goes below the dwelling.  So- Smile-




Climbing up to enter Balcony House.



View from Balcony House




Probable reason for name of this dwelling.  First, note vertical seam on left of picture.  Structure on left was built sometime after rest of dwelling.   Second – structure extending out of sight to left is much the same size and shape as one seen with entry doors in about the same locations.  In building to left, access to second floor was through a hole in the ceiling of first floor.  Building in picture has no hole in ceiling.  To reach second floor of this house enter first floor of house to left, go up through hole in ceiling to second floor, exit second floor through window to balcony which extends across both building walls, traverse balcony to second floor window and climb in.



Exit from Balcony House is an adventure also.  First enter a slot a bit narrower than this one for about ten yards.  Next, crawl through a hole about 2 1/2’ by 2 1/2 ‘ for about eight feet.  Then exit through slot seen above.  Thought you were done? Smile



Rest of exit is up this ladder and then stairs to top of mesa.