Road Trip to SD – Day 1 – Driving

I frantically got ready for this trip that I had been thinking about for six months.IMG_1354

This is why we were able to take a road trip in mid-August. It is finally sinking in for Dan that he isn’t going back after a summer break.

We still weren’t ready on Wednesday, the day of departure. I had told Dan that we WERE LEAVING IN THE MORNING. We did, but it was almost noon before we drove out of the driveway. The plan was to drive as far as we could, not stopping at all of the California and Oregon trail markers like we usually do because we wanted more time at the other end of the trip. For that reason and because I was not the driver-in-charge I have a lot of  “drive-by” photos. Many were deleted but some are OK and those are what I’ll share.

Fernly Sink & Hot Springs Mtns, NV

We were driving I-80. I love the scenery of the west, even in the Nevada desert. This is the Hot Springs Mountains that rise above the Fernley Sink.

Fernly Sink & Hot Springs Mtns, NV

According to Wikipedia, an irrigation system was constructed in the early to mid-1900s and “a drainage system was also constructed to carry away excess water and mineral salts from the farmlands. This system consists of channels (5 to 15 feet deep) dug adjacent to fields; it eventually terminates in the sink northeast of Fernley.

40-mile desert-NV

We didn’t stop at all the roadside points of interest but this was at a rest stop. Throughout this trip we thought about the pioneer trails. They are well marked in the road atlases that we have for each state and along the highways. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to pack up the family and head west in the way that the pioneers did. We drove through the 40-mile desert in a little over 1/2 hour.

East of Valmy, NV

The mountains east of Valmy, Nevada.

East of Valmy, NV

We remember Valmy for it’s rest stop where we slept on one of our road trips a couple of years ago when there was a tremendous moth invasion. We didn’t need to stop to sleep here this time. Still daylight.

Humboldt Range, NV

Humboldt Range, southeast of Wells, Nevada.

West of Wells, NV

These photos were looking back west as the sunset.

West of Wells, NV

I had to lean over the seat and reach behind Dan while holding and pointing the phone and the camera in the general direction.

Even though it was getting dark we weren’t ready to stop. If we had left earlier in the day we would made it to Salt Lake City. So Dan kept driving. There is a distinct difference in the town of West Wendover (NV) and Wendover (UT). Bright flashing (gaudy) lights and Last Chance To Gamble on one side of the border and dark and “normal” on the other side. Dan kept driving. We passed through the Great Salt Lake Desert in the dark and finally stopped at a rest stop at the east side of the salt flats.

Those of you who read my blog know that I have written a sort of travel journal with photos each year for the past several years when we have made our annual road trips. I have no idea how many people actually read these, but I write these blog posts because they substitute for the old scrapbooks and photo albums that I was never able to keep up with. I also like reviewing the photos and looking up some of the information that I may have forgotten. It helps me keep it all organized in my brain. If you are one of the regular readers, I’d love to know about it. Stay tuned for Day 2.


Getting Ready

It is always work to get ready to go somewhere. In my case I cram in all the things that I would probably put off if I were here, but now feel like they have to be done before I go. Part of it is to try and make things as foolproof as possible so that the people taking care of things don’t face issues.


Now that the tractor finally works (sort of) I spent some time mowing. Then I wanted to try “spreading” manure. Spreading is in quotes because we don’t have a manure spreader. I have a tractor with a bucket and me with a shovel. Not practical…


…even though I have made some darn fine compost.


To make good compost the manure pile needs turning now and then, but the dryness on the top is deceptive. It’s wet underneath and it’s easy to get the tractor stuck–which requires me with the shovel again. Move onto other things that need doing.


The ewes are on pasture and the white net fences are moved around to change the paddock to be grazed. I moved the ewes to the side of the pasture where there is less risk of them rubbing on a gate and inadvertently (or on purpose) pushing things out of wack while I’m gone.


It’s hard to see in this photo but I set up the next three fences so that my kids don’t have to do it. They will have to close one but then the sheep just go to the next. There are always tricky things (like where there is concrete so the stakes for the fence don’t go in all the way and where you have to block off the irrigation ditch so they sheep can’t go under the fence, etc)


I had the ram lambs grazing in the back but don’t want fence-to-fence contact with them and the ewes so they had to be moved. These are the panels that were keeping them away from the ewes while grazing the back. There is no water in that back field so they needed access to the corral for water. I’m going to leave this in place so that the ewes won’t be near the big ram fence (not a big fence, although it is double, but the big rams). I don’t need any more reason for the rams to try and mangle their fence while we’re gone.


They did this just yesterday.


Here is a temporary fix. They also beat up the other wall and pushed it away from the corner post. That green panel in the upper photo is keeping them away from that part of their shed. Not fixes, but hopefully stopping further destruction for now. I expect when I get back that wire panel over the hole will be mangled as well.


Rusty doing his job of keeping the rams away while we put up the wire panel.


I said that I need to move the ram lambs out of the pasture. Ginny helps with that.


You can see Ginny behind here. She doesn’t work with finesse, but she can do the job.


Back up at the house, the birds are starting to get to my black sunflower seeds. These are for future dyeing projects.


I put net bags and bird netting over the flowers.


I water the garden and picked coreopsis. A friend will come and pick during the week to keep the flowers blooming and take squash from the plant that is taking over. The beans in the foreground look great but haven’t produced anything yet.


This is the wether in with Peyton. He had his leg through the front of the coat the other day so I caught him to take it off. Don’t want that happening while I’m gone and I didn’t have a needle and thread handy to make it smaller.


I was watering my barrels that have been neglected. Ginny knew where my attention was and placed her ball appropriately.

When condense into a few photos this doesn’t seem like much but I was going non-stop yesterday. I realized at about 9 p.m. that all I’d eaten was granola in the morning and watermelon through the day–it was too hot to want anything else. I am now  gathering up the last of the stuff to take. Where is that book about my camera?


Here is a hint about the road trip. Do you think I have enough reading material with me?

Road Trip to CO – Nevada to Home

In the last post I wrote that we drove until dark and then kept going. We didn’t have a plan about where we’d stop and Dan just kept driving. (By the way, when I say that “we” drove I mean that Dan drove and I rode. I used to offer to drive but I don’t bother anymore on our trips. Dan likes to do the driving and that’s fine with me, since I’d rather be watching the scenery and napping when I get tired.)

Eventually, somewhere in eastern Nevada, Dan got too sleepy and pulled over. We didn’t try to stretch out in the back of the truck but slept in the front. After an hour or two I got too cold and uncomfortable (and bothered by someone snoring) and switched places with Dan so I could drive. When I got too tired and pulled over we both slept awhile until he recovered enough to go on.


The view when I woke up next.


Have you noticed that the Open Range signs in many places have cattle that look like dairy cows? The Open Range signs in Nevada show what looks like bulls.


Even along Highway 50 in Nevada there are Points of Interest.


It’s hard to see in this photo but there are remnants of a stone building surrounded by cyclone fence. One of the signs at Cold Springs (between Austin and Fallon) described The Overland Stage Station: “Constructed using the volcanic lava rock found throughout the area, the Cold Springs Stage Station was built in 1861. The original Pony Express Station was built 1-1/2 miles to the east of here in 1860. When the stage station was erected the Pony Express moved its operation to this building…Life at Cold Springs was not for the timid. The 2 to 3 man station crew endured the barest, leanest forms of living. They ate, lived, and slept in this crude structure for months at a time. Floors, when dry, were dirt and when wet, they were mud. Sanitary facilities were primitive. The handmade furniture was crude and utilitarian at best. There were no luxuries, only the necessities of life: food, water, and a firearm for protection.”




Additional signs explained the quick progression of communication and transportation milestones that occurred here between 1860 and 1927–the Pony Express in 1860, then the Overland Stage in 1861, telegraph in 1861, (dooming the Pony Express), and eventually the creation of Highway 50.


Here is one more sign. This one is provided by Trails West whose “primary activity is installing, and maintaining, distinctive steel-rail “T” markers along the many emigrant trails leading to California and publishing guide books to enable anyone to follow these trails from beginning to end.” They have placed over 600 markers along 2000 miles of trails.


Putting my iPhone in my pocket it took this photo.



Way back in this post I mentioned a Shoe Tree. Here is another west of Cold Springs. This one is even marked in our map book and described in this internet article.


Not to be a spoil-sport, but I’m not a big fan.  Sure, it is a curiosity and, in this case, a landmark, but I think I’d rather just admire a nice tree growing in the desert. To me it brings to mind the question is graffiti artwork or vandalism?


Sand Mountain is a 2-mile long, 6oo’ high sand dune that is 20 miles east of Fallon and is the site of another Pony Express Station.




Impressive house in Fallon…


..and an auto repair shop featuring a NAVY jet out front (representing Fallon Naval Air Station).


Seen on the highway and reminiscent of a twill pattern in weaving.


Just past Fallon, we left Highway 50, as it headed southwest, to get on I-80 toward Reno…


…and, eventually, home.


California! Only about 2-1/2 hours to home.


We drove about 2800 miles on this trip. It’s marked in pink. Our 2015 trip to Texas is in blue. Orange is to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in 2014 and Green was to Grand Canyon and beyond in 2013. Where to next year?

Road Trip to CO – Four Corners to Dark

Our 8 day road trip was almost over. We spent Monday night and Tuesday morning in Mesa Verde National Park but needed to be home on Wednesday. We decided to drive through Four Corners and Monument Valley–it wasn’t much out of the way and Dan had never seen the area (and I had been there just once).


Most of the photos in this post were taken from the truck window at 70 mph. I found that I could sometimes roll the window down (yes, roll, there are no push buttons in this truck), sometimes remove the lens cap, and sometimes turn the camera on, but not always all three of those things.


Four Corners is notable for being the only place in the United States where four states meet. It is also marks a boundary between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. The Navajo Nation runs the Four Corners Monument as a tourist attraction.


This is not the actual monument, but part of a sign about the surveying that began in the 1860’s. Wikipedia says, “the origins of the state boundaries marked by the monument occurred just prior to, and during, the American Civil War, when the United States Congress acted to form governments in the area to combat the spread of slavery to the region.”


The marker itself is in the center of this courtyard. Notice the line of people to the right. They are all waiting to take their photos over the marker. We didn’t join them, but walked around the outside where there are stalls in which Navajo and Ute members sell souvenirs. Then we got back on the road.


We took Highway 160 southwest to Kayenta where we turned north on Highway 163 to head back to Moab, but drive through part of Monument Valley. Wikipedia: “Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor…Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, ‘its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.’ “DSC_1416






Spectacular country for it’s rock formations. A tough place to live on the land.


This rock formation kept us entertained for many miles as we drove closer and closer to it. I think it is just north of Bluff, Utah. I have googled a variety of words to describe this near both Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah, but I don’t see any photos like this.


I do know the highway roughly followed the course of the San Juan River between those two towns. The rock formations that show up on-line are the Mexican Hat for which the small town is named and…


…Navajo Twin Rocks near the town of Bluff.


We continued to see red rock formations as we drove north toward Moab.DSC_1477




We hadn’t started the trip in Moab, but we’d been there just four or five days ago. I checked to see how long it would take to get home. I couldn’t get the phone to show me the route that we planned to take. We were headed to Highway 50 to cut straight across Nevada.


We passed Arches National Monument where we’d spent a day hiking


…and picked up Highway 50 at Crescent Junction.


The plan was to drive west until we needed to stop.


We’d seen some of this spectacular country but it looks different going the other direction.



We drove until it was took dark to take photos and then we kept driving.

To be continued…


Road Trip to CO – Mesa Verde

It has been a few weeks since we finished our road trip and there have been plenty of distractions since I’ve been back that have kept me from sharing the story. Now that the Olympics are on  TV I am trying to multi-task. But it’s hard to pull my eyes away from the TV at times.*  However I’m close to finishing–we are still in Colorado but once we headed for home we didn’t stop for much.

After we left Black Canyon of the Gunnison  National Park we looked at our trusty Benchmark map book for Colorado and saw that we could probably get to Mesa Verde National Park in time to spend the night there. So after driving through the marvelous San Juan Mountains it was a relatively short drive from Durango to Mesa Verde. We got there about 6 p.m. and found that there were plenty of open campsites.


We looked at the Park maps and saw a couple of 2-mile trails that we would have time for before dark. First we hiked up to Point Lookout at 8427′ elevation. This view is to the northwest with the San Juan Mountains in the background and the town of Mancos in the center.




…and Indian rice grass along the trail.




After getting hiking this trail we drove to the the Knife Edge Trail which follows a section of the precarious road built in 1914 which was part of the original main access into the park.



Dan took this photo of me with the booklet that described the plants and other features along this trail.



This is a popular place for park visitors to watch the sunset. We walked back to the car at dusk and it was dark when we found a campsite. With the dark it got cold and we didn’t have a working stove. We ate tuna sandwiches and went to bed. DSC_1358

This is what camp looked like in the morning.


There were deer around the camp in the night and at dawn when I got up.


Seen on my early morning walk.


We had learned when we paid for our campsite that the way to see the features for which the park is best known (the cliff dwellings)  is to sign up for one of the tours. We showed up the next morning for the Balcony House tour.


We were directed to follow the trail to the end where we would find a ladder and to wait there.


This tour is listed as the “most adventurous cliff dwelling tour” and we were warned that we would “climb a 32′ ladder, crawl through an 18″ wide by 12′ long tunnel, and climb up a 60′ open cliff face with stone steps and two 10′ ladders”. Not quite an Indiana Jones adventure but it did seem challenging for some of the tour participants.


Can you imagine what this was like when people really lived here?


I can see the challenge of being a mother of a toddler.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived in the Mesa Verde area for about 700 years from about AD 550 to the 1200’s, first living in pit houses, then above-ground pole and adobe structures. The people built the cliff dwellings from the 1190’s to 1270’s and lived there for less than 100 years. It is unknown why, in the span of a generation or two, the people left the area.


Ranger Spenser was glad to answer questions and discuss his passion for the earlier residents of these dwellings.


Each village or homesite has a kiva built below ground or in the case of the cliff dwellings, into the rock floor.


This is the view across the canyon from Balcony House.


This is the same view with a longer lens. It was remarkable that when you really started to look (or got out the binoculars) that you could see dwellings in many of the cliff walls.


Here is another that we saw later in the day…


…and here’s the close up. This is known as Square Tower House, a 4-story building.


Remember the part about the 18″ x 12′ passage. Here it is…


…followed by the ladders…


…and steps up the cliff wall.

We drove through more of Mesa Verde, looking at some of the other sites, but knew that we needed to get on the road if we were to get home some time the next day.

Next post: Four Corners and Monument Valley.

*I still didn’t get this finished and now its the next day.

Road Trip to CO – Gunnison to Durango

We left home on Wednesday and planned to get home on the following Wednesday. This was Monday. We had driven the road north of the Gunnison River the day before and camped near the Blue Mesa Dam.


This campsite was essentially a parking lot for RV’s, but we just needed a place to eat and sleep so it worked.


The Black Canyon of the Gunnison became a National Monument in 1933 and was made a National Park in 1999, over twenty three years after I spent a summer in the area. It contains 14 miles of the canyon’s total 48 mile length.


I guess they’ll take anyone as a Park Ranger.


The canyon is so deep and narrow due to the power of the Gunnison River as it drops an average of 96 feet per mile.  The Gunnison loses more elevation in the 48 miles of the canyon than he Mississippi River loses in 1500 miles.


It is a sobering thought that the power of this river is forever harnessed due to up-river dams that lessen seasonal flooding. Therefore, build up of sandbars and more vegetation has changed the ecology of the canyon.


The Painted Wall was created over a billion years ago when molten rock flowed into fissures in the dark wall.


That molten rock cooled into crystals of mica, quartz, and feldspar. Amazing patterns were revealed as the river cut through the rock, forming the canyon.


Breakfast with a view.


I enjoyed the signs along some of the trails to help with plant ID.DSC_1151

I recognized this bush with it’s remarkable fuzzy seed dispersal method, but couldn’t quite find the name in the recesses of my brain. Mountain Mahogany.


I also recognized this as in the Mariposa Lily family. It’s called Gunnison Sego Lily.

We spent half the day exploring the canyon from the rim. There are no trails to the river in the Park. We saw a couple of trails when we drove along the north rim east of the Park, but they are not for the feint of heart or casual hiker. The rim views are spectacular enough. But we had limited time and needed to get on the road.

In the summer and fall of 1976 I worked  for the BLM in Montrose, Colorado. I had fond memories of renting a bunk house on property between Montrose and Ridgeway and spending weekends exploring the old mines and alpine meadows in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. I had never been back, but wanted to use this opportunity to drive through that country.


As we were driving down Hwy. 550 I wondered if I would recognize the place. The highway followed the Uncompahgre River but was on the wrong side of the river. Surely I would have remembered living right next to a major river like that. My memory was that the bunkhouse was up against a bluff and just south of the big house. We got to a point where the river shifted course for a brief period to the west side of the highway and there it was. I’m glad to see that they place hasn’t been torn down and, in fact, looks as though it has been fixed up. The bunkhouse is just behind the red truck and, yep, there is a bluff behind it.


The view heading south from the house. Not a bad place to spend a summer…or a life (if you can deal with snow).


We drove south into the San Juan Mountains.


I have memories of driving to Ouray and heading out from there towards Telluride to explore the mountains. I don’t think that these towns had the tourist appeal then that they do now.


This is one of the most gorgeous places I can imagine. It’s hard to get photos that do it justice.

From “In the state of Colorado…there’s a special highway built in the late 1880’s: the Million Dollar Highway, part of the San Juan Skyway. It’s one of the nation’s most spectacular drives…The road’s winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Offering breathtaking mountain, valley and gorge views, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most beloved roads in the country. This classic stretch of two-lane blacktop snakes its way through the San Juan Mountains, the wildest and most rugged peaks in the Rockies.”

From another website: “Originally built in 1883 by Otto Mears as a toll way from Ouray to the now abandoned town of Ironton, this two lane highway offers spectacular views of the San Juan Mountain Range, and Uncompaghre Gorge. The road was extended to connect Silverton and Ironton over Red Mountain pass, and operated as a toll road until the early 1920’s when it was rebuilt and became part of the present day US Highway 550.”


Can you imagine the road when it was first built?


Here a a panoramic view of the modern day bridge over Bear Creek Falls.


Originally the road connected Ouray with the Red Mountain Mining District to the south.DSC_0239

There are signs overlooking the site of the Yankee Girl Mine, one of the richest concentrations of silver ore found in the U.S. It started in 1882 and produced ore valued in today’s market at over one hundred million dollars, but lasted only about 16 years.


Just more pretty scenery.


This is taken from Molas Pass (10, 910′), the second of three passes on this highway going towards to Durango.


Loving the mountains.


Fortunately I don’t have to carry my camera gear the way William Henry Jackson did when he documented the West.

Onward to Mesa Verde where we would spend the night.

Road Trip to CO – Leadville to Gunnison

The main reason that we headed to Colorado on this trip was so that we could be in Leadville when Dan’s brother competed in the Silver Rush 50, a 50-mile endurance run. We spent the previous afternoon walking around town and going on a self-guided mine tour. We had a pre-race meal of pizza and salad and went to bed.

In the morning we split up. Dan got up early to be at the race start with Rob and Renee and I slept in and met up with Sally and John to explore Turquoise Lake.


Dan took these photos of the first part of the run. Rob is ready to go.


This run begins at an elevation 10,200′ and goes to over 12,000′. The runners have no difficulty getting their heart rates up right away even if they just walk up the first hill.


Rob wore neon green (although we discussed repeatedly whether he was wearing green or yellow–it’s sure green in the photos) which was helpful when trying to pick him out on a mountain road.


Personal support is allowed here, unlike in the Ironman last weekend.


While Rob was running, my sister-in-law, Sally, and I went for a walk at Turquoise Lake, just a few miles from Leadville.



Rob was still on the trail…DSC_0213

…and made a shoe change…


…while the spectators’ attention was diverted from the runners by a moose who wanted to cross the road.


Sally and I finished our walk and headed back to town.


We walked through a few shops to find some t-shirts and postcards. There was a price tag on this sheep, but even marked down to $2700 it was out of my price range.


We met up with Rob’s support crew at the 25-mile turn around.


As usual, I entertained myself with my camera while waiting for Rob to run through.


I don’t know what this plant or the bug is.


You don’t see a runner in a kilt everyday.


We finally saw Rob coming in. Although he has run this event before, this wasn’t his day for it. He wasn’t feeling well and had been battling injuries. He had events coming up (including last weekend’s Ironman) and thought it was prudent to stop at the 25 miles mark (as if running almost a marathon isn’t enough for one day). So we ended the day in Leadville early and left town by mid-afternoon, following Rob and Renee to Buena Vista where we would meet for lunch.


This is Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado. How do I know that?


This is why we like these map books. We can follow along and identify points of interest. If we have cell service then I can look up more info, but on this trip cell service definitely wasn’t reliable. We enjoyed a meal with Rob and Renee before they had to head home, we stocked up on groceries, and we continued on our trip.


Smoke from one of the fires burning in Colorado.



We had decided to find a place to camp somewhere near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The park encompasses the narrow band of land (and cliffs) along the river below where it has been dammed (from center to upper left in this photo). It was late in the day when we got to the dam that creates Blue Mesa Reservoir (right in photo) and we had to decide what we had time to do. We decided that we would drive the road on the north side of the canyon along the narrow Morrow Point Reservoir (which is not in the park) and enter the park the next day by driving in at the southwest entrance.


The Pinnacles on Blue Mesa Reservoir.


It was a spectacular drive on the road that follows the canyon. There are plenty of places to get out and take a look into the canyon.


We stood high above buzzards circling on the wind currents. That is three buzzards roosting in the center of the photo. I took lots of photos of the spectacular scenery as the sun was getting lower but this post is already over-full of photos.


This photo was taken from the last overlook on this drive–or at least the point where we needed to turn around to go back to the campground we had seen. That is the San Juan Mountains in the distance, which we’d be driving through the next day.


After our shopping trip in Buena Vista we had a hot meal planned, but the camp-stove wouldn’t work. Tuna sandwiches for dinner again. Dessert was a deliciously gooey melted giant chocolate kiss.