Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pikes Peak or Bust!

Our next big adventure was to spend the day driving up to Pikes Peak, all 14,115 feet of it!  Certainly easier than the folks in the 1800's, but still plenty of switchbacks to experience!

Lucky for us it was a beautiful day.  Coloradoans have a saying that "if you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes, it will change".  It seems to be a valid one too, so we took jackets and umbrellas, and we ended up needed both on and off!  The only weather we didn't hit was snow(ing) and only saw small amounts of it at the top areas.

There were 11 different stops along the way up to the Summit where you could get out and park, take a break and snap some pictures.   As you climbed the mountain, the terrain and the views changed beautifully.  We started at the gateway at 7,8000 ft with a deep green forest.  Around 8,600 we saw our first "warning sign"...to watch out for Big Foot
At 9,160 ft we came into Ute Pass and the view of the Crystal Reservoir below.  It was so clear that day you could even see the town of Cascade in the distance.  This is where we saw the first glimpse of the top of Pikes Peek too.


















From there we started the up hill climb and quickly left the trees behind!  I caught a very quick glance at a herd of rams on the hillside while Rich was driving around one of the curves.  I snapped as fast as I could, got a picture...you can (almost) see them if you look real hard (lower left of the picture...they are those white spots!).  


A couple more stops for pictures before we reached the Summit...


Then...we made it!  All 14,115 feet!  Beautiful!  (and a wee bit cold!)  ;-)  


With stunning views below...


Then we started back down the mountain...


 That's a lone climber on top of that rock hill!  Then back into the trees we went...

Last stop, at Crowe Gulch at 8,540 ft, for a quick bit to eat (not great, but something anyway), then back to camp for a rest before dinner.  What a lovely day!  


...kicking back in Colorado,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fun with Friends in Colorado Springs!

We are spending the week with some wonderful friends of ours who live in Colorado and have the same RV that we do!  Every once in awhile our schedules work out that we get to spend some time together and meet up and camp.  This week we were able to spend a week in Colorado Springs at Garden of the Gods RV Resort.  Since this is their "back yard" they were kind enough to play tour guides and show off their state!  We spent every day seeing the sights and having a grand ole time...it's going to take a couple of blogs to share it all!

We started our week off with a tour of the gold mine operation of the Newmont Mining Corporation in Victor.  We even had to don hard hats and vests, as this was a serious tour!  What an operation they have, we really learned a lot here.  This is an above ground rock pit, where trucks make about 30 trips a day hauling rocks that do, or don't have gold in them.  The sections have been pre-drilled and sampled to determine if they do or not, so if the trucks are being filled with rocks that do have gold, they go to the rock crushing area, if they don't, they then go to the "Overburdon Stockpile" that will later be used to fill the pit back in when they are done with it.

The "rock crusher" does just what it sounds like, making big rocks into to tiny ones that then goes onto a conveyor belt that drops them into a series of screens to further sift them down.  Ultimately they wind up going through a leech line with chemicals that slowly works out the "gold", finely sending it to the processing room where it's readied and formed and then sent out.  This is commercial gold used mostly for things like inside I Phones, etc.  However, several years ago a large shipment was turned into gold leaf and the Colorado Capitol Dome in Denver was covered with it, so that was pretty cool!


This is one of several gold mining operations this company has, and feel that they will be mining here for at least another 10 years.  They have 600 employees, with half being female (with equal pay) with an average annual pay of about $72,000, working 12 hour shifts.

Victor was a cute little town, not very big, and I would bet most of the inhabitants work at the mine!  You can see it's gold history everywhere, from old mining shafts still up, to old ads painted on the buildings and the 1900's buildings now being used as stores and restaurants. 
From there we took a drive to Cripple Creek, and what a difference!  Gambling and taken over!  Oh my!  They saved the old building tops, but redid all the bottoms of the buildings and it's just solid casinos.  I've never seen anything like it before.  We dashed into one when it started to rain, so that we could walk back to our car (you can walk from one to another all along the same block) and of course the guys just had to try their luck at the slots...well, good thing they did, as they both won!  What a hoot!  Not a lot, but both walked out with enough money to buy us gals dinner with money left over, and them saying "now aren't you glad we came in from the rain?"  ;-)


The following day we checked out the small Garden of the God Park just outside of our campground.  It's a pretty setting in a car.  We had accidentally headed into it with the RV on our way to the campground a barely made it through the entrance!  I had to get out and guide us through with absolutely no room to spare on either side of the RV, but...we made it through without a scratch!  Sure would not want to ever do THAT again though!  Phew!
After our little jaunt in the Park, took in the historic Old Colorado City.  Another cute little town.  Had a wonderful lunch at a quaint restaurant and then just headed back to camp. 

The small entrance we came through!
...kicking back in Colorado,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Monday, August 21, 2017

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park CO

Having seen both rims of the Grand Canyon in Arizona  and then experienced the beauty of the slot canyon in Utah, it was time to see the massive gorge waiting in south-central Colorado that I had heard so much about…the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a crack in the Colorado Plateau half a mile deep yet astonishingly narrow…just 40 feet across at one point called the “Narrows”, with the raging Gunnison River at its 2000' below floor.  It takes it’s name from the limited sunlight that penetrates its depths, its eternal shadows evoking a somber, almost religious mood.  The day we were there, however, was a very sun-filled day, so we were lucky and caught it in all it’s glory.


The entire canyon stretches for 48 miles, but it’s the 14 mile section from Gunnison to Montrose that was elevated to national park status in 1999. The 7 mile South Rim Drive runs from High Point to Tomichi Point, passing overlooks with signs explaining the canyon’s unique geology.  Then, there is an East Portal that takes you on down to the river’s edge and the Gunnison Diversion Dam.  All this sounds short, but it took us almost a full day.  We saved the North Rim for the second day, which was much shorter.





Our first stop, after our long drive out there, was at the Ranger Station where we watched a wonderful film about the history about the park.  It’s really gone through quiet a bit!  The Ute Indians described it as “much rocks, big water” and pretty much walked around it.  At that time, the river was deep and flowing hard and loud.  By the time the US declared independence in 1776, two Spanish expeditions had passed by the canyons.  In the 1800s, the numerous fur trappers search for beaver pelts would have known of the canyons’s existence but they left no written record, so probably walked away as well.  The first official account of the Black Canyon was provided by Captain John Williams Gunnison in 1853, who was leading an expedition to survey a route from Saint Louis and San Francisco.  He described the country to be “the roughest, most hilly and most cut up,” he had ever seen, and skirted the canyon south towards present day Montrose.  Following his death at the hands of Ute Indians later that year, the river that Captain Gunnison had called the Grand was renamed in his honor. 


In 1881 a narrow gauge railroad was built, that lasted until 1955.  In 1901 the US
Geological Survey sent two men into the canyon to look for a site to build a diversion tunnel bringing water to the Uncompahgre Valley, which was suffering from water shortages due to an influx of settlers into the area.  They finally were successful, and after a 4 year undertaking the tunnel was finally completed in 1909, stretching a distance of 5.8 miles and costing nearly 3 million dollars and loosing 26 lives.  During 1933-35 the Civilian Conservation Corps built the North Rim Road to design by the National Park Service, with includes fives miles of roadway and fives overlooks. 

In 1933 It became a US National Monument, but in the 1990’s a local minister began a letter writing campaign to make it a national park.  He loved the canyon and visited it daily.  He felt that it was a special place that everyone should see and enjoy.  He even gave sermons out there.  His campaign worked, and President Hoover came out to the canyon, and agreed with him, and in October, 1999 it became a National Park.  Each of the overlooks were named by him.  That just shows you what one person can do!

It was a wonderful stop along our journey in Colorado and I'm so glad that they did preserve it as a National Park for all of us to enjoy!


...on the road in Colorado,  Marie


If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Photographer's Dream Come True!

Every photographer has that one type of picture in mind that they want to capture...that one location they want to go to.  For years I've seen dozens of beautiful pictures taken in the slot canyons in Utah.  The swirling cliffs, the magnificent colors, the sunbeams shining through...all so magical.  I wanted to experience it for myself.  Someday.

Each time we visited Utah I told myself "this time"...but it never happened.  One thing about slot canyons is you have to be careful of the weather.  If there is the slightest chance of rain...you want to stay far away from them!  Because, let's face it, it's flooding that makes them what they are!  Just a few weeks ago, 9 people thought they were "safe" in going, it was only a few drizzles after all, and whoosh, a flash flood, and they were drowned.  Not the way I want to go, thank you.

This year, however, was the year!  The weather was beautiful, we had the time, all was good!  So, I started checking it all out.  The most "famous" is through the Indian Reservation.  There are two tours that I read about, one that seems dozens at a time go on, herding you through rather quickly (ugh), the second, a "photographers tour" which is much smaller (6) and is 2 hours, but costs between $225-$300 pp.  A bit out of my budget.

I was talking with our camp host about it, and she told me about the Peek-A-Boo slot canyon and said it was amazing, that I should look into it.  So, I began researching it.  After a few phone calls, I was able to get a guide for the following Thursday morning!  An angel must have been watching over me, because we got Mike, the owner of Kanab Western Adventures and we ended up being the only two on the tour!  Mike was wonderful!  He asked us if we had any time constraints, and when we told him "no", he gave us his all!  I told him I was a photographer and this was my dream to photograph a slot canyon, so "have at it"...and he did!

He loaded us up in his spiffy 6 passenger ATV, another first for us, as we'd never been on one before!  What a great ride!  The trip to the canyon is a 3+ mile drive on very soft sand, so a 4 wheel drive is a must!  ...and that's what two crazy folks found out when they tried to drive their cars in it!  We came across them not a half mile into the sand, with both their cars (why did they take two cars?) stuck half way into the deep, soft sand!  Oh my!  We offered to call them a tow truck and give them water.  (They later walked in, crazy!)  


...And then my dream came true!  What an experience!  Wow!  The three of us spent four and a half hours together that day, walking through this area and then driving over to see some neat Indian ruins with a couple of petroglyphs and an old artisan well.  All in all, an experience I will never forget. 

Here's a small sample of the more than 200 photos a I took!  I just couldn't stop shooting!


This was such a wonderful way to end our stay!  We are now off to experience Colorado!

...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The OTHER Side of the Grand Canyon!

For as far back as I can remember, I've wanted to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Like most people who have traveled much, Jack and I have been to the South Rim (for me, more than once), but at our ripe ages...never have gotten to the North Rim!  Due to it's limited "open time" because of the weather, it's always been a challenge.  Because "we don't do snow" we tend to use a lot of our summer time visiting areas that we can't get to in the winter, thus, it limits us.

This year, because we came back west for a wedding, we were in this area that we usually are not at this time of the year, soooo, yea, we finally had the opportunity to check a couple of places off our bucket list...this one being "the big one"!  ;-)

So, luckily we were able to find a campsite not to very far, in Kanab UT as our home base and booked it for 5 days.  Weather is clear and in the high 80's, low 90's, not bad!  Yea!

Well, off we went to spend the whole day at the North Rim!  Wow, it was wonderful!  I really didn't know what to expect, I knew it would be different, but hadn't really spent any time researching it, and I was glad, as I like to just take it all in.  It was an hour and half drive to get to, but the drive itself was beautiful as well.  I took a dozen pictures before we even got to the gate!  Changing scenery every few miles.


Not even feet from the gate, we were greeted with one of the largest herds of bison we've seen thus far in our travels.  At least one that was all together in one spot!  Hundreds all grazing, enjoying the fresh green grass with their young calves.  Sweet.  Of course there is always the crazy tourist that ignores the ranger's statement not to stop in the road and not to get out of your car and walk towards the bison...jeez...


By the time we made it into the park itself, it was lunch time, so what better place to take a break, than at the Grand Canyon Lodge?  We lucked out and got a beautiful table right at the window with a wonderful view of the canyon, our first real view of it!  What a great way to really start our adventure!


After lunch we walked the short trail to Bright Angel Point and got a really beautiful view.  A nice couple took our picture and we headed on our journey.


Each stop was more beautiful than the next.  As the ad's say, it's not crowed like the South Rim, every stop had plenty of parking spots, the people there were friendly and never got in the way to take pictures.  There never was any "traffic" to speak of, it always seemed like a leisurely drive with plenty of time to get from one place to the other.  The only gift shops, food, etc is at the beginning where the Lodge and Visitor's Center is.  All much smaller than at the South Rim.  There is a shuttle service from rim-to-rim as well.  But that's it.  As you can imagine, I took many, many pictures...I'll spare you here and just give you a small sample...the rest, if you want are in my flickr account!  ;-)

I'm so glad we finally made it, if you haven't been...do put it on your list, you won't regret it!  As you will see in the pictures, it's very different from the South Rim, and so lovely in it's own right.  I'm just so sorry it took us so long to get here...but sometimes good things just take a while to happen...


We have one more adventure to check off our bucket list, and that's happening tomorrow!  Look for more beautiful pictures from this fabulous place!

...kicking back in Kanab,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

A Few Days in Flagstaff...

Flagstaff Arizona is one of those picturesque mountain towns that I've always wanted to visit, but never got the chance to because of the timing.  It's just high enough at over 7,000 feet that the weather has kept us out of there whenever we've been near it...tempting us, but to cold and the possibility of snow to high for us to linger.  Not this time!

So, we grabbed the opportunity to stay a few days to enjoy it's fresh mountain air, especially after many, many days of 90++ degrees of heat "down below"!  It didn't disappoint.

We camped in among pine cones and fresh breezes.  It was quiet and lovely.  We soon found out that Flagstaff has 100 trains each day that run through it, and we were so lucky that the campground we chose was well off the beaten path that we didn't hear one of them!  Not true with many of the others!  Phew, that could have been many a sleepless night!

We really didn't have an agenda, so just used our time strolling through the town, taking in the scenery and relaxing.  The weather was on-again-off-again rain and thunder showers, but if you timed it right, you could have hours of sun!

Our first stop was at the old train depot built in 1926 that half still operates as the Santa Fe Depot and the other half is now the Visitor's Center.  They have a model train running along the top of the wall that's pretty cute.  A big train came in while we were there that was pretty cool also.


The old historic part of town was delightful.  Lots and lots of murals everywhere, down alleyways, along side streets, adjacent to route 66 which runs through the town, etc.  Unlike most places, they didn't seem to have any postings as to "why, by whom" or the history on them, just painted here and there, and really quite beautiful!  I tried googling them and found some information and even some script that people noted that said even they didn't know when and by whom many were painted!  They even showed more that I hadn't uncovered.  Must be quite a few "hidden artists" in Flagstaff!


They have a lot of wonderful old buildings there as well, and even give walking tours of them.  Most of course have been converted into shops and businesses now, but it's nice to see that they have been saved.  It was also fun to see some old motels and neon signs from the 1950's & 60's - the hay days of route 66, I'm sure.


We were there over the weekend, and they had a small craft fair going on as well.  Not very big, but very nice things.  I even bought a couple of things for Christmas gifts.  It's always fun to see people's talent in various states along our travels.  I'm always tucking some of their ideas in the back of my mind in hopes that someday when we settle down I might do some of them myself!  Who knows??  ;-)

It was a wonderful little stop, but we are off to our next adventure!  One to "check off our bucket list" that I've waited many years to do!

...on the road in Arizona,  Marie


If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Resting...

Sometimes "full-timing" can be exhausting.  Let me explain...

Most of the time, being retired, we drive when and where we want.  We get a map out, take a look at where we've been, where we haven't been, pull out some travel books, check the weather and discuss what we would like to see, then mark a route and go from there.  That's our general life.  Then, occasionally, plans change.  Grandchildren get born, sisters move into a new home, friends get married, etc. and we have to zig and zag in order to get to these various locations at the times that these occasions are happening.  Routes change in order to fit family visits in as well.

None of this is unusual for the full-timer, except when you find yourself in upper state New York 15 days before you need to be in southern California for a wedding!  Driving through 11 states in a 36' motorhome with a toad during the height of summer is not fun!

We gave ourselves a couple of days "leeway", and it was a good thing we did, because "if something could go wrong....it would"....and it did.  We decided to spend a couple of days visiting our friends in Surprise AZ resting, and while there we had two surprises.  The first was a spider bite that got infected on my knee that I ended up having to go to the Urgent Care.  Luckily we were somewhere where we knew and felt comfortable with.  They identified the problem and prescribed antibiotics that took care of it in time.

The second problem happened the following day when our friend knocked on our door and showed Jack that we had "orange liquid flowing out of the underside of our rig".  Not good.  Luckily, we were able to get into the shop right away and find out what it was and have it fixed in a couple of days.  Again, right place, right time.  Just a couple days delay.

Driving day after day, doing "one night stands" is not fun and is exhausting.  We made it to California with a day to spare.  A shower and dinner with friends, then the wedding!

The wedding was beautiful, and I'm glad we made it, but I was glad when it was over and really needed the rest.  All I wanted to do was....nothing.  Go nowhere, see nothing, talk to no one...just not move.  Rest.  After 2 days, we moved from Temecula to Ramona and parked ourselves for 4 more days and didn't do anything.  Slept and read.  That's about it.
On the last day, we finally drove into the town of Ramona for lunch and to see some of their beautiful murals.  Having lived in San Diego for many years, of course we had been to Ramona before, but it had been many years.  It's really grown!  It's quite a lovely town, and had I been more in the mood to be a "tourist" it would have been fun to spend some time going through some of their cute shops.  But not this day.  This day was about getting my fix for a Rubio's fish taco and taking a few pictures, and that was it.


Well, I'm feeling much better, and we've dug out the maps & the books and we are "back at it", so we are off again on another adventure!  This time, though, we are going to take it a whole lot  s l o w e r !   We're headed to Colorado, via the north rim of the Grand Canyon first (never been!).

Aw, the life of a full-timer...


...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/