Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 49

Today was another short driving day from Moab, UT, to Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. For the first time we are actually camped inside of the park boundaries. I think the only difference is that we don't have to go through an entrance gate in the morning to tour the park. After the very hot temperatures for the last couple of weeks, the mid-80s here at the campground feels very refreshing. The campground is at 7800'. When I had checked online for tour reservations, the website indicated that everything was sold out. But when I stopped at the tour desk, he asked how many. He said that he can always fit in one more person.

So I went on the Cliff Palace tour. Cliff Palace is the iconic site when someone talks about the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. The tour was listed as "strenuous" which is why Bridget opted not to go. I think the only thing strenuous was the exit route where you needed to ascend about 100' via steep stone steps and wooden ladders. The first picture shows the overall cliff dwellings at this site. The second photo shows the detail of some of the rooms right next to the ceiling of the alcove.

Some of the walls near the front of the alcove were restored by the ranchers who found the dwellings. In this photo, you can see the reddish patina of the original plaster. This is not the reconstructed section. There was a large sandstone block under this section that the park service thought needed to be reinforced. They developed a plan to put in a steel beam and when they excavated under the block, they discovered three support walls built under the block. Apparently, the original builders thought that it needed to be supported as well. The support walls were estimated to be built around 1200 AD.

There are 21 of these pits structures at this site. Logs were placed on each of the block wall "posts" (I don't remember the actual term) then more logs are placed on those until you get a log dome over the pit. This was then plastered. The entrance was through the hole in the center via a ladder. A fire pit is off center in the middle of the floor. After all, you don't want to burn your ladder.

This is the only view we got on the tour of the inside of one of the structures. This is looking up through where the floor would have been to the second floor. You can see more of the red tinted plaster.
It was very hard to take a picture of the steps in and out of the site. The steps were basically carved into a vertical crack in the rock and were about two feet wide. At the top of the steps were three ladders each about fifteen feet long. The elevation of Cliff Palace is around 7000' and I was feeling the lack of oxygen after the climb.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Day 48

We got a little earlier start today since we had a 45 minute drive north to Canyonlands National Park. The first stop was the visitors center for the passport stamp and sticker and to watch the movie. I must admit that I really enjoy watching the movies. This photo was taken right across the street from the visitors center and you may notice the smoke. It's from the Brian Head fire that I had mentioned when we were in Cedar Breaks. The fire has grown quite a bit.

Our first stop was Upheaval Dome. This is an area where they say that a large salt dome was pushing up the area followed by a collapse. It was a moderate hike to the first lookout (pictured here) and there was a second lookout that required some scrambling to get there. We didn't make it to the second lookout as it was really feeling hot. By the time we got back to the truck it was already 94°F. For some parts of the trail the cairns were the only way to know where to go.

On our way to the second overlook, we stopped at a turnout as there was another great view. BTW, we spent our time at the most accessible section of the park, Island in the Sky, with paved roads on top of a Mesa. Every direction we looked there were great views.

The second long stop was Grand View Point Overlook. You can see the White Rim Road in the picture running along the rim. The park service literature states that traversing this road takes three to four days in a short wheelbase, high clearance, 4WD. They warn not to take an AWD vehicle and mention that the towing cost is over $2000. Today there was an additional warning about the Green River flooding a section of road 20" deep.

All of the trees in this area of the park look as gnarled as this. The NPS uses stacks of them to make small fences and barriers. We stumbled into a ranger talk here and she mentioned that there was a push in the early 1960s to put in a dam and flood this area. It didn't progress very far. The argument was that the only one using the area were a handful of hikers. If it was flooded, the number of users of the resulting lake would be much higher.

We thought about following Dom's suggestion of driving down Shafer Trail a bit but by the time we were heading out of the park, we were both pretty warm and tired. Next time...

The two panos were taken at the two overlooks. The first was Upheaval Dome and the second was Grand View Point.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 47

We knew that today was going to be another hot one. But we didn't get to the entrance of Arches National Park until 8:30am. There were a number of other people around but it wasn't overly crowded. Nothing like Yosemite or Zion. We went to the Double Arch/Windows parking lot and it was pretty full plus a couple of tour buses. It was a short walk to the Double Arch and it was worth seeing the size of the arch up close. Seeing pictures doesn't do it justice.

For scale, here is Bridget under the first arch. I think the last time I was here at the Double Arch it was around 1980 or so. A lifetime for some but it doesn't feel like it was that long ago. I had visited a couple of times when we were doing field work and a couple of times on my own. There were a number of cyclists on the road that had me feeling a little nostalgic.

This is Turret Arch located across the road from Double Arch and next to the North Window and the South Window. In the foreground is a couple walking with tripod, video camera and a large DSLR. They arrived riding 2-up on a KTM adventure bike. That seems like a lot of camera gear to be carrying around on a bike. Of all of the arches we saw today, this was my favorite.

Just a short distance from Turret Arch is the South Window. This one was pretty crowded with a large tour bus group all walking together. I'm not sure if keeping together is required or they just prefer traveling in a pack. And all seemed obsessed with taking selfies with their phones trying to get the Arch in the background.

One last stop before the visitors center was Park Avenue. Named, I believe, for the tall, sky scraper-ish sandstone cliffs lining the short valley. There is a primitive trail through valley ending at another turnout down the hill. "Primitive" translates to "not paved" as are most of the popular trails in the park.

The balancing rock was at the top of the western wall along Park Avenue. Oddly, the camera I was using (Bridget's Canon SX30 IS) flashed face recognized in the viewfinder with three green rectangles. I guess it thought the shapes looked like people.

The first panorama was taken from the Garden of Eden viewpoint. I was never able to figure out the origin of the name. But it was getting pretty warm by this point so I didn't wander around too much. The last panorama was done with the iPhone camera looking up at the arch.

BTW, the wifi here and at the last campground is abysmal. Essentially unusable.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day 46

The weather app says that it is 106°F today in Moab. Maybe it was the wrong direction to head at this time of year. But, that's where we're at right now. Today was a longish driving day when compared to the last couple at 280 miles. Plus, I had an audio conference this afternoon so I needed a good cell signal. There was a large gap in AT&T coverage along I-70 until Green River, UT. This is the view from our campsite a few miles south of Moab, UT.

We are planning on going into Arches National Park and possibly Canyonlands National Park but probably only during the mornings. Too hot to do much during the afternoon. I've never been to Canyonlands before so that's going to be new. I'm not even sure what there is to see.

One last iPhone picture of the hills across the highway around sunset. Nice colors. It's still 94°F at 8:54pm. Ugh...