Thursday, July 5, 2018

Southwest 2018 #4: Mesa Verde, Mountain Roads, and Dinosaurs

Sun Temple Dwelling

Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is one of the cliff dwellings you can tour with a guide.
Cliff Palace

The park and now World Heritage Site was approved by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 along with the Federal Antiquities Act of 1906.  Mesa Verde, meaning “green table” in Spanish, was “discovered” by Mexican-American missionaries and explorers in the late 1700s. 
These two photos show Square Tower House.

The largest archeological preserve in the country, the park contains more than 600 cliff dwellings of Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi who occupied the area about 750 CE). The area was first settled by ancient natives in c. 7500 BCE and was abandoned by 1285 CE. Today, visitors can visually explore the remains of dwellings from the canyon rims and in some locations tour the ruins with park guides. 
Spruce Tree House is accessible from the main visitor area at the top of the mesa--there is a large Visitor Center at the bottom of the mesa.

We’ve visited several times and always find the views of the ancient cliff dwellings inspiring.

Durango to Silverton to Ouray to Grand Junction.

After four days in Durango our next destination was Grand Junction several hours north. The only practical route was over the mountains—around the mountains would have taken twice as long. The route gave us a full day of adventures.

     On the way out of Durango we caught up with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The tourist train makes daily runs on the 45 mile track to Silverton. Originally opened in 1882 to transport material and silver ore between the two towns, it has run continuously since opening. The line uses only steam engines and was given over to tourist runs in 1947.

The photos above show the scenery between Durango and Silverton.
The view of Silverton coming into town.

Silverton (silver-by-the-ton) is a former silver mining camp. It’s now a National Historic Landmark District and the county seat of San Juan County. 

Waving train passengers over to eat in his restaurant.

It’s one of the highest towns in the US at 9,318’ above sea level, and its population of 531 consists mostly of people in the tourist trade, mine clean-up staff, and a few retirees.
Next on the route comes Ouray, CO, with a population of 1000. It is the county seat of Ouray County and sits at an elevation of 7,792 feet.

Miners (gold and silver) formed the town in 1872 and named it after Chief Ouray of the local Ute tribe. 
The biggest adventure of our day came from driving the Red Mountain Pass road, called the Million Dollar Highway, from Silverton to Ouray. 
Red Mountain

The highway is characterized by steep cliffs on both sides, numerous switchbacks and hairpin corners, narrow lanes, and most frightening a noticeable lack of guardrails. 

Look...No guardrails!!!

Oh, and the day’s journey went over three passes: Coal Bank Pass (10,640’), Molas Pass (10,970’), and red Mountain Pass (11, 018’).
Another dramatic road leading out of Ouray towards Canyon Pintado.

Leaving Ouray we traveled through Canyon Pintado (meaning “painted canyon”). The canyon has several rock art sites along a 14-mile stretch—the art is mostly Fremont Culture (AD650-1150) and Ute (AD1200-1880).

The strapping is holding the Kokopelli (Anasazi hump-backed flute player) rock art in place.

Needless to say, dinner at a nice Grand Junction Italian restaurant with a good glass of wine, was a welcome end to the day.
This cactus plant was in bloom at the Kokopelli site.

Dinosaur National Monument

Our reason to stay in our next location, Vernal, UT, (after Grand Junction) was for access to Dinosaur National Monument on the east side of the Uinta Mountains between Colorado and Utah. President Wilson declared the area a national monument in 1915 after the first bones were discovered in 1909. 

The Wall of Bones

The Quarry Museum, reached by a free shuttle from the Visitor’s Center, houses some great displays of dinosaur fossils and the main attraction: a “wall of bones.” The museum has been refurbished and reopened in 2011.
Confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers near the monument Visitor Center.

Besides having over 800 paleontological sites, we were interested in some of the other historic sites in the monument—especially the native rock art. We took the Tilted Rock Auto Tour—a 15-20 mile route along the border of the monument. 

Especially interesting to us were the petroglyphs and pictographs at varying locations along the tour—Swelter Shelter was the best site with Fremont Culture art about 1000 years old. Josie Bassett’s house at Cub Creek was also fascinating. 

Behind the Bassett House is a beautiful patch of wild iris and a great view.

Built in 1914, Bassett—a rancher and friend to Butch and Sundance—lived in the house until her death in 1963. Photographically, the best site was a small box canyon across from Josie’s house.

From Price (UT) to Moab (UT) to Durango (CO) to Grand Juction (CO) to Vernal (UT) to home. What a great southwest trip.
One of the iris behind Bassett House.

NEXT: The weather has turned for the better (after a rainy start) on our trip to Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Photos and stories to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Southwest Blog, Part 3: Arches, Games, & a Scotland Story


The geology dates back to 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the area and eventually evaporated. Over the intervening millions of years, the effects of water, ice, wind, and geological displacement created what has become one of America’s most popular natural attractions, Arches National Park. Adjacent to the Colorado River, the park is four miles north of Moab, UT.  
Arches rock formation with ancient tree.

We didn't see much fauna in the park, but we did see birds and few lizards.

More than 2000 natural sandstone arches (along with countless other natural rock formations) exist within the more than 76,000 acre high desert park boundaries (between 4000’ and 5600’ in elevation). Originally a National Monument (1929), the area was designated a National Park in 1971. 
Native peoples have used this area for many thousands of years—the Archaic People, ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi), Fremont, Utes, and Paiutes.  Non-native explorers came looking for mineral wealth in the 1800s. 
Moon Flower

Ranchers settled in the region to raise cattle and sheep on the sparse grasslands. Civil War veteran John Wesley Wolfe left a weathered log cabin, root cellar, and corral (late 1800s) which can still be viewed. 
We visited the park (our fourth or fifth visit) both early in the morning of one day to get morning light and then late in the afternoon for sunset views. Whereas visitors in the mid-morning (when we left) were lined up in double lines for almost a mile waiting to be checked in, we zipped in both times with nary a wait—it pays to pick your visiting time. On our morning visit I got good lighting for photos at Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers. 
Park Avenue

The Three Gossips

Courthouse Tower

Our main morning objective was the Devil’s Garden—an area of hiking trail to some of the most iconic arches in the park. With stops at the Wolfe Ranch site to view Indian rock art (petroglyphs) 

and at Skyline Arch near the main road, we arrived at Devil’s Garden parking area before it was too crowded or too hot. Though hikers can spend all day (or several days) on hikes out to spectacular arches, it was less than two miles total for Anne and I to hike out to Pinetree Arch and Tunnel Arch—
The Hike to Pinetree Arch

Tunnel Arch

two nice sites we’d never been to.
After a forgettable dinner at the Moab Diner (ask for that story), we made our second visit of the day to the park about 6:00 PM. Before going out to our main evening destination, we stopped at Balance Rock, another of Arches’ treasures. 

From Balance Rock it is only a couple of miles to the area known for its numerous and easy to get to arches called The Windows. We took short hikes to several of the arches in the area 
North Window Arch?

South Window Arch, or is it North?

and then were treated to wonderful sunset views from the Balance Rock parking area. 

The LaSala Mountains
As many times as we’ve been to Arches, there’s still plenty more for us to see on future trips. If only Moab weren’t so damned expensive—$200+ per night in the cheapest motel accommodations.


On the weekend of June 8, 9, and 10 we participated in the McMinnville Celtic Festival held on the Linfield College campus. The Celtic Festival, America’s version of Scotland’s Highland Games, is a celebration of all things Celtic—music, dance,
Haggis Eating Contest

Apple Pie Fries--see photo below.

Lightly battered slices of apple coated in cinnamon and sugar--Delicious!
food, sports. 
This lassie is throwing a 27 pound weight over a twelve foot high bar over her head.

The festival is organized by the Celtic Heritage Alliance organized in 2011, who formerly sponsored Highland Games at Newport on the Oregon coast. 
The Honor Guard officially opens the festival.

The clans follow the Honor Guard. This is Clan McGregor (I believe).

The Alliance put on the Newport festival until 2016 when it was decided to seek another venue because the Newport venue, while great for flying kites, was often too windy for outside vendor tents or some of the traditional Highland competitions, such as the caber toss. After a one year hiatus, it was arranged to hold the 2018 event at Linfield College in McMinnville and name it the McMinnville Celtic Festival.
We had participated in two Newport events and were thrilled when a closer venue was found to continue the event. It didn’t hurt my feelings at all that it would be held at my alma mater of Linfield. 
Setting Up

We're Ready for Business

Friday afternoon we set up the skeleton of our booth and then brought in our books and photos on Saturday morning. Saturday’s weather was cloudy, breezy (we had to hold our portable gazebo from blowing away a couple of times), but dry. Sunday was on and off rain—thankfully without much wind—all day. 
The coat is made from the hide of a Hielan' Coo (Highland Cow or Hairy Cow).

We had an enjoyable time, though, both days making some sales of books and photos, visiting with people about Scotland and Ireland, seeing former students, and even reconnecting with a fraternity brother I hadn’t seen since 1967.
Throwing a 50+ pound weight for distance.

Mark Wechter is an international champion in the Masters Class (seniors). He is also a former student of mine from Brookings. Here he is throwing a 57# stone (upper right) for distance.

Mark is an international champion in the Caber Toss--throwing a 14' 120# pole end-over-end. He made three perfect throws to win the event.
     From everything we heard and saw, it looks like the festival was a hit with sponsors, vendors, competitors, and locals. We look forward to year two next June.

A Story from Scotland

In 2010 we were staying with our adopted family in Crieff and had one dinner which was very memorable. There had been a special run of some small local fish (similar to smelt) which one of the B&B’s helpers said were very like a fish she used to cook in South Africa. 
The Fishing Village of Crail near St Andrews.

Jacky, the B&B owner, bought a mess of the fish and Annie, the South African helper, said she’d do a fry-up. Annie cooked the fish whole with only a light dusty of seasoned flour. I thought the fish waa delicious—head and all. A few of the other adults cuts the heads off before they ate the fish. 
Anne with Ailsa at a dinner in the B&B.

Ailsa, our 10 years old unofficially adopted niece, was adventurous and going to eat the whole fish. As she took the first one off the platter she looked at it head on for quite a while. Finally, she said with a sigh, “I just can’t get my head around it!” and set the fish back on the plate. Out of the mouths of babes!

NEXT: More of the SW and onto our upcoming Canada trip.