Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Water and More Rocks

Overlooking Horseshoe Bend where we rafted.
Sunrise on the Vermilion Cliffs
Replica of Powell's Boat
Lake Powell; The white shows the 100 feet the lake is down.
Glen Canyon Dam
On the Colorado
Mike, Our Great Tour Guide
The slanting wall of the canyon is sand that has blown in from the desert above.
Entrance to Antelope Slot Canyon
Inside the canyon
Canyon Walls
Sun and Stone
We are at the Page Lake Powell Campground in Page, Arizona just north of the Grand Canyon. Page is the newest town in the USA being founded in 1957 as a construction site for the building of the Glen Canyon Dam. The first morning we got up at 5 AM to watch the sunrise on Horseshoe Bend and the Vermilion Cliffs. It was great because there were no fences and you could go right to the edge. We then went on a tour of the 587 foot high dam that turns the river into Lake Powell, a 190 mile long reservoir with a shoreline longer then the west coast that stores water for the Southwest and produces electricity. The lake is down over 100 feet from its high mark because of an eight year drought, though they expect the Rocky Mountain snow melt to add fifty feet of water this spring. The lake is named for John Wesley Powell, a one armed Civil War veteran, who lead the first expedition down the Colorado River in 1869. We went to the Powell Museum which had exhibits on his journey as well as other early trips down the river. Yesterday we took a raft trip from the dam 16 miles downstream to Lees Ferry. To get to the river at the dam you must take a bus through a two mile 8% grade tunnel that was originally built to get construction equipment to the river. Because of homeland security, before the bus entered the tunnel everyone had to get off and place their bags in a cart which then preceded us to the bottom. What a joke! Before we got off the bus we had to put on hard hats because people have thrown coins off the bridge overhead. The trip was wonderful seeing the dam, Horseshoe Bend, the river and other things we had seen from the rim. On a stop along the river we saw petroglyphs that were from 200 to 2000 years old. On the bus trip back to Page as we crossed the Navajo Bridge we saw a California Condor souring over the river. At one point they were so endangered there were only a total of 22 condors in the wild. Over 200 have now been reintroduced here, in California and Utah. They are amazing birds and can have a wing span up to ten feet. Today we toured Antelope Slot Canyon on the Navajo Reservation. At each end of the canyon is a wide wash that often floods during the summer monsoon season. The slot canyon was carved where the water forces its way through the hill. The water that may be four feet deep in the wash rises to twenty feet in the narrow canyon and has created beautiful shapes in the sandstone. With the Sun shining in from the top the colors are amazing.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Arizona Rocks!!!

Painted Desert Inn
Painted Desert
Petrified Forest
Watch you don't get a splinter!
Old car on Route 66. The poles behind the car mark the path of the old road. The truck in the background is on I-40
....standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Rim of Meteor Crater from five miles away.
Looking down into the crater.

Yesterday we visited the Petrified Forest National Park which includes the Painted Desert, an ancient pueblo (rock buildings) with petroglyphs (rock carvings), as well as the petrified rocks. Also in the park is the old Painted Desert Inn that was originally built out of petrified rock. It has since been covered with adobe and is no longer used as an inn. The colors of the Painted Desert are caused by the various minerals that are in the rocks and as you walk through the desert the different angles and sunlight change the colors. Every way you turn you see different beautiful colors. The petrified wood is the result of trees that were buried in silt, mud and volcanic ash which prevented decay and allowed silica-laden water to seep through the logs replacing the original wood tissue and turning it into rock. The colors are also caused by the various minerals that were in the water. While there is petrified wood all over the world this is the only place with enough to be called a forest. It is not only in the park but also on many privately owned properties. The rock trees are lying on the ground like big logs and some look like you could get a splinter if you touched them. The pueblo ruins and petroglyphs in the park are from the 1100's but no inhabitants were found when the Spanish explored in 1540. Today we traveled along more of Route 66 and got to rock with the Eagles by "standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona." In a shop in Winslow they had only one Eagles poster on sale and it was for the October 1979 Long Run Tour concert at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. We also went to Meteor Crater, one of the best preserved impact craters on Earth. The crater was formed over 50,000 years ago when a 150 wide "rock" hit the planet. The crater is 4000 feet across, 2 1/2 miles around the rim and if the Washington Monument were standing in the middle you could look into its windows. The crater is privately owned and in the early 1900's several mine shafts were dug attempting to find iron ore but none has ever been found. Like so many of the natural wonders we have seen the pictures can not capture the size, beauty or how much they "rock."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Albuquerque and Root 66

Old Hudson and camper at Enchanted Trails.
Larry and Amy Stone
Volcanic Lava
Snow Capped Mountains
Over the top
Root 66
Wigwam Motel Holbrook, Arizona

We spent two days at the Enchanted Trails RV Park in Albuquerque and had a chance to visit an old friend while we were there. I worked with Larry Stone at Atlasburg School in 1975 where he helped me through my first year of teaching. Nanc and I had also visited Larry in Steamboat Springs when he moved there in 1976. The following summer we flew to Colorado and the three of us drove back to PA. Larry moved west in 1979 and we have not been in contact for years. We called him when we were in Carlsbad and made arrangements to get together. We had dinner with Larry, his wife Amy and daughter Jen and they showed us some of their beautiful city. We had a great evening reminiscing about old times and catching up on 30 years of our lives. As we drove west from Albuquerque on I-40, which parallels old Route 66, we saw old volcanic lava rock, snow capped mountains and crossed the Continental Divide. In many places you can travel on the old route where many towns and old motels promote their ties to the "mother road." The campground we are staying at is called the Root 66 RV Park .

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Lion's Tail
Stalactites and Column
Chihuahuan Desert Vegetation
Sitting Bull Falls
Green oasis below the falls
Javalina, one of which was named Lena
Diamondback; Look carefully and you will see the rattle is blurred. It was agitated and we were glad it was behind glass.
Beep Beep
Notice it is not only a museum but also a research center.
Train rolling across the plains of New Mexico USA.

While staying at the Carlsbad RV Park we not only climbed to the top of Texas, we also got deep into New Mexico by walking down 750 feet in the Carlsbad Caverns. The pictures do not do justice to the vastness of this huge underground world. There are more than 30 miles of passages that have been explored to a depth of 1037 feet. The route we followed was 2.5 miles and included the Natural Entrance and the 8.2 acre Big Room. It is always 56 degrees, so was a great thing to do on the 90 degree day. One thing we missed because of the time of the year was the exit of the bats at sundown. From mid May until October as many as 500,000 bats leave the cave each evening in a mass that lasts from 20 minutes to two hours. On the surface in the park we took a drive through Walnut Canyon in the Chihuahuan Desert which showed the many different plants that grow in this harsh dry climate. Another day we drove through the desert to Sitting Bull Falls, a 150' spring fed waterfalls. It was 35 miles through the desert and I could not believe there would be any water but there was enough to create a small green oasis in the middle of this arid land. We also went to the Living Desert State Park that has a zoo and garden with many of the species found in the surrounding desert. While we had seen most of the plants during our drives it was neat to see the many birds, mammals and reptiles that inhabit the area. On our drive to Albuquerque we went through Roswell but did not see any UFOs or aliens. The drive north left the desert, travelled through the Central Valley, which is kept green with underground water, and then into the mountains. We drove many miles without seeing any signs of civilization except the road, railroad and electric poles. I added USA to the caption because New Mexico put it on their license plates after the tourism office starting getting calls asking if a passport was needed to visit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Getting High in Texas

Today we drove 50 miles from Carlsbad, New Mexico to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. The park is home to the highest point in the state. Since we previously "climbed" to the highest spot in Florida we decided to go to the top. But this was a little different than the elevation of 324 feet we conquered there.
This is before we started and we thought the peak behind us was the top. It turned out to be only about a third of the way up.
Looking down from the top of the previous peak to the parking lot below you can see some of the switchbacks that we hiked.
El Capitan on the left is the end of what was a huge ancient reef when this area was covered by a vast tropical ocean 260 million years ago. Guadalupe, the middle peak, is the highest point. As we were driving you could see the mountain rising out of the flat land from over forty miles away.
Looking down on El Capitan from the top. One of the great things about this climb was that we could see for miles in different directions as the trail meandered up the side of the mountain.
WE MADE IT! The trip to the top, 8749 feet above sea level, required a hike of 4.2 miles while climbing almost 3000' and took three hours. The 4.2 miles down took another 2 1/2 hours. There were quite a few people on the trail including a class of seventh graders who were making the climb for Earth Day.
We had a wonderful time in Texas and have enjoyed the sites and the people. But while we understand they want to recognize their native son do they really need the first word on the sign after eight years of this administration?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hill Country and West

Texas Stonehenge

LBJ's Boyhood Home
Luckenbach Band
Luckenbach Guitarist
Cowboy Poet
Windy & Dusty
Calm & Clear

We moved to the Riverside RV Park in Ingram 70 miles northwest of San Antonio. We spent two days seeing the Hill Country and had a grand time. The first day we went to see Stonehenge and Easter Island statues in Hunt. Even though everything in Texas is big this replica of Stonehenge is only 60% the size of the original. It was built by two ranchers in 1989 and sits in one of their fields for all to see. The next day we did a big loop tour of over 200 miles in the CRV looking for wildflowers and other sites. In Johnson City we visited Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park which includes his boyhood home and exhibits covering his presidency. It is very well done and outlines his accomplishments for people in civil rights, education and the environment. They also did a good job of showing how the Vietnam war brought down his presidency. I visited Johnson City while stationed in San Antonio and in forty years it has changed very little. We enjoyed the ride on some of the back roads and did see wildflowers that the Hill Country is famous for but not as many as we had hoped to see. We stopped at Fort Martin Scott (Nanc's brother) and, at a restaurant where we stopped for lunch, saw a sign for a performer, Dale Mayfield (Nanc's nephew). The highlight of the day was Luckenbach, Texas made famous in a song by Waylon and Willie. We stopped there early in the day and were told they would be having music that evening. We decided to return and had a wild time listening to the music as several musicians played and a cowboy poet entertained a crowd of about thirty people, the majority of which were local. Not bad when you realize the population of Luckenbach is 3 and is in the middle of no where. Yesterday we drove through the wind across barren west Texas. For the last fifty miles heading north to Pecos we had forty mph crosswinds that rocked the motor home, sent tumbleweed rolling across the highway and filled the air with dust. The last precipitation in Pecos was 2 inches of snow on Thanksgiving. Even though it is barren, they farm using underground water, pump a lot of oil and have wind turbines generating electricity. After only one night at the Trapark RV Park in Pecos we are going to Carlsbad, New Mexico