Day 35 – Amarillo, TX to Round Rock, TX

We drove into Round Rock last night around 9:20 PM, a little tired but glad to be at an end point. I still have to drive to B’ham and will leave tomorrow AM.

What can we say? It was an adventure of a lifetime and we are very thankful we had the chance. This was a wonderful experience. Thanks to all who supported us.

We slept in yesterday anticipating a short day’s drive to Snyder, TX after visiting Palo Duro Canyon near Canyon, TX. A thermometer down in the canyon read 110 degrees at about 11:30 so we didn’t goof around very much. We pretty much drove through with just enough stops to get some photos. As we were heading out toward Snyder, we realized we would be there in the early afternoon and could be in Round Rock by about 9 if we drove straight through. Well, this has been a great trip but we have been on the road since June 9th and we were ready to get home so we cancelled the Snyder reservation.

Palo Duro Canyon is very scenic with much of the same formations and colors we saw in canyons in UT, but on a smaller scale. Man it was hot down there but definitely worth the stop!

We had an interesting experience driving down Highway 84 near Snyder. We saw one of those dust devils coming across a field up ahead and as we got closer, I realized it was going to intersect with us. It wasn’t very big (maybe 10 0r 12 feet in diameter) but it rocked the car a little when it hit! I told Tom we might want to avoid it next time if possible.

On the way up through TX we had seen a few wind turbine groups (pretty small, actually) and then we came across some much bigger groups in CO, WY and MT (maybe 200 or so in a group). Well, we had not seen anything ’til we got past Snyder heading south. We drove through wind farm after wind farm until we got past Sweetwater. We estimated there were probably as many as 1,500 to possibly 2,000 of those giant wind turbines along that stretch! It is hard to tell because they are up on mesas stretched out farther than you can see and they are in multiple rows. There has to be billions invested in these things. We also saw giant power lines being built in the vicinity of the turbines. We read that turbines are being built all up and down the Midwest wind corridor. They are quite majestic when seen up close.

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Day 34 – Canon City, CO to Amarillo, TX

It is so nice to be back in Texas! I kid you not, the temperature on the car’s onboard thermometer went up two degrees as soon as we crossed into Texas. It was 89 degrees just over the NM line, jumped to 91 as we crossed into Texas and was 98 by the time we got to Amarillo :-). Of course it was mid afternoon, too.

The Sangre de Cristo mountains provide a magnificent view on your right heading south from Pueblo, CO. We decided last night to head south from Pueblo through the NE corner of NM hoping the fires would be out. There were no fires burning but as soon as we crossed over into NM, we saw evidence of fires. In fact, NM’s Land of Enchantment welcoming sign was framed by charred hill side.

An interesting sight along Highway 87 near Capulin, NM was the Capulin Volcano National Monument. The cone sits by itself out on a plain.

We stopped in Clayton, NM at the Eklund Hotel for lunch. The Eklund is an old hotel in the middle of a small old town just before you cross into Texas. It was nothing like we expected as we walked in. The hotel is a step back into time. It has been carefully preserved and remodeled. The place is beautiful! The food in the restaurant was very good as well. The hotel has all this old period furniture in the lobby, a great old saloon, and this wonderful restaurant. It was built in 1892 but carefully remodeled in 1975 and again in 2004. There are 26 rooms, each with a bath, an elevator, and Wi-fi is available throughout the building. This is a gem where you would least expect it. I asked if they had a web page and was told one is being built.

We saw about 6 prong horn antelopes and a couple of rabbits today on the critter watch.

We came across another big wind turbine farm just outside of Amarillo. They sure are something to see.

When we went out to eat we drove into a dust storm. Yep it’s good to be back in Texas!

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Day 33 Moab, UT to Canon City, CO

Leaving Moab was bittersweet. We loved The Arches National Park and the little town but we were glad to be heading home. We have seen pretty much every thing we set out to see. It has truly been a Grand Adventure! We are very thankful to our families for encouraging us to do it. We hope we have been able to entertain those of you who have followed our blog. Tom is diligently working on our photos but, we took way too many to keep up with. Please be patient.

Nance suggested we stop by Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park on our way to Canon City so we decided to do just that. One of her co-workers had recently visited and suggested it was worthwhile. We certainly agree. Compared to some of the canyons we have seen, it is pretty small. The impressive thing about Black Canyon is it’s depth, over 2,000 feet! The Gunnison River runs though it. The walls of the canyon are quite dark and you can hear the roar of the river quite well from two thousand feet up!

We stopped to eat our lunch just down the road from Black Canyon above the Curecanti National Recreational Area. We thought we were still pretty high up in the mountains so we checked our GPS and discovered we were at around 7,900 feet.

Driving on, we crossed the Rocky Mountains between Salida and Canon City at Monarch Pass. This is also the continental divide. The elevation at Monarch Pass is 11,312 feet. Along about Salida, the Arkansas River flows along beside the road all the way to Canon City. It was quite swollen and was flowing very swiftly. We had driven over the Colorado River at Grand Junction and it was overflowing it’s banks.

Today we saw 2 deer, a squirrel and endless chipmunks for some reason. While we are not seeing as many wild animals (too many humans), while driving along the Blue Mesa Reservoir we did see the Bay of Chickens!

Next stop, Amarillo, Texas!


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Day 32 – Mexican Hat, UT to Moab, UT

Yesterday was a brutally busy day. We put in a good 13 hours of travel and didn’t eat supper till 9 PM Utah time. We both feel some of the effects today :-).

We left Mexican Hat pretty early this morning and were driving into Canyonland Park around 10. We drove 22 miles back into the park to see the Needles Overlook. Believe me, it was worth it! Just when we think we have seen the best, the next thing we see is as good or better than what came before it. The really great thing about all the things we’ve been fortunate to see, is they are all different and wonderful in their own way. The Needles Overlook looked down into a huge canyon with numerous hoodoo’s on the floor. We had been prepared to face crowds but the road out to the overlook was almost deserted. The scenery on the way out was incredible as well.

We left Canyonlands about 11:30  and drove into Moab for lunch. After lunch we drove up past Moab a few miles to Arches National Park, again expecting crowded conditions. Arches National Park is a must see for everyone. It was a little overcast and with the exception of a couple of stops within the park, things were not crowded. Even though Arches is considered one of the smaller National Parks, it is still very large. As I mentioned above, we were both pretty tired from yesterday and the plan was if it was overly crowded, were just going to stay for a short while.

Again, it was not very crowded and the sights were awe inspiring! The arches and rock formations were truly something to see and we had been to Monument Valley yesterday. Not to take anything away from Monument Valley, but Arches was well worth the trip!

We had originally planned to spend two days in Moab thinking we would need both days but now we have decided to move on toward home tomorrow. We had originally planned to spend two nights in Canon City, CO visiting relatives but since one of our relatives has company and we could not get in touch with the other, we decided to just spend the night and move on the next day toward Amarillo.

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Day 31 – Cedar City,UT to Mexican Hat,UT

Today was a day of adventure and discovery. We started out when we left Cedar City by crossing Cedar Mountain again. We took time to check out the lava flows. They said that they were 1,000 to 5,000 years old. Pretty recent in geological time. We went to Kanab,UT to determine how to go by Escalante State Park. We got directed down 40 miles of very wild backroad. Storm clouds constantly threatened and if it had rained there was a very real danger of flash floods or getting hopelessly stuck in the mud in total nowhere. VERY nerve racking. But we were lucky and not one drop of rain on us. We had to ford a couple of mini streams though. Wild switchbacks and ridiculous grades though. As a result we stayed on asphalt the remainder of the trip but we were amply rewarded (more later). Escalante Park was nice and we saw it from a very high perch on top of another mountain before we drove through it. The reward for going the long way sticking to asphalt roads was that we drove through Capitol Reef National Park. We had never heard of it but it featured some amazing cliffs all the way through. Along the way to our final destination we drove through Glen Canyon. Again we  saw amazing rock formations. Finally when we got close to Mexican Hat,UT and our destination of Monument Valley you climb yet another mountain and arrive at an overlook of the valley below that is completely mind boggling! To get down to the valley below you must go down a series of 10 degree switchbacks on a very narrow gravel road. You drive VERY slowly. We passed through Mexican Hat (yes there is a formation that sort of looks like a sombrero and is where we are staying tonight) on our way to Monument Valley. If you’ve ever watched old western movies (especially John Ford westerns) you are familiar with the wonderful rock formations. They are of course much better in person. We rode with a guide because the rain finally caught us and the road there is atrocious without the mud. The bonus was several shots of the formations with a rainbow added. We have many pretty pictures but they’ll have to wait a day or so. We’re beat!

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Day 30 – Cedar City, UT Zion Canyon National Park

Today we drove to the little town of Springdale, UT which lies at the entrance of Zion Canyon National Park. Springdale, like Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory in Canada, is one of those little towns blessed with amazing vistas wherever you look up.  Zion is actually a canyon more so than Bryce Canyon. We parked our car and rode the park shuttle.

We would certainly recommend both Bryce and Zion to anyone who has not been there. If you have been there, you know what we mean. The colors and rock formations are astounding! We spent about 4 and a half hours in the park.

Tomorrow we go to Monument Valley.

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Day 29 – Richfield,UT to Cedar City,UT

This morning we headed out for Bryce Canyon National Park. On the way there we passed through Red Canyon. Some beautiful formations and I thought maybe a preview of Bryce. I’ve seen pictures of Bryce Canyon and have always wanted to see it. It and Monument Valley are real high points for me. Well I can now tell you that Bryce Canyon exceeded all of my expectations. What an amazing place! Like nowhere else in the world. The immense formations were simply mind boggling. Bryce is not really a canyon but a natural amphitheater with endless spires called “hoodoos”. They are formed over millenia by ice and rainwater affecting their soft sandstone composition. It has created a colorful, unworldly area that truly takes your breath away (that and an elevation of up to 9,000 feet). Because it is a fairly small park and they have to deal with the crowds they offer shuttles to the various sites. A great way to experience it. All national parks should offer it. I’m still jazzed about my day! On the way to Cedar City we took a road that traverses Cedar Mountain with an elevation of 10,000 feet. It features the Zion Overlook. We saw 8 Bighorn sheep and 3 chipmunks but today the scenery trumped the critters.

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