Dinosaur National Monument Surprise

Dinosaur National Monument Panorama

Panorama in Dinosar NM (you should see it large)

We parked at an overlook near the top of Douglas pass, and after a run-in with a curious cow butting Turtle on the grill, had a peaceful, cool night in aspen country. The next day we spent the morning of June 4, hiking and photographing Freemont rock art of Canyon Pintado for a future story. Then we drove to Dinosaur National Monument Canyon Area visitor center and decided to explore the Harpers Corner road and hike the trail to the Green/Yampa River overlook, a truly spectacular vista of colorful rocks and deep gorges. It was nice to change the sagebrush juniper scents for the pitchy scent of pinon pine and crisp air of 7,000 feet. There were new wildflowers, or perhaps stunted versions of familiar ones; the globe mallow that grows to four feet in Tucson and was maybe four inches here. I would consider this canyon section of Dinosaur NP to be a real hidden gem of the park system. Most people go to the Vernal, Utah entrance where the dino bones are kept, and though nice, it is not as spectacular or remote in feeling as the Canyon District. Having BLM nearby for bush camping is a plus.

At the overlook we conversed with a pleasant couple from Virginia out for a fast-paced three-month trip in their new class-c. When the subject turned to age, the man and I (we expect an email with their id’s any day) turned out to have the same birth date of 6.7.44, or the day after D-day, the beginning of the end of WWII. Neither of us had ever met anyone born on that day, so we posed for our wives. After that long busy day, we found a county road onto BLM land, drove a couple of miles and had yet another million dollar view for a bush camp (boondocks are in parking lots or on main road, bush camps are hidden on public lands). We had some spectacular clouds that had us wondering about getting stuck, but got only a few sprinkles. The cows left Turtle alone.

BLM bush camp among the sagebrush and cows. Clouds provided only a few sprinkles, thankfully.

June 5. Craig. Colorado.
The library has no wi fi, but we found a hot spot at a local hotel, and parked across the street. We tried to find the manager of the Moffat County Fairgrounds, but failed; we stayed anyway but felt we should leave early. Avoiding those RV parks takes a lot of work sometimes. June 6. Craig. High winds and the local Hot Shots are busy chasing down small fires from lightning and winds are gusting to 50mph. Following this is a cold front our weather radio will take night temps down to the mid 20’s; from summer hot to winter cold in two days. It’s springtime in the Rockies! We were going to ride Rabbit Ears Pass east of Steamboat Springs, but snow and cold are forecast for several days. Bummer. We will work here a couple of days and see what comes next.

Colorado National Monument & McInnis Canyons Arches

Claire examining an arch; good thing she’s a lightweight!

June 1. Colorado National Monument.
One of our lesser known national monuments, it overlooks Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado and the Grand Valley, former name of the Colorado River here. The Colorado River flows lazily though the valley, irrigation pump sucking at it as thousands will do, and a small river of it gets ditched to Phoenix and Tucson, and much more to California, until it reaches the Mexican border, and disappears. We are too early for the peaches, and of course the wine grapes are tiny and green; some other year.
Wonderful sunset last night over Wedding Canyon, looking very much like Southeast Utah. We decided on the rim road bike ride today. Nice, except for the road construction, canyon edge riding and a detour to a crossroads store that was probably very nice one time, but now only sells scented candles, chips and beer. Must be all the ageing hippies moving in to build funky houses and horse corrals, all with a view: been there.

Tomorrow we will try another mountain bike ride, and hope it’s not another sand epic as the one in Arches. The second largest collection of arches in the US, outside of Arches National Park, is supposed to be at the end of about a 22-mile mountain bike ride from the rim road. It’s outside the national monument in a newly (to us) designated McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, that runs all the way into Utah. It is divided into zones of usage: mountain bike and ORV, horse and hiking, and river running, and areas of trail-less wilderness. I wonder if it is an experiment in separating the, sometimes competing, groups of public-lands users from each other?

June 2. McInnis Canyons arches mountain bike ride.

No epic mountain bike this time, just a couple of challenging climbs, and lots of wildflowers to cheer us on, the scent of sage and the expansive Colorado Plateau vistas that we love so much. The arches were fun, if nothing compared to the ones in Arches NP, but the hike from the end of the track was pleasant, and one sliver-rock arch was a hoot; we felt like kids, inching up on the thin part, teasing about causing it to collapse. I told Claire to tell all my friends my demise was, if premature, spectacular. What a treat to return to Turtle for a warm shower and icy drinks from the refrigerator. We are spoiled.

Grand Junction, Co.

May 31. Grand Junction.

The town sort of grows on you. There are negatives: The library wi fi is slow as molasses and there is some kind of red sign local ordinance posted in both Wal*Marts; we pretty much ignore them. The pulses are that the slow wi fi is free and unlimited for those with laptops, and if you get your pictures uploaded before noon, it’s not too bad. The no overnight parking ordinance is usually a sign to us that we are not wanted and we go elsewhere, but there is no where else to go, except back to Moab, and the ordinances are mildly written and apparently not enforced. We went to Safeway, otherwise spend money only at Wal*Mart. We certainly wouldn’t go to an RV park here, since they are always behind the no parking at Wal*Mart ordinances. We would use RV parks once in awhile, if they were decent and charged a reasonable rate. They charge $25 for a dangerous electric pedestal, a filthy, poor draining sewer hookup, water hookups far from the pad, poorly maintained toilets/showers, neighbors tight on both sides and surly help. What do they expect? We have our own electricity from batteries, and can use our generator, we can go for a week without a dump and almost that long on water. Duh. And they want to force us to pay for what we don’t need. No way. When they provide a service we need, just parking, for a reasonable rate, say $5, then maybe. That’s about how much profit we drop on Wal*Mart each night we park in their lot. I’m surprised more big box stores don’t welcome RVers. There are several million of us traveling the US at any given time. The space sits empty, Rvers actually provide some security, and we buy our essentials from them: milk, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream etc.
The downtown of Grand Junction is in fine revival, sculptures everywhere, traffic calming and lots of places to eat and walk. We took a break from working all day (third day) in the library and walked around downtown taking pictures of sculptures for a story on NW Colorado for an RV magazine.
On the way to our fourth overnight here, we saw a man crossing the street in a powered wheelchair and he had a fluff duck in his pack. We like people who like fluff animals. Good folks. It takes guts to show your fluff-head buddies in public.

Arches Epic and New Friends

Arches National Park, May 27, 2007
We were at the park visitors center at 6:30am to make sure we got one of the few remaining campground sites. There were seven available, and we were number three. We drove to the end and picked the site we wanted, it was still occupied by three people in two tents. Their car looked nearly loaded, so we parked to wait for them to leave, not wanting to hurry them. After a few minutes we walked to the site to put our daily reservation on the post, so someone else wouldn’t get the really spectacular view site. We talked to the people there, who turned out to be from the south of France. They had arrived at 2am and slept in their rental car (filled with camping gear and food) They were very disappointed to learn of the system, and that they would loose their site. We offered to share our site with them, and enjoyed talking to them both days they were with us. They tried to share the cost of the site, but we refused; we have been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers (sometimes very poor strangers who didn’t speak our language and we had been told wanted to kill us) that we could not take money from them. They have nearly a month in the States, and are going to see more of the West than most Americans will ever see. Their English is fantastic, and we had some interesting political and social discussions. They like Americans despite the anti French press they have been hearing the past few years. One thing we all agreed on was that people who travel are much less likely to harbor hate for other peoples and cultures; once you have looked in a stranger’s eyes, and broken bread with him/her, it’s hard to hate him or his kind.
Nancy, Pasqual and Daniele (forgive our spelling)
We had a long and enjoyable visit with the campground hosts, Gary and Francoise who are looking to move out of Phoenix; she has asthma and can’t take the air anymore. I can relate, and attest to Tucson’s clean air. They had heard about Far Horizons, and we gave them our pitch. I think they will visit in the fall and maybe move there. They would be a great addition to the park; they are full of energy and social.
Our first day in Arches we took a short hike, enjoying at least one, new to us, arch and the beautiful wildflowers and cactus arrayed against the coral pink sand. Sunday we took, what we thought would be a moderately strenuous mountain bike ride of about 30 miles. The first seven miles were easy, showing us lots of different wildflowers and only a few corrugations. Then the —- hit the fan. First it got steep, then the steep turned to sand. We thought we might have a couple of miles of pushing our bikes, but it turned out to be an epic of seven plus miles of deep sand and hills.
A bicycle is an awful burden to push through sand, and we couldn’t even pedal the downhills the sand was so deep. Good thing the flowers were blooming.
We ran out of water and food near the end and felt the big bonk:
To bonk is to run out of glycogen in one’s muscles from exertion and not have food to replace it. It is very unpleasant, particularly when you do not have any choice except push on. Each step is a struggle to force your muscle to do work it is really incapable of doing, and every muscle in your body makes you pay in pain for making it move when it only wants rest and food.
We finally made it out of the sand and to a motorhome parked in an unusual place. The very pleasant young man from California, was the “mo ho” (California speak for motorhome) manager for a company that supports film and still photo shoots. The photographer, assistants and model were off doing their shoot. He gave us water and that made a big difference; we only had to push our muscles without food for another nine miles.
The photo shoot was for French Vogue magazine and the model was wearing Pocahontas, and other Native American inspired dresses. Claire thought they came to the red rocks of Arches, and not the more famous Monument Valley because of the fake Indian theme. I can imagine the Navajo would not be angry, but only too glad to take their money, and laugh at their absurd vision of Native Americans.
The light was lovely at sunset and we clambered over the slickrock taking pictures and enjoying the truly spectacular location. Arches never disappoints, though this time we could have done without the epic part of our mountain ride!
Claire against the sky long after sunset