May 15, Colorado & Utah

Riley and I have been doing some wandering about lately from Colorado to Utah and back to Colorado. After Great Sand Dunes, we spent some time at a commercial RV park just outside Mesa Verde National Park, using the motorcyle to explore the park. We didn't understand why the park campground wasn't open yet but it wouldn't be for another week. The ruins at Mesa Verde are quite impressive and we enjoyed exploring the easily accessible ones, Spruce Tree House and the unfinished Sun Palace. We did not take the tours of Cliff Palace or Balcony House, since I have such problems hiking up steep slopes at altitude (around 8000 feet)--I also don't crawl through tunnels, which would have been necessary at Balcony House. Riley could have done them without me but elected to do his exploring with me. The weather was beautiful, but with strong winds--stronger than we appreciated on top of the mesa. I'm always amazed at the smallness of the rooms in cliff dwellings. The ranger said the natives who lived here averaged 5 foot 4 inches tall, so while smaller than the average person today, about the same height as I. Of course, I guess our RV's not much bigger, so why should I think they are too small to be livable?

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Spruce Tree House ruins

The weather forecast for Silverton was colder than we liked, so we headed on into Utah to visit first the Canyonlands from the south entrance, then Goblin Valley State Park, then Arches National Park. Truly magnificent scenery in all three places--a little weird in Goblin Valley.

Canyonlands campground, Needles Outpost

Riley in Canyonlands

Hoodoo in Canyonlands

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs

Arches is one of our favorite National Parks and we stayed there four days. Since we have been there before, we did some BMW touring and took some familiar hikes as well as exploring an area called Klondike Bluffs that we had not been in previously. This is evidently the area that the original explorer, a man named Ringhoffer, had tried to get into the National Park System, but twice surveyors accidentally went to other nearby areas and the first lands set aside did not include it. When the area was expanded from a Monument to a Park in the early 70s the Bluffs were finally included. At any rate, the hike into Tower Arch turned out to be a rather strenuous four miles, round trip. It was quite worth it though. The park is indeed a place of stark landscapes, complex geology, and great beauty. Arches gets about 800,000 visitors a year, most in the summertime, and the NPS is considering not allowing people to drive in on their own, using shuttles and buses instead, as Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Zion do already. The price of being a popular park, I guess.

Goblin Valley hoodoos

Margie next to happy hoodoo

Chess pieces in Goblin Valley

Wildhorse Butte, Goblin Valley

In Arches there are signs everywhere to stay on the paths and off the soil crust that covers the desert floor. It is evidently alive, cryptobiotic, and helps prevent erosion and supports the plant life. Having just visited Goblin Valley, where people are allowed to walk anywhere they wish, we could see that this policy works. Arches was green with plant life, while Goblin Valley had little. Still, we enjoyed the interesting shapes of the wind and water-sculpted sandstone and the dramatic cliff views in Goblin Valley. While there, we watched "Galaxy Quest" again, since part of it was filmed in Goblin Valley. We tend to pick movies by where we are quite a bit. While in Arches, we watched the third Indiana Jones movie, which has opening scenes filmed at Double Arch, and "The Hulk," in which the Fiery Furnace area gets bombed to a parking lot. After leaving, we watched "Thelma & Louise," which we had acquired recently, and discovered that part of it had been filmed in Arches. They were supposed to be on a highway in New Mexico, but we recognized the formations and Salt Valley of Arches. Also, the canyon they drive into at the very end of the movie is in Canyonlands.

Arches Campground, our RV in center

Margie at Broken Arch

Riley descending path from Pine Tree Arch

Marching Men monoliths at Klondike Bluffs

Double Arch

Fiery Furnace

Looking at the map as we came back into Colorado from Arches we saw that there is a Colorado National Monument that we were not familiar with, so naturally we stopped in to see some new scenery. It turns out to have a 23 mile long road along the mountain ridges ending at Grand Junction. We spent the night there, did a couple of short hikes, then took the ridge road to Grand Junction to do necessary grocery shopping. This is an area much like Canyonlands with many monoliths and canyons around every curve of the road, and there were a lot of curves with very little straightaway. Gorgeous!

Monument Canyon, Colorado National Monument

Pretty red rocks

We have now been camped in Ridgway State Park for the last 3 days and plan to head up to Silverton tomorrow. We took a day trip into Ouray yesterday on the BMW and checked out the falls in Box Canyon--very dramatic but not very visible for picture taking purposes--the canyon is more of a narrow slot. In reading the signs along the path, we discovered that the Black Swift nests here in the summertime. It must not be summer for the Swifts yet as they had not arrived--very disappointing. We didn't see many birds in Utah (lots of Canyon Wren, though), but now back in the Colorado mountains we are seeing plenty of birds again--lots of Pinyon Jays and Mountain Bluebirds, plus an Evening Grosbeak, a new bird for us. Yea!

Town of Ouray, Colorado

Box Canyon Falls (falls start near top of photo)

I've finally put up photos of Katelynn & Taylor with their Lone Star quilts. Check them out.
Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Diary
May 13-15, 2006, Ridgway State Park (Dutch Charlie), Colorado
Vesper Sparrows
Evening Grosbeak: m
Pinyon Jay
Black-chinned Hummingbird: m & f
Common Raven
Western Bluebird: m & f
Mountain Bluebird: m & f
Chipping Sparrows
House FInch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pine Siskin
Black-billed Magpies
Red-winged Blackbirds
American Robin

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