Sunday, June 24, 2018

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are easy parks to visit

Southeastern Utah is where the red rock wonderlands of the desert southwest begin, or end, depending on your perspective. Canyonlands and Arches National Park are on the eastern side of a chain of spectacular parks heading southwest towards Arizona. Some of the other parks in the area like Capital Reef and Grand Staircase-Escalante are not as well known as their sister parks of Bryce, Zion, Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon. However, their areas incorporate millions of acres of protected spaces. As for Canyonlands we thought it was just as beautiful and it felt in many ways just as immense as the Grand Canyon without all of the crowds.
   Arches National Park was a arm chair tourists' dream. Most of the scenery is easily reachable by car and in fact, you barely have to leave the car for pictures. The majority of scenic turnouts had under 300 yard walking to get to the vantage points. We went on a longer 2 mile hike but afterward we said the scenery was not much different on the longer hike then the shorter ones. For us, it was more about getting out and walking off some excess energy then seeing something unique. As for Canyonlands and Arches N.P. they are truly easy parks to see from the air conditioned comfort of your car.
   Moab is the closest town to these parks and has every accommodation possible for the weary traveler. The prices in Moab are higher than elsewhere but that is to be expected in such a touristy area. We found the town of Moab to be in a delightful setting with the Colorado river making everything lush and green in the valley.

People standing under one of the arches in Canyonlands N.P.

The erosion and weathering in the park is amazing.

A couple of climber girls.

It is possible to take a 4x4 down to the canyon floor in this park.

The windy roads kept traffic speeds in check.

Incredible that plants can grow in such an inhospitable environment. 

Erosion is still spreading through the park.

Picturesque views were found throughout the park.

Arches N.P. had huge formations like this one. I took a picture with my truck to show the size.

Some of these spires were 60 feet tall.

The colors of the rocks were captivating.

An example of how easy it was to get good pictures in this park.

Thousands of stunning arches are found all throughout the park.

Nature uses the world as her canvas.

Our two mile death march.

This is the reason for our two mile trek.

Taking a break in the shade.

Like books stacked in a shelf.

People are sort of visible in the lower right side but they are small in comparison to the arch.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The tranquility of Black Canyon of the Gunnison

This national park is one of the newer parks, founded in 1999. The drive to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was truly unassuming and, in fact, the canyon was completely out of view until I arrived at the park entrance. The steep and colorful walls plunged to the rapids some 3,000 feet below. Walking along the rim was a more intimate experience then the Grand Canyon because you can easily hear the roaring waters below. This park is small and easily accessible for most people. The best part of the park was how quiet and peaceful it was. There weren't hordes of people all around you, even at midday, in June. Up till now, we have been going to the national parks as early as we can to avoid the summer crowds. Here, the park's ambiance is heightened by the solitude one experiences just hiking around.

Ouray and Ridgway towns in Colorado

We heard of the quaint town of Ouray (pronounce yur-ay) from our former neighbors, Chris and Brenda, a few years ago. The way they described the town was spot on based on what we ended up seeing. Basically, the town is nestled in a tight valley surrounded by steep mountains on three sides. The town itself still retains much of it historic charm but there's a distinct "touristy" aspect about it. As my former neighbors also mentioned, it is not as nice at Telluride but way more affordable.
   Something to consider about traveling to Ouray, for those sun-worshipers out there; since the cliffs and peaks are so high and so close to town, direct sunshine is limited. Even if the skies are bright blue, you might not feel the warmth of the sun on your skin for many hours after the sun rises. Also, whatever sunlight you enjoy will be short-lived because the sun goes behind the high peaks on the western side of town in early afternoon.
   We went up to Ouray for the day to cool off from the heat of Montrose. We went to their community hot springs pool complex to soak our bones for the day. The costs, in my opinion, are high at $18 for adults and $12 for children, but the facilities were clean and newer looking. Ultimately, sitting in a hot spring fed pool, looking up at the peaks surrounding town isn't all that bad.
   Afterwards we drove through the charming town of Ridgway and were amazed at how much money is being poured into the town. New homes, hotels, shopping centers, are all moving in. We heard that people are moving to Ridgway because Telluride is getting too expensive. In fact, rumor has it that the millionaires are being pushed out of Telluride by the billionaires. Fact? Fake? Who knows, but we did like what we saw with Ridgway's building codes and zoning to preserve the charm of the town. One day this town will become a magnet like it's neighboring towns of Ouray and Telluride.

Historic Ridgway fire department converted into a shop. 
Buying locally is easy in Ridgway.

A neat wild west themed area. 

A recreation of the ole western days. 

We loved the wide streets in Ouray.

The town was quiet at 10 in the morning.

High mountains surround town.

The community hot spring pools.

Raging waters.

The drive to Ouray was quite scenic.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The former Victorian mining town of Telluride

Touristy? Yes. Scenic? Very. A livable town? Totally. Telluride is a name that most people have heard of and for good reason. This, cute as a button village, is as close to perfect as any Main St. could be. We thought Durango was beautiful but this place wins our Beaver Cleaver Award, hands down. Victorian homes and Victorian era storefronts line the streets of this 12 block by 6 block community that time gracefully forgot.
  Telluride is located at the end of the road, in a box canyon. Here, gondolas ferry people and pets to the top of the mountain, all year long, and at no charge. Here, vehicles actually park as there is nowhere to drive except to a dead end. Here, parking is free. Here, well maintained paths follow the river through town. Here, there are more people walking and riding bikes than people in cars. Here, you can hear nature just as easily as the clamor of daily life. And here, was the first time since we've been back in the country that my children saw the benefits of living in the U.S.
   There are many inspiring places and people in the U.S. and this road trip is exposing each of us to the beauty of the U.S.A.
   Thank you, to the caretakers of Telluride, and your nice residents. Though we can't live here due to the expense, and snow accumulation, we can still visit you on occasion.   

Flower boxes in the middle of the street.

Taking Paco on a gondola ride up the mountain.

The kids enjoyed the view from high above the town.

Coming down to mountain village. 

We found the last patch of snow to play in.

Stunning mountains in the horizon.

Valley walls on three sides.

Quite picturesque, if I say so myself.

The government building.

Quaint neighborhoods.

Real people live here, this isn't a museum.

We liked the quirkiness of this neighborhood.

We walked along a well maintained path through town, along the river.