I think we could write a book about a seven week caravan. There are so many things to see, and do, and a lot happens to us and to our large group. A lot of what we think is interesting might not be for you. So we try to condense it for easier reading.
How to shorten it? No more prelims, here’s the straight stuff. We’re following our good friends, the Blanchards, advice on posting about the caravan. Lots of pictures. Except we cannot resist throwing words in also. Half as many words, ten times as many pictures, let’s see how this works highlighting parts of the great times we had sightseeing in the Four Corners region of the Southwest:
Acoma Pueblo, also known as Sky City Pueblo, is on a mesa over 350 feet above the desert. The Puebloans, after suffering years of attacks from marauding tribes, moved onto this very defendable site. It reportedly worked well against all except the Spanish conquistadores. Our guide treated us to a very informative walking tour of Acoma Pueblo.
The Segway Tour of Old Town in Albuquerque was less a tour and more a lesson on riding Segways. We’re hooked on Segways, but for two concerns: they are still very expensive and we don’t have anywhere to stow them while we travel. This was a fun way for us to get our first glimpse at Old Town. The Segway guides, Sean and Sean, shepherded us across intersections and kept a watchful eye on our maneuvering. They didn’t provide us any narrative and so this did not, for us, replace walking about Old Town.
San Jose de las Gracias Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico is very old and seems authentic. The church was built in the 1700s and appears not to have changed since. The original wood planked floor is still in use, and many of the artifacts and icons are also very old.
Bandelier National Monument includes a great hiking trail down to the Rio Grande River, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and pictographs, and adobe villages with large kivas. We could have spent another day exploring and hiking this nice park. The hike through Frijoles Canyon to the river is worth doing again.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train ride is a real neat treat. We rode in open cars, the genuine article from 125 years ago, for a few hours from Durango to Silverton. Silverton, at around 9,000 feet elevation, was chilly and breezy as we walked around the small residential and business areas. We had a fine lunch in Pickle Barrel, perfect salad, and sweet potato and carrot soup, followed by the hugest chocolate cake (five layers, five pounds, just kidding). Great train ride, great lunch, great day.
Canyon del Muerto, Chinle, AZ, is a beautiful place filled with sorrow. The name means Canyon of the Dead. The Spaniards, in the 1800s, trapped dozens of Navajo in the Canyon and killed them all. Ben and Adam Teller’s family business, Antelope House Tours, provided us a very good tour of Canyon del Muerto. The wash was full of water, the banks were steep, and our tour guide/driver Daniel did a fantastic job sharing the history and safely conducting us through the canyon in his Jeep Cherokee.
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, is a wonder of engineering and execution. It was built around 1200 AD and occupied only until approximately 1300 AD. Many of the walls are intact and the National Park Service attempts to stabilize them with minimal changes.
We drove to Garden of the Gods via the Moki Dugway, an old uranium ore haul road from Cedar Mesa. The GPS route map was pretty fantastic, until we realized the road really is arranged just as the GPS shows. These two pictures depict the GPS image and the genuine Moki Dugway routes.
Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ, provides a business opportunity for the Navajo Tribe. Since the Canyon is on Navajo lands the tour companies all must be Navajo. We met our tour in Page where we climbed high up onto the rear of a souped-up Chevy 2500 pickup with the hugest mudding tires you can imagine (our guide told us the tires list at $1,300 each). We cruised a few miles onto the reservation to the Canyon’s entrance and followed our guide inside. He showed us the best picture opportunities, capturing the sun’s rays piercing down through sifting sands from high above. Almost ruined our camera, exposing it to all the wind-blown and falling sands, but caught a few really pretty pictures in Antelope Canyon.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a very impressive structure and the boat ride there was nice. We got to see Lake Powell, a lot more of it than from anywhere else. The little canyon was interesting because it didn’t look like the boat was going to fit, it was a very narrow canyon. We thought we could have reached out from the boat and touched the canyon sides.
North Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ, was one of our chilly stops. The snow started falling while we were asleep. We would have liked even chillier temperatures so the snow could stick around a couple of days, but it melted soon after sunrise. We hiked the Transept Trail from campground to the Grand Lodge, explored in and around the Grand Lodge a little, and visited several viewing lookouts including Cape Royal and Point Imperial.
Zion National Park in Utah is one of our favorites from this caravan. We could hike for days and days, never hiking the same trail. The mass transit is fantastic, totally eliminating any need to use our truck in the park or nearby Springdale while staying there. The Angels Landing trail was a big challenge for both of us. First we hiked upward four and a half miles. The remaining half mile is along a narrow rock spine and face and hikers are guided by heavy chains anchored into the rock face. We lasted all but the last 1/4 mile of the 1,488 foot hike. Maybe another time, maybe not.
Also while at Zion National Park we met Rob and Jan Wilson. They are on a fun adventure touring fifty national parks. They have calculated this will take over twenty thousand miles and 217 days. They are traveling in a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van outfitted by Airstream. Mercedes is demonstrating this very capable platform can handle whatever they throw at it throughout the U.S. Rob and Jan are really neat people, never had RVed before and are on a whale of an adventure through the end of this year. Look them up at http://www.sprintertour.com/
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, is best seen walking or on horseback instead of from lookout platforms. Our trail ride into the canyon was fabulous, better than we could have dreamed. Our animals, of course, knew every step of the trail and could hardly have cared whether we were on board or not. This makes the trail ride easier for the riders — just hang on and let the mule or horse pace along behind his buddy.
Capital Reef National Park, in Torrey, UT, is a surprise. It just doesn’t seem like it can offer very much but every turn reveals another significant settler’s cabin or archaeological feature. Or, the Pioneers’ Register in Capitol Gorge. This was the main passage into Capitol Gorge until the 1960s (when the highway was built). The settlers engraved their names in the sandstone above the wagon trail over one-hundred years ago. Isn’t it interesting they carved in cursive?
Delicate Arch, Moab, UT, is one of those must-see monuments in Arches National Park. It, and Landscape Arch, and Dark Angel, and Double O, and another dozen or so occupied our hiking energies for two days. We divided our hiking time between Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, where we hiked to the lookout for the Upheaval Dome. Very very interesting.
Our caravan’s last hurrah was at the Sunset Grill in Moab, UT. The food was good, and the entertainment was fantastic. Our caravan’s music makers had practiced for days, and several characters created scripts and worked on their spiels. The result? A fun finale and fitting closing to this successful caravan led by Jay and Elna Thompson and Winston and Carol Montague — Thanks for putting on such a fine caravan!
See you down the road,