Posts Tagged With: southwest

Backroads Across America: Icons of the Southwest



With time to fill between stops in Arizona, we took a short detour toward the Rincon Mountain District and Saguaro National Park (East).  Unfamiliar with what the park offered, we once again found ourselves leading the trailer along a narrow, scenic 8-mile loop through a historic cactus forest.  It felt a little bit like a ride at Disneyland as we slowly followed along, single file behind other park visitors.  We were pleased to find a number of pull-out spaces roomy enough to allow us to stop and take in the views.



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Three days to Texas

With just three days to cover 2,200 miles, we had our work cut out for us. I know your asking yourself, “What in the world were they thinking?” Well, truth is, we probably didn't have our thinking caps on when we cooked up this adventure, but it sounded good at the time…and as it turned out, we did have a pretty good time!
Reg and I crawled out of bed in the wee small hours of the morning with plans to drive straight down Inerstate 5 – as far south as we could. Our destination: Austin, Texas…a state neither Reg nor I had ever been to. Our goal: To deliver our Subaru to our son Brad who was visiting a friend in Austin. Ultimately, the car will find a new home in West Virginia with our son Chris and his girlfriend, Gail. Brad is on his way there as I write this.

Another early morning on day two as we left Blythe and California behind. No time for sightseeing, so I snapped this shot of the Arizona desert as we sped along the interstate.

We stopped for breakfast in Gila Bend, Arizona where this sign captured our attention. Not only was it the best breakfast in town, but it was the only breakfast in town!

Another window shot as we speed past mile after mile of the iconic Saguaro Cactus that cover southern Arizona.

Day two draws to an end and we seek lodging in Van Horn, Texas. A wide spot in the road you might think, and you'd be right. But this little town has a claim to fame and it's not just the Friday night Karaoke.

 

Chuy's, we learned, is home to The John Madden Haul of Fame, where there is an abundance of memorabilia on display. It is well documented that former NFL player and television commentator John Madden doesn't like to fly, and during his TV career he preferred to travel in his private coach, watching football games along the way. In 1987, reception was not great while traveling by coach along this stretch of Interstate 8, so Madden had his driver pull over at Chuy's Restaurant, where he sent his assistant in to search for a clear picture. The rest, as they say, is history. Madden was able to watch the game while enjoying Chuy's delicious Mexican cuisine, a combination that proved so successful that he returned year after year.

We said good bye to Van Horn, Texas well before daybreak and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise as we drove east.

We reached Austin right on schedule, a little road-weary but eager to see downtown.

Here's Brad getting ready to devour The Notorius Pig, a macaroni and cheese covered hot dog offered at Franks Restaurant in Downtown Austin.

 

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A geologic wrinkle in time

Capitol Reef National Park was established to preserve the geologic features of an area created 65 million years ago. Known as the Waterpocket Fold, this giant wrinkle in the Earth’s crust extends almost 100 miles. Ongoing erosion has created the park as we know it today.

Skies remained blue, but wind blew clouds of dust across the landscape.

 

The wind picked up and the landscape began to change once again as we continued west towards Capitol Reef National Park.

Gusts were expected to blow at thirty miles per hour or more. They were strong enough to push our car about while kicking up some mighty big dust clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We never saw the Capitol Reef park boundaries, but when we came upon this towering display we were pretty sure we had arrived.

A formation known as The Castle towers over the Visitors Center.

The main road through Capitol Reef isn't long and many spectacular formations can be seen from roadside pull-outs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Goblins haunt ancient sea

Weather was changing and the Moab report was threatening snow showers. Gusty winds were also predicted so we packed up and headed west. It was time to get home…but not right away! There was still more to see!!

Formations like this are what led Arthur Chaffin to refer to this area as Mushroom Valley when he stumbled upon it in the late 1920s.






Goblin Valley State Park, in Utah, has been on my list of “must see” attractions since we started talking about our southwest adventure. We had circled all around it and today we made the detour, enduring gusty winds I might add, to visit the Goblins.

Deposits from an ancient sea 170 million years ago combined with the forces of nature to create this one-of-a-kind landscape. It almost has to be seen to be believed.

 

 

The Goblins stretch as far as the eye can see.

 

Top photo: Where's Reg??? We couldn't believe there weren't more restrictions limiting our footsteps as we toured the Goblins.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead Horse Point State Park comes to life

We arrived in Moab, Utah yesterday, after a hair-raising drive across the snowy mountain passes of Colorado. Our trip has been pretty low key so far. We've seen a lot and done a lot, but evenings have been quiet and relaxing. Moab attracts a different crowd than we've previously seen. We had no idea this was such a Mecca for the 4-wheel off-roading crowd! Sidewalks and restaurants are teeming with people; both young and old. Jeeps and Hummers rule the roads, roaring through town to hit the trails. This morning we went in search of peace and quiet.

We found it at Dead Horse Point State Park. Just 30 miles northwest of Moab, this lesser known park provides some pretty spectacular views. We stood 5900 feet above sea level and 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, in awe of the skills possessed by Mother Nature. She is, without a doubt, the world's finest architect.

The Colorado River snakes its way through the canyon floor below Dead Horse Point.

Fascinating and colorful rock formation could be seen near and far.

Rather than drive from view point to view point, we chose to walk the East and West Rim trails. Halfway along the four-mile route we arrived at Dead Horse Point.

How did this park get its unusual name?

Legend has it that the point was at one time used to corral wild mustangs. The neck of the point is just 30 yards wide and cowboys were able to block off a natural corral to hold the horses. Once corralled, cowboys were able to choose their favorite horses from the wild herd. Sadly, an unhappy fate awaited the leftover mustangs. They remained trapped on the point where they died of thirst…within view of the Colorado River but unable to reach it.

 

Hmm...potential Christmas card photo???

 

 

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Colorado mountain majesty offers thrills and chills

Highway 550 connects Durango to Silverton, paralleling the famed narrow gauge railway.

You may have trouble imagining a Toyota Prius as a roller-coaster car, but that’s how it felt today. It took us over passes topping 11,000 feet, through tunnels covered with rocks and ice, and within a few feet of sheer drop offs at dizzying heights.

Guard rails? Nah. Sweaty palms and white knuckles? For sure.

We were surrounded by peaks of more than 14,000 feet in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains as we traveled from Durango to Moab, Utah. A few other vehicles joined us for the ride.

Spring has not yet struck this aspen forest near Durango.

We stopped for coffee in the old mining town of Silverton, at more than 9,500 feet.

Look closely to see the narrow road descending from an 11,000-foot pass.

 

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Mesa Verde: Home to Pueblo people in the 13th Century

Cliff Palace was the most spectacular ruin we saw today.

The Anasazis, now referred to as Ancenstral Pueblo people, built some of the most impressive North American structures during the 1100s and 1200s in what is now southwestern Colorado. Known as Mesa Verde, the villages were built beneath cliffs using sandstone.
Circular kivas were used for ceremonies. The Pueblo people lived in the cliff dwellings for only about 100 years. There are several theories about why they left: Drought, crop failures, or perhaps political problems?
It is about a 45-minute drive to the national park entrance from Durango, then 20 miles of mostly climbing to the museum and trail heads. By mid-April, when all the trails are open, Mesa Verde could easily provide three days of exploring.
 

The 20-mile drive from the park entrance provides spectacular views.

Spruce House is the best-preserved of the cliff dwellings.

The 2.4-mile trek to Petroglyph Point, shown in the photos below, was a cliff-hugging, up-and-down path that required us to register at the trailhead just in case. We might have walked past the petroglyphs if there had not been a small sign leading us to look to the wall above.
 

The Petroglyph Point walk provided some expansive vistas.

These petroglyphs have survived the elements for about 800 years.

 

The walk back provided settings reminiscent of the top of Half Dome in Yosemite.

 

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Apache Nugget saves the day

 

The weather report called for high winds today and boy were they ever! We drove north from Santa Fe, cutting west on scenic Highway 96 towards Highway 550, which would take us into Colorado.

The gusts blew anything and everything that wasn't nailed down…including us. A veil of dust covered the landscape, creating a distant haze. Where would we have our picnic lunch?

At last a sign…the only welcome we'd come upon in miles and miles. We pulled in the parking lot and made ourselves at home, entertained by the comings and goings as we ate in our car. The Apache Nugget appears to serve as a welcome relief, not only for travelers but locals as well.

 

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Santa Fe is a restful stop on Southwest tour

 

The historic plaza is the heart of downtown Santa Fe.

A hilltop view of downtown Santa Fe

After driving nearly 2,000 miles in eight days, we found a rest stop in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. We found excellent food with a Southwest flavor, more than 200 art galleries, and a city dominated by pueblo architecture. Santa Fe is the oldest and highest-elevation (7,200 feet) capital in the United States. It is quite dry here now, so it is hard to believe that monsoon rains are common in July and August.

In September, the city celebrates the oldest fiesta in the country and visitors at that time of year may be lucky enough to see the aspens in full fall color. Native American history and culture play major roles.

After a relaxing and enjoyable visit, we head north to Durango, Colorado for a few days.

 

 

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Window Rock: A porthole to the sky

Window Rock is an eroded sandstone opening.

The Navajo Code Talkers played a critical role in World War Two.

Window Rock is the capital city of the Navajo Nation and also the name of this geologic wonder about a mile from town in Arizona near the New Mexico border. The Navajos have a nice park next to the rock that features a memorial to the Code Talkers of World War Two.

We booked a room for three nights in Santa Fe at the Luxx Boutique Hotel that advertises hip and stylish accommodations. We weren't sure what to think, but went for it for two reasons: It is a block from the downtown plaza and has very low rates, especially for the location.

We were pleasantly surprised by the room at the Luxx Hotel.

 

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