A little over 2 weeks ago we waved goodbye to friends Chris and Judy as we left our campsite near Bend, Oregon. We had 4 days to reach Sedona, Arizona where we had reservations for 2 weeks of hiking and biking among the red rocks. Twenty minutes into the drive, Reg began lobbying for a change of plans. Temperatures were hovering in the 90s in Sedona…a little warm for outdoor activities. “We should go to Colorado,” he said. I put up a fight, but after a few more heated miles, we canceled our first week in Sedona. And so our journey began, and that’s how we ended up spending our first night here. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
The following morning we cobbled together reservations for 3 more nights on the road and 5 nights in Ouray, Colorado. The plan was to then head down to Arizona and salvage the last week of our Sedona reservation.
We spent one night in the Brigham City, Utah KOA (Kampground of America chain of parks) and then 2 nights in the KOA in Grand Junction, Colorado, where, as you can see, Reg began to relax after a frantic three days. Since Grand Junction wasn’t part of the plan, we weren’t sure how we’d fill our day until we discovered nearby Colorado National Monument. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Then it was on to Ouray (pronounced You-Ray) Colorado and more surprises.
We weren’t expecting a fall color trip, but were thrilled to see our first high altitude change of season. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Another National Park that was never on our radar was Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Not far from Ouray, we decided to make a day trip out of it. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
We drove along the “Million Dollar Highway,” a 25 mile length of route US 550 between Ouray and the historical mining town of Silverton. The history of the name varies depending on the source. Some say it refers to the million dollar cost of building the road, others claim it refers to the amount of ore mined from the area. My favorite explanation tells the story of a traveler who was so overcome with vertigo that he insisted he would never travel the road again…even if he were paid a million dollars. The drive offers spectacular scenery including an overlook of what’s left of the Red Mountain Mining site where an historic silver boom took place from from 1882 a 1893. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
When it was time to leave Colorado the Arizona temperatures were just not cooling off. We made the decision to turn around and return home. Disappointing, but there was still more to see. Making the best of it, I snapped photos through the windshield as Reg battled some gusty winds. This really is a beautiful country. If we hadn’t changed our plans, we would have missed this.
While we never reached our destination, we still enjoyed a memorable journey…and for us, that’s what’s important!
We packed up our courage Saturday morning, and set off for Canyons in Park City, Utah. We had 11:30 reservations for the ride of our lives.
After getting properly equipped, we received a short course on safety.
Leah, Andrew, Brad and Reg were all smiles as we reached our first zip line platform.
During our lift ride up the mountain, our instructor Matt spoke enthusiastically about his job and all the improvements that are currently under construction around the Park City area. He was a great salesman…after we all successfully made our first run down the 800 foot Red Pine Zip Line, he announced that it was our last chance to upgrade to the Epic Tour.
Pleased with ourselves for having conquered our first 800 foot zip and feeling a little cocky, we all accepted the challenge and signed on to ride down the Lookout zip line, a 2,111 foot drop over the treetops above Lookout Canyon.
Andrew and Leah bravely volunteered to be first to zip over Lookout Canyon.
Once we reached the loading platform, there was only one way down…unless we were willing to take the long hike back to the resort. I must say, I gave it some thought as I watched Andrew and Leah disappear into the distance…
The brochure promised “It's more fun at Park City,” so we got an early start today to determine if it was true.
Our first stop was the Alpine Coaster, an elevated track that winds through more than a mile of twisting turns, racing beneath the trees at speeds of up to 30 mph. After a short lesson on braking and accelerating, we were sent up the hill.
The Alpine Coaster was a hit with us all. Brad was a good sport and tried some flips on the Legacy Launcher and Leah talked her way on to the carousel.
We're not quite ready for the Olympics yet, but we all had a blast racing down this summer sledding course.
Warmed up and ready to go, we jumped on the lift and rode up to 8,000 feet for a ride on one of the four the Alpine Slides, a luge-like track that would speed us back down the hill.
Our first attempt was rained out, and we were sent back to the bottom in a Suburban. Fortunately, the afternoon sunshine allowed us multiple trips down the mile-long course.
We were all warned that the “sleds” will dump you out if you try to go too fast. A couple of us learned (the hard way) it was true…but I'm not a tattletale, so I'm not saying who…you'll have to guess!
Unsettled weather like we had today can be a little tricky. There are no refunds when rain shuts down rides. However, even with a little bad weather, our family consensus was seven thumbs up for the Park City Resort. It was a fun day!
Brad brought plenty of discs for the whole family.
The Canyons Resort was the setting for today's round.
The first act of our family retreat in Park City, Utah was a round of disc golf. The gondola and chair lift took us to the high-mountain course where we spent most of the time hunting for lost discs. We lost just one, but found two others for a net gain.
Many other mountainside activities await the family in the next few days, proving Park City is not just a winter paradise!
The fairways were a bit overgrown and Reg landed one up a tree, sending Brad on a rescue climb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We took a short side trip yesterday as we continued across Arizona. Anyone who has ever watched a western will recognize the soaring buttes and mesas of Monument Valley. This landscape has provided a backdrop for movies, TV shows and commercials since the 1930s.
The formations all have names. These are Left Mitten, Right Mitten and Merrick Butte.
The valley is situated on Navajo Reservation land so access is somewhat limited. For a fee, there is a 17-mile drive along a dirt road that will get you a view from down below. Navajo guides are also available for tours. Personally, I think horseback would be the way to explore!