Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Colorful Cortez, Colorado

Our time in Cortez, Colorado began with a drive up to Mesa Verde National Park..  Established in 1906 to preserve the heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo People, this national park offers over 4,500 archaeological sites.  Most are of the amazing cliff dwellings occupied as late as the 1100-1200s.  Ronnie and I visited this National Park in the 1990's before the beautiful Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center was built.

 We found the exhibits enlightening and informative. The large interior windows exposing the research shelves filled with the vast collection of Puebloan pottery was impressive.   

Our drive through Mesa Verde National Park, up to Park Point Overlook (8572ft), gave us a stretched-out view of Cortez and the San Juan mountain range.
This view of the Spruce Tree House, was about as far as we were allowed to go.  These cliff dwellings are now closed to the public due to possible rock slides and cracks in the cliffs.

Closer view of the Spruce Tree House Dwellings, built & occupied around 1200-1270s.

These cliff dwellings are called the Square Tower House Ruins.  They were completely hidden from the highway view.  We walked a short, paved path to discover the hidden dwellings.

The Cliff Palace, largest of all the dwellings in the Park, consist of over 150 rooms and possibly housed as many as 100 people.

When we were here in the 1990's, no tickets were required to enter and tour these ruins, just show up at the designated time and go with the Ranger.  Now, due to the increase of this National Park's traffic,  Rangers must take 'reservations' or tour tickets to walk people through these special ruins.

We love farmers markets and the one offered at Cortez was very good.  We purchased fresh cabbage, pears, squash, fresh grass-fed beef and some tasty baked goods.

No trip to Cortez, Colorado would be complete for us without a drive up Hwy 145 to Telluride, CO.  The aspen were beginning to change into their fall colors and we timed our visit to investigate what their farmers market offered.

We found some great fresh veggies & beef products but no purchases since today's trip is for sightseeing.

The aspen are beginning to change in Tellride.

Of course we take a ride on the free sky tram between Telluride and Mountain Village.  The aspen are beautiful but not as bright as usual because of their drought.

Here's a wide view from the highway going to Telluride's airport.  The white building is a fancy hotel and if you look very closely, you can see the ski trails to the left.  The town of Telluride is located in the valley.

This is Trout Lake, about 15 miles south of Telluride.  The water level was shockingly low.

What a nice drive Hwy 145 (San Juan Skyway) is during the fall season.  Aspen leaves changing in different stages: green to chartreuse to bright yellow.

A brief drive up a Forest Service road yielded some of the brightest yellow aspen we could imagine.  We could not tell from their signage if driving the road was permissible or open to the public, therefore we didn't linger.

We made one more drive back up Hwy 145 just before the weather turned to much needed rain, we happen to catch the old sliver mining town of Rico, Colorado, 
however it was shining in gold this day.

More later as we eas-on down the road to Moab, Utah.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Views Of The Colorado River From Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend, located about 4 miles just south of Page on Hwy 89, is one of the most photographed places in this region.  Here, the Colorado River continues its meandering route from the Glen Canyon Dam, carving deep into the Navajo sandstone on its way through to the Grand Canyon.  On this day, we set out to early to walk the 3/4th mile one way trip, to avoid the 95 degree mid-day heat.  Our views are perfect and the crowds large.

A view from the right..

and a view from the left. how did I get this river view?  Ronnie and I experienced a fantastic rafting trip with Wilderness River Adventures out of Page.  The company offers half day and whole day (what we took) river trips from Glen Canyon Dam and multi-day rafting trips on the Colorado River from Lees Ferry through the Grand Canyon. 

The small dot in the river is a fly fisherman.  This section of the Colorado River hosts rainbow trout where people pay river guide outfitters for access to those prime fishing spots.

Zoomed in and cropped, this is a photograph of the overlook platform where you view from the top of that famous horseshoe curve in the river.  Our River Guide tells us that the town of Page will be improving the overlook parking lot and trail next year.  Increased tourism there necessitates it.

A view of the center of the horseshoe..
and a closer view of the center of the horseshoe.

Here is a picture of the leftward curve in the Colorado River, our raft drifting on towards our "take-out" at Lees Ferry.  Most of the fly fishermen we see are fishing in the curve of the Horseshoe Bend.

Our raft trip begins with a security screening at the Wilderness River Center.  Since 9/11, security at all dams has highly increased.  Boarding their bus, we are transferred to the "put-in" located at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam. We travel a 2 mile tunnel, bored through the sandstone,  probably originally used for lower dam construction and maintenance.

These pictures were taken from the pedestrian walkway on the Hwy 89 Bridge, over the Glen Canyon Dam.  There was a specialized opening in 
 the fencing where I took this picture of the 
river rafts in the water.

 What a difference in size of these river rafts when seen in person!

 Looking up from the Colorado River at the Hwy 89 Bridge and the Glen Canyon Dam.  That's a house boat being transported on the bridge.

The Glen Canyon Visitor Center.

A view of the Dam's spill way.

We are underway.  Our River Guide was knowledgeable, the trip hot however enjoyable.  The company provided lunch, several bathroom stops and a relaxing time to soak in the incredible canyon views.

We see lots of greenery, birding wildlife and even some flowing springs on the canyon ledges and side cliffs.

Looking up at the steep canyon walls, you seem to get a dizzy feeling. Our Guide tells us that the canyon heights range from 700 feet (at the Dam) to 1000 feet at the Horseshoe Bend, to as much as 1400 feet at the highest point.

We see so many views of interesting carved canyon crevices, side canyons and over hangs.


   Our River Guide gives us lots of geology info on the sandstone and limestone layers, rock formations and how the dark splotches (canyon varnish) was all formed many, many hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The boats seen here are river transporters, they're taking folks with kayaks up to the primitive campground sites scattered along the river's edge.  They are coming from Lees Ferry.

Closer view of the canyon's intricate weathered patterns.

Our raft stopped just before the Horseshoe Bend for lunch.  We found a shady spot to rest and afterward I stepped into the cold Colorado River to prove I was there.

Continuing on the Colorado River, our Guide looks for shade as we gaze up the shear canyon walls.  We see herons, osprey, wild horses, several varieties of ducks..but no condors or bighorn sheep.

We hang our legs over the side of the big raft tubes for better down river views and a cooling water splash.

Our trip is approximately 15 miles from the Glen Canyon Dam to the take-out at Lees Ferry Landing.  We see height changes in the canyon walls, they get taller and taller, soaring to 1400 feet.

It becomes a challenge for me to fit the sky, canyon wall and river all in the camera's viewfinder.

Nearing the end of our trip, we enter the canyon section, 
Even though there is no marble, this historic explorer of the Colorado River named it "marble" because he thought the canyon walls appeared polished to him.

Too soon, our raft trip has concluded at Lees Ferry Landing.  We see excited rafters boarding the huge rafts for their multi-day 
/overnight journey into the Grand Canyon.  Can you imagine..?

More Later..from southwestern Colorado.