Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cheyenne, WY 7/22/13 - 7/26/13

While in Wyoming, we made our home in Curt Gowdy State Park.  We had a beautiful view of the lake/reservoir from our campsite while here.  There was also a great single track Mountain bike trail that we rode ever day (4 miles, rather narrow but great rolling hills and some hair pins too).

We went into Cheyenne one day while here (25 mile approx.)  In Cheyenne we saw the State Capitol, the Governor's mansion, the State museum, the historic train depot and also had an excellent meal at Mitchell's BBQ.  As we travel, note that we will only mention those really memorable meals (the ones that really stand out that we will return to).  Wow, Mitchell's really met this criteria.  Bob had the BBQ slider sample and Teri had the fried catfish.  All those years in Lake Charles LA, and nothing there came even close. 

While in Wyoming we learned some interesting facts.
  • Sep 30, 1889: Wyoming grants women the right to vote, wow  30 years before the ratification of the 19th amendment! (now we did not know that).
  • Yellowstone (In Wyoming) is the first official National Park (1872)
  • Wyoming was the first State to Have a County Public Library System 
  • The JCPenney stores were started in Kemmerer, Wy.
  • The first Dude Ranch in Wyoming was the Eaton Ranch, near Wolf. The Eaton's also came up with the term "dude".
  • Wyoming has the lowest population of all 50 United States.
The Capitol:
  • The white tiles are Italian marble and the black tiles are from Vermont and in many of the black tiles you will see fossils.
  • The ceilings for both House and Senate chambers are inlaid with beautiful Tiffany-style glass and the Wyoming State Seal is prominently displayed in the center.
The Governor's Mansion:
  • In 1904,  Wyoming built its first governor’s mansion.  It was a modest house compared to the pretentious dwellings built in other parts of downtown Cheyenne and was built in the middle of a middle class neighborhood.
  • The mansion was the residence of 19 Wyoming first families from 1905 - 1976.
The Cheyenne Depot:
  • . The depot was completed in 1887.
  • The depot plaza hosts a variety of music and events throughout the year.
The Atlas Theater:
  • Constructed in 1888 as offices and a tearoom, the Atlas Building was converted to a theatre in 1908.
The Boots:
  • The eight foot tall cowboy boots have been carefully painted by local artists.
  • There are a total of 19 displayed throughout the city. 

Curt Gowdy State Park Campground
Wy State Capitol in Cheyenne
 Wy State Capitol Ceiling
 Capitol Floor Tiles
The Governor's Mansion
The Cheyenne Depot
Depot Horse constructed out of various tools
The Atlas Theater
The Boot
And a few more interesting things from the State Museum...

The Saccharmeter

A Beaver Hat
On to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We should be there on 7/28/13.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park 7/17/13 - 7/22/13

Getting High in in 12,183 feet  on the Trail Ridge Road.
The Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet.  The road is 48 miles long, 11 of which is above the tree line.  This area above the tree line is known as the tundra, a Russian term for "land of no trees".  This area is normally 20 - 30 degrees colder than in Estes Park and the winds can reach over 100 MPH while freezing temperatures last over 5 months each year.  Because of these harsh conditions, the plants of this area require centuries to mature and are dwarf in nature.

Forest Canyon Tundra
Tundra Life
Tundra Still Frozen at the End of July
Lake Irene (along Trail Ridge road)
Continental Divide Landscape
Besides traveling the Trail Ridge Road, we went on various hikes while in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Each hike had it's own special character and beauty.

Alberta Falls
Bear Lake
Lily Lake
Copeland Falls
Alluvial Fan
Teri sporting an old buffalo coat at the 1920's Holzwarth Trout Lodge.
(20+ lbs and unbelievably warm)
Long's Peak - 14,249 ft
Even with all the hikes we took, we felt like we barely scratched the surface at this wonderful National Park. 
While we were here we also saw all sorts of wildlife:

 Baby Turkeys
Wow, that's a lot of kids!
and even Dragonflies
and the occasional busy bee
Rocky Mountain National Park is a real gem. We look forward to when we can return again. 
We are off tomorrow morning headed a few miles down the road to Curt Gowdy State Park in Cheyenne, WY. While there, we plan to relax and ride the bikes for a few days.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Green River Utah 7/12/13 - 7/16/13

Along the Road to Green River:

Green River, Population 949....
We decided to stay in Green River to serve as a central launching point to see various sites.  Green River is a small town that looks fairly dried up.  Research showed the area has had a roller coaster of activity.  In 1876 the city began as a river crossing for the US mail.  In 1883, the town boomed with the coming of the railroad, with need for workers to support the construction. The town then flourished as a scheduled meal stop for trains.  In 1892, however, the train route was altered and the town was much affected. The 40's, 50's and 60's then brought Uranium mining to the area and between 1964 and 1975 the Green River Missile Complex was used for testing of  the Athena and Pershing missiles. That launch site is now in caretaker mode and the city has many abandoned buildings.

Goblin State Park: This state park is like none other, the landscape covered with sandstone goblins and formations, is often compared to Mars.  In fact, it was the filming location for Galaxy Quest, a 1999 Tim Alan science-fiction parody comedy film. The distinct shape of the rocks known as hoodoos comes from an erosion-resistant layer of rock atop softer sandstone.  This place would bring out the kid in anyone.  You are free to roam the goblins (no hiking paths here).  As we wandered around the various goblins, we had fun naming various ones.  It was amazing how many looked like people, and dinosaurs and various animals.
A Panorama of Goblins
The Eagle
The Thinker
The Happy Couple
All Alone and.....
Goblins everywhere you turn.

Arches National Park: Chiseled by the powerful forces of wind and water, Arches National Park contains more than 2,000 sandstone arches (more natural arches than anywhere else in the world). To be classified as an arch, the opening must measure at least three feet across. As one looks around, they are reminded of a child making sand castles, only to a very enormous scale.  Between the scenic drive and various hikes we were able to get a good sampling of the park.
Park Ave -  Where Vertical slabs of red entrada sandstone tower over the surrounding desert like New York skyscrapers.
Delicate Arch - This arch is 65 feet high and 35 feet wide. It is the most widely-recognized landmark in Arches National Park and is depicted on the Utah License plates.
Balanced Rock - Balanced Rock is about 128 feet (total height), with the balancing rock rising at 55 feet  above the base. The balancing rock on top is the size of three school buses.  One has to pounder how long this rock can balance there.
Landscape Arch - Landscape Arch is considered to be the longest natural arch in the world, measuring 291 feet.  It is 6 feet thick at it's narrowest section.
The Windows -
The sandstone formations were beautiful and needed to be seen to be believed.  Some looked to have a precarious future, such as balanced rock.  The landscape is forever changing here with new arches forming and some collapsing occasionally. 
We are headed off to Colorado in the morning.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hurricane Utah 7/7/2013 - 7/12/2013

Hurricane Utah  7/7/2013-7/12/2013 That is pronounced “Her-ah-kun” by the locals.

On arrival we got a taste of why this town is called Hurricane with a thunder storm accompanied by very strong sudden winds and hail.  Wow, what a surprise.  Later I looked on the internet and found that Hurricane was first settled in 1896, and received its name after a whirlwind blew the top off of a buggy that Erastus Snow was riding in. Snow exclaimed, "Well, that was a Hurricane. We'll name this 'Hurricane Hill'." Nothing like a good chuckle for the day.

Weather has mostly been really hot (115-116) but mornings have been ok so we have done most of our bike riding and sightseeing in the early mornings.
Snow Canyon State Park:
Snow Canyon is not named for snow but rather the canyon was named after early settlers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow that came upon the canyon while looking for their lost cattle in the 50’s.  It was designated as a Utah State Park in 1958.  Snow Canyon State Park is located amid ancient lava flows and beautiful sandstone cliffs.   This beautiful canyon features red rock formations, sand dunes and ancient lava flows from an extinct Volcano (more than 27,000 years ago).  We did some early morning bike rides along the Whiptail Trail where we experienced majestic views filled with a unique interplay of light and dark and color across the canyon walls.

Snow Canyon Panoramic View
Snow Canyon Sand Dunes
Snow Canyon Ancient Lava Flows

Zion National Park:
The drive up to Zion National Park was picturesque.  Once in the park, we began with a short bike ride on the Pa'rus Trail which rides along the Virgin River, up the wide valley of the southern Zion Canyon.  Throughout the ride we were surrounded by grand towers cast in brilliant oranges, browns, and reds.
Zion Pa’Rus Trail
After riding the Pa'rus Trail we returned to our starting point and took the shuttle from the Zion Visitor’s Center.  The road into Zion Canyon is just 6 miles, ending at the Temple of Sinawava , referring to the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians.  Next trip to Zion we will take the bikes on the shuttle and do the ride back, which is mostly downhill. We walked the 2 mile roundtrip River Walk to the Temple where the canyon narrows and a foot-trail continues to the mouth of the Zion Narrows.  For the adventurous, this is where the famous Narrows hike begins (listed in National Geographic as ‘America’s 100 Best Adventures’). This hike almost isn’t a hike as it involves around ½ of the 8-12 hour adventure wading through the Virgin River (as opposed to hiking). The river is cold and wetsuits are recommended.....not this trip.
Zion River Walk Trail
A Local Squirrel

While in the park we decided to ride through the Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a very impressive 1.1 mile engineering feat of the late 1920's.   Vehicles over 13ft. 1 inch tall are not permitted.
Mt. Carmel Tunnel entrance
No worries, only our GPS didn't get the
 message that the 5th wheel
was left back at the campground
Inside the tunnel-1.1 miles of narrow darkness
Leaving Zion, amongst more varied colors, after a wonderful afternoon

Our last day was spent kicking around the old town of Hurricane. We visited the original canal and learned how settlers as early as 1867 realized they had very fertile farmland, but were in serious need of water. We learned how the construction of the Hurricane Canal is a Utah story of pioneer determination. This canal was built completely by hand, 7.5 miles long, with numerous tunnels taking 11 years to complete. Once completed in 1904, however, the canal brought water to 2000 acres of prime farmland and made it possible for early settlers to build futures in Hurricane, Utah.

We also visited Lookout Point.  Prior to construction of the canal, the few families in the area survived by grazing cattle. To protect their livestock from wild animals and Indians, the cattle were held overnight in a rock corral (known as Rock Fort). They had a guard at night and wood and brush were stored nearby so it could be ignited in the event of trouble. Upon seeing the signal of smoke and flames, armed horsemen would charge out to defend.  Only once was the wood and brush ignited, bringing the town's men in a hurry on horseback.  This one time ignition was caused by a mischievous 'youngster', Tommy Willis. Bob and I laughed about how kid's don't change over generations and also how this kid's actions resulted in his name being documented in the history journals of this town.

Heading back to our campsite we stumbled upon the local correctional facility....really....who names a correctional facility Purgatory?  Took a picture and the name created enough curiosity to research.  We were surprised to discover not only that it is located close to Purgatory Flats (thus the name) but that it is also where Warren Jeffs was housed for 12 months and was later tried and convicted in a local area court.

We leave in the morning.  Next stop......Green River, Utah.