The Great Sand Dunes and Beyond!

SO I am going to try my best to get got up on this blog thing.
THe photo above is of a beautiful sunset in Cortez as we were headed out of the national park one night.
After Cortez and Mesa Verda, Colorado we headed over to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. It is really a thing to see. You are at the foot of the Rocky Mountians and there is this huge section of sand dunes. They are masive. Looking at them from afar they look big but not all that big. But then you get up to them and start walking up them and they go on forever and are HUGE!! Just masive! It is great soft sand perfect for running and playing in. We all had a blast walking up on hill then having a race to the bottom. Keeley really enjoyed rolling down them. When we got there we knew that the camp ground in the park was probably going to be full. So there is a state park that is about 15 miles from the national park that we decided to stop and get a place at. When we pulled in to that camp ground the ranger said he has about 6 sites left. He gave us the numbers and we deove around and picked one. By the time that we had un hooked and set up the trailer the others were all taken. I am glad that we got there when we did. The bad thing about it was it was completly bug infested. not the dunes thankfully but the campground that we stayed at. We did not spend much time there, thankfully. Or we would not have had much blood left. We went to the dunes as fast as we could but unfortunally by the time that we got there a big thunder storm had rolled in. We went to the visitor center for a while to see if it would roll by. It took a while but we decided to venture out. It was still raining but it was warm and we had fun! Not many people were out on the dunes. But it was not long and the lightning started again so we had to head back to the trailer for the night.
Also because the place was all about sand, I did not take the camera out. So I do not have any great photos of Keeley rolling or Al anf Kait running down the huge mountians of sand. But I do have this. Sadly we only took about 5 photos of this place.

We headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a few days of resting and sight seeing. Since we ended our Grand Canyon stop a day early we stayed an extra day in Santa Fe. Several months ago I had seen some travel magazine with photos of Santa Fe and these beautifull colorful houses I so wanted to go there to photograph them for myself. We were unable to find places that were as colorfull as the photos I has seen but I did have fun taking photos around town anyway! We took a whole day and walked around old town Santa Fe so that I could take photos! It was a ton of fun for me and tolorable for everybody els. We did stop to have lunch at a cool little place called Blue Corn Cafe. It was good mexican food! Here are a few of my favorite photos from that day!
This is the girls standing by the oldest house in the U.S. It was built in 1625. It is right behind that oldest church in the U.S., the San Miguel Mission, built in 1619.

Of corse I like the detail shots better than the others but I guess it is good to be able to see it all too.
Heres some more.

I have to give props to Al, He took the last photo.
Let me know what you think about the photos.
I will have to continue tomorrow.
So until then...


Archaeology and Mesa Verde

As some of you may know, I was attempting to become an archaeology minor in college. In doing that I did an actual archaeology practicum my last summer in college. This was right about the time that I met Christy.

Anyhow, we were up in Ridgefield, Washington digging an old village there which Lewis and Clark had encountered on their way through. It was a killer experience and I still enjoy hearing anything about the past and history and dirt today.

And then along comes Mesa Verde National Park.

It is an archaeologists dream. There are pits and hearths and post holes and all kinds of pre-history there. I kept snapping photos and lingering around all the sites, while Chris and the girls kept wanting to move on. Pretty sad, I know - but when you're the only boy amongst a bunch of women, sometimes you just want to play in the dirt a little.

I won't bore you with too many pictures of the actual dig sites, but here are a few shots to check out:

Most of the actual ruins, you can't go inside and check stuff out. There is only one of the cliff dwellings you can tour yourself. And you can't go inside of the dwellings. You can just tour it unaccompanied by a ranger. So most of the shots of the ruins will be from some distance away.

However, for a small fee you can pay to take a tour with the ranger as part of a big group or a smaller group. We opted for the bigger group, which was cheaper.

Here you can get a feel for the scale of the cliff dwelling ruins. They are definitely pretty cool.

And here, for anyone who might be interested, is a local inhabitant. They're not really too hip on having their pictures taken, so it's rare to get a quality shot like this one. Oh, did I mention I took this picture?

For the most part Mesa Verde is a place where an archaeology loving type of person might be happy. And other more normal people will be content to just spend a little time there checking out the cliff dwellings and then moving on.


Highway 160 - leaving Arizona and heading toward Cortez, Colorado

So, now you know that the southern part of the Grand Canyon DID NOT appeal to either of us. In fact, we didn't like it so much that we left a day early. Christy didn't like the drive down from north Grand Canyon, but I did. I think she would have liked it more if she had been driving. Ever since that drive, I have been trying to let her drive WAY more so she's not so bored. If you've known me long, you know I'm not much of a conversationalist. And if you've known me as long as Chris has, you might regret having to sit silently with me for more than 5 minutes.

We left the Canyon in an easterly direction, and drove on Highway 160. In general, the trek on 160 from the Grand Canyon all the way up to the four corners, pretty much... SUCKS. That includes Tuba City. A town that I don't consider one of my top, most enjoyable cities of all times.

There is not a whole lot to see other than dry, flat, parched land with little in the way of viewpoints. There are 2 exceptions, and I might be stretching it a bit by calling them views.

First was this amazingly large grain elevator looking structure. Apparently they must move oil in this thing though, and not grain, because the road signs all tell you to watch for oil and water on the roadway.

That huge pipe crosses over the highway and runs up the mountain on the other side, delivering what can only be considered some of kind of priceless cargo. You can't tell it from the picture, but that thing is a monstrous silo - or at least it appears huge because it's the only thing you'll see along the road for about 50 miles.

Secondly, there's a town called Kayente. In all actuality, it's probably not much better than Tuba City, but they've definitely tried to modernize and update, and bring themselves into the modern world. Unfortunately, once you kind of see behind the wonderfully clean surface of the town, everything takes on the dirty, dusty feel of what Tuba City was to me.

Actually, the sites in this town are nice, but they are actually part of Monument Valley. In other words... to really see them you will have to leave Kayente. Making it a necessary, and maybe worthwhile stop. But also - NOT - on my favorite places to visit list.

Anyways, a few hours later we pulled up to the ever-so-impressive Four Corners monument.

I'll end it with this...
the National Parks have this little book you can buy - called a Blue Book. What it is... is a book you can stamp at each park or momument you visit. Each 'visitor's center' has a stamp that you can stamp in your Blue Book. There are sections, like Southwest and Northwest, in this book. After visiting Yellowstone we decided this was kind of a cool way to remember each place we had visited. We've been eagerly stamping all of the stops along the way after missing everything in Yellowstone. So, we walked over to the visitors center at the Four Corners stop to find that the door is closed and locked.

And guess what they have posted on the door?

Any ideas?


Here's what is posted on the Four Corners visitors center door...

CONDEMNED! Yep. Pretty impressive, huh? Oh, well, at least someone's making money from it.


Views of the Grand Canyon

So I had tried to post a couple days ago and just as I hit the button to submit the super duper long post, It vanished. I was so very frusterated that I did not even want to post anymore. I was sure I would never post again, but here I am. I am back. I guess that I just have to much to say that Al does not. And I have more photos to share than he is willng to take the time to post up.
So here we go again...

The Grand Canyon is truly grand indeed! It is so big it was, and still is, hard for me to wrap my mind around. I had to look at the areal views of the canyon just to get some kind of understanding of the size. It is just massive!

So the way we had planned it we were going to stay 2 nights at the North Rim and 3 nights at the South rim. The first 2 nights were nice. The campground was full but it was not all that big so it seemed good. There is a lodge right on the rim. They invite all visitors to the park to use thier Sun room. It is a big beautiful room with Huge windows and a spitacular view of the canyon. It was really very nice. They also have2 out door viewing areas that are great too. There were lots of people there but again it was not that bad. We did some of the trails that take you to more great views.

Here is one from a trail called Angels window. This is just about the best view that you can get of the Colorado River from the North side.
Well what you can't see in this little photo is that you can actually see the river in that cut out hole in the rock. I guess that I really should have used the bigger lens to get that photo. Bummer.
So after our 2 days on the North rim we headed over to the South rim. Now you would figure that because it is only 11 miles across the canyon, as the crow flies, That it would not take all that long to drive from the North to the South rim. But, OH NO, Because we are talking about a National Park here, It is a whoppin 250 miles around from rim to rim. Theer is only one way to go around and let me tell you it is the most boring 250 mile that I have seen yet. It is mostly reservation land that has nothing on it but a few shacks and fences. It was a long 4 hours around the canyon.
Any way we finally get to the South rim and it is so much more developed than the North We hears from a Ranger that only 10% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon go to the North Rim. Let me tell you it is the best. There are just way too many people on the South side. It is the same view and so much more peacefull.
Like I said we had planned to stay on that side for 3 nights but because of the people and the hassel of trying to get around there. They have a shuttle system that you have to take and there are just too many people and not enough buses. It is a major headache. We left after only 2 nights.
It is a beautifull place but man I would go to the North and skip the south all together if I ever go back again.
Here are a few more photos. The first one is a sign that I found in the park at one of the view pionts. I really like it! Great verse. The other one is a fun one that I caught as we were checking out the view.

I guess that there were a couple of good point about the South rim. we took the time to watch the sunset there. It was nice to see but I LOVED the lighting. It was perfect for taking photos. Check it out! My favorite is the last one.

Anyhow I was popping them off left and right.
So the second good thing about the SOuth is there was a Star Party going on while we were there. It was a week with out a moon, at night anyway. So every year a large group of ammiture astronomers meet together at the grand canyon and bring thoer huge wonderful telescops and let everyone usr them. They set them up to see the different planets and stars and things and then let you come up and look. It was awesome! We got to see Venus, Jupiter and 4 of its moons together and Saturn! It was the coolest thing. The girls were way impressed, especially Kait. Everytime she looked thru a telescop she was just like, WOW that is amazing. Saturn was the coolest to me. It looked just like a toy. It was just awesome! We had to peel the girls away even tho it was very late. We had so much fun with that. I don't have any photos of that part because I have no idea how to set up my camera to the telescopes. I did learn it was possible but I did not try it. Maybe some other time!
That is all for now. I will post this before I loose this one.
More to come...


Grand Canyon... How does that wet your pants, Dad?

We left Zion, regretfully, and made the fairly short trek down to Grand Canyon. On the way down we dropped into the Kaibab National Forest vistors center and talked to a great ranger who used to be stationed in Coos Bay, Oregon. He was super nice, and gave us some more great ideas for our stay in the Santa Fe area.

After that we drove on down and pulled into the North Rim Grand Canyon campground in the early afternoon.

After visiting the grand canyon of Yellowstone park, I was a little leary of checking out the 'real' Grand Canyon. I recently realized, I have an absolute fear of heights - not really for myself necessarily - but having the girls around when they think nothing can happen to them, thinking they're invincible. It scares the 'you know what' right out of me every time I see them standing close to the edge.

We've developed a new saying...

'How does that wet your pants?'

The girls say that to me now every time we get on top of a super high cliff or ledge. It's appropriate!

Here's an example. Notice my back leg here, as I'm looking over the edge at the Grand Canyon northside. YOWSA!

Just a quickie to post something up. I'll add more soon.



Day 28 in the Speer Odyssey

Hello guys. Al - here.

Technology is the craps sometimes.

What you are reading right now is about 4 hours of work - gone.

Christy had worked on 1 post from about 6pm to 10 tonight, and with one stroke of the keyboard...

it disappeared.


So, now you are reading something from me.

We'll start working on more soon. Hopefully shorter posts that don't get deleted when we hit a button.

Sorry to you and to Christy.



Zion National Park's east entrance road - worth every freaking cent!

It's Al. Sorry all you Christy fans.

As you leave Bryce National Park toward the west, you come across another park called Red Canyon (I think that's it's name). It's a very, very cool park. Almost as nice as Bryce but in a different way. Definitely worth a stop.

Anyways, we stopped in there on our way out. As we were looking around inside, one of the rangers was talking to another visitor who was going to Zion National Park, and the ranger said they would probably be disappointed going there (to Zion). Christy told me the ranger had said that as we were getting back into the truck to head to Zion. But it didn't matter, we were bound and determined to go anyhow.

So we drive the short distance to Zion, and we come in on the east side. Just a side note... if you have an oversized vehicle or RV you have to pay a $15 fee for the park rangers to create a one lane road for you to pass through part of the east entrance. Keep that in mind.

Basically, when you come into the east side of Zion National Park, you are coming into one of the most incredible drives you will ever experience. The drive goes for miles and it covers some of the most breathtaking cliffs, geologic formations, and rocks you will ever see. The road starts at the top, east side of the park and then it drops down into the valley where most of the park infrastructure is located (visitors center, museum, hiking trails, campgrounds, etc.). At one point, you pass through a tunnel. This tunnel is one of the coolest tunnels on the planet. It is 1.1 miles long. There are no lights inside. There are only a couple of short, cut-outs in the tunnel wall where you can peak out and see where you are. The views last only the briefest of moments, but they just give you a slight taste of whats to come. The thing is... the tunnel was built in the 1930's, so it wasn't designed for large vehicles, so they have to close off the other direction of traffic for larger vehicles. BUT, if you are at all thinking about doing this drive - DO IT! It is an absolute thrill! And worth the $15 if you just do it once in your life.

We were at the park about 3 days. We didn't have to pay the fee with our small trailer. But we came in on that road. We drove it a second time for sight-seeing. And we left on that road heading towards the Grand Canyon.

The east entrance road into Zion National Park gets **** - 4 stars from me, even if you had to pay the $15 fee.

The ranger who said that person would be disappointed visiting Zion was out of their mind. It is a superb park.


Here it comes...

So all is well and we have all recovered from our sunburns. Thankfully! We are all getting dark and looking more outdoorsie. (is that a word?) I am liking that!
So when we were leaving Salt Lake City we saw the coolest advertisement driving down the road. I mean literally it was driving down the road! check it out!
and this one!

It is a mobil room. I think it is very clever advertising. It is this really greatdecorated room that has glass walls so that you can see everything in it as you go ny it. I guess that they are opening an IKEA store there in Salt Lake so that was thier advertising for it. Cool beans in my book.

SO our first day of hiking in Bryce Canyon was very nice and it was very hot. This is some of the wildlife that we saw on the first hike that we did that morning. And we were even lucky and got to see it feeding!
Look closely. Do you see it? You may have to super size the photo to see it. There is a stink bug in that little guys mouth! I know not the kind of wild life you were expecting but the girls sure were excited to see that it had it's breakfast in his mouth for us to see.
This hike is actually just outside of the Park area but it was a good one that we enjoyed a lot because there is actually still running water there. And even tho it was only about 9:00 am or so it felt so good to play in the water and cool off.

after this hike we went into the park. The canyon is filled with these rock formations that they call Hoodoo. Keeley really got a kick out of that! There are lots of different ones in different places in the canyon that have names. They are all named after famouse people or animals. Because I guess they look like them. But let me tell you I never saw anything but a funny looking rocks.
Well ok so maybe I see some thing in the rock formations but I am not going to say what it was here!
so moving on...
Because we were going to be hiking down into the canyon we all had on our hiking boots. But I have to say I love Keeleys boots the best. And not just because I got them for a super great deal either. I mean just look how cute they are on her!
Here we are on the trail. The Hoodoos are much more impresive when you can get down to them and then look up. It is not easy to see us but we are there! It was very warm while we were hiking. I am not sure of the actual temp but we were very toasty! Here are the girls catching some shade and a bit of a breeze in one of the tunnels that you walk to onthe way down. Even in the heat and not enjoying it so much the girls still look so stinkin cute. Don't you think?
So the second day at Bryce we took a bus tour. It was a lot cooler that day and we did not think to take our coats with us in the morning when we left. But we had a good time anyway. And it was not all that cold. Mostly at the highest point on the canyon rim. This is a shot from that highest point.
It was a great view! Here is another of Kait and I at the top! The bus tour lasted about 3 hours and after that I am not really sure what did with the rest of the day. But the next day we left Bryce Canyon. We had heard that it was going to be a very very cold day and so when Al and I got up that morning it was cold. We decided to not eat breakfast but to pack up as fast as we could and head out to eat breakfast just outside of the park. So this is what we were greeted with!
Yep! That would be snow! And believe it or not Al was wearing shorts that morning! We were freezing!! By the time that we had finished with our breakfast it had stopped. I heard that the folling day they got more snow but thankfully we had already moved on.
Our next stop was Zion National Park.
So far I have to say that this has been my favorite park. I don't know what it is about that place but I had a hard time leaving there and was wishing that we could have more time there. It is just beautiful and amazing! I am sure that none of the photos that we took there will do it justice. But we still took lots! We drove in to the park from the East entrance and I know that that is the best drive ever. It is stunning! You start out at the top of the canyon and then you go all the way down to the bottom! There are these rock walls that just go up for what seems like forever and they are just beautiful. Like I said these really do not do it any justice. There is just too much to this place to get it in a photo. You all will just have to check it out for yourselve in person. It will be so worth the trip. I liked it so much I am trying to talk Al in to bringing me back for an aniversary celebration so that we can hike all the trails and enjoy it for all that it is once again!
we did a hike with the girls that is called the river walk. It is a 1 mile hike one way and it is at the back of the canyon at a place called The Tempel of Sinewava. It is a good hike for kids nice and easy. On the way the girls tried their hand at rock climbing.
Kaitlyn was the first one to get up. And as you can see she was very proud of herself.

But at the end of this hike is another hike called the narrows. It is what is called a slot Canyon. Where the walls of the canyon are very narrow and very tall. I love the photos that you see of all the great slot canyons that are around Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. So I really wanted to go up a bit and see what it was like. It was a nice warm day so we decided to take off our shoes and go for a bit of the hike up the river. Oh yeah did I forget to mention that you have to go in the river to do this great hike? Of corse there are places that will rent these water shoes so that you can hike properly inthe river but why do that on suce awarm day. And the girls really really wanted to play in the water anyways! So off we went! Now mind you it is a 16 mile hike to the end of the narrows and it requires an overnight stay. And a permit to stay overnight. We only were able to go maybe 1/2 mile or so before we decided to head back. But I so wanted to go farther. I guess that it only takes a couple of miles and it gets really narrow. I guess that Al and I will have to do that hike when we go back sometime. Cause just look at this!

Ofcorse after I took this photo Al had to continue to model for the camera. Here he is working it!

I also think that Zion is the best designed park. They have a shuttle bus system that you have to use. Because thye will not allow private cars past a certain place. But they doa great job with it. there are alot of busses so you never have to wait very long for one to come when you get off. They are always there with in a few minutes. The also planned the stops well. At each stop there are several hiks that start from there. There is also lots of hiks that you can do safely with kids. We were able to do all the hiks that we a little over a mile, one way, and under that they had! The girls are great hikers! I love that about them!
The girls have been doing the Jounior Ranger programs at all the prks that we have been to so far. They are getting a very big colection of patches! All of them have been this little booklet that they work on and then they may have to attend a ranger program to finish it out. And that is about it. There are questions they have to answer and little projects they do. Usualy very simple. So when we got to Zion we asked about the jounior ranger program and they said oh YOu drop your child off from 9am to 11:30 and they do activities with a Ranger. We were stunned. we were thinking man now this is good! They actually take your kids for 2 and 1/2 hours take them for a little hike do some art projects and then you come back and pick them up. They get the patch and you get free time!!! Al and I were very excited. Keeley was also excited. Kait was not so sure. Al and I decided that durring that time we would do a hike that the girls would not be able to do. We decided to tackel Angels Landing!
So the next morning we drop the girls off in the morning and head off to our adventure.
Let me tell you a little about this hike. It takes you from the bottom of the Canyon to the top of a peak that is 1488ft up. That is what you climb. It is 2 and 1/2 miles one way. There is a place called Refridgerator Canyon on the way up. Just after that is what is called the wiggles. It is 21 switchbacks up and scouts landing is at the top. Then there is a place where you have to go and there is a 3-4ft wide walking section and a 900ft drop on one side of that path and a 1200ft drop on the other! Yeah Baby!! They have put in a chain for you to use on that section but it is only on one side. and you have to yeild to the hikers coming down the path.
Unfortunatly we knew that we would not have enough time to make it all the way to the top. But we sure gave it all we had. By the time the bus got us to the starting point we did not have as much time as we would have liked. We went all out and went as fast as we could to see as much as possible. It was amazing! Just beautiful. You are going up and there is nothing between you and that drop. It starts up almost from the begining. This photo was taken at the begining of the refridgerator.
This is part of the trail that we came up.
Here is a view of the wiggles from the bottom of them.
And this is from about half way up. Not such a great photos because I was in a hurry. Al is down at the bottom. Can you spot him?
Basicly what happened is we kept checking the time and saying oh we can go a bit more and still get back to pick up the girls. Oh sure lets go just a bit farther. So even tho I so did not want to turn back here with a little more than a half mile to go to the top and the most exciting part of the hike. We had to go back and get the girls. But here is the kicker, We had to jog back down to get there in time. It was great! We made it down and onto the bus. The unfortunate thing is that we got on a bus that had a few old couples on it and no one els. So Al and I are in a hurry to get back to get the girls and the stinkin bus driver is slowing down at every flower and shrub telling the name and all about hte plant. The old people were eating it up and AL and I are like come on man drive the stinkin bus and get going!! It was really frusterating. We finally make it to our stop and jump out and start running up the way to get the girls. We make it there just in the nick of time. Not a minute to spare. Right at the exact time they tols us to be there. Out of breath and sweaty but we were there.
The really crazy thing about the day was when we heard from someone that there was a man that fell form that very hike we were on right after we came down. It was not even from the crazy spot either but from not far from where we were. Al and I were probably coming down the trail when that man was going up and we passed him. He fell after making it to the top. They closed the trail for about 4 hours so they could get the body and then reopened it. Here is a link to the story.,1249,660228165,00.html
It was really trippy to hear that and think that we passed the man on our way down. I am thankfull that we were o.k. and that we had a good time on the hike.

It is now 1:30 in the morning and I had better be getting to bed. We are planning a day of hiking around Mesa Verde tomorrow. And we were planning on getting up early to do that so that it was not so hot.
I will have to write about the Grand Caynon tomorrow and then about where we currently are.
Until then...