Oct 09

Mesa Verde

While planning my trip to Durango I had heard that Mesa Verde was interesting, or the people were interesting, so obviously I had to go there. Of course all we saw was the National Park, but sometimes that is how it goes.

At first glance the park reminded me a lot of some of the other parks in the region – Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion.  A canyon, this one was desert like.

 Then we stopped at Cliff Palace. Although you need tickets to do a tour of this area, you can take a short walk to an overlook, which is where I got my surprise, the Anasazi ruins.  Yes, I know they don’t call them the Anasazi, but to me that is who they are.  Mostly because that’s what they were called in the romance novels I read about this area.  So yes they are really the Pueblo Indians, but to me they are the Anasazi.

 Although you don’t learn to much by just looking, it’s amazing how well built up the community is, considering they used dirt and water as mortar.

We then drove over to the Spruce Tree House. Although you can walk down here to get a closer look, my friend was recovering from a broken ankle and I’m just a wimp. Well with the higher elevation it would have taken me forever to get backup.  Yea, that sounds good.

After that we headed back to Durango.  One of the interesting things about the ride to and from Durango is going through the smaller towns, I wont mention any names, but people primarily lived in trailer homes.  That’s amusing to a girl who only knows of 1 trailer park in the region she lives in.

 

Jun 19

Zion National Park

We finally left Kanab, the location of my falling and cutting my leg going to the POOL!   We were headed to Zion National Park on the way to Las Vegas.  Yes, this park is an easy 1-2 hour drive from Vegas, incase you feel the need to exercise some of sin city out of yourself.

 

Unlike Bad Lands, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, our primary point of visiting Zion National Park was from the floor of the park, not from the top.  While Zion wasn’t quite as beautiful as Bryce Canyon or as grand as the Grand Canyon, the vantage point from the base gave it a different feel.

Most of the tour group did a hike to a small waterfall, most had planned on going further, but the trail stopped there due to construction so it was the end of the line.  We got some great photos and headed back to the visitors center there for some shopping and snacks.

On the way to the hike I noticed our coach driver and tour manager inspecting one of the tires, it turns out we had developed a leak in one of the tires.  What’s a tour to do when that happens?  Go to the main visitor center so the driver can find the National Park bus driver guys and try to get the tire fixed.

 

The only problem with this is that when you’re waiting for your bus to be fixed and you already have seen a nice piece of the park, you don’t really have time to do much more then shop at the bigger store and soak in the experience. Oh, and don’t go to far incase the tire is fixed sooner then you thought.

As I recall, it took less than an hour and then we were on our way to fabulous Las Vegas!

May 22

Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon started with an early drive from our hotel in Kanab and a time change. Of course we were staying in Kanab that night so our return from the Grand Canyon would include a time change.
At the North Rim there is a nice visitors center that includes facilities, maps, a restaurant and beautiful views.
From the visitors center there are some shorter walks along the ridges (they’re perfectly safe for the average person) and offer AWESOME views. If you’re visiting this area follow the trails to the Bright Angel Point.
If you’re looking for something more strenuous you can do the Bridle Trail, which I did.  The good thing about the Bridle Trail is that it is shaded and easy for the average visitor. The bad things is that most of it has absolutely no view.  So why do it? It leads to the trails that go into the canyon.
I opted not to go down into the canyon because I was afraid it would be too much for me and I would find out too late. But I hear the trail was not one of the nicer ones we would have done in the National Parks due to the donkeys.  Apparently the trail was not as clean and pristine.
Instead I opted to relax and take a nap inside the visitor’s center while looking out at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve got nothing against the outdoors and all that nature stuff, but sometime it’s better to sit and be in it rather than doing as much as possible. Today was that kind of day.

We did have lunch in the restaurant, it was a bit pricey, but it was good.  And after I had just enough time to take my favorite wildlife photograph ever!

May 01

Bryce Canyon

After seeing Salt Lake City and having to prove myself for a drink (I was 35 at the time) it was time to head south to see some National Parks.  Bryce Canyon was our first stop.  If you havne’t been following me for a while you should know, I have a fear of hiking downhill.  It’s been near paralyzing at times.

With that, we arrived at Bryce Canyon in the afternoon and were given 2 hours to explore.  We were given the choice of a couple different trails and although I was hesitant I took the longer hike.  Oh, not only do I have a fear of hiking downhill, I was also in terrible shape having had bone taken from my right leg 3 months before for a bone graft. But then, nothing like a little exercise to get your body back. 

The hike actually only took an hour and 15 minutes and I did manage to hike down without killing myself.  The hike up however… it was strenuous.  As in, switchbacks like I haven’t seen since I was in Norway going to Geringer Fjord, except instead of riding in a bus I was walking it.  Ugh, I thought I was going to die.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I was hurting at the end. And my shoes were coated in a lovely layer orange dust. This is one of those place I would suggest bringing your old shoes too.

It was worth it though, Bryce Canyon is beautiful.  The colors are fabulous, I’m sure it helped that we had a bright sunny day to contrast with the deep earthy browns and oranges of Bryce.  The formations of the hoodoos make the landscape unique from all of the other National Parks I have visited.  And as much as the hike sucked, it was also fun, there were a lot of quirky formations there, the kind of things a writer could make an interesting story out of.

Mar 20

Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Right outside of Yellowstone on the Montana side is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This center is a non-profit that rescues grizzly bears and wolves and also provides education to visitors.

We started our day with a tour of the facility and animals, the tour was great and our guide extremely knowledgable. Our first stop was a grizzly habitat that housed Kobuk and Nakina. They are brother and sister, their mother and other brother were killed in Alaska. That was our lucky day, our guide said they were usually pretty docile in the mornings, but today they played.  It was a little scary looking too (see the pictures).  Although these two were playing, the behavior was similar to bears in heat.

After the bears we moved on to the Wolf area.  There were only a few wolves out that morning, but they were beautiful.  We learned about the alpha male and the hierarchy of wolves, very interesting.  It also reminded me of Twilight.

There were also a few birds on property, including a Bald Eagle who had been poisoned.  His brain was screwed up from that and he was always looking in funny directions and was obviously screwed up, it was sad.  But it was also nice to know that there was a safe place for him to go.

After our tour of the animals we were invited to go inside the museum, they just displayed a few things to learn a bit more.  This section is probably more appropriate for someone who is not on a tour, but it was nice to take a walk around.

Outside there is a display of bear safe containers.  When containers want to be certified for bear safety, this is where they come for testing.  Kobuk it seems is very good at getting into containers, so they give him the containers and if he can’t get into them in a prescribed period of time (don’t remember what the time is) then they are certified as bear safe.

After that we all went into the shop.  The shop had a good selection, but my favorite thing was that there was a giant bear chair, and that was just fun.

If you’re in the area of West Yellowstone I think it’s absolutely worth it to stop here, if for no other reason then it is your best chance to see bears and wolves in yellowstone.  But it’s also nice to learn a bit about these animals and why you should not get too close to them in the park.

Mar 06

Yellowstone – Old Faithful and Norris Geyser

For my last edition of Yellowstone posts it’s all about Geysers, specifically Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful.  I’ll start with Norris Geyser since I know after you read about Old Faithful you’ll probably want to move on and we can’t have that.

At Norris Geyser there are several different geyser areas.  Steamboat Geyser is probably the most popular because it is the tallest geyser.  But, I went to the Porcelin Basin, which was very pretty and had some steam pockets, but nothing went off.  I didn’t feel so bad though because nothing went off at Steamboat Geyser either.  This are though represents a more baren type of geyser area, some others are more woodsey.  But it’s the type of place you could hang out at all day and nothing happens, which would make me sad.

Old Faithful is not the most regular or the largest geyser, but it is the most regular large geyser.  At Old Faithful there are two large lodges, one with food and shops, the other as more of a visitors center.  Old Faithful goes off every 35 to 120 minutes, when I was there it was on a 45ish minutes cycle.  She went off for about 2-3 minutes when we were there, long enough for me to watch a bit and take over 150 pictures.  When you enter Yellowstone the guards should be able to tell you when she’s scheculed to go off, you could probably also find out from just about any ranger at the park too.

The area is sectioned off and has a large seating area of benches.  People will be seated at least 15-20 mintues before, if it’s a crowded day you’ll probably want to find seating early.  The restaurant there will be busy after she goes off, you may want to plan your time around that if you don’t like crowds.  Is Old Faithful worth it?  Of course, it’s pretty cool watching a geyser go off and the wind blow the water off in one direction.  It’s a cool aspect of nature.  And since Old Faithful is pretty regular, it’s a great choice to guarantee you see a geyser go off.