Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Bryce Canyon is located in south western Utah.  It is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet elevation.

There are some very nice hikes in the area, but you have to remember:  they all start at the top so when you get down you have to climb all the way back.  And it can get steep, and hot, but the views are worth the effort.  Here is a photo collage I made of our visit.

Sunset at Arches NP, Moab, UT

We were scheduled to spend 5 days in Moab but we shortened it to one night.  Sitting in the sun in a tin can motor home is no place to be when the temps are predicted to reach 107F!

So we parked, turned on the AC, and went to Moab Brewery for a cool beer and some good food.  But we are in Moab, so we had to make a quick trip after dinner to check out some of the fabulous scenery of this area.  So here are some quick pictures taken close to and at sunset.

 

Hiking Smelter Mountain

This was one of the most difficult hikes we’ve ever done.  Not because it was that far, or that high, but it was so steep and rocky.  It gained 1,000ft in one mile, all rocks and boulders. And in the full Colorado sun…. good thing we had lots of water with us.  It took us from the base of Smelter Mountain to the broadcast towers on the very top.

But we made it, and the effort was worth it, with spectacular views of Durango and the surrounding mountains.  The trip back down was anticlimactic, we just made sure of our foot placement and we got down no problems (well, maybe for 100 yards or so when we made a wrong turn).

Granted, we questioned our sanity several times on the way up (hey, we’re in our mid 70’s) but it was definitely worth the effort.

Hiking Engineer Mountain

Engineer Mountain is located about 50 miles north of Durango, is about 12,900ft high, and very popular with hikers.  There is a trail that leads through the forest to an open meadow right above the tree line, then to a viewpoint called Eagle Nest, and finally the mountain top itself.  Very few people attempt the top, as you pretty well need to go on all fours to get up the last steep part.

The parking lot is at 10,600 ft, the meadow about 2 1/2 miles in and about 11,400ft elevation, Eagles Nest another mile or so at about 11,800ft.  The peak is another 3/4 mile but goes up another 1,100ft!

It’s been almost 10 years since my quadruple bypass surgery.  We’ve hiked here before, and thought this would make a good test of my surgeons skills.  And, in fact, Romola and I had little trouble hiking — until we got within a half mile of the meadow.  It started to rain, and thunder was heard.  It never is a good idea to be on a mountain in thunderstorms so we headed back down.

So although we shorted our hike by a mile or so, it was very pleasant.  The wild flowers are blooming, with the columbine — Colorado’s state flower — well represented.

 

Vallecito Lake

At 7,800 feet above sea level, Vallecito Lake is the largest body of water at or above this elevation in Colorado.  And, at only 18 miles from Durango, it is a popular vacation spot.  It boasts several lodges and RV parks, as well as camping and just day activities.  And even better for us, it is only 15 miles from our campground…

Although there is a road all the way around, part of it is private property so we did have to back track a bit.  But we found a nice hiking trail at the south end, near the dam.

 

Durango & Silverton Railroad

While Romola and I have been in the Durango area several times before, we never took the famous train ride to Silverton.  This year we decided to take the train from Durango to Silverton and back.  Certainly one of the more scenic train rides in the country!

Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1880. The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both passengers and freight.  It is a narrow gauge railroad, with the track being 3 ft. wide.

From the very beginning, the railroad was promoted as a scenic route for passenger service although the line was constructed primarily to haul mine ores, both gold and silver, from the San Juan Mountains. It is estimated over $300 million in precious metals has been transported over this route.

Eventually the ores played out and the mines greatly reduced.  It saw a resurgence during WW2 for mining uranium, but since WW2 the area, and railroad, had struggled.  Then Hollywood discovered the railroad and several films featured the train.   In the 1960’s the RR was registered as a Historical Site, and promoted for tourism.  It was purchased in the 1980’s and since then has seen restoration, additions, and is now a major tourist attraction.  The train now runs year round.

 

The Fourth, small town style

We are enjoying the Fourth of July weekend with our friends from the Pikes Peak Roller RV Club.  This year, the rally is held in Bayfield, a small town (2,333 residents) in Colorado.  We’re staying at Riverside RV Park, a very nice campground, just 18 miles from Durango.

We went downtown this morning and had a breakfast burrito at the Bottom Shelf Brewery, tasty and filling.  And then went out to watch the parade.  Gotta love those small town parades!