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Adventures in the Villa

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2021-06-10 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 15 – Jenson, UT – White Water Rafting

Today was our exciting White Water Rafting trip down the Green River, through Split Mountain… but we were not allowed to bring our phones/cameras, so we took no photos…

However, another Airstreamer did have a waterproof camera, so he was kind enough to lend us some of his photos…

We had to be at the Raft Store in Jenson at 8:30, so naturally we were there at 8:00. We waited around and finally enough of us (there were 18 Airstreamers on this excursion…) arrived so that we could be fitted for helmets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs – life vests…).

We were all loaded into two vans, along with three rafts and four River Guides. We drove about 45 minutes through some of the most desolate landscapes I have ever seen. We stopped along the way to view some petroglyphs (not to be confused with pictographs…).

Finally, we arrived at the Green River. While one of the River Guides gave us our safety talk, the other three unloaded the rafts, stowed away the equipment and food we would need for lunch, and got everything ready for our departure.

Lynda and I were joined by four other Airstreamers and two river guides into our raft. We had the middle seats… I would have preferred the rear seats, but that didn’t work out…

By the way; I have never done this before. Lynda has, on a Senior trip, with a raft loaded with about fifteen 17 year old boys and girls…

And off we went. The river was very quiet here, so we practiced paddling for a few minutes. Then we headed downstream. We were the lead boat…

We looked something like this. Frankly, I can’t tell if this is our boat or not…

The trip covers nine miles of the river, with four Class 3 rapids, plus lesser rapids in between…

About halfway through the trip we stopped for lunch. We had safely maneuvered three of the Class 3 Rapids; we had been splashed and bumped, and we were generally pretty tired. However, we were all still in the boat!

We landed and came ashore. Most of us quickly shed the cumbersome helmets and PFDs…

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We had a chance to relax, drink some water, and chat about our travels…

And then came lunch!

If you hadn’t noticed by now, our river guides were four very strong 20-something young women!

The rest of the trip went off without a hitch, except that at the last Class 3 Rapids, just before our take-out spot, we had wind gales/gusts of 40-50 mph blowing us back up the river! We ran those rapids three times, each time only to be blown back up the river… (the water was flowing at about 20-25 mph…).

Our guides finally pulled us along the shoreline where they could walk in the water and drag us down river against the wind, while we paddled furiously and used our paddles to push off the shore. I don’t know how orthodox or how unusual this is, but it worked.

We finally landed and were able to stand again on dry land. As we rested, we watched the four river guides hoist these rafts onto their shoulders and place them on the trailer. We had a short trip back to the Raft Store, from which we returned to the RV Park…

It was a great trip and I think we would all do it again. It was a little wet, a little bumpy, but it was all in good fun!

Back at the RV park we had happy hours. And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-09 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 14 – Traveling to Jenson, UT

Today is a travel day, as we leave Colorado and enter the far northeast corner of Utah, just a few miles south of Wyoming. We left about 9:00 am and traveled north. At first the roads were small, straight, and well paved…

The views are very stark, very moon-like…

Mountains are rocky and very distinct…

We climbed the mountains, as usual. The road got windier, and the pavement got rougher. In fact, it was terrible!

We turned west, and entered the town of Rangley. We parked the Villa and walked the length of the town. We ate lunch at Dottie’s Diner. Best French fries we’ve had on this trip! But the chili had absolutely no spice or heat to it – I suspect there wasn’t even salt and pepper… But we easily put these things aside, and we enjoyed our meal…

Walking back to the Villa we passed one of the very few modern building we have seen on this trip…

We walked back to the Villa and continued west, into Utah!

We proceeded west, passing through Dinosaur, CO, where the local townsfolk have a lot of fun naming their streets things like Brontosaurus Street and naming their ice cream parlor “Bedrock”…

Utah looks a lot like Colorado here…

We proceeded west, finally arriving at the tiny town of Jensen, UT. We turned north and entered Dinosaur National Monument…

Our RV park is in a valley adjacent to the Green River. The Green River here is about as large as the Colorado River was near Fruita. Many miles south of here, just north of Moab, Utah, in the city of Green River, Utah, the Green joins the Colorado, and the Colorado becomes a very large river. It was at this point, on the Green River, that John Wesley Powell began his exploration of the Colorado River, starting in 1869, eventually traveling through the Grand Canyon…

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We set up the Villa in the park. We are “dry camping” here – no electricity, water, or sewer hook-ups. We are really roughing it! I set out the solar panels, and I hope we won’t have to bring out the generators…

We left the RV park to visit the Dinosaur National Monument Visitors Center and Quarry Exhibits.

We approached the Visitors Center. Quite a nice modern building…

Dinosaur National Monument is located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers. Although most of the monument area is in Colorado, the Dinosaur Quarry is located in Utah, north of the town of Jensen. The nearest Colorado town is Dinosaur, while the nearest cities in Utah are Naples and Vernal.

Originally preserved in 1915 to protect its famous Dinosaur Quarry, the monument was greatly expanded in 1938 to include its wealth of natural history. The park’s wild landscapes, topography, geology, paleontology, and history make it a unique resource for both science and recreation. The park contains over 800 paleontological sites and has fossils of dinosaurs including AllosaurusDeinonychusAbydosaurus, and various sauropods.  The Abydosaurus fossil consists of a nearly complete skull, the lower jaw, and first four neck vertebrae.

Paleontologist Earl Douglass of the Carnegie Museum discovered eight vertebra of an Apatosaurus on August 17, 1909, which became the first dinosaur skeleton discovered and excavated at the new Carnegie Quarry. The area around the quarry was declared a national monument on October 4, 1915.

We took a shuttle from the Visitors Center up to the Quarry…

The Quarry Exhibit Hall is a magnificent building, built into the side of the mountain, to shield the quarry exhibits from the elements, and to show visitors what the bones and fossils look like when they are uncovered.

Again, I find the building much more interesting than dinosaur bones… I found this picture of the original building, erected in 1958. Unfortunately, due to the soils under the building and the seismic activity over the years, the original building was condemned in the 1990s, and totally reinforced and rebuilt. Note the difference between today’s building, above, and the original building, below…

Inside is a giant, two level exhibit hall, allowing visitors to see the fossils and bones on display…

All these fossils and bones are in their “as-found” condition… It is quite a display…!

The views were great from the Quarry Exhibit… After we had had enough of bones and fossils, we returned to the Villa…

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Happy Hours ensued, which turned into a weenie roast..

This is a typical thing on Airstream caravans – social get-togethers to share ice cream, birthday cake, or, in this case, a weenie roast…

We have cooking crew volunteers to set these things up…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-08 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 13 – Fruita, CO

Quiet day today.

We stayed in the Villa in the morning, catching up on various chores. In the early afternoon we drove into the town of Fruita. We walked the three block long downtown… It’s a pretty nice place…

We stopped in to Camilla’s Kaffe for lunch. We enjoyed lunch on a patio table…

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After lunch we walked about a little more…

We found Kokapelli, right here in Fruita!

Back at the RV Park we walked around a few more lakes…

This evening was another GAM and a Drivers’ Meeting…

And a fairly nice sunset…

We returned to the Villa for dinner, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-07 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 12 – Fruita, CO

Today we return to the Colorado National Monument to see more of its beauty…

On our way to the entrance we crossed the mighty Colorado River…

The Colorado River is the major river of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Its headwaters are in Rocky Mountain National Park where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. It flows southwest through the Colorado Plateau country of western Colorado, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona, where it flows through the Grand Canyon. It turns south near Las Vegas, Nevada, forming the Arizona–Nevada border in Lake Mead and the Arizona–California border a few miles below Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada and Needles, California, before entering Mexico in the Colorado Desert. Most of its waters are diverted into the Imperial Valley of Southern California. In Mexico its course forms the boundary between Sonora and Baja California before entering the Gulf of California.

We re-entered the Colorado National Monument.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department. The National Park System has since expanded to 423 units (often referred to as parks), more than 150 related areas, and numerous programs that assist in conserving the nation’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Park Service manages all of the various “units” – Parks, Forests, Monuments, Historic Sites, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas, Scenic Trails, and several other designations. The first parks were Yellowstone (1872), Sequoia (1890), Yosemite (1890), Mt. Rainier (1899), Crater Lake (1902), Wind Cave (1903), Mesa Verde (1906), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915). Colorado National Monument was established in 1911. The different desinations have to do with how they are created. National Parks are created by acts of Congress. National Monuments and most other designations are created by the President via Executive Order. Thirty States have National Parks; the States with the most parks are: California (9), Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).

We began our visit with a ranger talk in the picnic area where we had had dinner last night…

We learned about the geology of these magnificent cliffs and canyons, plus a little of the park history. The man behind the creation of the Colorado National Monument was John Otto, who settled in Grand Junction in the early 20th century. Otto was the first white man to explore the area.

Prior to Otto’s arrival, many area residents believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. Otto began building trails on the plateau and into the canyons.  As word spread about his work, the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Junction sent a delegation to investigate. The delegation returned praising both Otto’s work and the scenic beauty of the wilderness area, and the local newspaper began lobbying to make it a National Park. A bill was introduced and carried by the local Representatives to the U.S. Congress and Senate but a Congressional slowdown in the final months threatened the process. To ensure protection of the canyons President William Howard Taft (who had visited the area) stepped in and used the highest powers available to him via the Antiquities Act and presidential proclamation to declare the canyons as a national monument

John Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park.

For many years during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps. built roads, tunnels, trails, and other features of the park. The CCC left in 1941; the major Rim drive was completed in the 1950s.

Following the Ranger talk we visited the Visitor Center. I liked the fact that it is built from the native sandstone…

After we had seen a few exhibits in the Visitor Center we drove the Rim drive for 23 miles, all the way to Grand Junction. We saw 23 miles of rocks.

Here I liked the walls made from the natural sandstone… These walls are several hundred feet long, and they occur at many of the pull-outs along the Rim drive…

After we left the park we drove through Grand Junction again. We found truck fuel and DEF. Tomorrow we will return to Fruita for some final grocery shopping before we enter the wilderness of Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge Dam, and the Grand Tetons National Park…

It was 97 degrees again, but we have good, clean power, so both AC units are running in the Airstream… At 5:00 we took a walk around the lake in the park.

We also saw the Colorado River again, adjacent to the park…

Unfortunately, we walked out of the park and around the outside of the park, and finally had to go totally around the park and walk in the maim entrance…

After a short break we joined other caravaners for happy hours. We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…,

2021-06-05 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 10 – Gunnison, CO

Outing of the day is Black Canyon, in the Gunnison National Park.

We drove west from the RV park, enjoying the quiet beauty of this area…

Our first hint of the awe-inspring cliffs of Black Canyon occurred just after entering the park….

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is in western Colorado. It surrounds part of a deep, steep-walled gorge carved through Precambrian rock by the Gunnison River. Roads and trails along the north and south rims have views of the Black Canyon’s dramatic drops and the striated Painted Wall cliff. The winding East Portal Road descends to the river. Wildlife includes mule deer, elk and golden eagles.

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.

John Williams Gunnison (born November 11, 1812 in Goshen, New Hampshire) attended Hopkinton Academy, where after one term, he went on to teach at the local school. During his years as a teacher, he prepared himself to enter West Point Military Academy. In June of 1837 he graduated second out of fifty.

Gunnison’s first sight of the western lands came as a member of the Captain Stansbury Utah Territory Expedition of 1849. Gunnison, having caught the exploration bug during his previous expeditions in Florida and Michigan, was thrilled to embark on this new adventure. Their task was to explore the route to the Mormon community in Utah.

The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation – not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began.

We drove the loop road along the south rim. There are turn-outs to park, then we can walk down to viewpoints…

What we are looking at here are Pegmatite Dikes, which form when water is separated from lava as these mountains are pushed up from the crust of the earth. The water is forced though fractures in the rock. The water then forms crystals, which in turn produces pegmatite dikes.

We are at the visitors Center, looking down at a viewpoint below…

Here we are at the look-out…

Above us is the Visitors Center…

And below is the Gunnison River…

The Gunnison River has been carving this canyon for about 2,000 years…

This is Painted Wall… It is showing the striations of the different rock and crystals. Painted wall is the highest cliff in the park. It is 2,300 feet tall. If the Empire State Building were placed at the river below it would barely reach half way to the top…

Black Canyon is quite amazing in that everything is so close. It is only 48 miles long, 2,700′ deep, and 1,300′ wide at the top (40′ at the narrowest point at the bottom). In comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep!

After our amazing visit to Black Canyon, I had to write about it… We drove to Gunnison and found a coffee shop with internet access…

After about 3 hours of work, we returned to the Villa. Tonight is the obligatory drivers meeting. Tomorrow we drive to Fruita, CO…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-06 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 11 – Traveling to Fruita, CO

Today we travel to Fruita, CO, near Grand Junction.

Colorado National Monument is a National Park Service unit near the city of Grand Junction, Colorado. Sheer-walled canyons cut deep into sandstone and granite–gneiss–schist rock formations. This is an area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau, with pinyon and juniper forests on the plateau. The park hosts a wide range of wildlife, including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, ravens, jays, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes.

Here we are in our pickup truck caravan lining up to get into the park…

The cliff ahead is over 1,000 feet tall. We will drive up the side of it, as you can see here…

There are two tunnels through the rock…

We met at the top for a catered “Southwest” dinner… I’m sure you know our personal prohibition of entering a Mexican restaurant outside of California (with rare exceptions…). SO we told ourselves that this is not a restaurant, and this is not even trying to be Mexican food… For a catered buffet served up in 97 degree heat in the middle of a desert, it was pretty good!

Lynda performed her first duty as birthday celebration host, presenting birthday cake to a fellow caravaner…

After dinner we drove back down the mountain. The light was just perfect on the valley floor…

We returned to the Villa. The heat subsided to about 90 degrees, with a slight breeze. We walked the park, enjoyed the sunset, and had a nightcap on the picnic table…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-03 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 8 – Traveling to Gunnison, CO

Travel day: Today we left Colorado Springs and are heading west to Gunnison, CO.  We will travel small roads once again, which is fine with us.  Some of the Airstreamers are taking the interstate, which we find boring.

It was an easy 180 miles. The scenery was beautiful and ever changing…

We left Colorado Springs about 9:45.  Along this route we are traversing 4 mountain passes, some higher than others.  Wilkerson Pass is at 9,500′ elevation.  (This is not as high as it sounds to you flatlanders – we started at the RV park at elevation 6,320’. In contract, Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the 48 United States, is 14,500′, rising out of the plains of Death Valley, at elevation -282′.

We stopped in the tiny town of Hartsel.  This is a highly recommended café called Highline Café.  Breakfast burritos and buffalo burgers are their specialties.  Several other Airstreamers were already there, and they kept on coming. 

After lunch we walked the town a bit; there was this cute little schoolhouse… And then we were back on the road.

The views continued…

We stopped along the road to stretch our legs…

We crawled up Monarch Pass (11,312’).  It was an easy drive, as there was little traffic, and the big red trucked pulled the Villa effortlessly.

We finally arrived at Gunnison, and 12 miles out of town we found the Blue Mesa RV Resort.  We set up the Villa…

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Our site was a little uneven… This is how we leveled the Villa on the low side…

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At dinner time we readied for the Grill Night at the main office and recreation center. 

We met the other caravaners at the clubhouse, where we grilled our own entre, then moved into the Rec Room, where we were served side dishes and desert.   This was a nice time to socialize…

We returned to the Villa, and I dozed off a bit.  At 8:30 we drove 10 miles to the Gunnison Valley Observatory.

We watched a slide show given by the astronomer who was the lead researcher at the GVO.  (Yawn)  The we climbed the stairs up into the dome.  They have an “old” telescope that was built to observe Halley’s Comet in 1986.  More star talk (Yawn). But then I had the opportunity to talk the telescope operator, who explained how the dome works, why the “hatch” opens as it does, and how the entire dome rotates to allow the telescope to have access to the entire sky.  This stuff is interesting!

We each had a chance to look into the telescope and see a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away.  (Yawn)  But it is amazing that the light we were looking at was 25,000 years old…!

We didn’t return to the Villa until 11:30 pm… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-02 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 7 – Colorado Springs, CO

Another exciting day is planned for us again! We will go to the top of Pikes Peak and ride bicycles back down!

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The ultra-prominent 14,115′ peak is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike, who explored the area in 1806, although he never reached the summit… The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.

The band of Ute people who called the Pikes Peak region their home were the Tabeguache, whose name means the “People of Sun Mountain”. It is thought that the Ute people first arrived in Colorado about 500 A.D. In the 1800s, when the Arapaho people arrived in Colorado, they knew the mountain as Heey-otoyoo’ meaning “Long Mountain”.

Early Spanish explorers named the mountain “El Capitán,” meaning “The Leader”. American explorer Zebulon Pike named the mountain “Highest Peak” in 1806, and the mountain was later commonly known as “Pike’s Highest Peak.” The mountain was later renamed “Pikes Peak” in honor of Pike.

The first European-American to climb the peak came 14 years after Pike, in the summer of 1820.  Edwin James, a young student who had just graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, signed on as the relief botanist for Stephen Harriman Long’s expedition. James and two other men left the expedition, camped on the plains, and climbed the peak in two days, encountering little difficulty. Along the way, James was the first to describe the blue columbine, Colorado’s state flower.

So today, we were up before 5:00 am and we left the RV park at 6:15. We boarded strange looking Jeeps, and we were transported to be fitted for bicycles, helmets, gloves, etc.  

Bicycles, gloves, and helmets were selected…

And soon we were ready to go!

Bikes were loaded onto the van and we were off!

The views were marvelous on the way up!

In 1895, Katharine Lee Bates was so awestruck by views of Pikes Peak that she penned a poem, the words of which have become the lyrics of “America the Beautiful”:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

The Visitor Center at the summit (14,000’) is under re-construction, so we knew that we would not be starting from there.  However, we were stopped at about 11,000′; the road ahead was closed due to ice on the road.  So we had a restroom break and waited a bit, letting the sun melt the ice.

We were eventually allowed to continue up to about 12,000’ elevation.  We stretched our legs, claimed our bicycles, and readied to ride down the mountain… 

The ride down was exhilarating!  We road the brakes to maintain our speed, and to keep from running off the road at the curves.  Unfortunately, it’s way too hard to take pictures while riding a bike at up to 30 miles per hour! We stopped several times, to regather the group, and to drink some water. 

At the bottom of the hill we had lunch at the Wines of Colorado. We dismounted, turned in our bikes and helmets, and enjoyed some hearty cheeseburgers…

The ride down covered about 8-10 miles, with an elevation drop of about 5,000 feet!

We were exhausted!  We returned to the Villa and took a well-deserved nap.  Early in the afternoon we drove to Garden of the Gods Park.  We stopped into the Visitor Center and booked a Jeep tour of the park.

Garden of the Gods is a public park located in Colorado Springs, just about one mile from our RV Park. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.

The Garden of the Gods’ red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter.

Multiple American Indian Nations traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes’ oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods.

In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins’ death in 1909, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs, with the provision that it would be a free public park.

So we toured around and saw more red rocks…

We stopped at an overview of Colorado Springs in the distance…

Whilst we were enjoying our vacation and caravan, our daughter and son-in-law and their children were enjoying a vacation in California at Leo Cabrillo State Beach…

We returned to the RV park in time for a GAM – we met a few more new friends… Then the obligatory Driver Meeting…

We returned to the Villa and fell into bed.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-04 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 9 – Gunnison, CO

EXCITING DAY! Our two youngest grandchildren are finally going off to big-kid preschool summer camp! This long awaited event comes after spending the last year at home…

Back in the Villa, we had a quiet morning looking for internet service and doing laundry… Finally at noon we drove the 12 miles back to Gunnison. We fueled up the truck, dropped it off at the Gunny-Lube for an oil change, then we walked to City Market and bought some birthday cake for another caravan member. After a few other errands we stopped for lunch at the W Cafe…

The town of Gunnison has a nice little main street with restaurants and local businesses…

After lunch we returned to the Villa. I took a walk while Lynda sat by and in the pool…

We had another GAM to meet new friends. The host, Charlie and Michael, own a winery in Plymouth, California. While they didn’t provinde wine to our little group, they did prepare an olive oil tasting, featuring their own olive oils. We tasted Tuscan, Lemon, Rosemary, Jalapeno, plus two balsamics, one of which was white… I particularly liked the Rosemary and the white balsamic…

After the GAM we walked around the park enjoying the twilight…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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