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Adventures in the Villa

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National Parks

2021-07-24 – Heading to Missouri for the Oregon Trail caravan… Day 2 – Camp Verde, AZ to Grants, NM

We had a fairly leisurely morning. We enjoyed a walk around the RV park, and eventually got around to packing up and heading out. We drove north towards Flagstaff. About 20 minutes into the trip I realized that I had failed to attach the electrical umbilical cord. We stopped as soon as it was safe. Indeed, it was dangling off the tongue , and dragging on the pavement. It was a bit worn…

But I was able to reconnect it and everything (lights, brakes, etc.) were all working again. And we were off again.

At Flagstaff we turned east and proceeded across more desert. We entered New Mexico…

We had more rain around Gallup, and lots of traffic after that. The roads in Arizona are abysmal, even though they are constantly under reconstruction. Today we came to a “detour” without any warning, and without posting an alternate route. We lost about an hour of time, poking along at about 5 mph. But we had plenty of time.

We even stopped to be tourists for a few minutes. We stopped at The Petrified Forest National Park; but we didn’t go in – we just stopped at the gift shop. We bought some representative sample of petrified wood for the Grandchildren. They really are interested in gems and minerals these days; we think petrified wood will interest them.

We finally arrived in Grants, NM. As we were exiting the freeway we received a telephone call from our host for the evening – The Uranium City Winery. She talked us in, and we parked around the back. The Uranium City Winery is a member of Harvest Hosts, as are we. We can “camp” at the various business members locations – wineries, orchards, museums, and the like. The Uranium City Winery isn’t much to look at, and the town is not exactly a bustling metropolis, but we had fun!

We were directed to park around the back, about six feet from the winery’s back door. Did I mention that it was still raining?

We went inside to enjoy some wine tasting. Some of the wines were even made with grapes! Unfortunately, their best seller, Cabernet Sauvignon, has sold out. But we tasted a muscat (pretty good), a mead (not a fan), a plum wine (quite good), a cherry wine (not so good) and a sangria (very good). We had a great time chatting with the owner, who grew up in Grants in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was a boom town, supporting the booming uranium mining industry. But in 1975 the federal government stopped subsidizing uranium mining and started to allow the importation of uranium. Within a few years Grants was a ghost town, and it is pretty much unchanged since then. The family moved to Moab, Utah, which continued prospering for a few more years. Then she moved to Texas, finally coming home to Grants 30 years later. With the wine and great conversation, we had a great time. We returned to the Villa, ate some leftovers from Moscato for a simple supper, and turned in early. (Boondocking like this we don’t have TV, internet, or a microwave oven, and we skimp on the lights…)

But an enjoyable time was still had by all…

2021-06-18 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 23 – Yellowstone National Park

We had set the alarm for 4:30 am to be ready to board a small bus at 5:45 am. We are going into Yellowstone today to look for wildlife…

We gathered with the other Airstreamers. There are four buses coming to pick us up to see various parts of the park and to lead us on hikes, keyed to various activity levels.

Our tour today is from Yellowstone Forever, a non-profit subsidiary of Yellowstone National Park. All profits go back to the park, funding various projects, such as the reintroduction of wolves, bison conservation and transfer to prevent overpopulation, fish conservation, the cougar project, and others. Our driver/guide is Mike. The tour was very entertaining, interesting, and comfortable…

Our van arrived and we clamored aboard… There are 11 of us in our Transit van… We left about 6:15 am.

We weren’t in the park for 5 minutes when we spotted a black bear about 300 yards away…

Shortly after that we saw a small herd of Bison…

They decided to cross the road… A classic Yellowstone “Bison-Jam”…

Once they were all safely across we continued on our way…

While we were traveling through the park to our first viewing site our driver told us an interesting story…

In 1870, an accountant named Truman Everts, from Burlington, Vermont, decided on a whim to join an expedition led by Henry D. Washburn and Nathaniel P. Langford into the still largely unexplored wilderness that would later become Yellowstone National Park. This was the second official survey of the Yellowstone region in less than two years.

After falling behind the rest of the expedition on September 9, 1870, Everts managed to lose the pack horse which was carrying most of his supplies. Without food or equipment, he attempted to retrace the expedition’s route along the southern shore of Yellowstone Lake in the hopes of finding his companions. He ate a songbird and minnows raw, and a local thistle plant to stay alive; the plant (Cirsium foliosum, commonly known as elk thistle) was later renamed “Evert’s Thistle” after him. As well as the lack of food, Everts faced the coming autumn weather, including early snowstorms, and at one point was stalked by a mountain lion.

Everts’ party searched for him for more than a week, setting signal fires, firing guns into the air, and leaving notes and caches of supplies for Everts along the lake. Though a site near the lake had earlier been designated as a meeting point in case one of the party members became lost, Everts, for unknown reasons, never showed up. The expedition returned to Fort Ellis by early October. Believing him dead, his friends in Helena, MT, offered a reward of $600 to find his remains.

On October 16, more than a month after his separation from the group, two local mountain men – “Yellowstone Jack” Baronett and George A. Pritchett – found Everts, suffering from frostbite, burn wounds from thermal vents and his campfire, and other injuries suffered during his ordeal, so malnourished he weighed only 50 pounds (23 kg). Baronett and Pritchett were part of a search party which had been sent from Montana to find Everts’ remains. They discovered him, mumbling and delirious, more than 50 miles from where he had first become lost.  One man stayed with Everts to nurse him back to health while the other walked 75 miles for help.

Everts’ rescuers brought him to Bozeman, MT, where he recovered. The next year, Everts’ personal account of the experience, “Thirty-Seven Days of Peril”, was published in Scribner’s Monthly.  The story of his survival became national news and contributed a great deal of publicity to the movement to preserve the Yellowstone area as the country’s first national park. In spite of their assistance, Everts denied Baronett and Pritchett payment of the reward, claiming he could have made it out of the mountains on his own.

We finally arrived at our viewing location. Our guide hauled out telescopes so that we can get a better look without getting too close to the wildlife – we are trying to see wolves…

Nothing. We stared into the hill across the way looking for wolves. Some folks saw 3 running across the hill. Lynda thinks she saw one wolf…

But I saw more Bison, and a Pronghorn Antelope…

These Bison decided to cross the river…

Next we started out on our hike. We were met by a horse-drawn wagon. These are used to carry supplies into the back-country where Rangers and other workers live year ’round…

Our hike offered many views…

Off to our right, about 30 yards off the trail, we sighted another Black Bear, this one was cinnamon brown color… Luckily we saw him about 200 yards away. We walked through the sage brush to maintain at least 100 yards of separation…

He wasn’t bothered by us, and he was in no hurry to wander away. We spent a lot of time watching…

As we continued watching the cinnamon bear another hiker came by and told us there was a Grizzly Bear across the valley… So he is out there, somewhere, just to the right of the Bison. But he is about 1 mile away, so he is hard to spot…

We stopped for lunch, eating the sandwiches we had brought along…

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We started hiking back…

We returned to the Villa. We were hot and tired. We enjoyed a soak in the hot springs after dinner…

(The water isn’t really brown… The pool bottom is…)

And an enjoyable time was enjoyed bay all…

2021-06-17 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 22 – Travelling to Yellowstone National Park

So we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons! It was the prettiest park we have seen on this trip. On to Yellowstone!

We left about 8:00 am to avoid traffic in the park. We’ve been told traffic can be terrible in Yellowstone.

The drive was short – only 112 miles. We drove directly through Grand Teton National Park, through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and on into Yellowstone National Park…

Yellowstone National Park is located in the in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with some areas extending into Montana and Idaho. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone was the first national park in the U.S. and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world.  The park is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful geyser.

We loved the Grand Tetons NP. In comparison, Grand Tetons covers 485 square miles, while Yellowstone covers 3,500 square miles. However, Grand Tetons is much more scenic, while Yellowstone features geothermal natural wonders and much more wildlife…

The views along the road are nice…

We soon stopped to see Old Faithful. First we hassled the very busy and crowded parking area. We only needed to jack-knife the Villa into 6 parking stalls, and we were set!

We entered the Old Faithful Lodge. Interiors were nice…

But the exterior was less than impressive…

We walked out to the viewing area where people were already waiting to see Old Faithful; they will wait another 45 minutes…

We wandered over to the Old Faithful Inn. It is much more impressive…!

The lobby is this giant 3-4 story high space, all done up in National Park architecture…

The dining room is also very grand… Unfortunately, it is closed…

We ignored the sign and walked up the stairs.

Very nice upper level lounge areas…

Near the top is what they call “the Crow’s Nest”. It is a room at the top of these stairs where orchestras would play in the evening. The top is 76′ tall! Unfortunately, in 1959 an earthquake damaged the structural integrity of the Crow’s Nest, so it is no longer habitable.

These writing desks are all over these upper floors… Beautiful!

Unfortunately, there are no dining or lounge areas that are open. Only fast food is available, and only for take-out… Gift shops have such a restricted capacity that there lines hundreds of people long just to get inside. Yellowstone is much more shut down for Covid than Grand Tetons was…

So we moved on to a modern Visitors Center. Again, capacity is restricted… But the views are grand…

We returned to the Old Faithful viewing are. The crowd has tripled…

Old Faithful is a cone geyser. It was named in 1870 during the Washburn–Langford–Doane Expedition and was the first geyser in the park to be named. It is a highly predictable geothermal feature and has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours since 2000.  The geyser and the nearby Old Faithful Inn are part of the Old Faithful Historic District.

So thousands of people are standing around looking at this for the past hour. The next scheduled eruption is due at 11:06 am.

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About ten minutes before the scheduled time the geyser spouts briefly…

Finally, at 11:07 am Old Faithful earns her name…

And it goes on and on…!

Finally the eruptions start to fade…

Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet, lasting from 112 to 5 minutes.

We continued to drive north. We found some Bison…

We found some Fumaroles at Roaring Mountain: (Fumaroles are similar to geysers, except that they do not have enough pressure to erupt; they just emit steam…)

We had some fine views

The traffic is bad and the roads are rough, slow, narrow, and curvy…

More green valleys…

We saw this female elk hanging out along the side of the road…

More Pronghorn Antelope… But they are far away…

We continued out of the park and into Gardiner, Montana…

The town of Gardiner is just outside the park; it was the original entrance to the park, and at the time all guests would arrive by train, so there was a large train station here…

Today Gardiner has mostly tour companies, gift shops, lodges, motels, and RV parks. We met with the club for dinner at this recently-constructed dining terrace… (Construction workers were still working when we arrived…)

Airstreamers started arriving (early, as usual)

We enjoyed a very good fried chicken dinner buffet…

After dinner, we returned to the RV park and walked around. We are right next to the Yellowstone River, but only tent sites are adjacent to the river.

The park is dry and dusty, but there is a small grill for dinner and other amenities…

There are extensive hot spring pools…

After checking out the hot spring pools we returned to the Villa. We have an early morning tomorrow.

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…

2021-06-07 – 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…,

2021-06-06 – 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…

2021-05-29 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 3 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was a real thrill. Today’s drive was what Rocky Mountain National Park is all about. We drove from the RV Park (elevation 7,729) to the Alpine Visitor Center (elevation 11,796), passing the high point in the road at elevation 12,188…!

I took about 5,000 pictures. I’ll try to condense them down here…

There are several ecosystems visible from the road – forest, snow, rocks, tundra… It changes at every turn…

In the photo above we can see outside the RMNP. The entire Park is surrounded by National Forests…

At the Forest Canyon Overlook, the pathway was totally covered with snow. We decided to skip this path… We are at elevation 11,700, and we can feel the effects of the altitude…

We are now above the tree line. Nothing but tundra consisting of tiny plants, miniaturizing themselves as a way to survive…

Below are the Lava Cliffs…

Here we see the Gore Range – mountains reaching as high as 12,928′.

We have arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, elevation 11,796. My Hemoglobins are starving! There is about 14′ of snow on the ground…

Our drive back “down” was exciting! We are driving on the edge of the world!

And then it started to snow!

The rest of the drive down was uneventful. Near the park entrance we saw these funny looking animals…

We believe they are either mule deer or elk?

Quite serendipitously we stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I noticed the detailing…

Something seems familiar… I Googled it…

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, is the park headquarters and principal visitors center of Rocky Mountain National Park. Completed in 1967, it was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, and was one of the most significant commissions for that firm in the years immediately following the death of founder Frank Lloyd Wright. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Who knew!

So that concluded our time in Rocky Mountain National Park…

We had a drivers’ meeting to discuss our drive to Colorado Springs on Monday – Memorial Day. There are three pages of detailed driving instructions to travel the 145 mile route… Colorado roads must be amazing! (Apparently 20-30 miles of the 70 are under construction, so we are taking back roads…!

This evening, after the meeting, we returned to Bird and Jim, a local restaurant (“Colorado Cuisine”). This time we brought friends… We enjoyed craft cocktails, Smoked Pheasant Chowder, Short Rib Sliders, Colorado Trout, Beef Tenderloin, and something they called the “Carnivore Plate” – Elk Tenderloin, Lamb T-bone, and Wild Game Sausage. And a bottle or two of wine.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-28 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 2 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today we enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located approximately 76 mi northwest of Denver in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park’s northwestern region.[6] The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations.[3] The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main automobile route, Trail Ridge Road, in the 1930s.  In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves. In 2018, more than 4.5 million recreational visitors entered the park.  The park is one of the most visited in the National Park System, ranking as the third most visited national park in 2015.  In 2019, the park saw record attendance yet again with 4,678,804 visitors, a 44% increase since 2012.

The park has a total of five visitor centers, with park headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center—a National Historic Landmark designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West. National Forest lands surround the park on all sides.

Today is the beginning of the summer season in the park. To control the crowds you must make a reservation to enter the park. We had procured a 9:00 am entrance time to go to Bear Lake, an alpine lake with a lovely walking/hiking path around it. We waited in three lines of cars for over 1/2 hour before we finally arrived at the entrance station.

Once in the park we again saw these magnificent mountain peaks…

Once at Bear Lake we had friends take our picture… While the temperatures were in the mid-60s, the wind was freezing…

The lake is mostly frozen over. The path around the lake is mostly snow, slush, and ice, with rare patches of dirt, mud, and rocks.

This is what the path looked like most of the way around the lake:

After completing the Bear Lake loop we drove a short way to Sprague Lake; this is Glacier Creek, which feeds into the lake.:

Spraugue Lake is named after Abner Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area. Sprague built a homestead in Moraine Park in 1874 that eventually grew into a hunting and fishing lodge and dude ranch. He dammed the creek to create the lake so his guests could enjoy fishing and boating. The lodge operated from 1910 to 1940, preceding the actual National Park.

We enjoyed watching the ducks dive for food…

The lake offered great views all around. It was an easy 3/4 mile, with no ice and snow underfoot…

We don’t know what animal hatched out of these eggs… Maybe Elk? Moose?

After our time in the Park it was time for lunch! Bird and Jim’s serves “Colorado Cuisine”. Local ingredients, and creative recipes. We enjoyed a Smoked Pheasant Chowder and Short Rib Sliders…

After lunch came a nap; then we had our first GAM – a “Get Acquainted Meeting”. We will have five of these, giving us all an opportunity to get to know each other even better…

After the GAM we walked around the pond, and returned to the Villa.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-06-01 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs, AR

We left Little Rock about 8:00 am.  Arkansas is green…

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We were driving through the Ozarks National Forest…

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We stopped for a respite along the way… driving through windy, steep mountain roads is taxing, and relief was required…

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We arrived in Eureka Springs, and set up at the Green Tree Lodge and RV Park, a nice but basic RV park…

Then we drove one mile down the road to see the work of E. Fay Jones, an early apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, and a prolific architect and educator during his long career.  This is the Thorncrown Chapel:

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The interior is as spectacular as the exterior…

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The light fixtures along the “walls” are exquisite; the light is in the shape of the cross…

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As a true student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Fay’s chair designs are great, too!

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The rear is as great as the front…

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The attention to detail is astounding…

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The front door, repeating the diamond shape…

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The Thorncrown Chapel has won every architectural award imaginable… Just recently it was honored by leading the list of “40 under 40”, great architecture that has become iconic in less (fewer?) than 40 years…

The chapel is the dream of a man named Jim Reed, an Arkansas native, who bought this land in 1971 to build his retirement home.  Over the years he continually found strangers walking through the property enjoying the beautiful Ozarks hills.  Rather than fence them out, he decided to invite them in.  He and his wife decided to build a glass chapel as a place for visitors to relax in an inspiring way.  I think they have met their goal…

After such a beautiful place we drove to Eureka Springs and found the opposite:

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Eureka Springs was hot, noisy, crowded, and full of bikers and tourists.  There was some festival going on, although we never quite determined what it was.  The town is very historical, much like Bisbee, AZ, but the tourist factor rivaled Fredericksburg, TX, (and Graceland…)

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Eureka Springs was a late 19th century boom town which grew rapidly based on the water from their many springs.  All the quacks and snake oil salesmen came to town to sell magic water to cure everyone’s ills… The town suffered a bit when the Great Fire of 1888 burned it to the ground, but it was quickly rebuilt and grew to a population of over 4,000.  Today it has a population of about 2,000, but the historic downtown itself is nothing but biker bars and trinket shops… We did enjoy a good walk and we hope to return tomorrow for dinner at a highly rated French bistro…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

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