Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘National Parks’ category

The Loneliest Road: The Colorado River

July 5, 2020

It was a beautiful morning, 66 degrees with a nice breeze. I enjoyed sitting in the shade, posting, reading emails and studying what is down the road. I saw our campground hosts, a nice young couple who are teachers in Minnesota, and asked if I could move across the street. They said it would be fine, and they would take care of the change online 😊. 

I straightened up and moved to the more shaded spot. I was baking in the very hot Colorado sun yesterday. This should be better. I had run my batteries down, running the air conditioner yesterday. Surely the solar system would recover today.

The forecast was for 96 degrees. The only thing to do in weather like this is to get in the river. The Colorado River runs at the base of this mesa. A mesa is an isolated, flat-topped elevation, ridge or hill, which is bounded from all sides by steep escarpments and stands distinctly above a surrounding plain. (From Wikipedia)

By noon, it was 92 degrees. There is no humidity, and the skies are clear blue, so the sun is brutal. At the foot of the mesa, I found Snook’s Bottom, with a full parking lot. Beaches surround a small lake where everyone was trying to cool off. I found a quiet spot and went in. It was pretty chilly, and I wondered if the Colorado River was colder than this. By the time I walked back up the hill, I was sweating again.

I wanted to see more of the Colorado, so I followed a gravel road that ran close to the river. I ran into a wildlife conservation area. At the top of a hill, I pulled over to investigate the river. It looked beautiful, with a sandbar dividing the river. I followed a trail down to it, but when I got there, the river ran hard against the near bank. It was deep and fast. it looked so serene from the top of the hill, so I would have to look for another spot.

As I walked up the hill, before me stood a semblance of King Tut’s tomb. The road is called Kingsview Rd, so this could be it. It is a rather imposing pyramid. A smaller one was perched on the hill behind.

I came to another access to the river, but again, the water was deep and fast. It’s hardly a challenge for a drift boat or raft, but no place for a lone swimmer. Two girls were tubing on the other side in more shallow water.

In the conservation area, I decided to walk the gravel road, since it was blocked to vehicles. I needed the exercise anyway and was sure I could get in this river somewhere. It’s interesting. Many states have these “conservation areas” to enhance food sources for ducks, geese, turkeys and deer. I soon realized it is an impoundment. They have planted fields with some type of grain, built a dike around it. In the fall they will flood it. Ducks and geese will go crazy to get into a place like this. It’s a smorgasbord of food. Then they lease blinds all around it for people to hunt. Yet if we throw out a bag of corn, we will be sited for shooting over grain! This impoundment must be 1500 acres.

The Colorado is an amazing river. “The Colorado River is famed for carving the steep vermillion walls of the Grand Canyon and the dramatic desertscapes along the 1,450 miles of river are a favorite setting among nature photographers. Spanning seven states and 11 national parks, the Colorado River flows from Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and empties into Mexico’s Gulf of California.” (from https://www.thediscoverer.com/blog/8-us-river-trips-you-should-know-about/XvHyVpKgiwAG5as5?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1121570110)

I70 is right on the other side of the river. Just around the bend, it takes a hard westerly turn and cuts right through a big mesa in a park called McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. I wanted to go there, but it meant a long drive around the mountain. On my way back out, I tried one more spot to get in the river. Bingo. A trail led down to a shallow area, and I walked right in. The bottom was muddy with rocks underneath, and the water color was brownish-green. The water temperature, at least in this shallow part, was more like smallmouth bass temperature than trout temperature. I didn’t find it inviting, so I walked back out.

I was happy to return to a shady campsite, and quickly took a cold shower. Then I searched for a cooler place to go tomorrow. My plan was to continue west on Rt.50 and go to Capital Reef National Park. The campground was full, unserviced and highly-rated. Maybe it’s cooler there. Maybe it’s not, but I wanted air conditioning. I found Sand Creek RV resort 7 miles west of the park and booked a full service spot for 3 nights.

The Loneliest Road, Colorado National Monument 2

Sunday, July 5, 2020

I spent the morning driving south through the park. It was reasonably cool and the light was good. A gentleman who had recently moved to Fruita, just below us, started talking photography. He said the night skies are amazing. “See that road down there? You can get between those two monuments and shoot the milky way as it rises through the canyon to our right. You might also want to go to Glade Canyon (?). It’s a rough, gravel/dirt road, but your truck will do great. It has almost as many arches as Arches, and you will have it all to yourself.” We talked a while longer, but those two things were etched in my mind.

By 10:00 every stop was filled with cars. However, I had one spot to myself – the bat cave. It’s a beautiful spot. Several of those white-throated swifts came right in front of me. It’s almost like they fly by just to check you out. I quickly switched settings on the camera to get some action shots, but I never saw them again. I guess there are bat caves here. The sign said they navigate by echo. “Try it”, the sign said. Since there was no one there, I shouted “Hello!” It took 3-4 seconds for a perfect “Hello” to return.

Visitor’s Center opened at 9:00, but only the shop was open. Business was frantic, so there was a waiting line. I took a quick look and went on. I passed up a few crowded spots, but visited a few. Then I made the turn to Glade Canyon, not knowing if I was in the right spot or not. It was now 92 degrees and hot, and I was not really prepared. I had nothing to eat, but had plenty to drink. I am carrying a giant cooler that now has three bags of melted water in it and some bottled water and few Cokes. The further I went up the road, the more I thought I wasn’t prepared for this, especially in this heat, so I turned around, a bit disappointed.

I thought I was getting relaxed about driving this winding road with vertical drop-offs, but I wasn’t. I’m OK when I am on the inside, but when on the outside, I begin creeping along, borrowing more than my share of the yellow line. You wouldn’t want to be drinking and driving this road. I looked it up. One article said 2 or three people die each year, some by accident and some suicidal.

I went back for lunch and then to the laundry. It was wonderful to have air conditioning and WIFI! A nice oriental lady greeted me and changed a $10 for me. I loaded two washers and quickly began uploading pictures. No time to think about it. Just upload! I have taken a bunch of videos, but only managed to load a few. I have one going through the tunnels, which I hope to upload later. A few people came in to pick up laundry. She will do your wash, folding them immaculately and have them ready for you. As soon as I moved my clothes from the washers to the dryers, she was there disinfecting them. She kept the folding disinfected as well. A Clean and Simple Laundry in Grand Junction is the name. I was luck to have found it and lucky it was opened on Sunday, July 5th.

I fixed a small bourbon, trout fillet, corn on the cob and a nice salad. It was hot though, and hot to cook. I took a cold shower, well as cold as the water was in the tank. Then I wrapped ice in a wash cloth, applying it to my head, neck and chest. It was 9:00 before the intense sun finally went down. I explored other options for getting out of this heat. It is 8.5 hours to Stanley, but I didn’t really see anything else that would get me out of the heat.

The Loneliest Road, Colorado National Monument

July 3, 2020

It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Blue Mesa Reservoir to Colorado National Monument, where I was booked for three nights of July 4th weekend. The speed limit is 65 on much of this section, but it’s curvy. I couldn’t do it in the truck yesterday, much less with the Airstream today. It is a very pretty drive, up over the big mountain, past the Cimarron River and a long descent into a dry valley. 

I stopped for gas and refilled propane in both tanks in Montrose. Turning north, Rt. 50 follows Uncompahgre River in a high desert. A sign welcomed me to the Gateway to the Canyons. Million Dollar Highway turns south from Montrose, but no time for that on this trip! There is Canyons of the Ancients National Monument to the southwest, and of course Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. The list goes on and on, but I followed 50 to Colorado National Monument. 

I arrived at the south entrance to the park, which I knew nothing about. The office was closed, but a sign stopped me: “Tunnels. Clearance 18’ in the middle and 10’6” on the side”. Most of you remember I tore the air conditioner off the roof in New Hampshire going through a covered bridge. It’s all Kelly’s fault really. I can get away saying that, because he can’t figure out how to comment. I did not want that experience again! 10’6″ is my clearance at the air conditioner, so probably would be OK.

I read the map, describing a winding climb up a huge mesa and a one-hour drive winding along the edge to the visitor’s center and Saddlehorn Campground, where I was staying. Several people gave me irritated looks for blocking the sign, but I wasn’t moving. I walked back down the road to reread the sign. Yep, 10’6” on the side. I’d probably make it. I walked over to a building with park service cars parked. A park service lady drove up, rolled down her window, asking if I needed help as she put on her mask. 

“Can I drive that trailer through those tunnels?” “Probably” she said. “I am amazed how people drive those things on that road. Personally, I wouldn’t do it.” I thanked her and went back to the trailer. GPS told me it was only a 20-minute drive to the north entrance, so I turned around and went that way, winding through beautiful houses with incredible views. 

No one was at that gate either, but you still have to go through two tunnels. I reminded myself there was a campground up there as I navigated the narrow, winding road with drop-offs of increasing heights. I hate heights. I couldn’t help but borrow more than my share of the yellow line. Fortunately there was little traffic. I drove through the middle of the tunnels, very slowly. With a sigh of relief, I found the top and a turn into the campground. I found A19 to be just a pullover. A huge Class A camper with slide-outs and all was across the street, where a lady sat in the shade reading a book. 

The elevation is 5,500’. It was full sun, 88 degrees with 18% humidity. I couldn’t level the camper, even after trying 20 times. I imagined the lady peering over her book, laughing at me. Sweating and tired, I gave up with 3.5” slant to the starboard. I was afraid to open the street-side awning and windows, but with no hookups, it had to be done. I imagined some drunken person taking out a window, or all three of them. Later the big rig would open his slide-out, further narrowing the road. 

I ate lunch and took a monster nap with both fans blowing full bore. I woke up groggy, putzing around searching for some energy. At 4:00 I thought I would take a short drive and see what this place is all about. My map said there was an overlook in the campground. Perfect! 

It was a nature trail. OK, I need some exercise, so I headed out, tripod and camera in hand. I didn’t have to go far before the trail led to the edge of a canyon. With a gasp of hot, dry air, I woke up. It was a spectacular view of “The Heart of The World”. The Utes treasure this as a sacred place, doing the spring bear dance every year.

It is on a grand mesa on the west side of a big valley, the Rockies on the other side with the great Colorado River running through it.

The Loneliest Road, Gunnison, Colorado

I was tired from three hard days of driving and1865 miles. 700 miles yesterday. I went into Gunnison to get gas, groceries, ice and find a library so I could post. I stopped at a pullover to watch a man standing in the Gunnison River fishing. He had little luck, but I had fun watching white throated swifts flying like jet fighters to catch bugs for breakfast. 

The grocery store was packed. It’s a big weekend and all the touristas are in town. Everyone had masks on, but I tried to get the job done and get out. The only library was at Western Colorado University, and it was closed. With my phone, I can post text, but uploading pictures eats data, and reception is often inadequate for the job. 

I went back to camp for lunch and a little relaxation. At 3:00 I drove about an hour on Rt. 50 across a big mountain to get to Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park. The road up to the park and through the park is winding and steep. This is not a place to pull the trailer! 

Pinnacle View right on R. 50 looking across Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir on Rt. 50

The beautiful Gunnison  River flows through Gunnison, into Blue Mesa Reservoir and somehow gets to the other side of this big mountain. As it turns out, it goes through it! A sign tells us of millions of years in development through volcanoes and earthquakes, it used to be a great sea, but is now a river cutting its way through a mountain of solid rock.

I arrived at Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park stopping briefly at the closed visitor’s center, but rangers were outside answering questions. It is a drive along the gorge, also known as Gunnison Gorge National Park. Looking down into this chasm in the earth is impressive. Rain clouds just made it more dramatic. There was no charge to get in this year, and there was a steady flow of people. I didn’t make all the overlooks as I was running out of energy. I also wanted to see it from the north side. Maybe next time.

OK, The Loneliest Road isn’t so lonely here, and it travels through some spectacular country, especially here

Green Gables

Thursday, September 12, 2019

As we drove into Cavendish, it got more and more touristy with cabins, shops and some very nice golf courses. There is still a lot to be done cleaning up after Hurricane Dorian, so crews continue to work hard.

Our Parks Canada Discovery card got us into the visitor’s center at Green Gables Farm, where Lucy Maud Montgomery spent much of her childhood. She is one of the most notable authors of Canada, writing Anne of Green Gables, 20 other novels and 530 short stories. It is a beautiful spot, a beautiful farm on a beautiful island, very close to the ocean beaches. 

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It is all very nicely preserved and presented. She wrote all her life from early childhood, and always wanted to be an author. Anne of Green Gables was refused by 5 publishers. After two years, she got it back out and sent it to Page Company of Boston, who accepted it. Mark Twain described the character, Anne, as “the dearest, most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.”

As we left, tour buses kept coming in. I can’t imagine what it’s like in summer. We drove over to PEI National Park along the beach fronting the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has the classic red cliffs, which lose a meter of land a year, but Dorian may have sped that up a bit. It is surely a popular spot in summer. We walked up a trail and found a young man flying a tiny drone. It was so cool, fast and with no more noise than a big bee. He was having a big time. His wife, probably not. Not far ahead, the path was closed, so we went back to the car and drove along the beach road. 

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We went into Charlottetown and walked around. Cities don’t do much for me, and this one was no exception. What is exceptional are the farms. A couple of times on the way back, I stopped to take pictures, although it’s hazardous on busy Highway 2. Potatoes account for 20% of the crops, the red, iron-rich soil perfect for potatoes. There is a lot of corn, grains, beans sorghum and cattle. Some fields stretch far into the distance on rolling hills, while others are beautifully divided by trees, separating different crops. 

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Lunch at Chucky’s Seafood and Wildgame Restaurant

 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

My leg being sore, I opted out of hiking for a few days. I offered to take Martha anywhere she wanted to hike, but instead we decided to go to the Burnside Archeological Society. I love driving around all the little coves and harbors. We drove all around cute, little Burnside before finally finding the building that was now defunct and withering away. These little outports (small harbors, not the main harbor) need things to keep them going, but this one didn’t work out.

I like to research places on Google maps, then press the ˆNearby” button for restaurants, campgrounds or other points of interest. In searching restaurants nearby Terra Nova National Park, I marked Chucky’s Seafood & Wildgame Restaurant. I’m not big on eating out, but I love wild game and seafood, and it is rated 4.8/5 by 91 people. We went looking for it in Happy Harbor, but couldn’t find it. We had to Google it and get directions. You know you’re good when there is no sign on the street, and it’s not easy to find even when you know where it is.

Driving into a small parking lot at The Inn at Happy Adventure, we headed for the door. A lovely young lady with a gorgeous smile stuck her head out the door to tell us they don’t open until 12:00. Martha said, “OK, can you save us a spot?” With that great smile, she said the classic Newfoundland response, “No problem.” 

We drove to nearby Sandy Cove to check it out. Traffic was crazy, with frantic drivers desperate to get to the beach at Sandy Cove. The parking lot was filled with more cars coming. It was Sunday, after church, and a warm, sunny day – perfect for the beach. We wanted to see, but it was 12:00 and there was too much commotion. Later I took this picture from the internet.

Sandy Cove

Back at the Inn at Happy Adventure, we went in. A nice lady asked if we had a reservation. Then the pretty, young lady came up, smiling, and said she had promised us a place. At 12:15 there were 5 couples already ordering. I guess they don’t have wild game at lunch, and they are famous for their fish and chips, so we both ordered that. 

Clay was our waiter. He is from a town near Happy Adventure and is studying literature and writing at Memorial University in St.John’s. They work 72 hours a week at the inn from June-August. Then they close. I learned later that the owners, Chuck and Brenda Matchim. Chuck grew up here, then went to St. John’s where he had a restaurant by the same name for years before moving back. He also ran Smokey Hole Boat Tours, and the inn still offers tours. Brenda has a diploma in Food Technology, and has been a valuable contributor. She is also an excellent artist, and her paintings decorate the inn. I found a painting of Clay right beside one of Anthony Bordain, my favorite travel guy. I am so sorry we have lost him. I loved his shows, and I’m sure he would have loved a place like this.

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The fish and chips were great, maybe the best ever. Clay talked me into trying bread and gravy topping. It tasted great, but is just too heavy for my taste. Martha ordered plain fries and saved a fish and half the fries for tomorrow night. $14 Canadian for fish and chips. I gave it 5 stars on Google.

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On the way back we drove up to Blue Hill for an incredible view of the whole park with TCH 1 going right through the middle. A young couple sat in two Adirondack chairs having their lunch. As she moved over to sit on his lap, I said, “OK, we’re leaving.” She smiled.

View from Blue Hill

View from Blue Hill

We had a relaxing afternoon planning where to go after St. John’s, and just had soup for dinner.

Hike Ochre Hill Trail and Sandy Pond

Saturday, August 10, 2019

In the morning we hiked the Ochre Trail, a 4 km easy to moderate trail. It first went beside a pretty pond (natural, as opposed to a lake, which is man-made). I always wonder if there are fish in these pretty ponds that are everywhere. 

The hike was a bit boring at first, especially after reading a sign telling us the pretty Kalmia, which is like a rhododendron, is poisonous, killing livestock. It also poisons the soil so other plants can’t grow. Fires used to destroy the plant, but fires have been controlled in recent years, but they are now doing controlled burns.

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Once we climbed to the top of a big hill, everything changed. The views were impressive in every direction. A young German couple was just leaving the peak. With their binoculars, they were able to see their first moose. 

We went on to a second overlook with even more impressive views. Looking at a lake below, with a stream leading to Clode Sound, I thought how cool it would be to camp and fish that area. There is so much land that is not easily accessible. Hiking down there without a trail would be tough.

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Turning back, the trail joins a loop along another pretty pond, then back out to the parking area. A young man and his son were studying the map. He had on a trout fishing vest, the first I’ve seen. He said the Information Center told him there are salmon in these lakes, along with Brown Trout. I wished him luck, and he said, “It will be great if we catch something, but at worst it will be a relaxing day in a peaceful place”. 

I wanted to go back to camp for lunch. The solar keeps cutting out on me. I keep fiddling with the settings, but really don’t know what I am doing. I took a little nap while Martha paid bills, then read several websites on recommended settings. You would think there would be a guideline from the manufacturer, but they are very vague. I guess there are many variables, depending on your system.  I have read many times, but haven’t grasped it yet, but this time it became more clear. I changed the settings again while Martha took a nap. I watched it for a while and it was bulk charging, and didn’t cut out.

We wanted to do one more hike, but an easy one, so we drove to Sandy Pond. The parking lot was full, and families in bathing suits were headed to the beach on a hot day – 28C (82F). That is very hot here, and the humidity was high. The hike, rated easy) went around the pond, which looked like a long way, but was only 3km. It was so shallow, I think you could probably walk across. At the top of the lake, it was quite pretty. Signs told us of the animals we might see, but we saw nothing. It was too hot. They were probably sleeping in some cool, shaded place. I was sweating like a dog when we got back, but it was a good walk. 

Sandy Pond

Sandy Pond

We went to the Visitor’s Center, which is going to be very nice when they finish a big upgrade. Kids and adults were gathered around a big, open fish tank with crabs, starfish, muscles and other creatures. You could touch or pick up these creatures. One little girl was timidly reaching for a starfish. I wanted desperately to scare her, but I resisted. 

Driving back to camp, we followed a road past the campground. It led to the docks where two young ladies and a man were fishing in Newman Sound. They said sea trout could be caught, but no one had a bite yet.

Back at camp, Martha fixed a delicious meal of pork chops, potatoes and onions and sugar snap beans. It was Saturday night and the campground got crazy. A big group was having a loud party at the shelter until 12:00. Many cars kept coming and going late into the night. Kids were still up until late. I stuffed my ears with tissue and tried to sleep.

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Move to Terra Nova National Park

Thursday, August 8, 2019

We didn’t have a long drive, so we got some things done before departing Dildo Run Provincial Park. I went up to the shower house and caught up on posting. We did several loads of wash in their nice laundry, then packed up, hooked up and got on the road about 11:00. I thought about going to the hospital in Gander for a lyme disease test, but it was rated 2.9, so I opted out. We did some grocery shopping at the Co-Op, the cashier luckily using her card to check us out. 

We stopped to have lunch at a forestry overlook of Gander Lake, then drove on. TCH 1 goes right through Terra Nova National Park, which is weird, but good because cell phone reception is great, also weird for a national park.

We settled into a nice campsite, surprised that our loop was only half filled. This is an unserviced loop (no water or electric), and no generators allowed, so that is probably why it is not full on a weekend. That’s just the way I like it. We were surprised to hear you couldn’t have fires except in the shelters, where there are wood stoves, and you can’t use charcoal. We had planned on steak for dinner, and that severely limited our cooking options. Thankfully, we have a gas stove, so we cooked them in a frying pan along with sautéed spinach and leftover onion rings.

We have been watching a DVD we bought from the Great Courses, The Everyday Gourmet, Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking with chef Bill Briwa from the Culinary Institute. There are four discs and 24 lessons, lasting about 30 minutes. It’s a great way to end the day. He does a great job of simplifying things. Then I will read 3 pages of Killing Patton before falling asleep. I could finish it on a relaxing morning, but we are in a national park and there are things to be seen. Tomorrow it will be partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees (19C), perfect for hiking.

Drive Back Down Coast to Shallow Bay Campground

Friday, August 2, 2019

It had been rainy, cloudy and cold in Pistolet Bay for three days, and it was getting to Martha. She talked about how cloudy and cold makes her sad. 46 years of marriage, and I am still learning.

I went to Woodward GMC in St. Anthony’s to have the oil changed. Mike checked me in, then I went to the visitor’s area hoping to catch up on my posts, but I could go nowhere on their WIFI. I couldn’t even get my phone to work there, so I took a nap. 

At 3:00 we arrived at Shallow Bay, set up and went down to the beach to see what it was all about. The sun had broken through, and it was a warm, beautiful day. This beach is one of the prettiest, beaches I have ever seen. Shallow water keeps it relatively warm. Several people were swimming, while others walked the huge, semicircular cove. Pristine sand without a bit of trash and no rocks make it unique in Newfoundland. It is a part of this diverse, incredible National Park, Gros Morne. If you come to Newfoundland for nothing else, come to Gros Morne. 

We walked for about 45 minutes and came back to camp. Martha wasn’t feeling well with an upset stomach, so she took an hour nap, instructing me to make wild rice in the InstaPot. Then heat up lobster claws in butter and wake her up in an hour.

The InstaPot takes a bit of power as it heats up, but after that, it uses very little. Dinner was wonderful, but Martha didn’t feel like eating. I cleaned up, got in bed and read Killing Patton.

Hike Lomond River and Anniversary Lunch

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Looking for an easier hike, we went to the Lomond River Hike. It started through a forest with orchids everywhere.

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Martha found a patch of wild strawberries

We went into Woody Point for our Anniversary lunch at the Old Loft, which was OK.

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Moose pie

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Martha had fishcakes baked beans