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Virtual Road Trip -2020-21
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Day 13 - Canyon de Chelly to Farmington, New Mexico

Highways today were south on US 191 to Ganado, east on State 264 to Window Rock and Yah-Ta-Hey, north on US 491, east on Navajo Service Route 9 to Crownpoint, north on State 371, and north-east on State 57 (Navajo Routes 9 and 14) to Chaco Culture National Historical Site. After Chaco, we turned north on Country Road 7950, then north on Indian Service Route 7061 (Road 7900) to US 550.

At Bloomfield we turned west on US 64 to the Salmon Ruins National Monument and back to US 550 continuing north to Aztec. At Aztec, we turned west on State 516, detoured north on Ruins Road to Aztec Ruins National Monument and back to State 516 where we continued west to Farmington for the night. Google Map

Hubbell Trading Post (Wikipedia)

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site - Ganado, Arizona

When the Navajos returned home after The Long Walk, their way of life as they knew it was gone. The crop fields were destroyed. Their livestock decimated. Everything was gone. Trading for goods, already a key component of the Navajo economy, became even more important. In 1878, John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased this trading post creating a link between the Navajo Nation and the rest of the U.S.

Hubbell eventually created 30 trading posts in Arizona, New Mexico and California, and his descendants operated the Hubbell Trading Post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1967. Today, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is still situated on the original 160 acre homestead, which includes the trading post, the Hubbell family home, out buildings, a guest hogan, land and a visitor center.

The Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is managed by the National Park Service and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 an #66000167.

St. Michael's Mission (Wikipedia)

St. Michael's Mission Indian School - Window Rock, Arizona

The mission was founded in 1898 at the invitation of Reverend Mother (now saint, canonized in 2000) Katharine Mary Drexel. It was the first Catholic mission to the Navajo people. St. Michael's Indian School opened in 1902.

The original adobe mission and its historic interior have been preserved as a museum. St. Michael's Mission was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 1975 as #75000335.

Window Rock Tribal Park and Veteran's Memorial

Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. The main attraction is the window formation of sandstone the community is named after. Tségháhoodzání (the Perforated Rock) is important in the traditional Navajo Water Way Ceremony (Tóee).

The Navajo Nation Museum is located in Window Rock and is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the rich and unique culture of the Navajo Nation. Native displays, a book and gift shop, auditorium, outdoor amphitheater, library and on-site authentic Navajo Hogan complete the center.

The Veteran's Memorial, established in 1995, is located at the base of Window Rock and was built to honor the many Navajos who served in the U.S. military.

Bill Kirchner (Historical Marker Database)

Navajo Nation Code Talkers - Window Rock

Many Navajo soldiers are recognized in the annals of history for their role as Code Talkers, whereby they used the native Diné language to create a code that was never broken by the enemy. Historians credit the Navajo Code Talkers for helping to win World War II.

The Navajo Code Talker Memorial was designed and executed by famed Navajo/Ute sculptor Oreland Joe and was made possible through the Navajo Code Talkers Memorial Foundation, Inc. Historical Marker Database

Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chaco Culture National Historic Park is managed by the National Park Service. The Park is home to a cluster of more than a dozen Chacoan ruins and network of roads and irrigation systems, elaborate structures, meticulously crafted pottery and basketry indicative of a sophisticated society with wide-ranging trade. The massive buildings of the ancestral Pueblo peoples still testify to the organizational and engineering abilities not seen anywhere else in the American Southwest.

Chaco Culture National Historic Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1975 as #66000895. In 1987 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List Reference No. 353 as an outstanding example of architectural and engineering achievements.

In 2013, the International Dark-Sky Association recognized Chaco Culture National Historical Park as an International Dark Sky Park.

Pueblo Bonito (Wikipedia)

Pueblo Bonito

We stopped at the Visitor Center and obtained a Map of the Park. Most of the stops along the 9 mile loop have short hikes to the ruins. Six major sites are located along the 9-mile long Canyon Loop Drive. These sites include Una Vida, Hungo Pavi, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo, and Casa Rinconada. We were told Pueblo Bonito would be the best one to visit- a half mile round trip - OK we can do that.

Pueblo Bonito is the largest and best-known great house in Chaco Park. It was built between AD 828 and 1126. The massive D-shaped structure, covers 3 acres and incorporates approximately 800 rooms, two great Kivas and 30 other kivas. Some of the structures in the village were four and five stories high.

Pueblo Bonito is divided into two sections by a precisely aligned wall which runs north to south through the central plaza. A Great Kiva is situated on either side of the wall, creating a symmetrical pattern common to many of the Great Houses.


It is possible that Pueblo Bonito is actually neither a village nor city. While its size has the capacity for a significant population, excavation at the site does not support that theory.

A common suggestion is that Pueblo Bonito was a ritual center. This is evident in not only the existence of the kivas (which are more often than not attributed to ritual function) but also the construction of the site and its relation to other Chaco Canyon sites.

The round Chaco-style kivas used by Puebloans were built underground flush with the surrounding landscape. The smaller kivas were used by individual households for ritual purposes as well as for a variety of routine daily activities such as food preparation, cooking, eating and sleeping.

Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl (Wikipedia)

Great Kiva - Chetro Ketl

Great Kivas are much larger and always extend above the surrounding landscape and are separate from the core structures. Great Kivas have a bench that encircles the inner space and tend to include floor vaults, which might have served as foot drums for ceremonial dancers. The staircase leading down from an antechamber is usually on the north side. Great Kivas are believed to be the first "public" buildings constructed in the Mesa Verde Region.

Chaco Canyon Ancient Roads

One of the most fascinating and intriguing aspects of Chaco Canyon is the Chaco Roads, a system of roads radiating out from many Anasazi Great House sites such as Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl and Una Vida, and leading towards small outlier sites and natural features within and beyond the canyon limits.

Through satellite images and ground investigations, archaeologists have detected at least eight main roads that together run for more than 180 miles and are more than 30 feet wide. These were excavated into a smooth leveled surface in the bedrock or created through the removal of vegetation and soil. The Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) residents of Chaco Canyon cut large ramps and stairways into the cliff rock to connect the roadways on the ridgetops of the canyon to the sites on the valley bottoms.

Salmon Ruins (Wikipedia)

Salmon Ruins Historic Archaeological Site

Our next stop was the Salmon Ruins (pronounced sol-mon). Salmon was constructed by migrants from Chaco Canyon around 1090. Spread across two acres, Salmon had 275 to 300 original rooms, three stories, an elevated tower kiva in its central portion, and a great kiva in its plaza. The distinctive style of stonework used is the same as that found at Chaco Canyon (Chaco Culture National Historical Park).

Subsequent use by local Middle San Juan people (beginning in the 1120s) resulted in extensive modifications to the original building, with the reuse of hundreds of rooms, division of many of the original large, Chacoan rooms into smaller rooms, and emplacement of more than 20 small kivas into pueblo rooms and plaza areas. The site was occupied by ancient Ancestral Puebloans until the 1280s, when much of the site was destroyed by fire and abandoned.

Salmon Ruins Museum and Gift Shop

The Salmon Ruins Museum exhibits some of the artifacts recovered during the excavations conducted in the 1970s. Temporary exhibits are also on display and changed throughout the year. The gift shop features authentic Native American arts and crafts from local Native American artisans with Navajo and Hopi jewelry, pottery, and rugs. They also have an extensive collection of books and postcards.

Salmon Ruins was listed on the National Register of Historical Places on September 4, 1970 as #70000406.

Aztec Ruins Visitor Center (Wikipedia)

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Our last set of ruins for today are the Aztec Ruins. The Visitors Center started as the home of pioneering archeologist Earl Morris. We picked up our NPS Brochure, toured the museum, viewed many of the artifacts, and shopped for gifts. Before heading out on the walking tours through the ruins, we watched the short video "Aztec Ruins: Footprints of the Past".

Aztec Ruins (Wikipedia)

Archaeological evidence puts the construction of the ruins in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Puebloan-built ruins were dubbed the "Aztec Ruins" by 19th century American settlers who misattributed their construction to the Aztecs.

The West Ruin, open to visitors, covers two acres, stands three stories high and once had more than 500 rooms centred on an open plaza (many of which still have their original wooden roofs). Excavated artifacts offer a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Reconstructed Great Kiva - Aztec Ruins

The highlight of our walking tour is the reconstructed ceremonial Great Kiva. The 48 foot diameter Great Kiva was reconstructed by Morris in 1934. The semi-subterranean structure, over 40 feet in diameter, is the oldest and largest reconstructed building of its kind. We were able to enter the Kiva.

Morris uncovered remnants of the original building, from which he built this reconstruction. Fifteen surface rooms encircle the central chamber. Their purpose is unclear - Morris found very few artifacts in them. Each had an exterior doorway to the plaza. The colors are based on bits of reddish and white-washed plaster found clinging to the original walls.

Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins (Wikipedia)
Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins (Wikipedia)

Heritage Garden and Native Plants Walk

A refreshing part of the Monument is the Heritage Garden and the Native Plants Walk. The garden is inside the shady and historic picnic area. Traditional crops like corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and gourds are grown by park staff and volunteers. The Native Plants Walk is located on the west side of the picnic area near the parking lot.

The Aztec Ruins are the most impressive ruins (and certainly the easiest to walk through) on our tours today. The picnic area is adjacent to the parking lot. We took the time to rest and have a cool drink before leaving the Park.

The Aztec Ruins National Monument is under the administration of the National Park Service. The Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as #66000484 and the Visitor Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 11, 1996 as #96001041.

Under the umbrella of Chaco Culture, along with five additional protected archaeological areas) Aztec Ruins was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List Reference No. 353 on December 8, 1987.

Main Avenue c1910 (Walking Tour)

Aztec, New Mexico

The town of Aztec has a fabulous Self Guided Walking Tour plugged full of historical information and photos. Our poor aching feet had covered enough ground today so we decided to take a "self guided auto tour" of Aztec. From the fascinating main avenue buildings and historical churches to the intriguing "Lovers Lane Loop" we had a relaxing drive around this quaint historic town.

Aztec was established as a commercial center for the surrounding farmers and ranches in the late 1880's. In 1890 a group of citizens purchased the property for the purpose of establishing the Aztec Town Company. Aztec was incorporated as a town under the laws of the Territory of New Mexico in 1905. The mail arrived in 1900, the telephone in 1903 and the railway in 1905.

By 1910 Aztec has 30 businesses including mercantiles, grocery stores, newspapers, a bank, doctors, lawyers and dentists.

American Hotel c1920 (Walking Tour)

The American Hotel

The elegant American Hotel opened in March 1907. The arrival of the railroad in 1905 increased trade and commence and necessitated a hotel to accommodate the increased number of travellers. Guests were met at the train station and transported to the Hotel by a horse drawn buggy.

The American Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 21, 1985 as #85000323.

A huge Buffalo Mural on North Main Avenue depicts the July 1926 "buffalo drive" through the National Historic District. The Aztec Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 21, 1985 as #85000321. It included 11 buildings, eight of them being contributing buildings. The district is a half-block area bounded by Main E., Chuska S., alley between Park and Main W., and Chaco N.

Farmington, New Mexico

The history of the Farmington area dates back over 2,000 years when Anasazi lived in "pit houses" throughout the region. They later built pueblo structures from the native sandstone rock as can be seen at Aztec and Salmon ruins, as well as many other archeological sites in the surrounding countryside.

After the Anasazi's mysterious disappearance about 1500, the area was inhabited by the Navajo, Jicarilla Apache and the Utes into the present time. Native Americans called the area "Totah," which translates as "where three river meet," the La Plata, Animas and San Juan.

Casa Blanca Inn & Suites

The Casa Blanca Inn and Suites is a Spanish Colonial Hacienda surrounded by gardens, courtyards and fountains. We are staying in the 1150 square foot Cottage. It is a stand alone home next door to the inn. The two bedroom, two bath cottage has one king and one queen bedroom each with its own bath. The Cottage has a full kitchen with breakfast nook and a living room with sofa sleeper. There is also a comfortable patio area. Casa Blanca Inn & Suites

Post Note - Day Thirteen:

Today was a big day with lots of information to read about and absorb. As for Chaco Canyon Park, it can only be accessed by driving on dirt roads - apparently miles and miles of them.

"Via Hwy 57 (Hwy 14 on some maps): This turnoff is located on Highway 9, 13 miles east of Highway 371, at the former Seven Lakes Trading Post. (20 miles of dirt). Note that the signs directing you to turn off of Hwy 371 onto Highway 9 are missing." It also warns "some of the local roads recommended by map publishers and GPS devices are unsafe for passenger cars. Please use our directions below to avoid getting lost or stuck." NPS Website

This all seems a bit ominous and I did have to wonder - if the signs are missing why not replace them? However, if we ever get there - we will definitely make sure we double check the directions posted on the NPS Website. I used the Google Map to guide us (which apparently is not recommended) and the instructions are so convoluted I wonder if we ever arrived at the Park - even virtually!

I spent way too much time in Chaco Canyon especially knowing that this was only the first of many ruins we would be visiting. The information is mostly repeated with some small differences as we tour the rest of the ruins on our itinerary. Reading about the Puebloans (Anasazi) was fascinating. Years ago Karen and I stopped at a "kiva" site but really didn't know what we were looking at. I just remember looking at a "hole" in the ground with nothing in it and wondering what it was all about. We certainly didn't know it's significance. I have no idea now where that particular site was.

All the hiking around the various ruins was a bit of a stretch. It really isn't possible for us to to do that much walking. We would be exhausted - our ankles would be swollen and our feet would be killing us. The walking tour in historic downtown Aztec seemed really interesting but was just not going to happen at the end of today, I had to turn it into an auto tour.

Kokopelli's Cave Dilemma

It was a toss-up between staying at Kokopelli's Cave or the Casa Blanca Inn and Suites in Farmington. I really wanted to "try" Kokopelli's Cave but, in the end, I opted for Casa Blanca. Kokopelli's Cave was just too unrealistic - even on our virtual trip. The 1700 square foot cave consists of a bedroom, living area, replica kiva, dining area, full kitchen and a bathroom with shower and hot tub. There are two porches with sliding glass doors one off the main entrance and the other off the bedroom. The view looks over the La Plata River valley and the Four Corners area.

All of that seemed WOW until I read that it is 300 feet up the side of a cliff (or 70 feet down depending on your perspective). Either way, we would be climbing up and down - and rolling suitcases are not very useful on the rocky stairs. Assuming we could actually reach the door - it is just not possible that I would agree to go into the heart of a cave let alone sleep in it. As much as I liked the "idea" of spending the night in Kokopelli's Cave on this our Trail of the Ancients tour, I just couldn't bring myself to sleep in a cliff dwelling. Kokopelli's Cave

Day 14 - Farmington to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

We must have been worn out from yesterday because today was more about finding some fun roads to drive on. Our drive today will be the San Juan Skyway Scenic Drive. All we had to do was sit back and take in the spectacular scenery. Highways were west on US 64, north on State NM 170/CO 140, east on County 141, and east on US 160 into Durango.

After a detour to the Durango Silverton Railroad Museum and Stitch Quilt and Sewing Boutique, we continued north on US 550 to Ridgway. We then turned west on State 62, south on Last Dollar Road No. 638, south on State 145 to Cortez, east on US 160, and finally south on Mesa Top Ruins Road into Mesa Verde National Park. When all was said and done, we were about 70 miles from where we started by the end of the day. Google Map

Main Avenue Historic District 1980 (NRHP)

Durango, Colorado

Durango was incorporated April 27, 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as part of their efforts to service the San Juan mining district. The city was named after Durango, Mexico.

Main Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 7, 1980 as #80000907. It's historical value consists of galleries, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and historic hotels.

Durango & Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a 3 foot narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 45.2 miles of track between Durango and Silverton. The route originally opened July 10, 1882 as an extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad line from Antonito to Durango to transport silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains.

The line from Durango to Silverton has run continuously since then, although it is now a tourist and heritage line hauling passengers, and is one of the few places in the U.S. which has seen continuous use of steam locomotives.

The Durango-Silverton Narrow-Gauge Line was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as #66000247.

Durango Station (Library of Congress)

Durango & Silverton Railroad Museum

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum opened in 1998. It is a tribute to railroading nationally and southwest Colorado. The museum is located in the Durango roundhouse. Half the roundhouse is used for the steam engines and the other half is for the museum. The museum features memorabilia from the Durango and Silverton and other railroads. Informational and educational films are featured in the movie coach that was used in the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Stitch - Durango, Colorado

We haven't stopped at many quilt shops on this trip so we took the time to visit this quilt shop just up the street from the Durango & Silverton Museum. This shop specializes in unusual, bold and bright fabrics. It was easy to wander through the shop just letting ourselves get inspired. I bought a Sunshine Soul Panel. We didn't spend too much time in the shop. With our treasures safely tucked in the back of the car, we headed to US 550 north out of town. Stitch

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

The San Juan Skyway is a 233 mile loop traversing the heart of the San Juan Mountains. It roughly parallels the routes of the narrow gauge railways and highway (counterclockwise) US 550 to Ridgway, State 62 to Placerville, State 145 to Cortez and US 160 to Durango. It crosses the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests, spanning elevations from 6,200 feet near Cortez to 11,008 on Red Mountain Pass.

The San Juan Skyway was designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway in September 1988. It was later named a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway in 1989 and an All-American Road in September 1996.

Interesting to note on this map the small piece of US 491 north west from Cortez is showing as US 666. US 666 officially ceased to exist on May 31, 2003. US 666 was renumbered to US 491.

San Juan Skyway Map

US Highway 550 - Durango to Silverton

Most of U.S. 550 in Colorado is two-lane mountainous highway. It is one of only two north–south U.S. Highways in Colorado which runs west of the Continental Divide. (The other route is US 491.) The route travels north through the San Juan Mountains. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

US 550 climbs steadily crossing over Coal Bank Pass (summit 10,660 feet), and Molas Pass (summit 10,910 feet) providing beautiful views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains before descending into Silverton.

Pinkerton Hot Springs (Google Capture)

Pinkerton Hot Springs - Hwy 550

The Pinkerton Hot Springs was discovered by James Pinkerton in the 1800s, who decided to transform this mysterious gem into a travel destination. People almost immediately began to flock to this spot, as this was a time when many believed that hot springs were a miracle cure and their waters possessed healing powers. Pinkerton built a resort here, complete with a swimming pool filled with water from the springs.

Bakers Bridge - Hwy 550

Captain Charles H. Baker, who discovered gold in the San Juan in 1860, led a party of prospectors to this area in 1861. They placer mined on El Rio de las Animas, built the first bridge (300 feet north). When no profitable mines were found, the area was abandoned for a decade. Baker joined the Confederate forces during the Civil War. Later he returned to the San Juan where he was killed by Indians. Legend has it that Charles' cache of gold is buried somewhere in the hills around Baker's Bridge.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Bakers Bridge is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid escaped from the approaching posse. They made the leap to freedom from a granite ledge into the Animas Gorge. Newman and Redford started the jump in Colorado, to land on a hidden mattress only a few feet below. The leap was completed by stuntmen at the studio's Century Ranch near Malibu, California. View the Jump Scene.

Silverton - Hwy 550

Silverton is located in a remote part of the western San Juan Mountains. Nestled in a flat area of the Animas River at an elevation of 9,318 feet, Silverton is surrounded by several "thirteeners" and within 15 miles from seven "fourteeners". It is one of the highest towns in the United States.

The first mining claims were made in mountains above the Silverton in 1860. Silverton was established shortly after the Utes ceded the region in the 1873 Brunot Agreement, and the town boomed from silver mining until the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse of the silver market. It boomed again from gold mining until the recession caused by the Panic of 1907.

Imperial Hotel Green Street (NPS)

Silverton Historic District

Unlike many other mining towns, Silverton never experienced a major fire, and most of the buildings are still standing. Silverton is part of the San Juan Skyway (with the Million Dollar Highway connecting Silverton to Ouray), home to Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop, and the summer destination for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad . Silverton Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as #66000255.

Silverton Disasters

Silverton has had it's share of disasters from mine collapse, avalanches and a horrible environment catastrophe when a plug broke and mine waste water and tailings flowed into a tributary of the Animas River.

The disaster that caught my attention though was the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. The Spanish Flu arrived in Silverton in October 1918 and before it was finished 10% of the population had died giving Silverton the dubious honor of having the highest mortality rate from the Spanish Flu in the entire nation.

Highway 550 - Million Dollar Highway - Silverton to Ouray

Though the entire stretch of Highway 550 has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the stretch between Silverton and Ouray over Red Mountain Pass and through the Uncompahgre Gorge that gives the highway its name.

Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves. Travel south from Ouray to Silverton through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive. It is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails. The ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains.

The first autos reached Red Mountain Pass from Ouray in 1911. After Congress passed the Federal-Aid Road Act in 1916, the wagon road from Ouray to Red Mountain Pass was upgraded and rerouted in 1921-24. It was widened to two lanes and paved in the 1950s.

The origin of the name Million Dollar Highway is disputed. Some say the highway cost a million dollars a mile to build. Others say that it's fill contains millions of dollars in gold ore. Maybe it is just the amazing million dollar view of San Juan Mountain views.

Red Mountain - Hwy 550

Red Mountain is a set of three peaks about 5 miles south of Ouray. The mountains get their name from the reddish iron ore rocks that cover the surface. Several other peaks in the San Juan Mountains likewise have prominent reddish coloration from iron ore and are also called "Red Mountain".

Nearby Red Mountain Pass is named after Red Mountain, and the ghost town mining camp of Red Mountain Town is located around Red Mountain.

Red Mountain Number 3 (Wikipedia)

Red Mountain Pass- Hwy 550

Red Mountain Pass, with a summit of 11,075 feet, divides Ouray and San Juan counties, the Uncompahgre and Las Animas River watersheds, and the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests.

It has steep 8% grades and switchbacks on the north side facing Ouray. It is winding, narrow and has no shoulder. Avalanches are frequent in winter. The lower part near Ouray is blasted into near-vertical cliffs of quartzite hundreds of feet above Red Mountain Creek and the Uncompahgre River.

Red Mountain Pass (Wikipedia)

Red Mountain Mining District - Hwy 550

The Red Mountain Mining District was the site of a historic silver boom from 1882 until 1893. The the old workings are still visible from the highway, as are the remains of the three largest communities: Red Mountain Town, Ironton, and Guston.

The Idarado Mine was a mining operation near he now-ghost town of Guston, producing primarily lead, silver and zinc along with lesser amounts of gold and copper.

Idarado Mine Trestle (Wikipedia)

Ouray Colorado - Hwy 550

The City of Ouray, named after Chief Ouray, was incorporated on October 2, 1876. Because of it's natural alpine environment and scenery, Ouray has earned the nickname "Switzerland of America".

Originally established by prospectors seeking silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, Ouray at one time boasted more horses and mules than people. At the height of the mining, it had more than 30 active mines.

Ouray Main Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 6, 1983 as #83003537

Beaumont Hotel c1890 (Wikipedia)

Chief Ouray (1833 – August 24, 1880)

Chief Ouray was a Chief of the Tabeguache (Uncompahgre) band of the Ute tribe. His father was a Jicarilla Apache adopted into the Ute, and his mother was Uncompahgre Ute.

Raised in the culturally diverse town of Taos, Ouray learned to speak many languages that helped him in the negotiations. Ouray was known as the "white man's friend," and his services were almost indispensable to the government in negotiating with his tribe. Ouray met with Presidents Lincoln, Grant, and Hayes and was called the man of peace because he sought to make treaties with settlers and the government.

Ouray's obituary in The Denver Tribune stated "In the death of Ouray, one of the historical characters passes away. He has figured for many years as the greatest Indian of his time, and during his life has figured quite prominently. Ouray is in many respects...a remarkable Indian...pure instincts and keen perception. A friend to the white man and protector to the Indians alike."

Chief Ouray c1874 (Wikipedia)

Bachelor Syracuse Mine History

The Bachelor mine was claimed in the early 1890s by three bachelors, Charlie Armstrong, Frank Sanders, and George Hurlburt. For 100 years, the Bachelor Mine on Gold Hill was one of Ouray's strongest and most reliable producers. So rich was its ore that its three owners made huge profits even after the disastrous silver crash of 1893. Ore rolled down Red Canyon by the ton to the railroad siding below, which became known as the Bachelor Switch. In the 1920's, the Syracuse Tunnel was driven to access the Bachelor's old workings from below.

A town named ASH (from the first letter os Armstrong, Sanders and Hurlburt) of about 200 sprang up at the mine's main portal. The town sported a mill, school, post office and brass band. The town's remains still straddle Red Canyon Creek, now known as Dexter Creek.

Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour - Ouray, Colorado

For years Karen has been trying to get me to go on a mine tour. I just can't do it. I've always offered to wait for her while she takes a tour but she has never done it. Today, she will. So donning a bright yellow hard hat, Karen flung herself 1500 feet below ground into Gold Hill to follow in the footsteps of miners of long ago - all while I relaxed warm and dry above ground in the shade of a huge tree reading my book.

Gold Panning - Bachelor Syracuse Mine

Once Karen's mine tour was over, we picked up our gold pans to learn how to pan for gold in the same stream as the original miners. After a half hour crouched over sifting sand, pebbles and other suspicious looking particles, we decided this was definitely not a get rich quick project. We un-kinked our backs and headed to the gift shop where Karen bought some gold particles in a jar and I bought the book Tales of the Bachelor Mine by Jane Bennett. I may not have taken the tour, but at least I'll be informed.

Wilson Peak (Wikipedia)

Hwy 62 Colorado & Last Dollar Road #638

We continued north on US 550 to Ridgway, then headed west on State Highway 62 for 12 miles. Just past the scenic overlook on Highway 62 we turned south on the unpaved Last Dollar Road. Described as as "safe alternative to the hard-core Black Bear and Imogene four-wheel passes", this whole route was spectacular - up and down high cliffs and low meadows. Slow going but more than worth it.

Last Dollar Road was a mining supply route in the 1800s. It winds its way 22 miles through the mountains above Telluride past ranches, fields, over the Dallas Divide, and by Mount Wilson and Mount Sneffels two of Colorado's 14ers. It climbs over Last Dollar Pass at an elevation of 10,676 feet. The road closes in the winter.

Last Dollar Road in Popular Culture

Wilson Peak is recognizable to anyone who's ever examined the label on a Coors bottle. The opening and closing scenes of the 1969 western "True Grit" staring John Wayne were filmed at the Lost Dollar Ranch. The ranch was also used as a location for national advertising campaigns for Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Beer and Marlboro Cigarettes.

Brunswick Saloon c1900 (Wikipedia)

Telluride - Highway 145

Exiting the Lost Dollar Road we turned south on State Highway 145 through the beautiful box canyon Telluride sits in. Telluride is a former silver mining camp in the western Juan Mountains. The first gold mining claim was made in 1875. The town itself was founded in 1878. The railway arrived in 1890.

The Telluride Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as #66000256.

Butch Cassidy - San Juan Miguel Valley Bank Robbery, Telluride

Robert LeRoy Parker left his home in Utah to find work in the mines in Telluride. He was hired to pack ore onto mules and bring it to the mills. On June 24, 1889, Butch Cassidy, along with Matt Warner and Tom McCarty, robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride - and so began his life of crime. This was his first major recorded crime. He exited the bank with $24,580.00 (the equivalent of over a $600,000.00 in 2020).

Lizard Head Pass

Leaving Telluride, we climbed to Lizard Head Pass summit, elevation 10,246 feet. The pass is named after the nearby 13,119 foot Lizard Head peak that resembles the head of a lizard. It is the border between Dolores and San Miguel counties and also on the divide between the watersheds of the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers. The Lizard Head Wilderness area contains 41,309 acres and is jointly managed by the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests.

Lizard Head Pas (Wikipedia)
Lizard Head Peak (Wikipedia)
Headframe of the Atlantic Cable Mine - Rico

Rico, Colorado

The Rico area was originally inhabited by natives including the Utes. In the 1700's Spanish explorers were in the area. In 1833, trappers like W. Walton of the St. Louis Fur Co., came and reported remains of Spanish smelters. Mining began about 1860. In the mid 1870's the Utes ceded the area to the U.S. by treaty.

Frenzied activity began and many profitable claims were staked, including ten in 1877. D. Swickheimer opened the Enterprise Mine, the most successful mine in the area's history. At its peak in 1892 Rico boasted 5000 residents, 23 saloons, 2 churches and 88 active mines. The railroad came in 1891 but the silver crash of 1893 ended Rico's first boom.

Historical Marker Database

Galloping Goose No. 3 c-1949 (Wikipedia)

The Galloping Goose Museum - Dolores, CO

We stopped at the Galloping Goose Museum and Gift Shop. The Galloping Goose Historical Society was founded in 1987. The Society's first big project in 1991 was to build a replica of the original RGS Dolores depot. It is a Victorian structure and painted in the RGS color scheme of buff yellow with brown trim. It contains the Society's railroad museum and gift shop.

The Galloping Goose

The history of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad is long and complicated. The narrow-gauge Railroad went through a series of ups and downs from mining boom days in the 1890's to its final dismantling in 1952. The "Galloping Goose" however, lives on!

While the Railway was suffering the effects of the Great Depression, it still had the crippling responsibility of delivering the US Mail. Labeled the "Tin-Feathered Saviors" of the Southern, the Galloping Geese were invented.

Hatched in 1931 the Geese were a group of seven homemade railcars called "Motors", cheap to build and operate and capable of transporting the mail and passengers. With silver painted bodies, hood covers that looked like goose wings, and a horn resembling the honking of a goose, the Geese waddled down the rickety tracks. The name "Galloping Geese" soon took hold - and stuck!

In 1997 and 1998, the Galloping Goose Historical Society completely restored Galloping Goose No. 5 to operating condition. Goose No. 5 made its first run in almost 47 years on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in May 1998. Goose No. 1 did not survive. It was scrapped in 1933. Geese Nos 2, 6 & 7 are preserved at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. Goose No. 3 is at Knott's Berry Farm in California. Goose No. 4 is on display in Telluride and Goose No. 5 sits on the track outside the Galloping Goose Museum in Dolores. Galloping Goose - Wikipedia

Mesa Top Ruins Road - Mesa Verde National Park

We stopped at the viewpoints and overlooks along the road. Montezuma Valley Overlook has exhibits on the area geology and other park topics as well. Park Point is the highest point in the park at 8,572 feet. A short walk on the trail from the parking lot leads to the overlook and wayside exhibits. The Geologic Overlook is a short walk on the trail from the parking that leads to the overlook and wayside exhibits.

Point Lookout & Milky Way- NPS

Mesa Verde - International Dark Sky Park

We arrived in time to get ourselves registered at the hotel and head to the dining room for dinner. We are staying at the Far View Lodge in the heart of the Park. We have private balcony off our room with an amazing view for miles. We sat on the balcony listening to the quiet and did some amazing stargazing. Mesa Verde National Park was recognized as the 100th International Dark Sky Park in April 2021.

Mesa Verde National Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as #66000251.

It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List Reference No. 27 in September, 1978.

Post Note - Day Fourteen:

I drove down US 550 a few years ago on my way to Texas. Karen and I drove Highway 145 between Telluride and Cortez in 2011 so for most of today, it's a repeat. One of my inclinations was to cut across to Telluride from US 550 via the Black Bear Road. I changed my mind once I watched this video. Nope! Falling Off Black Bear Pass

While searching for interesting things en-route, I stumbled on the Orvis Hot Springs just south of Ridgway. Since we are not in a big hurry today, I thought maybe we might like to stop for a soak in the natural hot springs - until I saw the "clothing optional" advertising. Karen said she didn't care but she was going wear her bathing on. I don't think so. Not the scenery I had in mind for today. I'm driving and I think I'll just pass on by.

What can I say about the The Galloping Goose? Resembling an old converted hippy bus cut in half, with an extra large pointed snout and snow plow on the front, and a disjointed square train car on the back, it has to be one of the "ugliest ducklings" I have ever seen!

Day 15 - Mesa Verde National Park to Bluff, Utah

The first part of our day was within the Park. Leaving the Lodge we followed the Wetherill Mesa Road to Wetherill Mesa. We back tracked to Mesa Top Ruins Road taking the Spruce Tree Loop, then the Oak Tree Loop and finally the Cliff Palace Loop before heading out of he Park to connect with US 160. Google Map

Leaving the Park we turned west on US 160, north on State Hwy 145, west on State Hwy 184, north on US 491, west on Road BB, south on Colorado County Road 10/Utah County Road 212 into Hovenweep National Monument. Leaving the Monument, we continued west on County Road 212/County Road 413 (Reservation Road) west on Belitso Road (Reservation Road) west on County Road 5099 and County Road 262 to US 191 where we turned south to Bluff. Google Map

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park, established in 1906, protects the rich history and well-preserved archeology of the Ancestral Puebloan people, who inhabited the mesa from around 550 to 1300 CE.

It preserves over 5,000 known archeological sites, including mesa-top villages, farming terraces, reservoirs, pictographs and petroglyphs, towers, and cliff dwellings. These cultural sites are some of the most notable and well preserved in the United States. These sites are sacred ancestral homes and often visited by Mesa Verde's 26 affiliated tribes.

We drove the loops slowly and stopped at most of the pullouts to view the historical markers and overlook the cliff dwellings. Most of the dwelling could be seen from the highway or a very short walk to the overlook. Mesa Verde Park Map

Cliff Dwelling Life

There are about 600 alcove sites in Mesa Verde National Park. About 90 percent contain fewer than 11 rooms. At least one-third are simply one room structures, probably storage rooms for a nearby cliff dwelling. There are only about a dozen cliff dwellings that contain 40 or more rooms, including Oak Tree House. Historical Marker Database

Cliff Dwelling Life (Historical Marker Database)

Wetherill Mesa

The first half of the road is twists and turns in and out of nine steep-sided valleys, generally running just below the crest of the great ridge finally straightening and running along a narrow mesa.

Wetherill Mesa was named after Richard Wetherill (1855 - 1912), an archaeologist and explorer of Ancient Puebloan sites. The access road ends at a large parking area where a tram used to take people to several overlooks and trailheads. Unfortunately, the tram was discontinued in 2015, so the 4.9 mile loop is only accessible by foot or bicycle.

There are five major ancient sites on Wetherill Mesa - Badger House on top of the plateau, Step House accessible by a self-guided trail, Long House viewed from an overlook, and Nordenskiold Site 16 and Kodak House which are inaccessible and only glimpsed from viewpoints.

Step House

The Step House alcove provides clear archeological evidence of two separate occupations—a Basketmaker III pithouse community dating to early 600s CE, and a Pueblo III masonry pueblo dating to the 1200s. BM III sites are difficult to locate within alcoves because of later cliff dwelling activity. Because the Step House pueblo was built on the south end of the 300-foot long alcove, it left at least part of the BM III site undisturbed. The Step House alcove contains six known Basketmaker III pit structures and a Pueblo III masonry pueblo with 27 rooms and 3 kivas. . National Park Service

Step House (American Southwest)

Chapin Mesa

The majority of the viewable ruins and cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park are found on Chapin Mesa, as are most visitor facilities. The access road is open all year.

Including the various loops the road is 14 miles long and passes dozens of overlooks, several short paths, two longer trails and three dwellings open to the public - Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Spruce Tree House.

Oak Tree House

Oak Tree House is one of the larger cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. It contains at least 60 rooms. The well-built stone masonry walls supported multiple stories. The alcove itself was sometimes used as a roof for upper rooms. Oak Tree House has six kivas. Kivas were surrounded by several adjacent rooms. Each kiva and set of rooms may have been used by an extended family. Oak Tree House - Historical Marker Database

Oak Tree House (Wikipedia)

Cliff Palace

Although silent today, Cliff Palace is a reflective reminder of a people who settled among these cliffs, canyons, and mesa tops for a time, and then migrated to establish new communities and neighborhoods further south. Here, for 700 years, they passed their skills, traditions, artistry, and knowledge from generation to generation.

With at least 150 rooms and 23 kivas, Cliff Palace is an exceptionally large cliff dwelling. It was constructed in a very special location, surrounded by a vibrant, active community. Several features suggest it was an important gathering place, perhaps an administrative or governmental center for the Ancestral Pueblo society that centered around these canyons. Historical Marker Database

Cliff Palace (Wikipedia)


During the years 1996 to 2003, the park suffered from several wildfires. The fires, many of which were started by lightning during times of drought, burned 28,340 acres - more than half the park. The fires also damaged many archaeological sites and park buildings. The fires destroyed two rock art sites and nearly destroyed the museum.

After the Chapin V, Bircher and Pony fires, 593 previously undiscovered sites were revealed. Also uncovered during the fires were extensive water containment features, including dams, terraces, and reservoirs. Mesa Verde Fires

Wildfire Damage on Chapin Mesa (Wikipedia)

McElmo Creek Flume - Hwy 160

The McElmo Creek Flume was in use from the 1890s to the 1990s, carrying water for over a hundred years. After it was abandoned, it remained in good condition until 2006, when a flash flood carried debris into the trough and damaged the wooden top. Deterioration continued rapidly after that, and the Flume was in danger of collapse. Historical Marker Database

The Flume was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 27, 2012 as #12000146.

McElmo Creek Flume (Wikipedia)

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum - Dolores

We stopped at the Visitor Center and Museum. It is an archaeological museum of Native American pueblo and hunter-gatherer cultures. Two 12th-century archaeological sites, the Escalante and Dominguez Pueblos, at the center were once home to Ancient Pueblo peoples. The museum's permanent and special exhibits display some of the 3 million Ancestral Puebloan artifacts. The center also houses a public research library, educational resources and a museum shop.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, administered by the BLM, protects 176,056 acres of archaeologically-significant landscape. President Clinton established the Monument by Presidential Proclamation on June 9, 2000. As of 2005, over 6,000 individual archeological sites had been identified within the monument.

During the Developmental Pueblo period (AD 750-1100) buildings were built with stone, windows facing south, and in U, E and L shapes. They were located closely together and reflected deepening religious celebration. Towers were built near kivas and likely used for look-outs. Pottery became more versatile, including pitchers, ladles, bowls, jars and tableware for food and drink. White pottery with black designs emerged. Water management and conservation techniques also emerged during this period.

During the Great Pueblo period (AD 1100 to 1300) the buildings were larger pueblos or villages on top of the pit-houses. The Pueblo dwellers were farmers and hunters. They grew beans, corn and squash and raised turkeys. They also made and decorated pottery.

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument, administered by the National Park Service, spans the Utah/Colorado Border. President Warren G. Harding established the Monument by Presidential Proclamation on March 2, 1923. There there is evidence of occupation by hunter-gatherers from 8,000 to 6,000 B.C. A succession of early puebloan cultures settled in the area and remained until the 14th century.

On July 1, 2014, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Hovenweep an International Dark Sky Park.

The Monument is largely known for the six groups of Ancestral Puebloan villages - Cajon Group, Cutthroat Castle Group, Goodman Point Group, Holly Group, Hackberry and Horseshoe Group, and Square Tower Group. The Visitor Center is located at Square Tower Group.

The Square Tower Group contains the largest collection of ancestral Puebloan structures at Hovenweep. The remains of nearly thirty kivas have been discovered on the slopes of Little Ruin Canyon, and a variety of other structures are perched on the canyon rims, balanced on boulders and tucked under ledges. It's possible that as many as 500 people occupied the Square Tower area between 1200 and 1300 CE. Hovenweep Map

NPS photo by Jacob W. Frank

Hovenweep Wildlife

The common collared lizard named for it's distinct coloration, can grow up to 8–15 inches in total length (including the tail), with a large head and powerful jaws. Males have a blue-green body with a light brown head. Females have a light brown head and body. However, when reproductively active during breeding seasons, females undergo a rapid color change, in which faint orange spots on their heads increase in brightness.

Collared lizards are active during the day, and spend most of their time basking on top of elevated rocks or boulders. As a highly territorial species, they remain hyper-vigilant, scanning for predators or intruders, ready to sprint or fight when necessary. Generally, males engage in more chase, fight, display, and courtship behaviors than females. In captivity if two males are placed in the same cage they will fight to the death.

Desert Rose Inn - Bluff, Utah

It feels like we are home when we arrive in Bluff. First things first, we got ourselves settled in at the Desert Rose. Desert Rose Inn started with 5 Executive Cabins on the west side of Bluff in 1997. In 1999, they proposed a project of building a 30 room lodge and conference facility. Now they have expanded with a new courtyard lodge and restaurants. National Geographic - Desert Rose Inn

Twin Rocks Cafe and Twin Rocks Trading Post

Time for dinner at the Twin Rocks Cafe. Twin Rocks Cafe is open year round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features many traditional Navajo delights, homemade soups, salads, quiche, and vegetarian selections.

Founded in 1989, Twin Rocks Trading Post has become one of the most influential art galleries in the Southwest. Internationally known for working closely with local Native American artists to inspire new techniques and design motifs, when it comes to Southwest art, Twin Rocks Trading Post is quite literally at the intersection of tradition and innovation. The gallery specializes in Navajo basketry, the Twin Rocks Modern style of rug weaving, and gem-quality turquoise. National Geographic - Twin Rocks Trading Post

Moki Dugway - Hwy 261 (2008)

Moki Dugway - Hwy 261 Utah

"Moki" is a local term for the ancient Puebloan people who inhabited the Colorado Plateau. "Dugway" is a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside. The Moki Dugway Scenic Backway is a stretch of Highway 261 in Utah where the blacktop turns into a dirt road that drastically switches back and forth down the side of a cliff at an 11% grade. This unique stretch of road, which has literally been carved from the face of the cliff, connects Utah Highway 95 with US Highway 163.

Along the dugway route are places to pull out and get a fantastic views of Valley of the Gods and the San Juan River Canyon, where the stripes of different colored rocks create what is known as the "Navajo Tapestry". If you look off to the horizon, you can even see Monument Valley.

The Moki Dugway was constructed in 1958 as a route for transporting mined materials from Fry Canyon to a processing mill in Mexican Hat, Utah. This stretch of Utah Highway 261 is part of the "Trail of the Ancients".

Post Note - Day Fifteen:

How totally accommodating of the National Park Service to provide us with a special edition"Virtual Stamp" for Hovenweep National Monument. Maybe we are not the only crazy people doing virtual trips during Covid. NPS Virtual Visit

The picture of the collared lizard was in the wildlife section of the NPS website. Karen is always catching pictures of creepy crawlies so it just seem appropriate that she would find this colourful character on our visit to Hovenweep.

Hovenweep is our last Ancient Ruins site. I'm officially done with cliff dwelling and ruins. As fascinating as they are, they are starting to be quite repetitious. If I'm feeling this way "virtually" I can only imagine that at some point in the last few days we have looked at each other and said "let's scrap the rest of this and go play on Hwy 261" - so that is exactly what we are doing.

Although I'm getting anxious to bring this trip to an end and head home, we still have a few areas to explore. Tomorrow we will head to Canyonlands National Park and will stay in Moab two nights.

Day 16 - Bluff to Moab, UT
Highways today were north on US 191. We stopped in Blanding to visit the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. At Church Rock, we headed west on State 211 to the Needles Visitor Center then back to US 191. We then turned west on County 133 to Needles Overlook and back to US 191 finally arriving in Moab. Google Map

Dinosaur Museum - Blanding

Blanding forms the extreme southern tip of what is called the "Dinosaur Diamond," a hotbed of prehistoric dinosaur activity and fossil finds. The other points are Price, Moab and Vernal, Utah, and Fruita, Colorado.

The museum contains fossils found nearby in the Four Corners region and from around the world. The displays include a mummified Edmontosaurus. This 40-foot-long, duck-billed dinosaur was discovered in Wyoming in 1891. The cast here in Blanding is one of only two in the entire world.

Dinosaur Museum (Wikipedia)

Edge of the Cedars State Park - Blanding

Edge of the Cedars State Park archaeological site and museum is located at the site of an ancient village which includes dwelling units and a kiva. The kiva and some other structures have been restored and can be viewed behind the museum. The Museum houses the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan pottery and relics in southeastern Utah.

Edge of Cedars Indian Ruin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 12, 1971 as #71000853.

Cedar Mesa Pottery - Blanding

Inspired by the Edge of the Cedars visit, we headed to the Cedar Mesa Pottery to buy some souvenirs. We've seen the pottery everywhere we go but Cedar Mesa Pottery has it all in one place. So many different designs to choose from. I bought the Desert Mountain Ornament and Karen bought the Desert Rainbow Ornament.

"Don't be fooled by pottery that looks Native American. Cedar Mesa Pottery is different. It IS Native American Pottery. Each piece is handcrafted using modern techniques and signed by Navajo pottery artists. In addition, each piece comes with the exclusive Cedar Mesa Pottery Certificate of Authenticity or story card." Cedar Mesa Pottery

Hunts Trading Post - Blanding

We've always just pass through Blanding. Today we took the time to stop at Hunts for coffee. Hailed as the best place for Espresso for miles around, we figured it was time to put them to the test. They didn't disappoint and of course we had to shop while we waited for our "cuppa". Karen, always a sucker for torques, left with the necklace and matching bracelet.

Verdure (Historical Marker Database)

Verdure Ghost Town Site - Hwy 191 Utah

The oldest Mormon settlement in the Blue Mountain Region was first known as South Montezuma. Later the name was changed to Verdure after the lush green growth along the stream bed. Verdure was settled by men of the Blue Mountain Mission March 11, 1887. They first set up camp at Verdure to prepare for a permanent settlement at Monticello, six miles to the north. Historical Marker Database

Monticello Utah Temple(Wikipedia)

Monticello Utah Temple

In October 1997, church president Gordon B. Hinckley announced the building of smaller Latter-day Saint temples throughout the world. The first of these smaller temples was to be built in Monticello, Utah. The Monticello Utah Temple was dedicated on July 26, 1998.

The Monticello Utah Temple serves nearly 13,000 church members in Blanding, Moab, and Monticello, Utah areas and members from Durango, Colorado and Grand Junction, Colorado.

Church Rock (2008)

Church Rock - Hwy 191 Utah

The three-tiered sandstone rock is one of several in the area (Sugarloaf and Turtle Rock among others). The sandstone formation was owned by a local rancher, Claud Young of Monticello.

There is the 16 by 24 foot opening chiseled into the rock. The opening was dynamited and cut out of the stone during the late 1940s to store salt licks and feed for the cattle. The rock is still owned by the Young family.

State Route 211 Utah - Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway

State Route 211 is a 17 mile access road to Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument and the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. In 1968, the Utah State Road Commission came to an agreement with the National Park Service and San Juan County to improve the then unpaved access road to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

The entire length of the highway has been designated Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway. The Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway takes you to Newspaper Rock Recreation Site, passes through spectacular Indian Creek Canyon, by the Dugout Ranch and ends at The Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. Indian Creek Scenic Byway

Newspaper Rock Historical Monument - Indian Creek State Park

Newspaper Rock, a State Historical Monument, records around 2,000 years of civilization in the area. It is easily accessible, standing alongside Route 211. Etched into the sandstone rock are symbols that represent the Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo and Anglo cultures. The symbols are typical of those found on many sites throughout the United States, but their true meaning is still not understood. It is thought that they may record events of the time hence the name, 'Newspaper Rock'.

Indian Creek State Park/Newspaper Rock was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 1976 as #76001833.

Newspaper Rock (2008)
Newspaper Rock (2008)
Sixshooter Peaks (Wikipedia)

Six Shooter Peaks - State Route 211

The Sixshooter Peaks, named because of their resemblance to a pair of revolvers pointing skyward are two iconic sandstone summits located in Bears Ears National Monument. North Sixshooter Peak rises to an elevation of 6,379 feet and South Sixshooter Peak rises to 6,154 feet, with approximately 1.5 mile separation between the two. These buttes tower nearly 1,400 feet above the surrounding terrain, and are historic landmarks visible from State Route 211 between Newspaper Rock and the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Needles District (Wikipedia)

Needles District - State Route 211 - Canyonlands National Park

The Needles forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the colorful red and white banded rock pinnacles of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. Various other naturally sculpted rock formations are also within this district, including grabens, potholes, and arches. Most of the arches in the Needles district lie in backcountry canyons, requiring long hikes or four-wheel drive trips to reach them.

We drove to the end of the Needles Park Road approximately 6 miles from the Visitors Center, turning around at the Big Spring Canyon Overlook. From the overlook, unique rock spires and multi-colored sandstone benches line the bend in the canyon. The presence of the spring allows trees and plants to flourish in the spring and summer months.
Needles Overlook (2008)

Needles Overlook Road - County Road 133

Further north on Hwy 191 we turned west onto the Needles Overlook Road. The Overlook is part of the Canyon Rims Special Recreation Management Area managed by the BLM. We travelled to the Overlook in 2008. The half hour drive is really worth it. At least this time, we knew what we were looking at.

The Overlook is 1600 feet above the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and the 1600 feet goes straight down! Karen can stand at the edge. I can't.

Utah Juniper (2008)

Utah Juniper

It was along this stretch of road in 2008 where we saw an abundance of Utah Junipers and were fascinated with their "gnarly" trunks. We thought they looked dead but they are very much alive.

The Native Americans used the bark for a variety of purposes, including beds and food. They used the gum to make a protective covering over wounds. A tea made from the leaves was given to calm contractions after giving birth.

Wilson Arch - Hwy 191

Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley. This formation is known as Entrada Sandstone. Over time superficial cracks, joints, and folds of these layers were saturated with water. Ice formed in the fissures, melted under extreme desert heat, and winds cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained. Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Historical Marker Database

Wilson Arch (2008)
Wilson Arch (2008)

Hole n' The Rock - Hwy 191

This location has been a travelers' resting place for two centuries. Beginning in 1829, horse teams on the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe and California stopped here for the abundant spring water and shade. After the settlement of Mormon Pioneers, stage coaches traveling between Moab and Monticello stayed here overnight.

Early in the 20th century, the Christensen family of Monticello homesteaded 80 acres here. They blasted out a small cave in the rock where cowboys camped as they drove their stock toward the Colorado River. In 1945, brothers Leo and Albert Christensen expanded the cave and opened "American's most unique dining room." Historical Marker Database

Hole n' the Rock (2008)
Hole n' the Rock (2008)

Moab, Utah History

Moab, with a population of 5,366 in 2020, is the largest city and county seat of Grand County, Utah. Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

During the period between 1829 and the early 1850s, the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail. Latter-day Saint settlers attempted to establish a trading fort at the river crossing called the Elk Mountain Mission in April 1855. After repeated Indian attacks, the trading was abandoned. A new group of settlers from Rich County established a permanent settlement in 1878 under the direction of Brigham Young. Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.

Moab, Utah

We arrived in Moab early evening. After registering at the hotel, we went to Canyonlands By Night to book our Sunset Cruise for tomorrow and then headed downtown for supper at the food truck park. The Park offers a variety of cuisines to satisfy anyone. Moab Food Truck Park

We went for an ice cream cone, gassed the car and toured around town before heading back to the hotel for the night. We were in bed early as we want to be up and moving in the morning. Tomorrow we drive the famed "Shaffer Trail" in Canyonlands National Park.

Post Note - Day Sixteen:

As we start to travel north toward home, in reality we have already ushered in 2022. Our 2020-21-22 Trail of the Ancients is nearly over but Covid rages on. Now in it's fourth wave, the Delta and Omicron variants are running rampant around the world. A vaccine was developed early in 2021 and in April we received our first dose, June a second, and now in December a booster. When I posted the "information about Covid" at the beginning of our journey, there were 130 million cases and 2.8 million deaths worldwide. Now, in January, 2022 after two years into the Pandemic, there are 343 million cases and 5.57 million deaths worldwide. The United States has 65.4 million cases and 850,000 deaths. There is no end in site. Covid Statistics

We are now in an area that we have travelled so many times, we don't even need a map. It feels good to be able to see in our minds the area and attractions. I'll continue to dig deep to find things we have not already done. We've skirted around Canyonlands National Park many times. This time we are actually going into the Park from the Moab side which will be a new experience for us.

Day 17 - Moab, Utah - Canyonlands National Park
Highways today were US 191 north to State 313, south to Dead Horse Point State Park and back to Grand View Point Road junction, south to Grand View Point and back to the junction with County Road 142 (also known as the Shafer Basin Road, Shafer Canyon Road, South Fork Road, and Potash Road). The road reaches a T-intersection with County Road 279/Potash Road where we turned north winding alongside the Colorado River before finally reaching US 191, then east on US 191 to Moab. Google Map

Utah State Route 313 - Dead Horse Point Mesa Scenic Byway

State Route 313 is in San Juan and Grand Counties and is a Utah Scenic Byway designated the Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway. The highway serves as an access road for both the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. The road was first built in 1975 but due to damage caused by the construction of the road to Canyonlands National Park, it was completely rebuilt in 1988. Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway Brochure

At the highest viewpoint on a clear day, the La Sal Mountains can be viewed to the east, the Abajo Mountains to the South, The Henry Mountains to the west and the Bookcliffs to the north.

Moab Giants - State Route 313

Our first stop of the day was the Moab Giants. There are eight attractions at Moab Giants, including the dinosaur museum, virtual aquarium, 3D theater and the Dinosaur Trail loop. We began our tour in the museum and watched a 3D film about prehistoric life.

Moab Giants (Wikipedia)

Dinosaur Trail Loop

We then headed outside to walk the half-mile pathway featuring more than 100 reconstructions of life-size dinosaurs that roamed Moab during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, collective time periods which span over 165 million years.

Before leaving the park, we stopped at the gift shop and purchased some souvenirs.

Dinosaur Diamond

Moab Giants is situated along the Dinosaur Diamond which is a 486 mile scenic and historic byway loop through the dinosaur fossil laden Uinta Basin of the states of Utah and Colorado. The byway is comprised of Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway in Utah and the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway Colorado. Dinosaur Diamond, Wikipedia

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of the natural beauty and human history. Legislation creating the park was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964. Canyonlands National Park is divided into four districts by the massive canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. The districts are Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers.

Though they appear close on a map, there are no roads that directly link the four districts as there are few places to cross the rivers. Canyonlands Visitors Guide

Monitor and Merrimack Viewpoint - State Route 313 (4.5 Miles)

From here, you have an excellent view of the Monitor and Merrimack Buttes to the northeast. These prominent land forms tower 600 feet above their Navajo sandstone base. They can be seen from many points as you travel along the highway.

The Monitor and Merrimack Buttes were named after the Civil War ironclad ships of the same names. If you look at a likeness of the old ships, their shapes bear a striking resemblance to these two buttes.

Monitor & Merrimack Buttes (Wikipedia)

The Merrimack (the large rock on the left) was the Confederate ship, called the "Virginia" by the southern forces.

The Monitor (on the right) was the Union ship sent to destroy the Merrimack. The resulting sea battle changed maritime warfare forever. Long after both ships lie on the sea bottom, their rock counterparts remain locked in perpetual battle.

Historical Marker Data Base

Dead Horse Point Overlook (Wikipedia)

Dead Horse Point State Park State - Route 313 (14.6 Miles)

Dead Horse Point State Park features dramatic overlooks of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. The park covers 5,362 acres of high desert at an altitude of 5,900 feet above a gooseneck bend of the Colorado River.

Dead Horse Point -The Name

According to the legend, wranglers often drove herds of feral horses across this narrow bottleneck leaving them corralled by the sheer cliffs. On one haunting drive, for reasons still unknown, the cowboys chose the best horses and left the others corralled on the point. With the gate across the neck closed, the remaining horses were trapped with no way out, no water and no hope for survival. Those who found the remains of the unfortunate horses gave this place the name Dead Horse Point. Historical Marker Database

International Dark Sky Park

Canyonlands National Park was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park on August 31, 2015 and Dead Horse Point State Park was recognized on June 1, 2016. The high plateau location, mountains far in the distance, and cities out of sight yield a nearly full view of the celestial sphere.

Island in the Sky District

The Island in the Sky (also known as Between the Rivers) is the highest section of the Park at an elevation of 6,100 feet. The mesa rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Island in the Sky is the easiest area of Canyonlands to visit in a short period of time, offering many pullouts with spectacular views along the paved scenic drive. National Park Service

Island in the Sky Visitors Center - Grand View Road (2.3 Miles)

We backtracked to the Grand View Point Road and turned south. First stop on the 34 mile round-trip was the Island in the Sky Visitors Center.

The Visitor Center features exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, general information, wireless internet, and park rangers on duty. You can also watch a park orientation video. Island in the Sky Map

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint (American Southwest)

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint - Grand View Road (2.8 Miles)

Heading south after the Visitor Center, the first viewpoint is over Shafer Canyon. The overlook is just a short distance from the parking area. It looks down into the Canyon and to the La Sal Mountains in the distance.

Another highlight is the view of the Shafer Trail. This trail's switchbacks are visible from the overlook.

The Neck - Grand View Road (3.0 Miles)

The road crosses a narrow 40 foot wide strip of land known as "The Neck". This small bridge of stone is the only vehicle access to the Island in the Sky.

On all sides the Island is bounded by yawning canyons, and cliffs that drop hundreds of feet. Water and wind are breaking the sandstone down grain by grain. Given time, the Neck will erode away, cutting off access to the Island in the Sky. Historical Marker Data Base

Shafer Trail Viewpoint - Grand View Road (3.1 Miles)

The Shafer Trail Viewpoint is on the left. From here you can see the Shafer Trail making its way down its narrow and rough path to the canyon below. The iconic road descends 1,500 feet through a colorful, massive sandstone cliff. Karen wanted to turn around and jump on the trail right now. Reluctantly, we moved on.

Shafer Trail Viewpoint (NPS)

Mesa Arch - Grand View Road (8.4 Miles)

The short and mostly easy trail leads to Mesa Arch is probably the most easily accessed arch in the park.

Mesa Arch, a graceful span of Navajo sandstone frames distant canyons and arches, is a spectacular arch perched on a cliff edge. Mesa Arch is a popular spot for sunrise photographers, but it's an excellent visit any time of day.

Mesa Arch (Wikipedia)

Washerwoman Arch (8.4 Miles)

Washer Woman Arch, Monster Tower, and the solitary butte Airport Tower can be viewed through Mesa Arch. Washer Woman Arch, rising 1000 feet above the White Rim plateau, is so named because the feature gives the appearance of a washerwoman bent over a washtub. This geographical feature's name was officially adopted in 1986 by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Washer Woman Arch (Wikipedia)

Green River Overlook (Upheaval Dome Road)

We took the short detour on the Upheaval Dome Road to the Green River Overlook. The southwest facing viewpoint affords the best view of the mighty Green River deep in its channel 1,300 feet below. Visitors can also see features of The Maze district and the White Rim Road. The short hike to the viewpoint takes about 4 minutes and is considered an easy route.

Green River Overlook (Wikipedia)

Candlestick Tower Overlook - Grand View Road

Candlestick tower can be viewed from your vehicle, or along the paved pullout. From this small roadside pullout, you can see sweeping views of Canyonlands, including this prominent feature that resembles a group of candlesticks.

Candlestick Tower is a 450 foot tall sandstone butte. Its descriptive name comes from its resemblance to a candlestick.

Candlestick Tower (Wikipedia)

Grand View Overlook - Grand View Road (14.4 Miles)

Grand View Point is the southernmost point along the Island in the Sky scenic drive. From the viewpoint, an outdoor exhibit points out features like The Needles, Monument Basin, the La Sal Mountains, the Abajo Mountains, and the White Rim Road. National Park Service

The access to the first viewpoint is a short paved 100 yard trail. Beyond that is another viewpoint a mile down stairs and along uneven surfaces and cliff edges. We were just fine with the 100 yard hike.

Grand View Point (Wikipedia)

Shafer Trail Road 142 (Shafer Basin Road/Shafer Canyon Road/Potash Road)

Now for the main event! We have been looking at pictures of the Shafer Trail for a while. Now it's time to drive it. We headed north back to the junction of the Grand View Road and Shafer Trail Road 142. The 19 mile road is mostly unpaved and runs from Island in the Sky Road to UT-279. Although the road has been greatly improved by the National Park Service, it is still extremely steep and it travels along the tops of sheer cliffs with no guardrails - just what Karen loves!

The Shafer Trail descends 1,500 feet through a colorful, massive sandstone cliff. Its function has changed through the years; from a route made by Native Americans to access resources on the mesa top, to a trail for sheep herders moving flocks to better foraging in winter time, and then a road for trucks moving loads of uranium from the backcountry to market. Today, the Shafer Trail is a challenging, unpaved backcountry road for recreational users seeking the experience of a lifetime. National Park Service.

Shafer Trail Switchbacks (Wikipedia)

The Shafer Trail is named after the Shafer family, who were Mormon pioneer settlers. Starting in 1916, John "Sog" Shafer, used this trail to move cattle from summer pastures on the mesa top to winter ground down in the canyon.

Expanding upon the work of Sog Shafer, the Atomic Energy Commission widened Shafer Trail and extended it to the White Rim Road to accommodate trucks moving loads of uranium-bearing rock from the backcountry and down to Moab for processing.

After Canyonlands was established in 1964, ranchers were granted a ten-year extension of ranching in the park.

Overtime, the use of Shafer transitioned from ranching to recreation. Today, hundred of visitors every year experience the thrill of a lifetime driving down the sandstone cliff to the basin below.

Gooseneck Overlook (Wikipedia)

Gooseneck Overlook - Safer Road 142

The first river view is at the Gooseneck Overlook which offers a glimpse into the Colorado River canyon at the end of a 0.6-mile round-trip hike. There is no access to the river from the cliff at the overlook.

Thelma & Louise Point

Thelma and Louise Point - Shafer Road 142

The film's poster features Monument Valley and key scenes were filmed in the La Sal Mountain, Arches National Park and Canyonlands.

Thelma and Louise Point, where they filmed the famous final scene in "Thelma & Louise" when they jumped their car off the edge and into the canyon, is actually not in the Grand Canyon as depicted in the movie. It takes place at Dead Horse Point State Park.

To shoot the scene, the film producers needed to send a real car flying off the cliff — their budget didn't allow for special effects. It took months to put everything perfectly into place, including stripping everything out of three identical Ford Thunderbirds to make them light enough to slingshot into the air. They constructed dummies to sit in the actresses' seats, with plaster casts of their heads for a more realistic effect. On shoot day, the first car they flung into the air sank like a rock. But after a few adjustments, they set the second sacrificial car into the air, and it soared in a perfect arc. The movie was concluded. And they never even needed to crash the third stunt car. Made in Utah - Thelma & Louise

Potash Ponds (Wikipedia)

Potash Ponds - Shafer Road 142

Miners pump water from the Colorado River deep underground to reach the potash ore, which lies about 3,900 feet below the surface.

The water dissolves the soluble potash into a brine, which is then pumped into underground caverns. Once it is fully dissolved, the potash brine is pumped to one of the evaporation ponds.

The water in the evaporation ponds is dyed bright blue to help it absorb more sunlight and heat. This reduces the time it takes for the potash to crystallize, at which point in can be removed and processed for use as fertilizer. The evaporation process at the Moab ponds takes about 300 days, and the mine produces between 700 and 1,000 tons of potash per day. Atlas Obscura

State Route 279 - Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway/Potash Road

State Route 279 was constructed in 1962–1963 to service the Cane Creek potash mine and processing plant southwest of Moab. The highway was named one of the most beautiful highways opened to traffic in 1963. The entire length of Route has been designated the Potash – Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway by the Utah State Legislature.

The highway is also know as Wall Street for a good reason. For 17 miles the road follows a towering sandstone cliff. On the other side of the road is the Colorado River. This spectacular corridor his home to lush canyons, dinosaur tracks, ancient rock art, arches, and an abundance of climbing routes. The highway follows the north bank of the Colorado River and loosely parallels a spur of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad built at the same time for the same purpose of serving the potash mine.

While in the Colorado River canyon, the highway passes by dinosaur footprints, petroglyphs and three natural arches, Corona Arch, Bow Tie Arch, and Jug Handle Arch.

Long Canyon Trail

Long Canyon Trail is described as dangerous. High-clearance 4WDs are recommended. It offers great views of Long Canyon and the La Sal Mountains. The majority of this trail is a wide gravel road except through Pucker Pass where it is narrow, steep and bumpy. It also passes under a fallen bolder that looks barely wide enough to drive through.

We didn't explore this road. We decided to leave it up to the "Jeepers" for now.

Jug Handle Arch - State Route 279

The highway also passes by three named natural arches, Corona Arch, Bow Tie Arch, and Jug Handle Arch. The only arch that can be seen from the highway is the Jug Handle Arch. There is a panel of petroglyphs on the face of the cliff near the arch, however, it requires a hike to see them.

The Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch require a 3 mile round trip hike, climbing a small ladder and scaling moderately steep slopes with the assistance of safety cables. A bit above our skill level!

Jug Handle Arch (American Southwest)

Poison Spider Trail Dinosaur Tracks - State Route 279

The Potash Road Dinosaur Tracks were left in Navajo Sandstone about 190 million years ago. Today the tracks rest in two slabs perched on a rocky hill within a stone's throw of the Colorado River, but when the tracks were made the area was a sandy shore of a lake. The dinosaur walked across a muddy sandbar, leaving imprints of its giant feet. Water then buried the tracks with sediment, which hardened into sandstone over millions of years before they were exposed by erosion.

Dinosaur Tracks (Wikipedia)

Indian Art Petroglyphs - State Road 279

There are many rock art panels along the road. Petroglyphs can been seen from the pullout at the Indian Art sign. These Native American petroglyphs and pictographs are estimated by Archeologists to date back to between 6,000 B.C. and 1,300 A.D. and include scenes of various animals - horses, bears, snakes, and humans. One grouping looks like a string of paper doll cutouts.

Petroglyphs (Source Unknown)

Wall Street - State Road 279

Wall Street is a one mile stretch of towering 500 foot high sandstone cliff paralleling the highway. There are easy access pullouts leading to over 100 climbing routes. The east facing Wall is coated with desert varnish and cool in the afternoon shade. It is part of the Colorado Riverway Recreation Area managed by the BLM.

Wall Street (Wikipedia)

Canyonlands by Night - Moab

Back in Moab we had just enough time to change our clothes and head to the Canyonlands by Night evening show. This is the third time we've taken this tour and t is a highlight of our trips.. The show begins with the cowboy-style dinner in the dining room overlooking the Colorado River. After dinner we board a flat-bottomed open air boat for a relaxing cruise up river for a remarkable light show. They say the only thing you need to bring is your imagination. Canyonlands by Night

Post Note - Day Seventeen:

We got stuck in Moab just before Christmas 2021 and stayed there for about four months. It was hard for me to keep motivated when Covid restrictions started to lift. That, coupled with the fact that I received my new longarm machine, meant that our virtual trip was taking a back seat. Now that May has arrived and we are actually planning a road trip in June, I kicked myself in the butt and started us heading home.

Karen has us navigating the Shafer Trail and I figured the rest of Canyonlands would be easy to figure out. Not so. There seems to be lots of backroads that we might want to take but we will have to check with the NP Visitors Center to get road conditions and maps. For now, the Shafer Trail is the main attraction for us.

I'm sure there must be some sights along the first part of Shafer Trail but all I could imagine were the intestinal looking switchbacks and my knees started to shake. Just looking at the pictures makes me weak. I can hear clearly the sounds that would be coming from the passenger seat. My eyes will be looking forward and nowhere else. Karen can take the pictures when we actually get there.

State Route 128 - The Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, is the highway we encountered on our very first road trip. It played an important role on our fascination with the red rock area. For years now, we have been retuning to the area to see again the magnificent red cliff's. Highway 128's counterpart is the Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway State Route 279. After all the years of travelling in the area, it amazes me that we've never explored State Route 279. If we do ever get to Moab again, I'm sure we are not going to pass it by again. Moab's Scenic Byways

Day 18 - Moab to Brigham City, Utah
Highways today were north on US 191, into Arches National Park and back to US 191, south to the junction with State Hwy 128 north. We took a short side trip to check out Cisco, then west on I-70/US 50 to Thompson Springs, north on State 94 through Thompson Springs to the Sego Canyon Rock Art and back to I-70/US 50 to Salina turning north on I-15 through Salt Lake City and finally stopping for the night at Brigham City. Google Map

Arches National Park

The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service in September 1923 when Frank A. Wadleigh of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad suggested that the area be made a national monument. A succession of government investigators examined the area. Finally, in April 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed a presidential proclamation creating Arches National Monument. President Richard Nixon signed legislation changing its status to a National Park on November 12, 1971.

There are four main locations along the scenic drive. They are are Courthouse Towers, the Windows Section, Fiery Furnace and Devils Garden. Delicate Arch is reached by a side road.

More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches are located in the park, including the well-known Delicate Arch, as well as a variety of unique geological resources and formations. The park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world. Arches National Park

Courthouse Tower (American Southwest)

Courthouse Towers (Park Avenue)

The Courthouse Towers is a collection of tall stone columns located in the Park. It includes includes Baby Arch, Three Gossips, Ring Arch and the Tower of Babel. The Park Avenue hiking trail, a mile long trail into Courthouse Towers is a favorite for hikers and photographers and is the most popular trail in Arches.

Balanced Rock (Wikipedia)

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is one of the most popular features of Arches National Par. It is located next to the park's main road and is one of only a few prominent features clearly visible from the road.

The total height of Balanced Rock is 128 feet with the balancing rock rising 55 feet above the base. This rock is the largest of its kind in the Park. Balanced Rock had a smaller sibling named "Chip-Off-the-Old-Block" that collapsed in the winter of 1975–76.

Double Arch (Wikipedia)

The Windows Section

The Windows Section is considered by some to be the heart of Arches National Park. The Windows Section contains a large concentration of arches and is one of the most scenic locations in the park. It features North and South Windows, Turret Arch, Double Arch Garden of Eden, Elephant Butte, and Parade of Elephants.

Wolf Ranch (Wikipedia)

Wolf Ranch (Delicate Arch Road)

John Wesley Wolfe settled in the location in 1898 with his oldest son Fred. He chose this tract of more than 100 acres along Salt Wash for its water and grassland . The Wolfs built a one-room cabin, a corral, and a small dam across Salt Wash. A new cabin was built In 1906. Wolf Ranch Historical District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on November 20, 1975 as #75000167.

Wolf Cabin Petroglyphs (Wikipedia)

Wolf Ranch Petroglyphs

The Ute Hunting Panel, located just beyond the Wolf Cabin. depicts a hunting scene with riders on horseback.

In 1980, vandals attempted to use an abrasive kitchen cleanser to deface ancient petroglyphs in the park. Physicist John F. Asmus, who specialized in using lasers to restore works of art, used his technology to repair the damage. Asmus "zapped the panel with intense light pulses and succeeded in removing most of the cleanser".

Delicate Arch (Wikipedia)

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Delicate Arch is a 52-foot-tall freestanding natural arch and is the most widely recognized landmark in Arches National Park. It is depicted on the Utah license plate and a postage stamp commemorating Utah's centennial anniversary of admission to the Union. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch.

Because of its distinctive shape, the arch was known as the Chaps and the Schoolmarm's Bloomers by local cowboys.

Fiery Furnace (Wikipedia)

Fiery Furnace Viewpoint

The Fiery Furnace is a collection of narrow sandstone canyons, fins and natural arches located near the center of Arches National Park The area was named for the reddish hue it exhibits in sunset light.

The Fiery Furnace arches include Walk Through Arch, Crawl Through Arch, Skull Arch, Kissing Turtles Arch, and Surprise Arch.

Devils Garden (Wikipedia)

Devils Garden Area

The Devil's Garden area features a series of rock fins and arches in various stages of development including Landscape Arch, Partition, Navajo, Double O, and Private Arch, as well as the Dark Angel monolith and Fin Canyon all accessed via the primitive loop trail and its spurs.

The trailhead for Devils Garden is located at the end of the main park road. A campground and amphitheater are also available at the site.

Landscape Arch (Wikipedia)

Landscape Arch (Devils Garden)

Landscape Arch. located in the Devils Garden area of Arches National Park, is the longest of the many natural rock arches in the Park and among the longest natural stone arches in the world.

The span of Landscape Arch was measured at 290.1 feet. The arch is nearing the end of it life span. The most recent recorded rockfall events occurred in 1991 and 1995 prompting closure of the trail beneath the arch.

Wall Arch (Wikipedia)

Wall Arch

Wall Arch, at its largest, had a span of 71 feet. Wall Arch collapsed sometime overnight August 4, 2008 temporarily blocking Devil's Garden Trail. No one observed the fall. It was the first collapse of a major arch in the park since sections of Landscape Arch fell in 1991. Officials noted stress fractures in the remaining formation which may cause collapses in the future. Collapsed Wall Arch

State Highway 128 Utah - Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway

Leaving the Park, we turned south on US 191 to connect with State Highway 128. This spectacular, jaw dropping route along the Colorado River gorge begins at the Colorado River Bridge on the north end of Moab and ends 44 miles later at I-70. The entire length of the highway is designated the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway and forms part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway. Grand County Tourism

Hwy 128 UT (Discover Moab)

Red Cliffs Lodge (14.2 Miles)

Red Cliffs Lodge is home to the Moab Museum of Film & Western Heritage. On display in the museum are production photographs, movie posters, autographed scripts, props from the many pictures filmed in the area, and displays about the western ranching heritage.

Dozens of movies have used the ranch and surrounding area as the set and backdrop for their films. Red Cliffs has hosted some of its biggest stars; John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Rock Hudson, Henry Fonda, Roger Moore, Burt Reynolds, Jason Patrick, Johnny Depp and many, many more.

Castle Valley – Castleton Tower and The Rectory (15.5 Miles)

Castleton Tower is a 400 foot Wingate Sandstone tower standing on a 1,000 foot cone. The Tower is world renowned as a subject for photography and for its classic rock climbing routes. In 1964, Chevrolet filmed a commercial for the Impala convertible perched atop the tower.

Adjacent to Castleton Tower is The Rectory, a thin 200 foot wide, and 1,000 foot long butte with 200 foot vertical walls.

Castleton Tower (Discover Moab)

Fisher Towers Viewpoint (24.7 Miles)

The roadside viewpoint provides views of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers set against the often snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains.

Fisher Towers is a group of unusual vertical cliffs and pinnacles, which are eroded into jagged shapes on the top and grooved down the sides.

Fisher Towers (American Southwest)

Dewey Bridge (30 Miles)

Dewey Bridge, built in 1916, featured an all wood deck measuring 502 feet long and and 8 feet wide. The bridge also consisted of two metal towers, a run of seven cables on each side of the bridge deck, and cable anchors.

On April 6, 2008, a seven-year-old boy accidentally started a fire in a nearby campground while playing with matches. The fire moved up the riverbank and destroyed the bridge's wooden deck and rails. The remains of the bridge and a historical marker remain on the site.

Dewey Bridge was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on July 12, 1984 as #84002179.

Dewey Ghost Town

Dewey, originally named Kingsferry, began in the 1880s when Samuel King built and operated a ferry across the Colorado River (then known as the Grand River). A small community soon developed around the ferry, although it never grew large. The town served as a ferry crossing until the Dewey Bridge was constructed in 1916. Today there isn't much left of Dewey aside from a derelict gas station off to the side of UT 128.

Cisco, Utah (Mile 44)

Cisco is literally in the middle of nowhere in a vast desert near the junction of State Route 128 and Interstate 70.

The town started in the 1880s as a saloon, water-refilling station and housing for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. As work crews and travelers came through, stores, hotels and restaurants sprang up to accommodate them. The town's decline coincided with the demise of the steam locomotive and Cisco's final blow came when Interstate 70 bypassed it. Cisco officially became a ghost town when the post office closed in the 1990s.

Cisco, Utah (Wikipedia)
In 1967, Johnny Cash recorded "Cisco Clifton's Filling Station," a song about a generous old man in the town who operated a gas station and hosted a game of checkers. The town made an appearance in the 1971 cult action film Vanishing Point and was a site of filming for Thelma and Louise (1991) and Don't Come Knocking (2005).

I-70 Utah

Once we hit I-70 we knew we were in home mode. From here on, we would be pushing it - zipping by everything at 80-90 miles an hour.

Interstate 70 in Utah has many features that are unique in the Interstate Highway System. Unlike most Interstate Highways, much of I-70 in Utah was not constructed parallel to or on top of an existing U.S. Route. Portions of I-70 were constructed in areas where previously there were no paved roads. The 110 miles between Green River and Salina makes up the longest distance anywhere in the Interstate Highway System with no motorist services.

In addition, I-70 from Grand Junction, Colorado to Green River, is part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, making I-70 one of the few Interstate Highways to be named a National Scenic Byway.

Sego Canyon Rock Art (Wikipedia)

Sego Canyon Rock Art - Thompson Springs

Sego Canyon Rock Art/Thompson Wash Rock Art is an archeological site located in Thompson Canyon about 3.5 miles north of Thompson Springs. Major rock art panels are visible from the road. The district includes several well-preserved groups petroglyphs - Fremont, Ute and Barrier.

Thompson Wash Rock Art District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on August 1, 1980 as #80003909.

San Rafael Swell (Wikipedia)

San Rafael Swell - I-70

I-70 crosses a geologic feature called the San Rafael Swell. The construction of the freeway through the swell is listed as one of the engineering marvels of the Interstate Highway System. The swell is noted for its sheer canyons and rock formations and is home to a large amount of exposed dinosaur remains. This includes the largest known collection of Jurassic-period dinosaur remains at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry at the north end of the swell.

Salina, Utah

Salina has a population of approximately 3,000.00. The town lies at the hub of I-70, US 89, and US 50. The western end of Utah State Route 24 is in Salina.

The first permanent settlers (about 30 families) moved into the area in 1864 at the direction of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They found abundant salt deposits nearby so they named the area "Salina".

In 1866, the Black Hawk War (Utah) forced the white settlers to retreat. They returned to Salina in 1871, organized a militia, and constructed a fort and buildings for a school and a church.

In June 1891, the settlement was connected to the state's railroad system, and that year it was incorporated as a town.

The Salina Massacre

During World War II, Salina contained a POW camp, housing 250 German prisoners. On the night of July 8, 1945, Private Clarence Bertucci climbed one of the guard towers and took aim at the tents where the prisoners were sleeping. He fired 250 rounds from a light machine gun. In his fifteen-second rampage, 9 prisoners were dead and an additional 19 were wounded.

This incident was called the Salina Massacre. Bertucci, who was from New Orleans, was declared insane and spent the remainder of his life in an institution.[9]

Brigham City, Utah

Once on I-15 and travelling north at 80+ miles an hour, we were definitely in home mode - stopping only for gas and food. We pushed through the Salt Lake City area and finally stooped at Brigham City for the night.

Post Note - Day Eighteen:

It was fun to have us visiting Arches National Park again but in reality I doubt we would take the time to tour it. Also, researching online, I found out that you now have to make a reservation now and I know we would not commit ourselves to something so regimented.

The main attraction today would be Hwy 128. Our very first trip we travelled south on Hwy 128 in the dark and our imaginations ran away with us. We firmly believed we were high on a mountain cliff with a vertical drop straight down into a "great abyss". It wasn't until 2003 that we found out that the road wasn't at the top of a cliff, but meandered smoothly alongside the Colorado River at the "bottom" of a great big cliff. Highway 128 is always good for a storey and a laugh.

Something new today for us is the Sego Canyon Rock Art/Thompson Wash Rock Art located off I-70. We might decide to take the side tour if we ever get in the vicinity. We usually stop for gas and a break in the area, so it is something to keep in mind.

Day 19 - Brigham City to Helena, Montana
Highways today were I-15 north to Idaho Falls, then weaving north on US 20, State 87, US 287, State 283 to Pony and back to US 287 arriving in Helena from the east where we stopped for the night. Google Map

Malad City, Idaho (I-15)

The history of Malad City is quite interesting - starting with it's name.

Malad received its name from a party of trappers who passed through the valley between 1818 and 1821. Some of the trappers became sick while camped there and, believing that the illness was caused by drinking water from the valley's principal stream, they named it "Malade" meaning sick or bad in the French language. Actually, the water had nothing to do with the men's illness. They had most likely eaten some beaver that fed on the poisonous roots of water hemlock trees that put a naturally occurring cicutoxin into the animals. The beaver would likely be immune to the poison because of long-term adaptation, but the trappers suffered from their feast.

In 1856, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mostly of Welsh decent, migrated to the region. A post office was later set up in 1865. By 1886 Malad City was the fastest growing village in eastern Idaho. In 1906, the railroad reached Malad City.

Pocatello, Idaho (I-15)

Shoshone and Bannock Indigenous tribes inhabited southeastern Idaho for hundreds of years before the trek by Lewis and Clark across Idaho in 1805. Their reports of the many riches of the region attracted fur trappers and traders to southeastern Idaho. The city is named after Chief Pocatello, a 19th-century Shoshone leader.

Although thousands of immigrants passed through Idaho, it was not until the discovery of gold in 1860 that Idaho attracted settlers in large numbers. The gold rush brought a need for goods and services to many towns. After its founding in 1889, Pocatello became known as the "Gateway to the Northwest". As pioneers, gold miners and settlers traveled the Oregon Trail, they passed through the Portneuf Gap south of town. Stage and freight lines and the railroad soon followed, turning the community into a trade center and transportation junction.

Chief Pocatello - Tondzaosha (Buffalo Robe)

Chief Pocatello was a leader of the Northern Shoshone. In the 1850s, he led a series of attacks against emigrant parties in the Utah Territory and along the Oregon Trail. After making peace with the U.S. Government, he moved his people to their present reservation in Idaho and led the Shoshone during their struggle to survive following their deportation.

In 1875, faced with starvation among his people, Pocatello led them to the Mormon missionary farm of George Hill in Corinne, Utah, with the hope that a mass conversion of his people to Mormonism would alleviate his people's suffering. The local population of white settlers did not receive the Shoshone openly and the U.S. Army forced the Shoshone to return to the Fort Hall Reservation. Historical Marker Database

Chief Pocatello 1815 – October 1884

The Box Elder Treaty

Under increasing military pressure, Pocatello and a number of other Shoshone chiefs signed the Box Elder Treaty on July 30, 1863. The treaty promised Pocatello and his people $5,000 worth of food supplies per year if they would remain on the Fort Hall Reservation. The promised food and supplies were either late or never delivered at all. In response, Pocatello returned to stealing and plundering, trying to get what he saw as owned to his people. Arrested several times, he remained defiant. Scheduled for execution, Pocatello was pardoned by President Lincoln.

The Box Elder Treaty is an agreement between the Northwestern Shoshone and the United States government, signed on July 30, 1863. It was adopted after a period of conflict which included the Bear River Massacre on January 29, 1863. The treaty had little effect until 1968, when the United States compensated the Northwestern band for their land claim at a rate of about 50¢ per acre.

Fort Hall Reservation, Idaho (I-15)

The Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation is located in southeastern Idaho on the Snake River Plain about 20 miles north and west of Pocatello. It comprises 814.874 square miles of land in four counties: Bingham, Power, Bannock, and Caribou.

Founded under the July 3, 1868 Bridger Treaty, the reservation was named for Fort Hall, a trading post in the Portneuf Valley that was an important stop along the Oregon and California trails in the middle 19th century.

Fort Hall Casino, southeastern Idaho's largest casino with over 900 gaming machines, a high limit room, 156 room hotel with suites, four restaurants, live entertainment stage, and bingo is operated by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, who use the revenues for additional economic development and to support education and healthcare for the people. The combined payroll of the various activities is more than $32 million.

Harriman State Park (HMDB)

Harriman State Park (US 20)

Started in 1902 as a large cattle ranch, Railroad Ranch soon became a summer retreat for wealthy easterners and eventually Idaho's largest state park.

Railroad magnate and diplomat W. Averell Harriman and his brother Roland donated the ranch to Idaho in 1977, thus preserving the area's remarkable wildlife and prompting development of a professionally managed state parks system.

Harriman Wildlife Refuge (US 20)

Henry's Fork a tributary of the Snake River, meanders through an 16,000 acre wildlife refuge that retains diverse habitats for many kinds of birds and animals. Lodgepole pine forests and open meadows provide many opportunities to enjoy wildlife here, and fly fishing still is allowed in this region of scenic beauty. Moose, deer, and elk find plenty of food and shelter, while eagles, hawks, and owls thrive in open hunting grounds. Historical Marker Database

Fort Henry Historic Byway (HMDB)

Fort Henry Historic Byway (US 20)

Taking its name from the first white settlement, Fort Henry Historic Byway trails along the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. Island Park describes the northern part of Fremont County from the top of the Ashton Hill to the Montana border.

Island Park Reservoir is 11 miles long and is formed by a dam built in 1938 across Henry's Fork. Historical Marker Database

Raynolds Pass (State 87 Idaho/Montana)

Raynolds Pass, elevation 6,844 feet, is a mountain pass on the Continental Divide on the border between Idaho and Montana. The pass is named for Captain William F. Raynolds, an early explorer and officer-in-charge of the Raynolds Expedition of the Yellowstone region. The pass is very gentle, with only a slight grade and no major hairpin curves to the highways connections with U.S. Route 287 in Montana and U.S. Route 20 in Idaho. Historical Marker Database

The Vigilante Trail (HMDB)

The Vigilante Trail (US 287)

Follow The Vigilante Trail
That winds like a snail
Thro the playgrounds of the West
The mountains so white
Loom up in the night
And the soft wind lulls you to rest.

Historical Marker Database

The Vigilante Trail - Raynolds Pass Rest Area (US 287)

In 1923, businessmen and promoters in Madison, Jefferson, and Silver Bow counties banded together to form the Vigilante Trail Association, one of the last such road organizations formed in Montana. The trail, which conjured images of stalwart pioneers battling dastardly road agents in Montana's mining camps, provided a connection between West Yellowstone and Butte. The Vigilante Trail was marked with a round red, white and blue shield with the dreaded vigilante symbol 3-7-77 featured prominently in the middle. The route passed through country steeped in Montana's early history, including Virginia City and Alder Gulch.

The Mysterious 3-7-77 - Montana Vigilantes

The mysterious numbers 3-7-77, often posted on doors were used for years as a symbol of banishment in Montana. Although there are several theories, no one really knows what the numbers mean. What is certain though, is that once launched, the numbers took on a life of their own. People who had the mysterious set of numbers 3-7-77 painted on their tent or cabin knew that they had better leave the area or be on the receiving end of vigilante justice.

Over time, the numbers have lost much of their sting, but it is hard to imagine any Montanan not feeling a shiver of apprehension if he found the numbers 3-7-77 chalked on his front door or sidewalk one morning. In 1974 the mayor of Virginia City abruptly resigned after someone sent him a card marked with the numbers during a political protest.

Today the the infamous symbol of the Montana Vigilantes, 3-7-77, still a complete and utter mystery to everyone, and still having the same authoritative effect, appears on the shoulder patch and car door insignia of the Montana Highway Patrol.

Bozeman Trail (US 287)

Trailblazers John Bozeman and John Jacobs opened the Bozeman Trail in 1864 as a shortcut between the Overland Road and the newly discovered Montana gold fields. The trail began near present Casper, Wyoming and ended just over the Bozeman Pass in the Gallatin Valley. While some emigrants left the trail at present Livingston and went up the Yellowstone River to Emigrant Gulch, most continued over the pass and traveled over existing local roads to Bannack and Virginia City. Historical Marker Database

Pony Montana (Western Mining History)

Pony, Montana

Pony is a living ghost town located in Madison County, Montana on the eastern edge of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony Historical District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on August 4, 1987 as #87001264.

Pony, named for Tecumseh "Pony" Smith who arrived in 1869, was part of the Montana gold rush era and like many other gold rush towns grew up and died almost overnight. Population peaked at 5,000 but when new gold strikes were reported in other locations, Pony emptied out. By 1878 the population had dwindled to a few hundred.

Pony had two blacksmith shops, three hotels, saloons, livery stables, churches, a rooming house, post office, creamery, two Chinese laundries, restaurants, school, newspaper, stores, hat and tailor shops, movies house and an electric power plant. Pony's claim to fame is that it had electricity before New York City.

In 1920, a tragic fire swept through the main part of town destroying the livery stable and many other buildings. The Morris State Bank and the Masonic Building survived. A number of historic buildings from Pony's boom era remain in the old town today.

Bleu Horses (Wikipedia)

Bleu Horses (Three Forks US 287)

The Bleu Horses is a set of 39 horse sculptures made primarily of steel and permanently installed on a hillside off Highway 287 just north of Three Forks, Montana. The name of the installation is taken from a color of horse known as a blue roan, though the live animal color is actually closer to gray.

The sculptures are realistic enough to appear live from a distance, but are intended to be somewhat "impressionistic."

They are posed in a variety of realistic positions from foals suckling mother's milk, to alert steeds, to supine equines. Twelve of the horses have their heads placed on ball bearings so they are able to move and one can move its head and neck. They have manes and tails made of polyester rope that has been unraveled and attached so it moves realistically in the wind.

The horse sculptures were created and set up by artist Jim Dolan of Belgrade, Montana, who previously had created other complex outdoor sculptures over the past 30 years, including a herd of elk placed upon the lawn of a bank in Bozeman, and a fly fisherman sculpture in Ennis. He also donated four of his sculptures at Montana State University, and installed a flock of geese in the terminal of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Yorks Islands (HMDB)

Yorks Islands (US 287)

Lewis and Clark's journals frequently refer to York, a black slave to Captain William Clark. York played an important role in the success of the Corps of Discovery. The journals document how York tended to the sick, hunted and fished for food and contributed to wildlife observation. This muscular, black man's appearance was curious to the native people the Corps encountered and he gained their respect which helped the expedition. Historical Marker Database

Canyon Ferry (US 287)

Shortly after the discovery of gold in Confederate Gulch, freighters established a road between Helena and Diamond City. The Missouri River was a barrier to travelers until John Oakes established a ferry in Black Rock Canyon in 1865. A small settlement, called Canyon Ferry, flourished at the ferry crossing. Its hotel, saloon, stage station, stable, and dry goods store served travelers and local residents.

In July 1949, the Bureau of Reclamation began construction of a massive concrete dam just downstream. Canyon Ferry Reservoir took two years to fill, flooding thousands of acres of farmland and inundating the communities of Canyon Ferry and Canton. Historical Marker Database

Helena, Montana

Helena was founded as a gold camp during the Montana gold rush, and established on October 30, 1864. Within a year of the placer gold discovery, a boomtown flourished, with homes and businesses in tents and log cabins. Helena claimed the territorial capital from declining Virginia City in 1874. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, and Helena's election as state capital in 1894, confirmed the town's survival. Due to the gold rush, Helena would become a wealthy city, with approximately 50 millionaires inhabiting the area by 1888. The concentration of wealth contributed to the city's prominent, elaborate Victorian architecture.

Montana State Capital (Wikipedia)

Helena Historic District

Helena Historic District. The crooked path of Last Chance Gulch, weaving between original mining claims, memorializes Helena's chaotic beginning as a gold camp.

Helena Historic District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on June 2, 1972 as #72000737

Post Note - Day Nineteen:

I originally had to get us home today and end our fantasy trip because we are leaving on our 2022 Destination Unknown on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Well, I could get us home just fine but Covid attacked Karen and our trip has been cancelled. I caught Covid in April so now we are both statistics. It might just be that the only trip we do in 2022 is our fantasy trip. Time will tell.

So, change of plans. Rather than having us push home from Brigham City, I decided to send us off on some more touring and will have us stopping at Helena for the night. Several years ago on my way home from Deadwood and on another Ghost Town Trip in Montana, I travelled through the area east of I-15 and really enjoyed it.

For years, in our rush to get home, we've been whizzing by the towns and cities in Utah, Idaho and Montana. Now, with no urgency to get home, I decided to dig into the history of the areas we normally pass right by in a blink. Today, it felt like we are just strolling along the highway and taking in the sights. The unremarkable areas were actually quite remarkable. I rather enjoyed today.

Day 20 - Helena to Calgary, Alberta

Leaving Helena, we went west on US 12 and I-90 to Bearmouth then north on Bear Gulch Road to Garnet Ghost Town and continuing north on Garnet Range Rod to State 200. We then headed east to the Clearwater Junction, north on State 83, State 35, State 82 and US 93 through Kalispell and State 40 and US 2 west to West Glacier. We drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park exiting at St. Mary, then north on US 89 to the Canada/Us Border. Once in Canada, we followed Hwy 2 to Fort Macleod. Hwy 3 to Monarch, and then Hwys 23, 24 and 817 to Strathmore.

All this convoluted route did, besides take more time and allow a visit Glacier National Park, was to effectively bypass the long stretch after Great Falls to Lethbridge. Google Map

Hwy US 12 (Montana)

US 12 in Montana has been defined as the Lewis and Clark Highway, despite not being the route followed by Lewis and Clark across the state. This two-lane portion of the highway winds through the Helena National Forest and crosses over the Continental Divide at MacDonald Pass.

MacDonald Pass & Continental Divide (US 12)

MacDonald Pass, elevation 6,312 feet is one of three passes (MacDonald, Mullan and Priest) used in the 1870s-80s for travel between Helena and Deer Lodge, Montana over the continental divide.

The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic and (in northern North America) Arctic oceans (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and Hudson Bay).

Bear Gulch Road (2011)

Ghost Town Byway/Bear Gulch Road

The Ghost Town Byway/Bear Gulch Road is a 26 mile drive across Garnet Range. It links a chain of 19th century mining towns including Beartown, Garner and Coloma. Bear Gulch Road is steep, narrow and rough. It is not recommended for trailers or RVs. Winter access from either direction is only by snowmobile, snow shoes, or cross-country skis.


Beartown is one of the chain of gold towns along the Ghost Town Byway/Bear Gulch Road. The road still travels through where Beartown used to be but all that remains is a crumbling foundation which lies on private property.

Gold was discovered in October 1865 and Beartown was built almost overnight. Thousands lived in the camp in its heyday. By 1868 Beartown had several stores, saloons, gambling houses, a blacksmith shop and other businesses typical of mining camps. A school was built in 1881. At one time it was runner up to be the State Capital. By 1898 it was deserted.

Garnet Ghost Town State Park

Garnet was named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stone, the first item to be mined there, although gold quickly followed. It wasn't until an abundance of gold was discovered at the Nancy Hanks Mine in 1898 that Garnet became a boomtown with a population of nearly 1,000 people. Garnet had everything - hotels, saloons, stores, a school, a Chinese laundry and barbershops. Shown in the picture (left to right) are Kelly's Saloon, Davey's Store, Wells Hotel – all original buildings.

Garnet supported numerous saloons, but its family emphasis tempered usual mining camp vices. Hotels typically ranged from 1-3 dollars, and the poor miners who could not afford that price could sleep on the floor in the attic without any windows for a quarter. It is suspected that Garnet even had a brothel, but prices and the exact whereabouts are uncertain. In 1912 nearly half the town burned down and was never rebuilt. Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Historic District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on August 12, 2010 as #10000547

Garnet Ghost Town (2011)
Garnet Ghost Town (2011)
Sand Park Cemetery (2011)

Sand Park Cemetery

Who was Frank Hamilton? No one really knows. Simple grave markers pay a humble tribute to the five miners buried at the Sand Park Cemetery between 1898 and 1914. Little more is known than their names and year of death. Most of the other hard-rock-era miners who had family and means chose to be buried in "consecrated ground" in metropolitan areas like Missoula and Deer Lodge.

Coloma Ghost Town (2011)

Coloma Ghost Town

At its height Coloma boasted the Chamberlain boarding house, the Mammoth Company store, a school, livery stable, Moss family mercantile, and Mammoth Mill complex. Coloma’s post office was decommissioned in 1903 and the last major effort at the Mammoth was in 1906.

(1893-1915) The history of Coloma is very mysterious. It is still very difficult to find any information about Coloma. Nearby residents claim they know nothing of the site, and refuse to answer any questions. Speculation has developed two conclusions: either the failures are so embarrassing no one wants to remember, or there are still discoveries to be found that no one wishes to expose.

Coloma/Bearmouth Stage Coach

The 12-mile trip from the mining town of Coloma to Garnet and on to Bearmouth took the better part of a day. The Silver State newspaper (Deer Lodge) hailed its completion in February, 1896, as the "cannon ball road from Coloma to Bearmouth."

Hwy 83, Montana

The scenic route between the Mission and Swan Mountain Ranges extends 91 miles through broad, forested valleys and along scenic lakeshores, It is sparsely settled, with a few small communities along the way. We prefer this route. The main traffic and trucks are on hwy 93. Although slower, Hwy 83 gives lots of opportunity to pull over, take in the view, and snap lots of pictures.

Salmon Lake is one of the beautiful links in the Clearwater River Chain. We've stopped before at Salmon Lake State Park just to take in the beauty. The highway passes by several lakes, the largest being Salmon Lake, Placid Lake, Seeley Lake, and Swan Lake.

Salmon Lake Hwy 83 (2013)
Salmon Lake Hwy 83 (2013)
Bearfoots Gallery (2013)

Bearfoots Gallery

Of course we had to stop at the gallery to pick more bears. Our houses can never have enough. It had been over two weeks since we visited the gallery, so of course we had to shop some more.

Jeff is the original artist and creator of Bearfoot™ Bears and Big Sky Bears™. Jeff's whimsical bears are sold in galleries throughout the U.S., Canada, major catalogs, and Disney World. Bear County Gallery

Glacier National Park (2013)

Glacier National Park

We've been through Glacier National Park several times in the summer and fall but never when it first opened in the spring. It was interesting to see the snow still left at this times of the year. It was 85° so there was a lot more water in the waterfalls and over the road. Most of the snow had not melted from the sides of the road and was still stacked quite high at the visitors center. In other years, by the time we reached the area, there was only one area where snow was left.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only road that traverses the park, crossing the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,646 feet. Construction began in 1921 and was completed in 1932 with formal dedication on July 15, 1933.

Going-to-the-Sun Road was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on February 18, 1997 as #83001070

Going to the Sun Road (2013)
Going to the Sun Road (2009)

The road is named for Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, which dominates the eastbound view beyond Logan Pass. One mythological story tells of the deity Sour Spirit, who returned to the sun after teaching the Blackfeet to hunt.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most difficult roads in North America to snowplow in the spring. Up to 80 feet of snow can lie on top of Logan Pass, and more just east of the pass where the deepest snowfield has long been referred to as Big Drift. The road takes about ten weeks to plow, even with equipment that can move 4000 tons of snow in an hour. The road is generally open from early June to mid October, with its latest ever opening on July 13, 2011. I was there two weeks later and the snow was still piled high at the visitors center.

On the east side of the continental divide, there are few guardrails due to heavy snows and the resultant late winter avalanches that have repeatedly destroyed every protective barrier ever constructed.

St. Mary Lake (2011)

St. Mary Lake

Saint Mary Lake is the second largest lake in Glacier National Park. Located on the east side of the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road parallels the lake along its north shore. The lake is 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep. The waters of the lake rarely rise above 50 °F. During the winter, the lake often freezes completely over with ice up to 4 feet thick.

Carway Border Crossing

We've done a lot of shopping. We both had Bears from Jeff Fleming (twice in fact). We stocked up on souvenirs and every other place along the way and of course I had a ton of fabrice from the quilt stores. Finally, at Kalispell, we hit Walmart for clothes. We figured we would have to pay duty at the border. I guess we weren't too far over our limit because we passed through without delay.

Post Note - Day Twenty:

Even in our virtual trip, we hate that drive from Great Falls to Lethbridge. We only drove a few hundred miles out of our way to bypass it! In reality, we could not have driven through Glacier National Park at the time of the year (June). The road is not plowed yet and the website says:

"There is approximately 1.5-2' of new settled snow at 6250' on the road and much more expected in the avalanche start zones above GTSR. Much of this new snow is expected to avalanche over the next few days due to the dramatic warm up and sunshine, with large amounts of avalanche debris being deposited on the road between Road Camp and Siyeh Bend. This late storm delayed progress on clearing GTSR and plow crews should return to higher elevations on Tuesday."

Another new thing with the National Parks is that they are introducing "reservations". This all seems a bit to rigid for me. The notation on Glacier National Park website says:

"This pilot program is an effort to reduce congestion, improve visitor experience, and protect park resources. When the vehicle reservation system is in effect, a vehicle reservation is required to access the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor and North Fork Vehicle Reservation Areas. The vehicle reservation system only applies to these two areas of the park."

It feels rather anticlimactic now that this three year trip is over. It definitely is the most extension and researched trip we've ever taken. I've enjoyed the late nights reading and posting. There are not many areas that we have not travelled so digging deeper into the history was quite fascinating.

To Page 1 - Calgary to Canyon de Chelly

To Page 1 - Calgary to Canyon de Chelly


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