6 States, 9 Days, Road Photos, No Commentary
Tag : 6stateroadtrip
I can attest to the factualness of the number of construction zones. Breakfast: cold pizza on the road, lunch: Rudy’s Barbecue in Amarillo, dinner: Panda Express in Gallup. Lodging: EconoLodge. Much luxury. Gas mileage was very poor — around 16. Rudy’s’s reliability notwithstanding, least interesting day of the drive (by a pretty fair margin).
Breakfast: bad waffle at the EconoLodge, lunch: Mexican place in Winslow, dinner: Flame Broiler in Flagstaff. I realize I am the only person on earth who likes Flame Broiler. So be it. The Flagstaff branch did itself proud. Lodging: Days Hotel in Flagstaff.
Entering Arizona. Nothing says “welcome” quite like making people drive on the shoulder.
And then, once inside Petrified Forest National Park…
Some of these reflections off the hood turn out all right. The one below is somewhere closer to Flagstaff.
Breakfast: probably something at the hotel, lunch: Hurricane DQ at like 4 PM, dinner: with Brit-Dev and the Erors at… some Utah chain that’s like Café Rio, but isn’t Café Rio. First time in my life I ever ordered a salad at a restaurant (as the main course). Milestones. Lodging: Super 8 in Hurricane. Gas mileage improved into the 18s.
This drive, btw, is one of the prettiest drives on earth. You do hit a little bit of RV traffic north of the Grand Canyon, but, man, the scenery is non-stop. I hadn’t driven it since I was an undergrad 20+ years ago.
Below is the Days Hotel room. Decent place, good wifi, glass elevator with view of the pool. Wall art was hung too high though, so deduct 1.5 stars for that.
And back on the road:
Above is from the bridge over the river Colorado. I got out of the car for this one, but this is literally the view from off the bridge you drive over on Highway 89 (89A? whichever).
Out of the desert, into the high hills nearing the AZ-UT border:
Then back down into the desert:
And the Utah state line. If I’d seen a Lost Boy around there, I would have at least given him a ride into St. George. (Although I don’t suppose they get dropped off along the highway in the town where they actually lived.)
Breakfast: uh — I feel like I ate something, but don’t know what it was; I was too proud to eat at the Super 8. Lunch: a mounds bar I think, dinner: crackers with peanut butter and a pouch of beef jerky (about which I should probably come clean — it was only 80 calories/oz.). Lodging: Campsite 5. This was the first day of the Narrows hike, so didn’t cover a whole lot of miles in the car.
And, since I’m being post facto honest, I think the above photo was actually from the previous afternoon when I drove into the park to pick up the permit. It’s between Hurricane and the park, though, so — right scenery regardless.
Breakfast: granola out of a Ziploc bag, lunch: shelled pistachios at the Temple of Sinawava bus stop, dinner: DQ in Hurricane (again). Lodging: Comfort Inn in Richfield (one of the best budget hotels ever — super happy and helpful employees, room was very clean and modern-enough, wifi was strong, breakfast was a smorgasbord).
The Chamberlain Ranch dot looks like it’s in the wrong place. Oh well. It’s where we parked one of the two cars we needed for the shuttle situation required by the Narrows hike.
Trailhead parking lot:
And back on the freeway:
Breakfast: Richfield Comfort Inn, rich and varied; lunch: KFC in Montrose, Colo. (neither rich nor varied); dinner: pb&j sandwich at the hotel in Gunnison. Lodging: Quality Inn, Gunnison. Gunnison had the attitude of a tourist town, but looked run-down. FWIW. Gas mileage up near 20 — maybe the engine finally got broke-in.
Also, I-70 from Richfield to where highway 191 cuts in is a gorgeous stretch of interstate. But when you drive it in the morning, the sun’s right in your windshield. Just: don’t hold the lack of quality photos in this section against that stretch of freeway. Which I know you were totally going to do if I hadn’t said something.
Viewpoint at the side of the freeway. Very desert:
And, entering Colorado, splattered bugs say “hello”:
Breakfast: Quality Inn (was okay), lunch: pb&j again?, dinner: Mountain House Spaghetti in Meat Sauce (that had expired in 2013). Lodging: Mill Creek Campground Site #21, the last campsite available and the only one in the campground with insufficient trees for privacy (it was fine, the neighbors were discrete).
The drive from Gunnison to Lake City was a nice one, aside from the guy who was driving full-speed in the wrong lane for not reason (I moved over to the left lane to get around him, he decided that he, after all, wanted to be in that lane, so I corrected back into the right lane and we missed each other by, oh, less than a car length anyway; then he went back to driving in the wrong lane for no apparent reason). (I assume it was a he.)
I chronicled elsewhere the Alpine Loop off-highway drive to Animas Forks, but, rest assured, it was also awesome and scenic.
Here, all vehicles are in their correct lanes:
Breakfast: one Pop Tart, lunch: Taco Bell in Pagosa Springs, dinner: one small carton of blackberries. Lodging: some hotel in South Fork with a made-up name, despite looking like every other Quality/Comfort/Days/Econo/8/6/etc. Inn ever (though on the cleaner side of that roster). Also, Chimney Rock was not exactly on the way between Lake City and South Fork. But then, I couldn’t find a decent hotel price in Pagosa Springs, my tent was still wet from the night before, and, well, things occurred.
The worst part about that detour was that the good Chimney Rock National Monument was already closed because I arrived SO LATE (2:45 PM). I looked at the bad part instead. Then talked to some older female rangers, who — well, I don’t think they have PhDs in Puebloan Studies. They were nice, though, and at least as far as Pagosa Springs, the drive was pretty.
This was a roadside waterfall:
Probably still is.
Chimney Rock National Monument, the boring part that I got to see:
The 8th of 12 station-fulls of wonder! Anyway, driving:
Breakfast: hotel I think, lunch: blue enchiladas, Christmas style at that diner-like place in Taos, dinner: KFC in maybe Guymon, Okla. Lodging: own bed.
Then, re-entering New Mexico:
Below: Capulin Volcano!
I figure the more photos of prairie I give you, the more endless it seems. There was an Entering Oklahoma back there too somewhere.
And, finally, I leave you with Boise City:
And then another six hours and I was home.
Average speed while photos were taken was probably in the low-50’s. A lot of tuning of the vibrance slider went into these and I think my windshield has a slight blue-green tint to it.
This is probably a better post without the commentary.
The last day of this summer’s road trip started in South Fork, Colo., where Cheeto bag explosions are an epidemic (inferentially), worked its way down through southern Colorado into New Mexico, then across the Okie panhandle and then on to Norman, my supposed home. Had lunch in Taos (New Mexican food and the hatch chili sauce on the enchiladas was special), then drove through northeastern NM by way of Angel Fire (has to be the prettiest part of NM). I also stopped at a KFC somewhere depressing-yet-forgettable in Oklahoma (Guymon maybe? I should’ve held out for Fort Supply — the name would’ve stuck). The one non-food stop of the day was at Capulin Volcano National Monument, located in NE NM, pretty much where the mountains and eternal prairie meet.
Apparently, this area used to be volcanic. Bunch of mounds across the landscape there that supposedly used to erupt, back in the day (millennia ago).
There’s a person dressed up as a buffalo down at the visitors center for some reason (not pictured). Then you drive up the hill to the edge of the crater. A trail leads you around the crater.
And, if you’re feeling daring, you can also take a trail into the heart of the crater, where the dreaded vent is.
In short, then, a nice place to get out the car and stretch your legs. The visuals of the volcano itself are actually more striking from the car.
Or, for those of you with functioning rocket cars, the aerials are even better.
Capulin Volcano, everybody, Capulin Volcano! Thank you, good night.
I was getting my hair cut one day a few weeks back at the ol’ University Barber Shop (I’d include a link, but I don’t think they have a webpage) and mentioned I’d just bought a Jeep Wrangler and it turned out one of the other barbers in the shop was a real off-road enthusiast who was planning, this summer, to do some extensive off-road touring in Colorado. Anyway, I thought that sounded like something I to try at least once. Not the extensive part, just the part where you follow 4-by trails through Colorado.
So I got this book about Colorado 4×4 trails and it talked about this one trail that was rated Moderate and known as the Alpine Loop.
I’m not building tension very well. At any rate, it’s a loop trail that, the way I did it, started at Lake City, Colo., then followed the road over Engineer Pass to the Animas Forks ghost town, then followed the road back over Cinnamon Pass to return to Lake City. Moderate difficulty! Anyway.
In fact, you could take your Toyota Yaris and cover *most* of this same route. You’d probably have to stop, though, where the signs say “4×4 only beyond this point” — it gets a little steep, the rocks stick up pretty far, and you probably want high clearance and low gear 4wd. Which means you can’t easily drive your Yaris to Animas Forks via this route. Sorry. Do you even own a Yaris? Okay.
One of the cool features of the 4×4 roads in Colorado is they tend to take you through (abandoned) mining operations and ghost towns. This route had some of both.
As well as some pretty decent alpine scenery that you can get a look at without leaving the comfort of your car and its stereo pumping out Mötley Crüe songs sourced from your iPhone. Which is huge.
As you go further along the route, the road gradually gets steeper, narrower, and rockier, and the drop-offs more severe.
The actual top of the pass is a pretty, barren, alpine hellscape. In a good way. Not pictured are the tighter turns and larger rocks. Sorry. Was navigating over them at the time, so didn’t take a lot of photos. Regardless, these were at or near the top of Engineer Pass (elev. 12,800′):
From there, it’s a short, steep-ish descent down into Animas Forks, which was a functioning mining town with a post office clear into the 1920s (although the population was never more than a few hundred people). Seems like it would’ve been cold in the winter.
The roads in the area (e.g., the Alpine Loop Route) were originally built to support mining operations (and towns) like this. This is probably as good a time as any to note that, on this drive, you’re not exactly alone on the road. There are areas where you, yes, wait for traffic. Many times you have to stop where there’s a turn-out so someone coming up the hill in the other direction can get by. There are a (literal!) ton of Jeep Wranglers on the road, but probably even more ATVs. I’d go with: 40% ATVs, 30% Wranglers, 20% Dirt Bikes, 10% Other SUVs/Trucks. When I was at Animas Forks, there were probably 10-15 other vehicles there at the same time (you can see eight of them in that last photo if you click through to the full-size view). I also drove past some sort of off-road cop car near Animas Forks. Apparently that’s a thing.
So the ghost town itself is wide open and you’re welcome to walk through its houses and play on its swingsets to your heart’s content. There’s some graffiti and any vandalism is too much, but, still, the place doesn’t look or feel like it’s been trashed. OTOH, it would be cool if Fallout 5 were set here*.
Probably cold in the winter, but scenic.
From there, I completed the loop by taking the route back over Cinnamon Pass, a name which seems like it would fit together on a map with Fairy Village and Gumdrop Lane. At any rate, while the first half-mile or so out of Animas Forks is probably the steepest, rockiest, narrowest, and deadly drop-offest of the entire loop, things settle down pretty quickly almost immediately thereafter. Engineer is a little more steadily steep and rocky on both sides of the pass. If I hadn’t mentioned it, you would’ve wondered.
So, all that having been presented,:
* And if Bethesda formally apologized for Fallout 4.
One of the primary goals of this summer’s road trip was knocking off a couple of theretofore unvisited national parks. Black Canyon of the Gunnison: knocked off (now). It’s one of the newer national parks and, common with other newer national parks, it’s not quite Yosemite or Yellowstone. It’s sort of like a much smaller, darker colored Grand Canyon to the bottom of which you cannot readily hike. I mean, you can do it, but you’re supposed to be rock climbing-capable. Anyway. It’s one of those parks, much like Grand Canyon or Bryce, where mostly all you’re doing is driving around the one park road and stopping at pull-outs to verify that, yes, there’s still a canyon down there. But smaller and less dramatic.
Here are pictures.
One of the two photos was taken at a pull-out called “Pictured Rock”. See if you can figure out which one!
It’s a pretty canyon and based on what some ranger said, the river is a technical one to have to navigate. They also have a “nature walk” there that’s like a 3-mile out-and-back. I went on it and, along the way, took this photo.
It was one of those nature walks where there’s a pamphlet that tells you what’s so awesome about everything. Except that on this one “everything” was mostly just junipers and pinyon pines. I mean, sure, awesome, but I shouldn’t have to walk around for an hour in 95-degree heat just so you can tell me about it.
Anyway, this is probably a national park best visited in the style of Clark Griswold. A couple good head-bobs and you pretty much have the gist of it.
Overnight version of the Virgin River Narrows, undertaken July 23-24, 2016. The weather was warm. River flow was somewhere in the 40s, whatever that means. Ranger said there were no expected thunderstorms but that that could change at any second, and probably would, especially if I didn’t give him the exact license plate number of my brother’s truck*. Ranger was kind of, I dunno, flighty though, so <shrug>. We verified the weather forecast before setting out. And we’re sure glad we did! Although it didn’t really change anything; it’s good to have a good process.
Anyway, the weather was warm and dry for the two days of the trip. We eventually would stop at Campsite #5, which I had reserved back in May, somehow 30 minutes before the reservation system was supposed to be available. Let that be a lesson to you.
Fine. Photos, then some notes I guess.
See, ‘cuz the whole thing is called “The Narrows” and… eh, you wouldn’t get it. Had to be there probably.
Some other thoughts (numbered, because this WordPress theme handles bullets badly):
I think that’s most of the important things.
* I gave him the correct license plate number for the truck, which was still on the road a couple hundred miles away, then decided to give him the wrong one for my Jeep (located 50 feet away), cuz what the heck do you even need license plate numbers for dude? Anyway.
It’s worth half a day. Heading out to the UT, I figured I ought to get this park checked off my list. It’s sort of on the way if you want it to be (probably added a couple hours to my drive up to Zion NP). The park includes more than just a petrified forest (which, contrary to the image conjured by the name, isn’t filled with wall-to-wall upright trees that block out the sun), but also includes some petroglyphs (!) and some deserty area.
First you get the desert. No, wait, first you get the sign. This happens just after you get off I-40.
Okay, then you technically get the visitors center and the main gate, then you get the desert. Which looks a lot like a desert, colorful version.
You can go hike around to your heart’s content starting at some lodge they got there. You hike down from the lodge and its hard to ever get it fully out of your vision, so getting lost is something you would kind of have to work toward. Also, the desert actually includes a lot of petrified wood fragments. Anyway, spent about 90 minutes hiking around, trying to find a destination that was suggested on a map at the lodge place. I doubt I found it.
Here are a couple of photos for my trouble.
Oh wait, here’s a third that seems to convey the feeling.
From the desert, The One Drive… Look, so the park is basically one road. It goes about 20 miles. There’s nothing really to do at the park but drive on this one road. Sure, you can park and walk and look at stuff, but, basically, you’re always pretty tied to the road. So, from the desert, The One Drive curls around and crosses the 40. Then you get into a couple of nice petroglyphy areas. Here’s evidence:
There’s also the foundations of a Puebloan village there, but it was kind of hot to be getting excited about ancient foundations.
Once you’ve done petroglyphs, you’ve earned your way to petrified wood. There’s a lot of it. Often times you’ll see an entire log on its side, strangely cut up into sections (supposedly due to the way silica naturally fractures). Some of it’s very pretty and it’s not hard to understand why/how people steal it out of the park. A lot of it really is pocket-sized and it just seems like there’s *so* *much* of it. Anyway, photos:
How do I rate the park? No one’s ever asked that. Whatever. It’s a nice way to spend half a day if you’re in the area. Probably not a location to try and base a multi-day vacation on. Or to, like, travel across the globe specifically to see.
Using my AIA™ National Park Rating Scale, Petrified Forest rates an 8 (out of 15).
Amazingness: 3/5. The petrified wood is pretty cool and uniquely pretty. The desert kind of pales to some of the redder, rockier variations (e.g., Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands).
Infiniteness: 3/5. There’s a lot of desert there if you’ve never poked your way around one before.
Adventure: 2/5. Not much reason to get more than a half mile away from the one road, although there’s enough desert there that, if you insist, the park can accommodate.