We left home about 9:30am, discovering before we left the driveway that the trailer brakes were way out of adjustment. I got them fixed before going too far, then slowly descended the mountain. Pulled into Fort Toulouse Historic Park near Wetumpka, Alabama about six hours - an uneventful drive but for the heavy traffic around Atlanta. We found most of the other caravaners already in camp. Our leader, Jerry Honaker, had set a 4:00pm get acquainted meeting where he laid out a few common sense rules for the benefit of several first timers. Then, at 5:30pm the caterers came with a sumptuous barbecued chicken dinner, which we enjoyed in a covered picnic area on the river bank. We are at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers which come together to form the wide Alabama River.
Fort Toulouse was established by the French in 1717 as both a military post and trading center with the Alabama/Creek Indians.. The French lost out to the British in 1763. It became Fort Jackson (after Andrew Jackson) in 1814 after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend when the U.S. defeated the British forces here. There is evidence of inhabitants in this strategic location as far back as 5,000 BC. Many of the old buildings have been restored.
There was a boy scout troop tent camping nearby. They had campfires burning all night, but were well behaved. Any concern that it would be a noisy night was unfounded.
Saturday, April 24, 1999
Mileage @ start: 120197
Sue Yeutter took individual pictures by each trailer in the morning for use in the caravan journal to be published later, then we met at Jerry's trailer for a guided tour of old Fort Toulouse. The guide was a young man dressed as a French interpreter that lived with the Indians in the mid-1700s. His knowledge of Indian history in the Fort Toulouse area was amazing, yet he was not the best of speakers. After a couple of hours he had most of us fidgety and ready to give it up.
After a free afternoon, we met around a campfire in the evening where Jerry talked about his experiences as a teacher on the Navajo reservation. Jerry has a good understanding of Navajo culture and promised to tell us more as we go along.
The skies were overcast, and we heard reports of threatening weather on the way, but by bed time nothing severe had happened.
Sunday, April 25, 1999
Mileage @ start:120206
We had early church under the trees led by Bill Faircloth, then a prayer for the road, and by 8:00am we were on the road, heading for Morton, Mississippi and Roosevelt State Park. A hundred miles down the road we came upon the Adkinsons pulled over with a blown out tire. We stopped and loaned him the use of my air pump to inflate his spare, and we were off and running again.
Roosevelt State Park is located near Morton, Mississippi on a beautiful manmade lake. The large, wooded campsites back up to the lake. After an hour or two of relaxing, we gathered at the lodge for a meatloaf dinner together, served by a local catering company. The slabs of meatloaf were more than anyone could eat, so we all brought some home for a leftover meal on Monday. The ranger of the park spoke to us for a time, explaining how the park facilities got their start back in depression days with the CCC.
Monday, April 26, 1999
Mileage @ start: 120427
The day began well but wound up giving many of the caravaners' vehicles problems - some with bad gas, some with brake and wheel problems. Even our leader never made it to the next camp because of a burned out wheel bearing. The rough pavement on I-20 between Jackson and Vicksburg, and for a few miles into Louisiana, probably accounted for a lot of the problems. We crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, then traveled in the rain - a violent thunderstorm included - for most of the afternoon. At times it was difficult to see. We pulled off the Interstate at one point to wait out the worst of it.
Our campsite for the night was Lake Bistineau State Park near Minden, Louisiana, a little to the southeast of Shreveport. Seventeen miles off the highway, the park is located on the western shore of a lake that is 27 square miles in area. Cypress trees abound around and in the lake. We were told that it is a bass fisherman's paradise, with many record bass being caught throughout the spring and summer. I'd have liked to have thrown a plastic worm up against some of those cypress stumps and knees, trying to lure a big bass to satisfy his hunger, but there was not enough time.. Trees along the wooded area surrounding the lake were loaded with Spanish moss. We were so far away from civilization, there was absolutely no sound of traffic or other people noises. We never even heard an airplane.
We were supposed to have a cookout for supper, but the storm earlier in the day eliminated electric power. So, most folks made a meal out of leftovers from last night's meatloaf dinner. There was plenty of wood around, but it was too wet for a campfire, so we retired early.
Tuesday, April 27, 1999
Mileage @ start: 20668
The skies cleared for the trip this day into Texas. We skirted Shreveport on I-220 and soon crossed the border. There was a marked difference in the quality of the roads which became smooth asphalt instead of buckled concrete. We left the Interstate system before approaching Dallas and settled in for the night at a backwoods campground out from Lone Oak, Texas. Some of the stragglers who didn't make it in to Lake Bistineau caught up with us in Lone Oak. At least one rig - the Hirschmanns - had trouble with their new motorhome and was still not in camp by dark. There's been a lot of trouble early on - more so than any other caravan we can remember.
Wednesday, April 28, 1999
Mileage @ start: 120866
This was another clear day as we continued our westward journey, this time with Vernon, Texas as our destination. There was much road construction, slowing us a bit, but we made it into the Rocking "A" RV Park about 3:00pm. There were some more brake problems in the group.
Jerry and Joan Larson joined us in Vernon, and were introduced at a 4:00pm drivers meeting. Following that we carpooled into Vernon for a dinner of barbecued brisket, beans, potato salad, cole slaw, and peach cobbler. There was more food that we could eat, so leftovers were brought back to camp and distributed to those who wanted them.
We next had a private tour of the Red River Valley Museum, which houses artifacts from the area - lots of cowboy and Indian stuff. The museum also houses a wild game collection that was donated by a local hunter. The taxidermy was outstanding. We watched a video about the Waggoner Ranch, a 500,000 acre ranch nearby which lies in six counties. On the way home, we stopped with the Cooleys for ice cream.
During the night it rained buckets. The springtime pollen, which coated the top of the trailer, was now finally washed away.
Thursday, April 29, 1999
Mileage @ start 121100
Heavy rains during the night continued as we prepared to break camp and hit the road again. Our hosts at the Rocking "A" RV Park had been gracious and accommodating. As we proceeded northwestward on US287, one of the first little towns we passed through was Quanah - named for Indian chief Quanah Parker. Quanah Parker was the son of a Comanche father and a white mother. His mother, whose name was Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured by the tribe and became one of them. She was later "freed" and forced to return to white civilization, but was never happy there. Quanah led many war parties against the invading whites, yet saw that the future held little promise for the Indian unless they became educated in white men's ways. So, he learned to read and write English and encouraged his people to do the same. This area of Texas we were passing through was Quanah Parker's tribal land.
The rains abated during the day, but the winds became blustery and chilly by the time we reached our campsite for the night - Walnut RV Park in Vega, Texas - on the old, historic Route 66.
Many caravaners took the opportunity in Vega to do laundry. The 5:00pm drivers' meeting had to be moved inside because of the winds. We crowded into a little laundry room where, packed in like sardines, we listened as Jerry gave us a preview of the Green Corn Dance we would be seeing at the San Filipe pueblo on the next stop in Albuquerque.
This was a "dinner on our own" night, so some went to a nearby restaurant, while others ate leftovers from the previous night's barbecue and retired early.
Friday, April 30, 1999
Mileage @ start: 21355
After a solid night of rain and high wind, we awoke to more rain. It was the worst weather I've ever pulled the trailer through - driving rain, high crosswinds, lightning and thunder. It lasted for 200 miles. About 50 miles out of Albuquerque the skies cleared, the wind abated, and the air became so clear that mountains probably 100 miles away could be clearly seen. We made a stop at Clines Corner, a tourist stop heavily advertised on numerous billboards from 100 miles away, then drove on quietly into Albuquerque. Fortunately, no one had any trouble on the road this day. When all had set up, we met in the park's recreation room to meet the new caravaners joining us in Albuquerque, then carpooled to the Indian Pueblo Culture Center.
At the Culture Center a guided tour had been arranged of the exhibits there. Our lady guide did a good job of telling the history of the pueblo people who date back at least 2300 years. There are nineteen pueblos in the Albuquerque area, each a related, but separate tribe. They just call themselves the pueblo people.
Most of us later drove over to Old Town and the La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant where we had a meal of fajitas, tortillas, and Sopapillas(Sp?).
Gasoline prices have risen steadily since leaving Georgia - from 87 cents to 1.10 per gallon in Albuquerque.
Saturday, May 1, 1999
Mileage @ start: 21610
This was the day for the Green Corn Dance in San Felipe Pueblo. We arrived in San Felipe about 9:45am just as the Indian dancers were emerging from their kiva. It was astounding how many of them were in there. The kiva is a round, high walled building with no windows - a sacred place of worship that predates any Christian influence. Steps go up to the top of the wall, then the people have to climb down on a large ladder. Of course no one but the natives are allowed inside, so we don't know what is in there. The dancers then walked about two blocks to the old Catholic church for another ceremony. A group of honored men make up the chanters who, to the beat of a drum, chant out words that have special meaning to the people as they progress through these ceremonies. The dancers have practiced their routine for four days in preparation for this day.
I asked a young man standing nearby who was not in costume how it was decided who would dance and who would not. He said that anyone could participate if they could come and be a part of the practice days. He had been unable to get time off from his job to do it. He seemed disappointed that he had not been able to participate.
The pueblo has two clans - or two kivas. Intermarriage within a kiva is not allowed. When a man from one kiva marries a woman from the other, the couple then belongs to the woman's kiva. The dancers were in two groups - one from each kiva. The women were barefoot, wearing black dresses adorned in different ways with colorful designs. Each woman had a headdress that was very ornate. The men wore white short pants with long strings of beads, bell belts, fox skins hanging from the back, and moccasins. They were barechested. Both men and women carried boughs of evergreens. All ages were participating from children who looked to be four years old to men and women in middle age. There seemed to be more children participating this year than when we saw the dance seven years ago.
Heavy rains from the previous few days had turned the bowls shaped plaza into a muddy pond. The plaza at one time was all level with the streets and ground of the village, but all the dances had resulted in the hollowed out look. The center of the plaza was probably four feet or more below the edges. In normal dry times, the dancing raises considerable dust which blows away, resulting in the erosion. No effort had been made to make a drain in the center to get rid of rain water. It probably is so seldom problem, that they don't worry about it. The plaza is roughly a square block in area, lined on all four sides with adobe houses - some two storied. At each of the four corners is open access. When we arrived the entire plaza was lined with chairs and benches, two or three deep, where the townspeople had staked out their place to watch the dance. We found a spot to put our chairs and waited.
First to enter the plaza at 10:10am were the drummer and chanters of the first kiva. There were over a hundred chanters. It was a position of honor to be a chanter. It was difficult to distinguish the various chants, but there were subtle differences that held meaning for the people. The same was true of the drum beats.
Then came a flag bearer. This man carried a long pole - probably 20 feet long - bearing a banner depicting a stalk of corn and other decorations. The dancers followed him. There were easily 500 to 600 of them - large, small, thin, and fat, but all with jet black hair, and all dancing to the beat of the drums and chanters. They carried gourd-like rattles for noise making, and the bells on their belts added to the din. As they danced around the perimeter of the plaza, avoiding the pooled water in the center, townspeople would bring them candles - a traditional gift for the dancer to pass on to the priests. These candles were later used in the church for ceremonies throughout the year.
A ceremonial tent was pitched at the north end of the plaza where war chiefs, priests, and town officials were seated in places of honor. The door of the tent was guarded by two teenage boys with rifles. Clowns circled with the dancers to make room through the crowd and keep order. Four dancers on fake horses also joined the throng, representing the arrival of the horse in Indian culture. As the dancers came by the ceremonial tent, the flag bearer waived the banner over them in a form of blessing.
The first dance lasted about 25 minutes. As the first dancers filed out, a new group of chanters with their drummer entered the square. These were from the pueblo's second kiva. And the entire procedure was repeated. There were about 200 chanters in this group, and even more dancers than in the first group. Costumes were essentially the same with only subtle differences. The women's headdresses were turquoise in color instead of the darker blue of the first group.
These groups of dancers were set to continue this routine all day and into the night. Visitors, such as us, were expected to leave by dark, however. The weather turned sour in the midst of the second dance. Sleet and icy rain began to pelt down on the ceremonies. How long the dancers continued, we don't know since we scurried for our cars. On the way out, we stopped at a refreshment stand and asked about "oven bread" and "fried bread." We were told to go to a house around the corner and knock on the door. At this house, we were invited in and were able to buy a couple of loaves of bread. The lady of the house threw in two huge pieces of "fry bread." They seemed pleased that we stopped in the rain and asked for their bread.
It was an unusual day. From the two kivas, there were at least 2,000 Indians participating. Only a few hundred of these actually live in San Felipe, but all have their roots there. Many are professional men - doctors, lawyers, etc - that come back for the Green Corn Dance every year from all parts of the country. This dance is held every year on May 1st - and has been for centuries. Other dances occur at other times, but this is the largest gathering. The purpose is to obtain God's blessing on the new crop of corn before planting. No cameras are allowed in the pueblo. No one is allowed to even sketch the proceedings. Very few "Anglos" have ever seen the event. It is a very sacred ceremony to the pueblo people, and they don't want to lose the sanctity of the event to tourism. We felt honored to have been allowed to witness it even though we didn't fully understand everything.
Jerry and Joan Larson rode the 30 miles to San Felipe with us. They were our caravan leaders on the Oregon Trail last year. We found a cafeteria for lunch, then came back to our campground to relax for the afternoon. The rain continued off and on the rest of the day, and it was unusually cool - jacket weather.
Sunday, May 02, 1999
Mileage @ start: 21800
The temperature at 7:00am was 42 degrees, but the sun was out in a cloudless sky, and the wind had died down. Our cooks, Bob and Sue Yeutter, prepared a pancake and ham breakfast at their trailer that was outstanding. Everybody brought over tables and chairs and enjoyed the meal together as a picnic.
We drove in to Albuquerque for church service at the First Baptist Church at 11:00am. Without a regular pastor, the church had invited a minister from Golden Gate Seminary California to preach. There was no choir. The music director played a keyboard and sang into a mike. There were a lot of empty seats. Still, it was a good service.
At 1:30pm we gathered to carpool to Acoma., the elevated city in the sky - a pueblo built centuries ago atop a mesa. This is claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. It was first visited by white men in 1540 by Coronado's Spanish army who considered it the strongest Indian city they encountered. Archealogists have found evidence that the city existed at least as far back as A.D.1150. The pueblo rests on a 70 acre mesa, some 367 feet above the valley floor and 7,000 feet above sea level.
We drove the 50 miles in a little over an hour, arriving at Acoma about 3:00pm. We parked at the Visitors Center on the valley floor, then boarded buses for the trip to the top of the mesa. An Indian guide did an excellent job of telling the history of her people on the mountain top pueblo. According to her the village was established in the mid-800s. At its peak, there were about 1500 people living in the 450 adobe homes up there. Then, the Spanish came in the late 1500s and tried to force them to accept Christianity. When they refused, the Spanish army brought up guns during the night and slaughtered over 500 of them, taking another 500 away as captive. Though the survivors and their descendants - at least some of them - have continued to live up there, the village never again prospered. In another generation a priest came up and befriended them, establishing a Catholic church there, but this time the native people were given a choice. Most accepted the Catholic church, but still hung on to their old traditional religious beliefs. The church building is a unique structure - maintained by the people with great pride. It is hard to imagine how they manage to get the heavy timbers up there to build the church.
Acoma Church Bell
The adobe houses are mostly two story buildings. Originally, they did not have windows or doors on the ground floor. Ladders, which could be pulled up for safety, provided access to the second floor rooms. The men of the village climbed down to farm in the surrounding valley, then climbed back up the almost vertical sides of the mountain at night. Early on, there was only one pathway up. Now there is a paved roadway up. We elected to climb down the old pathway, which now is fitted with crude steps sculptured into a crevice in the sandstone.
When we were here before, the weather was overcast and rainy, and we didn't have such a good guide. This time, we enjoyed the visit much more.
Tomorrow, we'll drive up to Sandia Crest, a 10700 foot high overlook of the city of Albuquerque.
Monday, May 3, 1999
Mileage @ start:121812
The caravan group left the campground in carpools at 8:00am, headed for the Atomic Museum on Kirkland Air Force Base. Since we had done that before, we decided to forego it this time. Instead we drove up to Sandia Crest, the highest point on the mountain just east of Albuquerque - elevation 10,678 feet. The sky was overcast, the wind was blowing, there was snow on the ground, and the temperature was 27 degrees when we reached the top - not good conditions for doing much more than taking a quick look over the side at the sprawling metropolis in the valley. After taking a few pictures, we ducked into a gift shop for some hot coffee and cider, then got back into the car for a slow ride down the mountain.
Turning north on the "Turquoise Trail" we drove about 30 miles through Golden to Madrid. Golden is an old, almost abandoned gold rush town. Most of the buildings are falling down. There was some historical significance to the town, but not really much to get excited about. Madrid was an old coal-mining town with company houses lining the streets. These old houses have been taken over by an artist's colony. The houses facing the main street are used as shops offering for sale the artists' creations. In the first store we entered, the storekeeper was singing to the music on a CD - claiming to be the only singing shopkeeper in Madrid. There were some unusual things on display.
We met the rest of the caravan for lunch at the Bella Vista Restaurant in Cedar Crest for a buffet lunch paid for out of the caravan kitty fee. The rest reported that they had had a good tour of the Atomic Museum. After lunch we stopped at a shopping mall for an hour, then returned to the campground.
Later in the evening, Jerry showed a video on the Navajo code talkers who played such an important role in the Pacific during World War II. These young Navajos, serving with the Marine Corps, developed a code based on their native language that the Japanese never understood.
Tuesday, May 4, 1999
Mileage @ start: 21950
This was a free day for everyone to do as they pleased. After doing the wash, we hunted up another mall to get out of the wind and rain. This was the day when we were supposed to ride up the tramway for an evening meal at the "High Finance" Restaurant at the top of the mountain. However, the high wind caused cancellation. We learned that they have to shut down the tram when the wind exceeds 15 mph. So, instead of High Finance we went back to Bella Vista for a family style fish and chicken dinner.
Some folks went up to Sandia Crest, finding it snowing. Snowplows were working hard to keep the roads clear. The temperature was 20 degrees. Winds continued to be unusually strong. Hearing TV reports of numerous tornadoes in Oklahoma, we kept a watchful eye out for similar weather where we were. It had to be part of the same weather system we were experiencing.
Two couples have had to leave the caravan because of illness or problems back home. That brings us down to 29 units - 57 people. Jerry spent the afternoon on the phone making changes to reservations.
Wednesday, May 5, 1999
Mileage @ start: 21970
The day began with coffee, doughnuts and muffins at the recreation room thanks to our campground hosts. Then, after a short drivers' meeting with instructions for the short drive to Espanola, Margaret Rubush led the group in a devotion and prayer for the road. Her theme was the hymn, "This Is My Father's World," reflecting on how appropriate that is as we travel around enjoying these magnificence of our surroundings.
We then set out on the short, 95 mile trip northward to our new campground at Espanola. The winds were still strong and gusty, coming mostly as head winds, but the skies had cleared. Before we were 10 miles down the road, we passed our leaders, Jerry & Ellen, who were pulled over on the shoulder. His engine had lost power. He told us over the CB that a wrecker had been ordered. We learned later that his problem was the catalytic converter in his exhaust system. We hated to leave him stranded on the side of the Interstate, but there was no helping it. He spent the day waiting for repairs and finally made it into camp after dark. The Atkinsons also had trouble, having to replace their transmission.
After making a short stop at Bernalillo at the old pueblo of Keiao on the Rio Grande River, we arrived in the new campground about 11:30am. This was an Indian owned campground - all gravel - but with full hookups. After setting up, I drove back to Espanola for gas at $1.25 per gallon. The price has steadily risen as we made our way west.
Jerry and Joan Larson came over to our trailer in the evening to play cards.
Thursday, May 6. 1999
Mileage @ start: 22075
A hike through Bandelier National Monument and a tour of Los Alamos National Laboratory were the events of the day. Carl and Phyllis Cooley rode with us on the trip. The weather was cool enough for heavy jackets as we started out, but with clear, blue skies, it was a beautiful day. The drive to Bandelier was through a rugged, rocky mountainous region. The altitude at the rim of Frijoles Canyon was 6,500 feet. After showing Golden Age passports at the entrance to the park, we drove down to the Visitor's Center on the canyon floor at 6,030 feet.
Bandelier National Monument was created in 1922 to protect the archeological treasures found and uncovered in Frijoles Canyon by Adolph Bandelier. The canyon walls provided homes to an ancient people that were part of an early civilization that have been called "the Anasazi." Anasazi is a Navajo term meaning "the ancient ones." The park ranger at Bandelier seemed hesitant to use the term because it can also be interpreted "ancient enemies," and the local pueblo people who claim the ancient ones as their ancestors say that they were never enemies of anyone. Nonetheless, there was an ancient people who lived in the Frijoles Canyon between 1100 and 1600 A.D. Not only did they carve out places in the cliffs, accessible only with ladders, but a group of them built a sizable village on the canyon floor. Those ruins are visible today because of the digging of the archeologists. Built in a circular, fortlike fashion, it is called "the village of Tyuonyi." Walking through the village, it was difficult to get a true perspective of its size and shape, but as we climbed the trail up the canyon walls, the circular shape of Tyuonyi became readily apparent. The switchback trail up the canyon wall was 0.6 miles long., but seemed much longer. The views up and down the canyon from the trail were spectacular. By the time we got back to the Visitors Center, we had walked about three miles. No one knows for sure why the "ancient people" left the area, but it is speculated that they just used up the resources needed to survive.
Nineteen miles from Bandelier is the city of Los Alamos. This is where the atomic bomb was developed during World War II. Looking for a remote site where scientists could assemble and work in seclusion, the government purchased a Boys Ranch, and, in 1943, literally changed the landscape. Today, there are still over 10,000 people employed by the national laboratory. Some 1750 of them are PhDs. After lunch at a Subway shop, we toured the Bradbury Science Museum where the story of Los Alamos was told quite graphically. There were many hands-on exhibits to demonstrate some of the work presently going on. It was a little sobering to realize that this entire city with all its magnificent modern facilities has been built within our lifetime. The drive back to Espanola provided some spectacular views of the snow covered Sangre de Christo Mountains to the north.
Friday, May 7, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122169
Today we visited Taos, 8,000 feet elevation. The city of Taos has a long, colorful history. Artifacts have been found that indicate human activity in the area as long ago as 6,000 years. The pueblo people settled there around 1350 A.D. Spanish conquistadors discovered Taos in 1540. During the early 1800s, mountain men spent much time there when they weren't out trapping beaver. Kit Carson had a home there. At the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, Taos became part of the United States. In 1898 Taos was found by two artists - Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein. That began the immigration of artists to the area that today makes Taos an artist colony. The city lies in northern New Mexico, about an hour's drive from Espanola near the southern end of the Sangre de Christo mountain chain.
On the way to Taos, we stopped at the little village of Chimayo - known for its weaving art. Ortega's weaving shop offered all sorts of locally made woven articles for sale. There was a short demonstration of the operation of a four foot loom. A few caravaners purchased beautiful coats and vests.
We made a second stop at the village of Las Trampas. There, an old church called San Jose de Gracia Mission Church commands the center of town. The church, built in 1760 when this was still part of Mexico, is surrounded by an ancient cemetery. It is an outstanding example of Spanish colonial architecture - i.e. reddish brown, adobe, flat roof, with two steeples each bearing a cross. Jerry found the keeper of the keys who graciously opened the church so we could see inside. The interior was elaborately decorated with paintings of Christ in his various activities. A simple chandelier, holding twelve candles, appeared to be the only light. The floor was made of wooden planks that were obviously as old as the church - very worn and uneven. The church is on the National Register of Historical Places and has been designated a Historic Landmark.
Then, we arrived in Taos - along with a few hundred other tourists. From the old plaza area where Kit Carson's home still stands, the city spreads out for a couple of miles in all directions. It is surrounded on three sides by picturesque snow capped mountains. To the north is Taos Pueblo. The Indians there have become greedy. They wanted $8 per person plus $10 for each still camera and $20 for each video camera for admission. Most of us felt that too pricey for a dusty unguided walk through, so we settled for what we could see from outside and returned to town for lunch and shopping after. Taos is lined with shops, art galleries, and studios, and the streets were a beehive of traffic and activity. After an hour or so of shopping we returned to Espanola - this time along SR68, following the Rio Grande River southward through the mountains. It was a beautiful drive both ways.
Our caravan cooks, Bob and Sue Yeutter, missed the trip to Taos in order to prepare a chili con carne meal for the rest of us.. About 4:45pm they pulled their trailer out of the campground and moved it down to a lakeside picnic area where they set up for serving. It must be said that they have gone far beyond the call of normal duty to provide us with this treat.
Saturday, May 08, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122270
Leaving the campground about 9:00am, we rode with Hank and Betty Hirschmann into Santa Fe for a walking tour of the old city. Jerry's cousin, Mary Beth Honaker, had come over from Albuquerque to conduct our tour. She was a native of New Mexico and knew a lot about Santa Fe, giving us all sorts of facts we would not otherwise have known. Santa Fe is the oldest state capitol in the country, dating back to Spanish and Mexican rule. Lying west of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, the city, once a trading center at the end of the old Santa Fe Trail, is now a major city, spread throughout a wide valley basin. The snow covered mountain tops made a beautiful backdrop to the city. It was evident that the snow had fallen quite recently. But it was warm and sunny while we were there. The walking tour took about two hours, including a stop at the LaFonda Hotel, the Cathedral, Loretta Chapel, and the Plaza.
The LaFonda Hotel is an exclusive hotel now, but in the early 1800s the old mountain men and traders could spend the night there for $1, or sleep under the pool tables for a quarter. Prices now are $200 per night. The hotel looks like the adobe Indian houses in the pueblos - block rooms piled upon block rooms, all that reddish brown adobe color. Inside, there were fashionable shops and charming restaurants.
The Cathedral is one building in town that doesn't have the adobe look. Lavish in its architecture and décor, the old church appeared somewhat out of place. The archbishop was due in to conduct a mass for a boy scout group at noon. His honor guard was on hand when we went in.
The Loretta Chapel is an old church, now in private hands. Its outstanding feature was a spiral staircase to the balcony. Called the miraculous stairway, the story was told that when the chapel was first built the only way to the balcony was up a ladder. The women had trouble negotiating the ladder with their long dresses, so it quickly became apparent that a staircase was needed. A normal staircase would take up too much pew space, and no one could design a spiral staircase in the room allowed. The church went into a prayer session, asking for a solution to their balcony problem. Then, along came a carpenter who told them he could build a spiral staircase that would work. For six months he worked on the project, finally donating his work to the church. The new staircase made two complete circles before reaching the balcony level. It had no center post and was free standing. It was made of cedar from Lebanon or Jerusalem. There were no nails, no visible pins holding it together. When it was finished, the carpenter just disappeared. No one knew where he had come from or where he had gone. There was no record of any cedar being imported from the middle east. The people believed that a miracle had occurred. The carpenter was their patron saint - Saint Joseph - come down from heaven in answer to their prayers. However the staircase was built, it is a truly remarkable piece of work.
The Plaza of the old part of the city was the true end of the Santa Fe Trail. It was filled with people on this Saturday. A band was playing in the bandstand. The plaza is lined with shops on three sides. The other side is a covered walkway where Indians are selling their jewelry and pottery on the sidewalk.
After the walking tour we drove out with the Larsons, Russells, Hirschmanns to Applebees for a tequila lime chicken dinner. This was on the recommendation of the Larsons. It was very good. Then, back to town and a tram ride through the city. Our guide for this had lived in Santa Fe for 37 years and knew his history. We drove along Canyon Street which is the road through the art colony. Here, shop after shop, gallery after gallery, line the street. We then visited a museum and rode through residential areas for an hour and a half.
It was a good day, but a tiring one. Upon returning to camp, we found that some Indians had set up a car wash. With all the wet weather and subsequent dust, a car wash was just what we needed. A dozen or more Indians went to work and for a $5 donation did an exceptional job of cleaning off the mud and dust of the trail.
Sunday, May 09, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122275
We had a unique breakfast in camp - boil-in-bag, mix-it-yourself omelets. The cooks brought out fresh, beaten eggs in a bowl which were ladled into zip-lock bags. We each then added the other ingredients - bacon bits, onions, ham, mushrooms, peppers, and cheese. After squeezing all the air from the bag and zipping it shut, the bags were I.D.'d and placed in boiling water, 8 at a time, for 12 to 15 minutes. The result was a delicious omelet.
After breakfast, Margaret Rubush led a hymn sing that may have been more spiritually refreshing than attending some of these sad looking little churches. Afterwards, we drove up to Tehsuque, past Camel Rock, to a large flea market. Camel Rock is a large, teetering rock shaped like a camel resting on the ground. At the flea market there was a lot of Indian jewelry, pottery, blankets, and other craft for sale at prices considerably below those in the Santa Fe shops.
Monday, May 10, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122320
The drive from Espanola to Mesa Verde is one of the most scenic drives in the country. There are all sorts of rock formations of different colors. The road is good. It was a clear day. We stopped at the Echo Amphitheater that is aptly named. It is a huge clam shell shaped depression in the cliff that talks back to you from different points on the trail. We drove due north on US84 to the Colorado line, the west on US160 through Pagosa Springs and Durango.
The look of the landscape changed markedly as we moved northward. Instead of the arid look of the New Mexico hills, the hills became mountains, and there was more grass - many beautiful pastures. At one point the road was blocked by a herd of cows being moved across the highway by mounted cowboys.
The first ten miles out of Durango is a long, steep grade, then 35 miles later is the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. More steep roads curling around the mountainsides and we were at our 8,000 foot high campground. The temperature was about 60 degrees upon arrival, but quickly dropped to the low 40s as the sun dipped below the mountain. Deer were meandering around the campground, ignoring us in their contentment.
Tuesday, May 11, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122576
After an early rise, we gathered for pancakes and ham breakfast at a little eatery near the campground. About 15 miles up the road was the Far View Visitors Center where we arranged for tickets for a 3:00pm ranger guided tour down into Cliff Palace, the largest of the cliffside villages. Jerry and Emmy Muller invited us to ride with them for the day. Jerry is a just retired physician from Thomasville, Georgia, and this is their first caravan. To fill in the time before Cliff Palace, we first went to the park museum to hear an orientation film about the people who once inhabited this area.
Things have changed somewhat since we were here before. There was no mention of the term Anasazi. Again, it has recently been revealed that Anasazi, instead of meaning "ancient ones" means "ancient enemies" in Navajo. The descendants of the cliff dwelling people - the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico do not want their ancestors to be called enemies. They have always been peace loving people - never enemies of anyone. So, out of respect for this feeling, the park service no longer makes this reference.
From the museum we walked the short trail down to Spruce Tree House and from there took the three mile trail to see some petroglyphs - carvings found on the sandstone walls of the cliff that constitute the only recorded history of the cliff dwelling people. Using symbols for the various clans, the petroglyphs indicate a creation story, a time-line (without dates, of course) showing when each clan separated from the migration, an authority figure who administered discipline, hands and other figures that added mystery to the story. The array of figures occupied a space on the wall approximately twenty feet long and four feet high - remarkably preserved. We squeezed through narrow crevices, climbed through rocks that had ancient steps hewn out, walked through overhanging caves, scaled a few ladders, and finally arrived back at the museum - exhausted but pleased with ourselves.
After a light lunch, it was time to drive a few miles to the starting point of the trail to Cliff Palace. As promised a ranger arrived at 2:00pm to lead us in. He was a Navajo Indian, well versed in the culture of the cliff dwellers, and he was able, as only an Indian could be, to share many insights into the culture of these ancient people.
Buildings in Cliff Palace are both round and square. Some are single storied, others, three or four storied. Some reach to the roof of the cave. There were several 23 kivas, or ceremonial chambers. These were uniquely designed with fireplaces, flues, smoke deflectors, and places for storing special ceremonial items. It was a matriarchal society with homes passed from grandmother, to mother, to daughter. Grandmother was always the "boss." The people lived in the cliffs for about 100 years - roughly from 1150 to 1250 A.D. It is thought that they abandoned the cliffs because of a twenty years drought - moving and spreading to the southeast into what is now New Mexico, and becoming the Pueblo Indians of today. To get out of Cliff Palace, we had to traverse a narrow trail, scramble through more narrow crevices, and climb 3 ten foot ladders.
We had a little more time to kill before caravan dinner at the Far View Lodge, so we took another short trail to Far View Village and Mummy Lake. The village was a mesa top village occupied for several hundred years prior to 1150 A.D. when the people moved to the cliffs. Mummy Lake was a walled, circular enclosure that the sign said had two possible uses. It could have been a reservoir for holding water, or an area for ceremonial dances. It was about 100 feet in diameter with access by a long ramp, or by steps.
At 5:00pm we met the rest of the caravaners at the lodge for an excellent meal. We had a choice of turkey, salmon, or pork chops. Our waiter was from Atlanta with friends in Young Harris - small world! After drive back to camp, we retired early - pretty tired from walking and climbing at least five miles of trails.
Wednesday, May 12, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122605
With no planned activities until sundown, we were free this day to drive into Cortez and to explore Mesa Verde at will. Cortez hasn't changed much since our last visit 7 years ago, but we did see one interesting sight - an Airstream trailer fitted out as a diner on the main highway. Back on the mesa, we were constantly amazed by the old ruins. The more we look at these remarkable dwellings, the more difficult it is to imagine how they did it. Those remarkable people, in order to carve out a living under such remote and challenging circumstances, had to be highly intelligent, inventive, and industrious. We viewed viewed Cliff Palace again - this time from the other side of the canyon. By far the largest of the villages, Cliff Palace had 217 rooms with its 23 kivas. Archaeologists estimate that there were 200 to 250 residents. The men went up to the mesa top to tend the crops of corn, beans and squash and down into the canyon to hunt. They returned at night, scaling the canyon walls to get up or down, as the case might be, into the village. Water had to be brought in, and how they managed this is hard to imagine. From one spot on the west side of the canyon, we could see twelve different cliffside villages.
It is an interesting story the archaeologists have pieced together using various means of establishing time periods. The people built and resided in the cliffside dwellings only about 100 years - from 1150 A.D. to 1250 A.D. Why they moved from their more convenient dwellings on the mesa top to the cliffside dwellings can only be speculated. The most obvious reason was for safety from a potential of attack from outsiders, but that is uncertain. Then they abandoned the area, and for over 600 years the dwellings remained vacant. The first white men to discover the dwellings were two cowboy who in 1888 were out searching for lost cows and stumbled onto the ruins. Local Indian tribes knew of their existence, but considered them sacred, or a place where the haunting spirits lived.
The cliff people made beautiful baskets and pottery. Broken remnants of these utensils have been found - left behind when the people left. Much has been learned from studying the refuse piles. Many of the rooms were no doubt used to store food and fuel for the harsh winter seasons. Gathering supplies must have taken up much of the people's time. It is amazing that so many could live harmoniously in such close quarters. That can be partially explained by what was apparently a very spiritual belief system, still shared by their descendants. Still, a lot remains unknown and left to the imagination.
Mesa Verde has been named a World Heritage Site as well as a national park - and well it should be.
At 7:00pm we gathered in a clearing near camp for a campfire and marshmallow roast. Jerry gave some preliminary instructions on what we could expect at our next stop in Durango, then told outhouse and graveyard stories until it was too cold to sit out any more. We heard the story of grandma and the outhouse for the sixth time. Once the sun dropped behind the mountain, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, sending everyone scurrying to their RVs.
Thursday, May 13, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122650
It was moving day again, this time just 35 miles back to Durango. It was another beautiful day as we arrived at the Cottonwood RV Park very near the downtown area. At 1:45pm we joined our leader at the train station for a tour of the Railroad Museum. Housed in the railroad's roundhouse repair shops, the museum has preserved railroad memorabilia of all sorts. They have rail cars with special historical significance either restored or in the process. One called the Nomad was originally built in 1878 for a private party. It is available for leasing at $5,000 per day. The shop fabricates parts, not only for the Durango & Silverton line, but for other steam railroads around the country.
Later we enjoyed a halibut dinner with the Larsons and Mullers at Christinas, a nice restaurant north of town, then a hand and foot game in our trailer.
Friday, May 14, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122685
It was a free day to do as we chose. We drove 50 miles to Silverton, then 24 miles to Ouray, Colorado, then back the same way. This is called the San Juan Skyway, or the Million Dollar Highway, because it is said to have cost a million dollars per mile to build it. It has some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado. Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray tops out at 11,008 feet in elevation, with mountain peaks all around towering above that. The tallest is almost 14,000 feet. With everything covered with snow, it seemed we were in a winter wonderland. The roads had all been plowed, so driving was not treacherous, except that there were no guard rails on the outer edges. That made it a bit scary for my passenger. Just a slip of the wrist on the steering wheel, and we'd have been airborne.
We drove to a couple of waterfalls in Ouray - Box Canyon Falls and Cascade Falls. Box Canyon Falls was in a narrow, rocky crevice that was difficult to get into. Stairs had been built and boardwalks had been hung on the dark rock walls that made it some easier to maneuver, but it was still a challenge - and loud. The sound of the water rushing down and through the canyon was deafening. The other falls were just pretty. There are some hot springs in Ouray also that have made the town a tourist destination. We stopped at a small café for lunch - soup and sandwich - then retraced our steps back to Durango.
We picked up a week's worth of mail at the post office in Durango, did some necessity shopping, then went back to camp to hear what others had done on their free day. There were many tales.
Saturday, May 15, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122835
We boarded the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train at 7:45am. Our group was large enough to command a gondola car all to ourselves. A few who preferred to ride inside were on the adjacent car. Our destination was Silverton, Colorado - an old silver mining town with streets lined with former bordellos - all of which are now either gift shops or eating places. It must have been a booming place once. Now, it only prospers when the train is in town. We were there for two hours.
The train ride itself is the main attraction. The fifty miles of railroad took us through some of the most rugged, yet beautiful, scenery in Colorado. This was our third time on the train - having done it in 1976 with our kids, and again on caravan in 1992. But this time was more spectacular because of all the snow - caused by late snow storms and lingering cold temperatures. The railroad follows the Animas River through a canyon cut by the river over eons of time. The ride took about 3 ½ hours each way, but the train struggled far more on the trip up. Silverton is at an elevation of 9,280 feet - 2,680 feet higher than Durango. The engine burned 4 ½ tons of coal going, and only 1 ½ tons returning. In places track was laid on a tiny shelf that had been carved out of the cliff some 1,000 feet above the river. On one side of the car it was a long drop to the river; on the other side we could reach out and touch the rock wall. The railroad was built to haul silver ore from Silverton to Durango back in the late 1800s. They are more prosperous now hauling tourists than they ever were hauling ore. During the summer peak five trains make the round trip every day. While the mountain sides, the river, the trees, and the sheer dropoffs are nice to see, I think the snow covered mountain peaks set off against the azure blue sky is the most striking of the sights along the route. The train lurches along, rocking back and to, at a mere 25 mph, slowing at the bridge trestles and stopping twice for water. Black smoke belches from the engine's stack while the fireman shovels coal into the engine's hungry firebox. Some of that smoke, along with numerous cinders and a lot of soot, came back on us in the gondola car. Yet, the experience was unique and well worth any discomfort. We arrived back in Durango about 5:30pm.
Our dedicated cooks stayed in camp all day preparing an evening meal of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, bread, and cake. They had it ready and waiting when we arrived back at camp. Afterward, we played hand and foot again with the Larsons, then retired after a very busy day.
Sunday, May 16, 1999
Mileage @ start: 122900
This was a "rest" day. So, we worked hard. After our in-camp church service, I did some routine chores while Ann did the laundry, getting ready for our next move onto the Navajo reservation. Joan and Jerry Larson invited us over to their trailer for a chicken/pasta dinner, then we had a drivers' meeting at 7:00pm to get instructions for the move to Canyon de Chelly. (de-shay').
Monday, May 17, 1999
Mileage @ start:122907
Our assignment for the move to Canyon de Chelly was parking, so we had to leave with the early crew at 6:30am. That meant getting up about 5:30am. All assigned to the early crew were ready on time, so four trailers and one motorhome retraced the route to Cortez, again negotiating that long steep climb out of Durango. It wasn't long before we came to the only point in the United States where four states come together, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. Appropriately called "Four Corners," this unique point is on the Navajo reservation. They have gotten smart and now charge $1.50 per person to park and walk to the memorial. Navajo jewelry, rugs, and artwork were on sale at many stands. The five ladies travelling together this morning (Ellen Honaker, Betty Hirschmann, Sue Yeutter, Joan Larson, and Ann Berg) posed for pictures on the Four Corners monument. Soon we were seeing landscape typical of the American Southwest - landscape like no other in the world. The red sandstone cliffs, the rocky canyons, stony spires, and long mesas are awe inspiring. Then we arrived at Canyon de Chelly. "De Chelly" is a Spanish corruption of the Navajo word "Tsegi," meaning - rock canyon.
Parking our rigs in the Federal campground next to Thunderbird Lodge was a challenge. This campground was built back in the thirties by the CCC and has never been improved. Large RVs were unknown then. The sites were small and lined with huge rocks, making it very difficult to maneuver into. Park personnel insisted on assigning sites from a map without knowing what a particular site looked like. Thirty rigs showing up almost simultaneously tended to overwhelmed them, but by 1:00pm all caravaners were in and set up, and our collective nerves calmed down a bit.
Canyon de Chelly is not the deepest canyon in the Southwest, nor the widest, nor the longest. But it has a striking beauty. At every turn there are unusual rock formations with different shades of red, orange, brown and white. In contrast, the valley floor is a lush green. Cottonwood trees line the river that flows the length of the canyon. Having explored the south rim of the canyon the last time we were here, we chose to drive along the north rim this time. There are four overlooks with names like Ledge Ruin, Antelope House, Mummy Cave, Massacre Cave. Each provides a breathtaking view of the canyon, and each presents a different perspective of Navajo life on the valley floor. From each parking lot, a trail of ¼ to ½ mile must be hiked to reach the canyon rim and overlook. By the time we'd done them all, we were pretty tired. It had been a long day.
Tuesday, May 18, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123135
The sky was cloudless as we boarded the three old army trucks for the fifty mile trip into the canyon. No one descends into the canyon without a Navajo guide. We had three - one for each truck. The Navajo moved into the canyon in the 1700s, finding for themselves a virtual Garden of Eden. In contrast to the desertlike land topside. The bottom of the canyon is fertile and lush with greenery. The river that flows the length of the canyon is called Rio de Chelly. Over eons of time the canyon was carved out of the soft red sandstone. The canyon walls rise 700 to 1,000 feet, becoming deeper as one goes further in. The Navajos who live in the canyon bottom live in the "old way" - in their hogans. They farm the land and raise sheep, goats, cattle and horses for the livelihood. While we saw a few pickup trucks, most of them still go in and out on horseback.
The Navajo who live in "the old way," live in one room hogans with one door that always faces east toward the rising sun. These low lying buildings are circular or octagonal in shape. A crude fireplace is in the center, venting smoke out through a hole in the center of the roof. The people sit on blankets on the floor, and roll up in those blankets on the floor to sleep. If anyone dies in a hogan, their religion demands that they move out. That building then becomes a storage shed and a new one is built for the family. Navajo is a Spanish word given the Indians. They call themselves Dineh, a word meaning simply - the people. They grow corn, squash, beans, cotton, alfalfa, apples, pears, and other crops, but we were surprised to learn that they only consider the canyon floor home during the spring and summer months. Temperatures in the winter often reach 30 below zero, so they move up to the upper plateau where it is warmer for the winter. Their winter homes have modern conveniences like water and electricity, while they prefer to live without those things on the canyon floor.
We spent almost nine hours bumping along the canyon floor on the old army trucks, covering about 82 miles on the round trip. We first went up the north canyon, called Canyon del Muerto. After lunch at the Mummy Cave, we backtracked to the junction and went up the south canyon - Canyon de Chelly. Our trip ended at Spider rock, the 1,000 foot spire that sits in the middle of the valley. One might remember the Toyota commercials made by hoisting a Toyota to the top of Spider rock and filming it from a helicopter. At Spider Rock our guides broke out three watermelon and sliced them up in rapid fashion for all to enjoy.
We forded the river at least 100 times - often using the river as a roadway. Along the way the guides stopped pointed out the old cliff dwellings and other points of interest. The Anasazi cliff dwellers were here during the same period they were at Mesa Verde, but in fewer numbers. Again, it is not known why they moved up into the cliffs, nor is it known why they abandoned those dwellings and left. At one point, while in midstream, our truck stalled and could not be restarted. It was only a few minutes before the other two trucks came to our aid. Three heads disappeared under the hood, and after a few minutes more the problem was fixed. Knowing the trucks were about 40 years old gave us some concern about how we were going to get out of there. But, it all ended well. We were again tired from a full day.
Wednesday, May 19, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123135
We visited the Hubbell Trading Post in the morning before moving on to Monument Valley. This trading post is still active and creates a market for Indian goods - especially the finely woven Navajo blankets and rugs. John Lorenzo Hubbell established the trading post in 1876. It is now a National Historic Site, located about 40 miles southeast of Chinle, Arizona. Hubbell established a special relationship with the Navajo, treating them fairly and honestly. That relationship still exists with the current manager who showed us around and gave us a talk about the Navajo rugs. These rugs are very expensive, ranging in price from $650 to $8,500. A Navajo woman was weaving in the Visitors Center.
By noon we were back in camp, ready to hook up and depart for Monument Valley. The 96 miles in the afternoon seemed like 200 because we got started so late. Now we were in Utah - in one of the most picturesque places in the country - where many movies have been filmed. The awesome red spires in this Navajo Tribal Park rise out of the desert floor and appear as if in a different world.
We settled into the campground at Gouldings Lodge and Trading Post, rested awhile then boarded a shuttle to the lodge for a short slide show about Monument Valley. The wind had the dust stirred up pretty good, creating a haze over the valley. Back at camp, I walked up an unmarked trail into the rocks surrounding the campground, finding a natural arch hidden behind a massive rock formation. I was up pretty high which afforded a good view of the trailers down in the campground. Loose rock made footing a bit iffy, but it was good exercise. By nightfall we were ready for bed.
Thursday, May 20, 1000
Mileage @ start: 123275
A few of us arose early enough to see the sun rise over the valley. It was a clear day, and the wind had calmed down. We gathered for a buffet breakfast at the lodge, then followed the Honakers in a three hour carpool tour through the valley. This is a beautiful place to photograph, but not too pleasant a place to be. The heat and the dust were something else. In contrast to the last time we were here, the valley floor had a lot of green on it. Viewing it from a distance, it looked like a green lawn. The green was pinon, cedar, and juniper bushes with some sagebrush thrown in. The last time we were here, everything was brown. This added to the beauty of the place. The picture to the right is of two monoliths called The Mittens.
Just as we were arriving back in the campground, the engine quit, and smoke billowed from under the hood. Our alternator had bitten the dust, taking with it the serpentine belt that wraps and twists around all the engine parts. I quickly learned that Monument Valley is not the place to find auto parts. So, I got on the phone and called the only parts store in Kayenta - 25 miles back up the road. Fortunately, they had one. The nearest place other than that was Flagstaff, Arizona - 150 miles away. Jerry Larson took me to Kayenta. We got the new alternator and belt, and within a half-hour we were back in business, thankful for a lot of things. It could have happened while pulling the trailer in the middle of nowhere with no friends around. So, we have another reason for travelling caravan style.
The temperature just reached 108.9 on our thermometer in mid-afternoon. Yet, we are still sleeping under blankets at night. We've all agreed that this is a great place to visit, but no place to live. As the sun went down, we gathered by the trailer with the best view (Hargadon's) for a driver's meeting and some musical entertainment by Ellen Honaker on her keyboard. The view of Monument Valley from that point was fit for a postcard.
After the meeting there was still time to explore the rocks a bit. This time I was accompanied by the Larsons, the Hargadons, and Lee Nackman as we went back in to the arch and around the point. We all agreed that the arch looked like an elephant's trunk.
Friday, May 21, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123331
The caravan moved to Page, Arizona this day. The uneventful drive was through some barren desert as we dropped 2,000 feet in elevation to Lake Powell. As we arrived, the skies became overcast, and there was a mirky haze over the whole region. The city of Page began as a construction camp, made up of workers brought in in the late 1950s to build the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. The dam created Lake Powell - 180 miles long with 1,960 miles of shoreline. The lake is like a turquoise jewel in the heart of barren desert. The lake provides water power for electric power generation. It provides water for irrigation to an otherwise arid region. The dam is useful in flood control. And, the whole area is now a water sports mecca that brings in tourists from far and wide.
With the afternoon free, we explored Page and had a pizza for lunch, then returned to the campground for some cards with the Larsons.
Saturday, May 22, 1999
Mileage @ start:123481
We toured the dam today, descending 500 feet into the bowels of the huge structure. Glen Canyon Dam was complete in 1963 after a seven-year construction period. Our guide was one of the construction workers - now retired. What he told us was from experience - not from what he had read. The dam is 710 feet high - 300 feet wide at the base. It contains 10 million tons of concrete. We walked along the top for part of the story, then took an elevator down to the power plant level where 8 massive GE hydraulic turbine-generators crank out 1320 megawatts of electric power. Water flows through the turbines at the rate of 31,000 cubic feet per second. The turbine-generator chamber was almost noise free - just a little vibration. After the dam was completed, it took 17 years for the lake to fill behind it.
We met at the Wilderness Outfitters store in Page to begin our adventure of the afternoon. We boarded a bus there that took us back to the dam and down to the rafts. The roadway passes down through a long tunnel that once housed emergency supplies and provided shelter in anticipation of a Soviet attack on the dam. We then descended a long ramp on foot to the river level where we boarded three rafts . The Colorado, before the dam was built, was always muddy. It got its name from the red mud. But now, the water is crystal clear, having had time in the backup of the lake for all the silt to settle out. The canyon walls at the dam are about 700 feet high. Twenty miles later the canyon walls were 1700 feet with peaks rising to 2400 feet. It took us about 3 ½ hours to get to Lee's Ferry. The three rafts stayed about ½ mile apart, so essentially each raft was alone for the trip. We stopped once about ½ way to hike a ¼ mile trail up to see some Anasazi petroglyphs. Away from the water, it was stifling hot.
At Lee's Ferry, the name of the canyon changes from Glen Canyon to Grand Canyon. Lee's Ferry was the last place to get out of the river before entering the Grand Canyon. Larger rafts were being outfitted there for the 4, 8, and 12 day trips through the white water of the Grand Canyon.
he trip through the canyon was especially nice. It is the only way to see that part of the canyon from river level. Around every turn there was a slightly different look - various shapes to the rocks and many varied shades of red. Looking up, the red walls were beautifully set against a clear blue sky. Except for the river water, everything looked dry and sunbaked. There was not much wildlife in evidence - a few birds and some lizards. At one point the guide said there were some wild cows stranded in an isolated area of greenery, but they remained hidden from us. We passed a few fishermen - some in boats and some fishing from shore. Our guide said that fishing in that area was some of the best in the U.S. - large and small mouth bass, pike, striped bass, trout . and crappie.
Our guide was a college student taking this on as a summer job. He had been in training for two weeks, and ours was his first trip. They trained him well. Had he not told us it was his first trip, we would not have guessed it. He spoke knowledgeably of all the points of interest like he'd been doing it for years.
At Lee's Ferry we were met by the same buses that had dropped us at the starting point. Then it was a fifty-mile bus ride home.
Sunday, May 23, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123566
This was another free day to relax, go to church, or just catch up on necessaries. The temperature was a little bit cooler than the day before, at least it was early in the day. After lunch we drove around the lodge and marina where hundreds of boats are docked, then into town for ice cream. We had another caravan cookout for the evening meal. Bob and Sue fixed Brunswick Stew with raspberry salad and strawberry rhubarb dessert. Though the wind was blowing hard, we ate on picnic table under the cottonwood trees.
Monday, May 24,1999
Mileage @ start: 123580
We boarded the Lady Grace about 9:00am at the marina of Wahweap Lodge on Lake Powell - destination Rainbow Bridge. The Lady Grace was a 61 foot, high powered vessel with the lower level enclosed and an open deck above - capacity 90 people with 32 above and 58 below. All seating was very comfortable. We traveled 53 miles on Lake Powell through some incredible scenery. Rock formations that were once the tops of canyon walls poked up through the surface of the lake, presenting a different panorama at every turn. With about ten miles yet to go, the waterway narrowed, and it appeared we were negotiating a maze through the rocks. Then, all of a sudden it was there - the indescribable Rainbow Bridge.
I've seen pictures of Rainbow Bridge and read about it for years. But to see it in person was beyond description. It was simply awesome. It is the largest natural bridge in the world, spanning 275 feet. It stands 290 feet above the water now beneath it. Made of red sandstone, it is 32 feet wide at the top and 42 feet thick - truly one of the natural wonders of the world.
We stayed there an hour walking the path to the bridge and marveling at its beauty. When we reboarded the Lady Grace, bag lunches were passed out, then we started the trip back home. Our captain, Betty McAuley, was an experienced boat handler, having operated boats on Lake Powell for the last 15 years. She negotiated the vessel through some extremely narrow canyons. At each turn she sounded the horn to alert any oncoming boats around the bend. We slithered our way up two side canyons - one called Anisazi Canyon, the other Cascade Canyon. At times it seemed only a foot or two separated us from the canyon walls, but she never even bumped. At a refueling station about half way back, we disembarked for ice cream. Who would have thought we'd find ice cream in the desert like this?
All along the trip there were numerous boats of all sizes around us. Exploring all the little feeder canyons by small boat would have been fun. Some of the boats were houseboats with small boats tied alongside. These were vacationers spending a week or two on the houseboat while using the small boats to run in and out of the nooks and crannies of the rocks. Some were fishing. Our captain said that striped bass had become so plentiful that the game people had eliminated any limit on size or number. Some were being caught that weighed 50 pounds. We inquired about the cost of renting a houseboat. Prices run up from $2,000 to $4,500 per week. The largest slept 10 people.
We arrived back at the lodge promptly at 4:00pm, each of us expressing in a different way what a fantastic day it had been.
We drove into Page for dinner with the Larsons and Mullers at Strombolli's Italian restaurant.
Tuesday, May 25, 1999
Mileage @ start:123600
This was moving day again - this time to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The 145 mile drive from Page, Arizona was very nice - lots of the colorful hills and mesas. As pretty as the drive was, it was anticlimactic to the drama of Monday on the water. We've decided to stay in Bryce a week through Memorial Day. That's five days after the caravan terminates. So, we weren't in a hurry to see everything this afternoon, as were most of the others who will be leaving sooner and haven't been here before. Bryce is one of our favorite places. The three times we've been here before have been rather abbreviated visits, so we plan to take our time and do it right this time.
After dinner at Ruby's Inn with the Honakers and Larsons, we played Hand and Foot and Joker with the Larsons until past dark. For a change Jerry and I won all four games - two of each - something that had been elusive before this.
Wednesday, May 26, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123745
Bryce Canyon has two distinct environments. As you drive into the park, there is nothing unusual about the landscape. It is rolling land, forested with tall pines. Then, all of a sudden you come to the edge - the startling edge - where the land just drops away suddenly. Standing on the rim looking out, it's a fairyland of orange colored spires, walls, and rocks of a thousand shapes - the remains of a giant erosion. The 521 feet down to level ground looks more like 1,000. Trails descend in a myriad of switchbacks to the canyon floor, then meander among the towering spires. The rim continues to crumble and recede as the erosion process is never ending, but the change is gradual. It all looks the same as it did the first time we saw it 23 years ago. Full appreciation of the beauty only comes when one takes the time to go down and look back up.
With a few hours before the final caravan banquet, I took a hike around the Navajo Loop Trail - a short 1.5 mile loop that descends to the canyon floor, meanders for a few yards, then rises again to the rim. The skies were clear with a few puffy clouds. Though I'd been down there before, it was still a "Wow!" at every turn. Those pink-orange spires set off by the deep blue sky are beautiful beyond description. It is an easy walk at the bottom where pine trees surprisingly flourish. It took about an hour to do the loop.
We drove over to the lodge about noon for the final caravan banquet. The meal was delicious - beef tips over noodles and lemon chicken. Afterward there was some impromptu entertainment. Jerry Larson read a story about a mule being given a dose of turpentine in his rear. I read Robert Service's Ballad of Bessie's Boil. Seven of the girls, led by Barbara Hargadon and starring Valerie Adkinson, put on a singing skit. Jerry Honaker acted out a veterinarian doctor, defining medical terms while Bob Griffin emceed. Afterward we gathered for a group picture in front of the lodge .
At 7:00pm we gathered around a campfire for some final socializing and saying goodbye. All agreed we had had a very special time thanks to our leaders, Jerry and Ellen. After an accounting of caravan expenses, we each owed the kitty $15 more to balance the books - making the cost for 33 days of travel: $1365.00. Considering all the meals and events, we all agreed it was a super bargain.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
Mileage @ start: 123760
By 9:00am almost everyone else on the caravan had pulled out, scattering in all directions. Ann went with me this time on a hike down and through the canyon. We started at Sunset Point and descended on the Navajo Loop Trail, then branched over to the Queen's Garden Trail, then another trail back up to the rim at Sunrise Point. In all it was about three miles. Again, the views were unbelievable.
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