WESTERN VACATION TRAVELOGUE
June 5th to July 3rd, 1976
Saturday - June 5th - The long awaited day of departure finally arrived. It had rained all night, so we were apprehensive about the weather conditions that we would face, but a hurricane would not have stopped us from leaving after all the planning and preparation. We rose early at 4:00am, finished packing and securing the house, then drove over to the Normans' home. Our travelling party consisted of the Bergs (Walter, Ann, Johnny & Laura), the Normans (John, Margaret, John & Laurie), and the Seiglers (Charlie, Martha Ann, Lisa and Donna). All was finally ready and we started out in our three CB-equipped cars at 5:24am. By daylight the rain had stopped, and the weather was no problem. Our first rest and gas stop was in Sycamore, Georgia. At 50.9 cents per gallon, this was the cheapest gas on the trip. We later paid as high as 71.9 cents. We followed I-75 north through Atlanta, Chattanooga, and onto Nashville, where we had planned to spend our first night out. However, there was not a motel room to be had, so we continued on to Bowling Green, KY before finding a stopping place. We had, by then, gone 782 miles from Brandon, but it had been good road all the way and we were in good shape.
Sunday - June 6th - We left Bowling Green about 7:45am and headed to Evansville, Indiana, then west through southern Illinois to St. Louis, MO. Here, we were intrigued by the Gateway Arch, and stopped to spend about 3 hours there. We rode to the top of the arch for a spectacular view of the city to the west and the Mississippi River and East St. Louis to the east. The arch is an architectural and construction marvel. In the shape of an inverted catenary, it is 630' wide at the base and 630' tall at the top. It is administered by the National Park Service as a memorial to Thomas Jefferson's signing of the Louisiana Purchase. After leaving the arch, we encountered some horrendous interchanges on the Interstate. Johnny drove us through in good shape, but it was hair raising - a whole series of malfunction junctions. It was an uneventful trip across Missouri, and we arrived in Blue Springs, MO, a suburb of Kansas City about 8:30pm. Mileage for the day: 526 miles.
Monday - June 7th - We left Kansas City about 7:00am, travelling west on I-70. About 60 miles into Kansas we blew our right rear tire. We put on the spare and went on in to Topeka where I bought a new tire and we ate breakfast. The episode cost us $17 and an hour of time. As it turned out this was the only car trouble for all three cars on the whole trip. The rest of the trip across Kansas seemed to take forever. This is wide open, flat country with many fields of wheat and corn, many oil wells, some cattle, and few gas stations. The highway through Kansas was 455 miles long and almost as straight as an arrow - due west. We stopped at the Colorado line long enough to take some pictures in front of the huge welcome sign, then proceeded on toward Denver. The road through eastern Colorado goes through much the same type countryside as we saw in Kansas, but our eyes were now straining to get the first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. About 60 miles out of Denver we had a real argument via the CB's over whether the scene on the horizon was a cloud bank or the faint outline of the mountains. Then the closer we came, the more distinct the mountains became, and we soon saw the snow covered tops glistening in the setting sunlight. It was surprising, how abruptly the flatlands changed into mountains. There was nothing like the miles of foothills seen in the Smokies before actually getting into the mountains. Here, just all of a sudden, you're there. Dark overtook us as we got to Boulder, Colorado, and the remaining 50 miles to Estes Park were made in the dark. So our first good look at the Rockies did not come until the next morning. We found our cabin without any trouble (The Water Wheel), built a fire in the fireplace and made ready for bed. We had come 688 miles from Kansas City and were just short of being 2,000 miles from home. The Seiglers left the convoy at Boulder and went into Denver for a tour of the mint, then rejoined us a day later at Estes Park.
Tuesday, June 8th - We got up early and watched the sun come up over the mountain. It was a beautiful clear day, a little cool. The sky was a deep blue, and the air was very clear. We found that the two young Johns had beaten us up and had climbed the high mountain behind our cabins. Ann spotted them, as two small dots on top of the rocky peak. We got out the binoculars and confirmed that it was them, then proceeded to climb up to meet them. After an hour or so of this, we got into the truck and entered the Rocky Mountain National Park, using our Golden Eagle passport for the first of some twenty times. A mile or so into the park the road goes along the edge of a rather wide valley, passing several small ponds and a small river. At the ponds we were surprised to see a group of 10 bighorn sheep. Some were at the pond for water, and others were on the opposite side of the road on the mountainside. This is an unusually agile animal, seemingly unafraid of hopping around on very treacherous looking rock. We got some excellent pictures from all angles. Proceeding on, we found that the Fall River Road was still closed on account of snow - a disappointment because we had read that this was a beautiful nine mile stretch that passed several waterfalls on its way up to the Continental Divide at 12,000' elevation. We then decided to drive on up the Trail Ridge Road which crosses the divide and goes to the other side of the park.
It is hard to imagine that anything could be more spectacular than the scenery we saw as the road climbed up past the timber line and into the thin, 12,000 foot air. We were in a white world of snow with the feeling that this was the top of the world. The kids couldn't wait to get out and play in the snow. We stopped at a parking area and proceeded on foot up to the highest point there. Laura and Johnny got into a snowbank a little too steep and soon found themselves at the bottom of the hill with several bruises. We have many pictures of this spot, but they don't really portray the magnificence of what we saw. We also noticed how quickly we were out of breath after a little exertion at this altitude.
Trail Ridge Road is the longest stretch of paved road in America that runs continuously above the timber line. It was now getting on toward lunch time and we had left without breakfast, so we went back to the truck and headed back to Estes Park. Estes Park Village is somewhat similar to Gatlinburg, Tennessee though considerably smaller. Downtown is one gift shop after another, each seemingly specializing in something a little different. There is one main street. We found a little place called the Country Kitchen and ate good barbecue beef sandwiches. Afterwards the girls wanted to stay a while in two to shop, so the three Johns and I drove up to Bear Lake for a hike. This is a small lake, high in the mountains, surrounded by spruce and fir trees, and high snowcapped mountain peaks. It was really a beautiful spot. We walked a 1 1/2 mile trail that went all the way around the lake. All along the trail, chipmunks and ground squirrels were begging for peanuts. The really put on a show - came right up and sat in our hands. At several points around the lake, the scenery is dominated by Longs Peak, a 14,300 foot super mountain. We hated to leave this spot. I went overboard taking pictures all around. On the way back to Estes Park, we met and talked with one of the rangers. He told us where and when to look for more animals. Following this advice, we came back into the park with a picnic supper to sit and watch deer, elk and sheep come out at dusk to feed. It was quite a sight, and it had been quite a day. I think that we all would have liked to stay another day there.
Wednesday, June 9th - We left Estes Park about 6:00am to go on further north into Wyoming and to Grand Teton National Park. It took us about an hour to get out of the mountains from Estes Park. Then the scenery changed abruptly to wide open, rolling farm and ranch land. There is a vast amount of open space in Wyoming. We saw antelope in singles and in pairs all along the road. At one point, we pulled off the Interstate for a rest stop and met, head-on, a herd of white-faced Hereford cattle coming under the overpass - completely blocking the road. They were being driven by three cowboys and a dog. It was a surprising sight. At this same spot we also watched a cowboy rope a stubborn bull and drive, drag, and force him into a waiting truck. Further along the way we saw some unusual rock formations, not unlike what we later saw in Arizona and New Mexico. The most striking sight in all of this country is the beautiful deep blue sky. I snapped up a whole roll of film along this drive only to find later that I hadn't taken a one. The film had not engaged in the camera, so I lost the whole sequence. To the west of the highway for most of the way was a high mountain range, possible 20 miles away. At times the views would be spectacular as the higher mountains were still covered with snow. Then the road began climbing, and we turned slightly more to the west to find ourselves high in a spruce forest with he ground covered with snow. It had apparently fallen there within the last few days. Our hopes sprang up that we might yet see some snow falling. Soon we were able to make out the Tetons ahead - a massive uprising of rock. We had been speculating all day about whether each range that came into view was the Tetons, but when we finally saw them, there was absolutely no question. The magnificence of these mountains is really indescribable - at least not by me. The Seiglers had been with us again all day, and Charlie ("The Silver Baron") kept us alert with his running commentary, via CB, about all we were seeing. He was the self-proclaimed expert on everything. For sure, though every turn in the road brought something different and interesting,. We arrived at Colter Bay Village in the Teton National Park at 4:30pm, and checked into our rustic, but comfortable log cabin. We had driven 460 miles from Estes Park. After supper there was still a couple of hours of daylight, so while the girls washed clothes, the men scouted out some of the trails that we had previously picked out on the map to hike. It had been a good day.
Thursday, June 10th - After rising early, John and I walked down to the edge of Jackson Lake cameras in hand. The lake is between Colter Bay Village and the Teton Range. There was not a breath of air stirring, and the lake was like a mirror. The rising sun was to our backs, and shining directly on the mountains across the lake. The view of the mountains and their reflection in the lake was a beautiful thing to see. Later we piled into the truck to drive about 15 miles to the south along the lake to the smaller Jenny Lake. Here we parked the truck and began a 5 mile hike around Jenny Lake and up into the mountains to Hidden Falls on Cascades Creek. This was a particularly special adventure. Everyone was along except Charlie and Martha Ann. We saw deer, antelope and several moose along the way. The weather was beautiful. We had all worn heavy clothes, but soon found that we really didn't need them.
The view of Hidden Falls was excellent, and as usual I snapped up all the film that I had along. When we got back to the truck, we were pretty tired, but it had been a good hike. We were hungry as bears when we got back to the village restaurant, but the food was not so great. After supper, everybody kind of split up. The young Johns went fishing, some went shopping, and Ann and I drove around to Jackson Lake Lodge and then up to Signal Mountain. We decided that if we ever go back, we'll try to get rooms in the main lodge there. Each room has a picture window overlooking Jackson Lake and the Tetons. From the top of Signal Mountain one can see the entire Teton Range as well as the wide expanse of Jackson Hole. When we got back, it had started to rain, and as it turned out, bad weather was to last for quite a while.
Friday, June 11th - The clouds were really rolling in when we got up, so we took our time getting ready to leave. While eating breakfast, we met and talked with some of the several groups of bike riders that we had been seeing along the highways. They were making a cross country bike trip from Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia - about 4,300 miles. When we saw them they were 15 days into a 60 day trip, travelling 50 - 100 miles a day. The ages of the bikers ranged from 18 to 63, and it looked like they were really enjoying themselves.
It is only four miles from the northern boundary of Grand Teton National Park to the southern boundary of Yellowstone. We made our way north to the big park in late morning. There was lots of snow on the ground as we entered Yellowstone - probably the most we'd seen so far, but it was too cloudy for good pictures. We stopped at Lewis Falls, and then at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Boardwalks were laid out so that a brief walk took us past several hot pools of water that were putting out clouds of steam. The ground between the pools was a barren white color, and in places it was reddish brown. There was an odor of rotten eggs in the air. It was unusual looking, but not a pretty sight.
From there we drove on north for a ways, and then east along Yellowstone Lake. The lake is huge and would have been very photogenic under different weather conditions. We drove to a spot called "Lake Butte," a vantage point 600 feet above the lake surface. From here there was a good panoramic view of the whole lake. The lake is 20 miles long and 14 miles wide, with approximately 100 miles of shoreline. The surface is 7,700 feet above sea level.
We then backtracked through some very pretty countryside where we saw moose, elk, buffalo and deer. Our next stop was at Old Faithful where we checked into the worst accommodations of the whole trip. The heater didn't work, and it got pretty cold during the night, but we survived it and appreciated the next night more as a result. Old Faithful geyser goes off about every 65-70 minutes. The average height of the column of water in the eruption is 130 feet, and it lasts from 2 - 5 minutes. By timing the intervals between eruptions along with timing the length and measuring the heights, they can predict when the next eruption will occur. This then is posted on several signs around the area. At those times people really crowd into the area to watch. It would have been more spectacular in appearance if the sky had been clear and blue, but as it was the geyser blended in with the grey sky, and there was no contrast to set it off. We watched 5 or 6 eruptions, and have one fairly good movie sequence of the geyser. Service in the restaurants was very poor, and the food was no better. They were apparently having trouble getting workers as "help wanted" signs were all around.
Saturday, June 12th - We left Old Faithful about 11:00am for Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way we drove past many thermal features. They are all just a little different. The sun was trying to come out, and occasionally would pop through for short intervals. When this happened I usually stopped wherever we were and snapped a picture or two. Again we saw many wild animals. Laura kept a running record of how many of each kind of animal we saw. In the end the totals were like this: 6 moose, 2 buffalo, 1 bear, 133 elk, too many antelope to count, 18 bighorn sheep, 60 deer, 11 mountain goats, and thousands of chipmunks. The bear was in Glacier National Park later. In spite of the notoriety about bears in Yellowstone we never saw the first on.
The unusual formations at Mammoth Hot Springs look like garden terraces on another planet. The hot springs carry up minerals with the water, which solidify when they cool, forming these odd formations. The solidified mineral is called "travertine." The sun cooperated well when we were at the Minerva Terrace, the biggest of the springs, so I got some pictures, but they don't show it as it really was. Again, we had turned another corner and seen something very different. We then drove east through a mountainous region, saw some pretty waterfalls, large stands of lodgepole pines, high open meadows, and got up again into areas where there was still snow on the ground.
We checked into Canyon Village about 5:00pm. Our rooms there were exceptionally nice and roomy. While we were getting ready to go to dinner, Laura noticed that it had begun snowing outside. This caused considerable excitement. It continued to snow all night, and by morning there was about 4" on top of the truck. It really was a pretty sight, especially for a bunch of Florida crackers who had never seen such before. This was the high point of the day, and made up for all the bad weather that had hampered us all day long.
Sunday, June 13th - When we woke up and looked outside, we saw the ground and the trees covered with white snow. Shortly, the Normans and Seiglers came over and started a snowball fight. Johnny and Laura were still asleep and were awakened by a snowball in their faces. We started to build a snowman but the fight was more fun, so this never got very far. Ann opened the door to come out and caught a snowball right in the face. After breakfast, we went down to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and got some good pictures of the upper and lower falls. We debated about staying an extra day, but decided to stick to our schedule and go on to Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.
During the westward drive across Yellowstone to get on the road north, it started snowing again. This lasted for 2 or 3 hours. We probably should have pulled over and stopped, but we kept on going. At several points the road was completely covered. The wind began blowing, and the snow was coming in horizontally. I suppose we were in a mini-blizzard - or maybe not so mini. At one point we saw where a car had skidded off the road into a ditch. After a while the snow turned to rain, then cleared, but the sun never came out again that day.
There is also a lot of empty space in Montana. The roads are not too good, and there are very few gas stations. The Normans ran out of gas just 3 miles from the town of Augusta, Montana. We went on into town and got enough in a can to get them to the pumps. The Seiglers left us in Yellowstone to go over to California for a week. They did stay an extra day an Canyon Village, and reported later that there was a good foot of snow on the ground there before it finally quit. We learned via a CB call to a base station in Browning, Montana that the "Sun" road had been closed in Glacier. This was a real disappointment. We had planned to do a lot of hiking from trails that began along this road, and we had been told that some of the most beautiful scenery in the Rockies was along this road. We finally arrived, pretty tired, at the Rising Sun Motor Lodge about 9:00pm. It looked deserted, and was a disappointment after Canyon Village,. but we were too tired to really care. We had come a tough 455 miles from Yellowstone Park.
Monday, June 14th - We woke, miraculously, to a clear, deep blue sky. What difference from the previous few days! We were right beside a beautiful clear lake, St. Mary's Lake, with massive snow covered mountains all around. Johnny and I were up first, and drove up a ways on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and took a few pictures. Had we known then that that would be the last time we would see it in sunlight, I would have driven further, and taken more pictures. But even so we have some good ones. We decided to move over to the Many Glacier Lodge. This turned out to be a charming place. It was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1914. The atmosphere was "Old Switzerland." The employees were college kids who were not only friendly but did a good job. They were also very talented. They sang and put on regular shows, but we didn't see too much of that. John Norman and I took Laura and Laurie on a 2-hour horseback ride through some of the back country. Laura really loved that, but I don't think Laurie cared so much for it. In the afternoon we hiked up Swiftcurrent Lake and went fishing in some really beautiful surroundings. It was quite windy during the day but the sun stayed out all day. Some of the best pictures we have from the whole trip were taken here. After a 1st class dinner of prime rib and the trimmings we sat around in the huge lobby for a while. With the binoculars we spotted several mountain goats up on the mountains across the lake. They were a log way away, but the glasses made them distinct. Pretty soon we had a whole crowd at the window looking up. The lids went down to the basement where a live band was playing and really enjoyed themselves. Later we joined them and tried our hand on the dance floor. All the kids wanted to stay another day.
Tuesday, June 15th - The clouds had crept in during the night, and again we awoke to an overcast day - windy and cold. It was here that we began to think about cutting out part of the Canadian plans. Everybody was ready to get to a warmer climate. We decided to go on in to Waterton Park, Alberta. At least we could say then that we had been to Canada. There we would check the weather forecast and decide whether to go further. It was only about a 60 mile drive up there. On the way we were stopped by a flock of sheep that were being herded down the open highway. There was no way to get around so we just inched our way through them There must have been two or three thousand of the noisy, messy animals - all freshly sheared. The shepherds consisted of a man in front enticing them with a tree branch, a boy in back with a sheep dog, and one man on horseback. What a racket they made, and what a mess they left on the highway!
Waterton Township is a very pretty, small Canadian village with wide clean streets. Apparently there only a handful of hardy people who live there year around. All of the shops and businesses close during the winter, and the people leave and go to Arizona. So they have only three months to cover a year's overhead and show a profit. Prices reflect this problem. The most interesting thing we saw there was a small fir shop where they had coats of all description made out of sheepskin. We were so intrigued by this that we drove about 50 miles out into the Alberta countryside to see where the coats were made. We saw the skins being cut and sewed into all sorts of things. We bout one of the skins, a pillow and a "soccer-size" ball, but left the coats alone. They started at $250. The young lady who showed us through told us that they shipped out over 4,000 coats a year. They were far too warm for Florida though. We drove on to the city of Cardston. There was not much there but Indians and few Hutterites. We were told that most of the private land in Alberta was owned by colonies of these Hutterite people. The women wore long black gowns and little white bonnets. Another characteristic of Waterton is that wild animals are better protected by Canadian law than people are. If a deer wanders into town and strolls down the middle of Main Street everything has to stop. He has the right-of=way. We saw several bighorn sheep and some deer in town. The animals seem to know that they are safe. One of the bighorns came right up to the Norman car and almost stuck his head inside.
The weather never cleared, and the reports were discouraging, so we decided to skip the trip to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. The kids wanted to go back to Many Glacier, but they out vetoed. We heard that the "Sun" Road had been cleared an was open, so we decided to backtrack to Glacier and cross the mountains via the "Sun" then head south through Montana and Idaho to Utah.
Wednesday, June 16th - As we headed into Glacier National Park again, we saw our first bear. He was a little one right at the side of the road eating berries. The higher we climbed toward Logan's Pass, the foggier i became, so we not only had no sunshine, but we could barely see 50 yards ahead. At places the snow was banked up 12 to 15 feet along both sides of the road. It was obvious that it would have been a beautiful drive had conditions been different. We stopped at the Visitor's Center at Logan's Pass and found a warm fire going. Snow was piled high on the parking lot. Only a an arrow pathway was cut through it leading to the buildings. As we descended out of the clouds, conditions improved a little, although it was still raining. We drove on out of the park, stopping for lunch at Kalispell, Montana, then through Missoula and on to Butte where we stopped for the night. Butte is the copper capitol of the country, known as "the richest hill on earth." Over 18 1/2 million pounds of copper have been mined there. We found a copper shop and shopped for souvenirs, then had a good meal for supper at the 4Bs Restaurant. From Waterton, we had driven 382 miles. The speedometer now read that we had come 3,956 miles from home.
Thursday, June 17th - We headed south again on I-15 after an early morning departure. The road through western Montana and southeastern Idaho goes through beautiful rolling land with mountains on both sides of a 4 or 5 mile-wide valley. We stopped in Spencer, Idaho at a country grocery store and post office. The people were exceptionally friendly. We bought a pan, for panning gold, and a sackful of beef jerky. We probably won't ever find any gold, but the pan will be a good souvenir. We had lunch in Idaho Falls, which was jammed with people who had come to the area to help clean up the mess left by the flood following the Teton dam break. Housing the people whose houses were inundated by mud was the big problem. The government had commissioned several hundred house trailers, and they were arriving in a steady stream. A few miles further south we crossed the border into Utah and then came Salt Lake City.
We arrived at the Mormon capitol about 5:30pm - the rush hour. After checking into a motel and eating a smorgasbord supper, we went into downtown to see the Mormon complex. It so happened that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsed every Thursday night, so we had the opportunity of hearing them perform. Visitors were welcome, and there must have been a couple of thousand there. The tabernacle is a very unusual building. It was completed in 1867. It was made entirely of stone and timber that was hauled in by oxcart. The roof dome looks like the top of a large roasting pan and is fully self-supporting. All the roof timbers are secured with wooden pegs. Although it is old, it really has the surprising appearance of a more modern building. The seating capacity was 8,500. The acoustics are such that no electronic equipment is needed to hear every word said on the speakers platform. It is doubly remarkable that the Mormon pioneers in that remote area could have designed and built something like this.
The Mormon Temple is even more remarkable, but only members of the church are allowed in it. The Temple took over 40 years to build. It took an ox team 3 weeks to haul each granite block from a quarry 300 miles to the south. Everything in the Temple Square reflects a great attention to minute detail. The gardens and lawns were immaculate.
By taking a guided tour of the square, we learned something about the Mormon history and beliefs. They believe in the Bible, and their doctrine is not that unlike our own Baptist doctrines. The biggest difference is that they also accept the Book of Mormon as scripture. In practice there are many differences. No one is paid for doing church work. Even the bishops have outside professions for support. Each member is committed to tithing both their income and their time. With this kind of format, it is no wonder that they can accomplish so much. They claim to be the fastest growing church in the world. They also believe that a marriage can only be performed in the sacred Temple. No other form of marriage is recognized. When a convert comes into the church, he must be re-married in the Temple. As a consequence of this over 40 marriages a day are performed in the Salt Lake City Temple alone. They believe that a Temple marriage lasts for eternity, and that there is no such thing as divorce.
Mormon salvation can be obtained for deceased relatives through baptism by proxy. This is a reason for the extensive genealogical records kept by the church. Upon becoming a convert, it is expected that one search these records for long lost ancestors. When one is found then the Mormon is baptized for that ancestor, thereby saving his soul.
All in all the visit to Temple Square was an interesting experience. After returning to the motel Laura and Laurie went swimming in the indoor pool, and John and Johnny got into the sauna. The weather had now cleared, and the sky remained without a cloud for the next two days. We had driven 440 miles from Butte, Montana.
Friday, June 18th - Since we had arrived at the Mormon temple fairly late in the day, we were not able to do well with picture taking, so we returned in the morning and got some good shots. This took a couple of hours and gave the girls a chance to get the laundry done. We left Salt Lake City about 10:00am and headed south again on I-15. Southern Utah is a desolate country. The mountains are very dry looking. About 4:00pm we arrived at Ruby's Inn which is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. We were fortunate to get rooms. After settling in, we drove into the park and saw a most unusual sight. For the first 5 or 6 miles the scenery is a normal looking forest of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees with green grass on a fairly level terrain. Then, all of a sudden, there is a sheer cliff falling off some 500 feet to the "canyon" floor below. Thousands of red sandstone spires jut upward from the floor, structures that were left after an uneven erosion of thousands of years. Each "spire" is a different shape, and they all vary in color from light ivory to deep red. The overall color effect is a bright orange. We walked along the rim for a ways, then took the Navajo Loop trail down into the canyon for 2 1/2 miles. On the canyon floor looking up, the orange spires really stand out in contrast to the deep blue of the sky. It was really a sight. We all had the feeling of having somehow landed on another planet. At every turn in the trail there was another "must" picture. As a result I wound up with an over abundance of slides taken at Bryce. After the hike we were pretty tired, so we headed back to Ruby's Inn. Our rooms there were very nice, but it would have been nicer to have stayed at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, right in the park at the canyon rim. Their deluxe log cabins looked good. Bryce Canyon is located in Utah, about 280 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Saturday, June 19th - Johnny B., John Sr., and I went back to the canyon in the morning, going first around the rim by car to a natural bridge formation, then back to the Navajo Loop area where we walked the same loop as the night before, only in a reverse direction. Everything looked completely different in the morning sun. Again, many pictures. We then gathered up the rest of our party and headed south to Zion National Park. Zion is about 75 miles south of Bryce - still in Utah. After all the spectacular things we had seen in Bryce, Zion was a little tame. Had we seen it first, I'm sure that we would have been more impressed. Even so, it was beautiful in its own way. After entering the park, the road descends through a series of switchbacks, and a mile long tunnel, to the canyon floor. This is a canyon in the truest sense. It was eroded out by the forces of the Virgin River. The scenery going down is composed of numerous massive rocks and boulders. The colors are dark, varying from deep reds to almost black. The road itself is a red, maroon color. When the road reaches the canyon floor, the scenery changes to a lush forest of cottonwood trees. The lodge is located in the deepest part of the canyon. When we got out of the car it felt like getting into an oven. The temperature must have been in the high 90s. Our rooms were not ready, so we had to wait a frustrating 2 hours. We finally got organized and then drove down to the end of the road. At this point the canyon walls were 2,000 feet high. We parked the car and walked another mile by the side of the Virgin River. At the end of the trail the river took up all of the space between the canyon walls. To have gone further would have meant getting wet, so we backtracked to the car and returned to the lodge. After a not-so-good supper we spent about an hour sitting on some benches on the lawn in front of the lodge. By then a breeze was relieving some of the heat. Afterwards we returned to our cabin for an evening of pinochle.
Sunday, June 20th - There was an inviting trail on the other side of the river from the lodge that we decided to hike in the morning. Along the trail were many tropical looking plants and flowers, delicate little water falls, and some emerald colored pools of water. The 1 1/2 mile hike took about an hour. The dark colored rocks and the heat were somewhat depressing to me, but to some, Zion was a very special place. We met one retired lady on the trail who claimed that this was her favorite spot on earth. She spent 3 weeks there every year. To each his own. It certainly was an unusual place.
After consulting the maps, we decided to visit the Grand Canyon at its north rim next. By now. everyone was getting a little sensitive about the long daily drives, and it looked like we could save about a hundred miles by going to the north rim instead of the south rim. However, along the way we got into a CB conversation with a man who seemed to know a great deal about the area. After learning of our intentions, he advised us to take the extra time and go to the south rim - that we would see much more of the canyon from there and have better facilities. So that's what we did.
We had another interesting conversation with a CBer on vacation. He had run into hail in Iowa, 3 1/2" in diameter. The hail had destroyed the roof of his travel trailer. We were grateful that hadn't happened to us. Just after crossing into Arizona, the road dipped down into a wide valley known as the Marble Canyon, then followed the valley floor for about 50 miles. On our left about 5 miles away were high cliffs of red sandstone. These were the Vermillion Cliffs. The valley floor was an arid desert. At the end of the canyon we crossed the bridge over the Colorado River. The river was about a thousand feet below, and was so clear that every stone could be seen on the bottom. The river was a deep green color. On the east side of the river was the Navajo Indian Reservation. What a barren, desolate land! We surely have nothing to be proud of in the knowledge that we have banished the Indians to this forsaken place. All along the road the Indians have little stands set up to sell their jewelry and beads.
After passing southward through the painted desert, then westward again for about 50 miles, we finally arrived at the Grand Canyon. All the reading and pictures didn't even come close to preparing us for what we saw at the big canyon. It is immense. We arrived in time to take some pictures and watch the sunset. The canyon is just too vast to fully appreciate. There is a trail that follows the rim for about 4 miles; there is a trail that can be taken by mule to the bottom; there are airplane concessions that will fly you through the canyon; and there are helicopters that can be chartered to descend into the canyon. We only took time to walk a part of the rim trail. The can yon, formed over millions of years by the Colorado River, is 277 miles long and averages about 10 miles across. It is 5,700 feet deep. The south rim altitude is 7,400 feet, while the north rim is about 1,000 feet higher. After a call home the Normans learned that the Sieglers were spending the night at the north rim, so they called over there and made plans to meet them on the road to Mesa Verde on Monday. The Grand Canyon was the most crowded place that we had been. People from all over the world were there to take a look. And there were all sorts of camping rigs. The campsites were all jammed, with lines forming in the early morning to get space for the night. We had travelled about 263 miles from Zion to get here.
Monday, June 21st - We got up early in the morning and walk 1 1/2 miles along the rim trail. Ann drove John Sr., Johnny and I to Yavupai Point and we walked and took pictures along the rim westward to the El Tovar Hotel where we caught a bus back to our rooms. John then took his car to a service station to have the tires switched around Soon afterwards we left to travel eastward through the desert to Cortez, Colorado where we had phoned ahead for reservations. We met the Seiglers about half way. We now had our original 12 back together.
We did very little stopping along the road through the desert. The wind was fierce, and the cars got a real sand blasting. We did stop at Four Corners for pictures of each of us standing in a different state. This is the only spot in the U.S. that is common to four states: Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. We arrived in Cortez about 5:00pm after a 280 mile day. John had been hungry for Mexican food so we had a dinner of tacos, tamales, durritos, and tortillas (not exactly my favorite fare) at the Pony Express Restaurant. After dinner the 6 kids went to the pool, and the rest of us compared notes on where we had been. The Seiglers had been to San Francisco, down through Yosemite, to Los Angeles and Las Vegas since they had left us.
Tuesday, June 22nd - From Cortez it was only about fifteen miles to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, then a 21 mile climb up to the Visitor Center. There we were briefed by the rangers on what there was to see along the road through the ruins of the cliff dwellers.
These people lived in Mesa Verde from about 550 AD until about 1300 AD. Their civilization developed from early cave and pit dwellings above ground. Then in about 1200 AD something caused them to move everything they had into the cliffs. Their inventiveness and initiative is very apparent in the design and construction of these cliffside dwellings. Then, in 1300 AD it was all abandoned. A prolonged drought may have been the reason. From then until 1888 there is no evidence that human life existed in the area. At that time a couple of cowboys searching for lost cows stumbled onto the dwellings.
The present road through the park is so laid out that a visitor can follow, in a chronological order the progress of the ancient people. We skipped some of i for the sake of time and stopped at only a few of the "above ground" sites. We toured the Spruce Tree House, the Sun Temple, Cliff Palace, and Balcony House, all names added in recent time.
Balcony House will probably be the best remembered. It could only be seen by groups of 50 accompanied by a ranger. We were warned that there were some strenuous climbs in the rocks, a 32' ladder, a 14' tunnel only 3' wide, etc., but it didn't really sound that bad. When we got in there and saw the 32' ladder on the side of a 1,000' cliff there were a lot of cold feet. Ann would surely have backed out if there had been a way, but by then we were committed. I got stuck in the little tunnel and thereafter had my CB handle changed to Tunnelblocker. But we made it safely through. Our guide was very knowledgeable and gave us a good lecture.
We also visited the museum that traces the history of these people and displays numerous artifacts that were found in the dwellings. We spent about 5 hours in the park. It was a high point of the trip. We then drove on to Durango, Colorado where we hoped to take the narrow gauge train to Silverton in the morning.
Wednesday, June 23rd - Since we were running 4 days ahead of our original plans, our train reservations were not until the 27th. So we had hoped they were not sold out. We called the depot the night before and found that all space had been reserved, but that we could come down and stand in line in case someone cancelled out. We were also told that the line usually started forming at 5:30am. So, John Sr. and I got up early and were at the depot at 6:10am. There already 50 people ahead of us, the first having been there since 4:30am. My first thought was to forget it, but we decided that it really must be a worthwhile trip if this sort of thing went on every day. So we took our place in line. Five minutes later there were 50 more people behind us, and by 7:00am there must have been 200 waiting. One train left at 8:30am and another at 9:00am. To shorten the story, we missed the first and made it on the second. When bought our 12 tickets ($10.25 ea) there were only 3 seats left, so 150 people didn't get on. We were told that it is like that 7 days a week from June through September. The ride was definitely worth the wait.
It took 3 1/2 hours to reach Silverton. We stayed there an hour and a half. Then it took 3 hours to return. The tracks followed the Animas River from Durango (6,517' elevation) to Silverton (10,000' elevation), a distance of 45 miles. It took 4 1/2 tons of coal to get the 11 car train up there, and 1 1/2 tons to return. We were in the last car which was an open gondola - ideal for taking pictures, but not so good for avoiding cinders. This is an authentic railroad, operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co. It was 6:30pm when we pulled into the depot again at Durango.
After dinner we learned that John's stepfather in Brandon had had a heart attack and had been taken to the hospital. As a result of this news the Normans and Sieglers (Martha Ann was John's sister) decided to leave at 4:00am the next morning and head for home. So we said good=bye to them and went to bed. We still had a week to go before having to leave for home ourselves.
Thursday, June 24th - Leaving Durango, the speedometer showed that we had now been 5,476 miles since leaving home. We headed north again on Rt. 550 and very quickly came to Silverton, passing through some really beautiful countryside. The road then became very winding and slow going until we came to Ouray. From there it leveled out more and we were able to make good time. We stopped in Montrose to buy some of the Colonel's chicken and took it on up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for a picnic lunch. After all the sights we had seen, the Black Canyon was very anti-climactic. It is just another big hole in the ground - unusual, but not particularly pretty. There was no way to get down to the Gunnison River below. We took some pictures and left, going east to the town of Gunnison. Our motel there was probably the nicest of the whole trip. We arrived early enough for the kids to enjoy the pool for a long swim. This part of Colorado is more desert-like, with a few sandy looking hills and very few trees. We had come 205 miles from Durango.
Friday, June 25th - Since we were still ahead of our original schedule we decided to detour from the itinerary and drive around by way of the Great Sand Dunes. We crossed some relatively low mountains and then found ourselves in a wide flat valley. San Luis Valley is larger than the state of Maryland. There were potato farms, sheep and cattle on the land, but it looked pretty dry and barren. We arrive at the Great Sand Dunes about 10:00am and decided to climb - on foot. Ann sat in the car while the rest went on the hike. Laura says that Mom was the only smart one. In the loose sand you go 2 steps forward and one back. The highest of the dunes is about 700' high. Judging from this we probably made it up about 500'. The sky, again, was the deep blue that was so beautiful. I made the mistake of using the polarizer when taking pictures, and the sky showed up black. The prevailing wind in the valley is always blowing from the northwest. This pushes the sand to the southeast end of the valley which is surrounded by high mountains. There is no place else for the sand to go, so it just continues to pile up in the dunes. After that excursion we headed northward again to see the Royal Gorge. This is a very highly over-commercialized place. The bridge is supposedly the highest suspension bridge in the world, but it surely is not so unusual to be worth the $12 we paid to go across. We also rode the inclined railway down to the bottom of the canyon where a railroad follows the river through the gorge. Building this railroad seemed to me more of a super feat than the bridge. We then went into Canon City for the night. Mileage for the day was 330 miles.
Saturday, June 26th - I was a short 38 mile trip from Canon City to Colorado Springs. We started up Pikes Peak by car about 9:15am (toll: $8.00). The paved road stops after about 5 miles, then there is only smoothed out clay and gravel. Up to the timber line the scenery is super. Then, there is only what appears to be a pile of small loose rock. We stopped at the top for a while, watched the cog railway cars come in, then headed back. Total time up and back was 3 hours. I was a thrilling drive with many switchbacks.
the truck performed as well as could be expected at the high altitude. there was a very definite lack of power though, as if it were not getting enough gas. On the way down we had to be careful not to ride the brakes, so we came down in low gear with the air- conditioner on to help slow things down. Even so, still had to use the brakes some. When we later got to a motel, we found that a lot of race cars were gathering for an annual 4th of July race up the Pikes Peak road. I would like to have seen that. We had hoped to have a chuckwagon supper at the Flying W Ranch in Manitou Springs, so after getting down off the mountain we drove out to the ranch to see how it looked and to make reservations. On arrival we discovered that they were sold out for the supper but were just before serving lunch. This was something new, so we decided to stay and try it. They served the same meal as in the evening and put on the same show. They served 213 meals in 9 minutes. We went through the line, each with a tin plate, and were served roast beef, beans, not biscuits, baked potato, apple sauce, cake, and lemonade. In the evening they serve 1,400 people in 22 minutes. After everyone was through the line they announced that we could come back for seconds until it was all gone. For $4.50 it was quite a meal. Then came the entertainment which lasted about an hour and a half. Cowboys did some range songs, Indians dances, there were some comedy acts, etc. - all very well done. We were there altogether about 2 hours. We then went through the Garden of the Gods and took some pictures of the unusual rock formations. I guess by this time, weird rock formations no longer turned u on. After supper, we rode around town for a while, then turned in.
Sunday, June 27th - We got up and dressed for church, not knowing where we might be at church time, but determined to go. We then headed north from Colorado Springs to the Air Force Academy. At the gate, we learned that the first service of the day in the Air Force chapel was at 9:00am. It was then 8:30am. Our timing was perfect. So we attended a very beautiful service in the magnificent chapel It seemed very fitting to worship this last Sunday of our National Park tour in an institution dedicated to protecting this beautiful land of ours. From the looks of the clean cut young men being trained at the academy, our future is in good hands. I thought it very appropriate, also, that the chapel is the dominant building in all of this vast complex. One of the cadets was kind enough to escort me out onto the parade grounds for picture taking. We then took a brief tour of the other buildings - a very impressive place. We then headed north on I-25 toward Denver. We had decided to spend two more of our extra days going back to Estes Park. 'this time we went west from Denver, then north into Granby, Colorado where we spent the evening. Interstate highway I-70 west from Denver goes right through the Rocky Mountains, crossing the Continental Divide, and on west to Salt Lake City. This is a most beautiful drive. Someday I would like to take it all the way. Granby is a small town just south and west of the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. We checked into a motel, ate supper, then went on up into the park to stay until dark. About dusk we saw a herd of 50 or 60 elk.
Monday, June 28th - We rose early so we could have a full day in the park. The Trail Ridge Road is just as pretty on the west side of the divide as it is on the east. We crossed the divide while still below the timber line, then immediately climbed up above for those sensational views that we had seen three weeks before. This time quite a bit of the snow had melted, and there was more exposed tundra.
We wanted to stop at the same spot we had before to take comparison pictures, but they were blasting along the road and weren't letting anybody stop. We continued on across and down, then proceeded to Bear Lake, a scene that Ann and Laura had missed before. It was every bit as pretty as before, even though a lot of the snow had disappeared. Laura especially enjoyed feeding the chipmunks. We then went on in to Estes Park and again ate at the Country Kitchen. The mile hike around the lake had our appetites up. We then walked around town for a while, and went on to the motel. After relaxing there for awhile, we then picked up another bucket of chicken and went into the park to watch the animals come out at dusk. We had a nice picnic and walk along the Fall River, but saw only a few deer and one lone elk. There were many more people here than before. It may have been why there was a scarcity of animals. Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful place. We all hated to have to leave it.
Thursday. June 29th - We got up early and began the long journey home, somewhat reluctantly. We had had a great time, and had seen a lot of the West, but all good things must end. We headed south again to Denver, then again through Colorado Springs, then into New Mexico through Raton, and into Texas where we stopped for the night in Amarillo. Along the way, we saw an extinct volcano, scattered mountains, a lot more desert, a Texas style roadblock complete with sheriff deputies, shotguns, etc., and met some new CB friends (Boogeyman, Indiana Hat Man, et al). We travelled 504 miles getting to Amarillo.
Wednesday, June 30th - Laura wanted to see Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so after checking the maps we headed est out of Amarillo on I-40 through Oklahoma City, then to Tulsa. ORU is a remarkable place - one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. Most of the buildings were new. The ultra modern architecture must have cost many millions of dollars. We had a tour of their chapel which seats over 4,000, then walked around the campus to the administration building where we picked up a catalog. The campus looks large enough to accommodate 10 or 15 thousand students, but we were told that they had only 3,000. We then headed east again and crossed into Arkansas where we spent the night in Ft. Smith. We had a smorgasbord dinner at the King's Table, then settled in at the Sheraton Inn.
Thursday, July 1st - Coming out of Ft. Smith, we were in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains - very pretty rolling country with the ground covered by bright yellow flowers. I tried to get some pictures of them but it was hard to get them to show up in a small frame like they really looked. After about an hour on the road, Johnny's big supper from the previous night began to come up on him, so we spent a couple of hours taking it easy in a very nice rest area. He was really feeling bad. When he felt up to riding again, we headed south through Little Rock, Pine Bluff, then on the Louisiana where we followed the west bank of the Mississippi River for several miles. We crossed the Mississippi at Vicksburg, Mississippi. There is not much difference in the landscape between southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Each has fields and more fields of cotton and soy beans. Even the local banks, in addition to having time and temperature on their signs, flash out the latest futures market on cotton and soybeans. We had planned to stop for the night in Jackson, Mississippi, but Ann was driving and couldn't find a way off the expressway./ So we went on down to Hattiesburg, the home of the University of Southern Mississippi. We arrived after dark, and had some trouble finding a vacant motel room. We were pretty tired after the 517 mile day.
Friday, July 2nd - We left Hattiesburg about 8:00am and had a very pretty drive to Mobile. We found Bellingrath Gardens after some wandering around and spent a couple of hours there. It was really something, although most of the flowers were not at their peak. This must really be a really be a sight when the azaleas and camellias are in bloom. We enjoyed the southern cooking of the cafeteria at Bellingrath. I got a special platter of chicken gizzards and vegetables. We stopped briefly in Fairhope, Alabama for a tour of a grandfather clock assembly plant. I bought small movement to experiment with. Then we came on through Pensacola and into Ft. Walton Beach where the crowds were already gathering for the 4th of July weekend. We found a room in the Holiday Inn facing the beach. It was kinda good to get back to Florida. The beaches in the panhandle of Florida are far superior to our beaches at home. The water was a clear green color, and the beach was wide and white. The Holiday Inn restaurant featured a seafood buffet that night. They had all you could eat of baked grouper, broiled amberjack, fried mullet, kingfish, stonecrab claws, fried oysters, oysters on the 1/2 shell, fried shrimp, boiled-in-the-shell shrimp, shrimp creole, shrimp salad, fried scallops, deviled crabs, vegetables, hushpuppies, and other stuff including fresh peach cobbler. It was really super! We had to walk for a couple of hours on the beach afterwards to help the digestive process.
Saturday, July 3rd - We stayed at the motel until checkout time at noon and soaked up some sun. We then packed up and headed for home. By then the holiday crowds were really coming in. It took almost an hour to get through Panama City. We went through Tallahassee, then on to I-75 where we turned south, arriving in Brandon about 9:30pm.
The trip was really a great experience. We had travelled 8,700 miles; been through 21 states; seen 9 national parks; seen a part of Canada; taken 23 rolls of slides and 11 rolls of movie film; bought 748.6 gallons of gas; and spent just under $2,400. Allowing for what it would have cost to live at home for the month anyway, the net cost of the trip was approximately $1,600. It was all very much worth it. This country of ours is really full of natural wonders. Seeing a few of them only whets the appetite for seeing more. Now comes the chore of getting reorganized at home.
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