We traveled to Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, and upper Antelope Canyon. I tracked our journey using amateur radio APRS where radio stations picked up our location and put it on a map which we can show courtesy of Google Earth.
For our last stop on this trip, we stayed in Page, Arizona, and visited Antelope Canyon. This is on Navajo land and you must take a tour guide to visit. You ride about 10 minutes on a jeep-like vehicle to the mouth of the canyon. We chose to visit the upper canyon which has a level floor. Once you arrive at the canyon, you (and hundreds of others) walk up the narrow canyon about 100 yards. The canyon walls are breathtaking. All you see was carved by water through the sandstone. There is a very real danger of flash floods so they only tour when the weather is clear. I don't know what else to say about it but as you see, the canyon is truly fabulous.
What trip to Arizona scenic wonders would be complete without a stop at the Grand Canyon? We had never seen the north rim so we decided to include it. Since we made this decision late, we couldn't get reservations at the Grand Canyon North Rim campground, but we found that there were some national forest campgrounds in the area that were available. We got a spot in Jacob Lake campground and found that it was a really nice one. We were 40 miles north of the North Rim but any trip we made to the North Rim had to go right by Jacob Lake so we felt it was a good place to stay, and it was.
Monument Valley is in the Navajo Nation at the border of Arizona and Utah. There is a 13 mile Valley Drive which goes down switchbacks to get to the valley, then this dirt road wanders around the monuments and other formations in the valley. You will recognize much of the scenery as it was made famous in many John Ford movies, some starring John Wayne.
The winds blow across the plain from the San Juan Mountains toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, blowing sand. When the winds hit the Sangre de Cristo, the sand gets deposited against the Mountain. Result: a great sand dune. This is not your ordinary sand pile. These dunes are hundreds of feet high (as much as 755 feet) and cover many square miles of space. I didn't expect this in Colorado. We saw sand dunes in Michigan along the shore of Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and along the pacific coast, but here in a semi-arid place? Surprising. And quite interesting. Could you resist climbing at least a little of the dunes?
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a place we recently learned about. It is not one of the better known national parks. That said, it is pretty spectacular. The Gunnison River runs from south to north through a steep and narrow canyon that the river carved through some very dark rock. There is the south rim of the canyon where most visit, and then there is the north rim which is harder to get to, and there is no road directly connecting the two rims. We visited the south rim as it was more visited and we have learned that this probably means it is the better side to visit. I don't know for sure in this case but I would select the side with paved roads rather than dirt roads.
The Colorado National Monument is in southern Colorado near Grand Junction. To reach it, you drive up about 4 miles through switchbacks and tunnels until you reach the Uncompahgre Plateau, about 2000 feet above the valley where the Colorado River flows. There, you can follow the only park road, Rim Rock Drive, where you drive along the top of the eroded features below you. This doesn't really describe it very well but you look out on pinnacles, canyons, "monuments," and mesas.
On September 7-8, 2018, we visited Dinosaur National Monument. The NM is half in Utah (the dinosaur fossils) and half in Colorado (the Green River, Harpers Corner, and Echo Valley). We planned to spend one day at the dinosaur fossil part and one day in the Harper Corners Road part but the dinosaur fossil part was really only a morning, although it was very interesting. I discovered that the fossils were discovered about 100 years ago and some virtually intact skeletons were taken to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, where I saw them as a child and marveled at them. It was so cool to see the site now, and to see where they found all of the fossils.
Retirement is great. We bought a travel trailer and are exploring National Parks. (Actually, we bought one and sold it and bought a second one better suited to us. It happens...) And I have time to do some woodworking projects and things around the house. And now I have gotten interested in ham radio so there goes any free time.