One of Toni’s college friends from Ohio State University has kept in touch with Christmas letters over the years. After 50 years she gets to renew the friendship with Rob and meet his wife Paula. Two new friends for me! Formerly residents of New Hampshire they now live in Ridgway, Colorado.
The timing was fortuitous for me as I recovered from a case of restaurant sourced food poisoning to be in the warm home and kindness of these two caring humans. The weather was typical for this late spring: showers of both the liquid and solid variety with temperatures in the high 40’s.
We did get to drive the million dollar highway to Silverton stopping along the way to see the scenery and take a few pictures.
In Silverton we marked the arrival of the steam powered train from Durango, had a nice lunch and then walked the streets window shopping this former mining town which at one time consisted largely of bars and bordellos.
And of course we did see some wildlife along the road
It snowed the night before our May 18th departure and I was concerned that my summer tires would not get me safely off the mountain. It turned out the snow melted on the roads before the fields and vehicles. We took a few pictures in their living room next to their “Kiva Fireplace” to pass the time while the temperature climbed a few degrees outside.
Utah Take Three
Our last stop in Colorado was Hot Tomatoes in the town of Fruita: a phenomenal Pizza Restaurant owned by two talented mountain biking women. Patagonia sponsored them in the production of an independent film which competed in the Mountain Film Festival. Toni saw it at Dartmouth College so we just had to stop. Great Pizza and friendly ambiance!
As we walked down main street looking for a coffee shop we came across the most unique “Little Library” near Main Street which really captured our hearts.
Crossing the border into Utah we had the option of taking the scenic route to Moab, so we did. Following the Colorado River along Route 128 I was once again reminded of the Colorado Plateau which at 120,000 square miles covers a large portion of four states. See the image below.
In thinking of the Colorado Plateau, I would summarize it as a vast segment of the earth’s crust which was thrust upward 15 – 20 million years ago as shifting sections of tectonic plates collided. What was left was an area of high desert plain which tilted to the south with various geologic forces creating mountain ranges, tilted folds, volcanic irregularities and hot springs and a progressively steeper incline to this area. Now imagine what happens as water moves on this tilted plain as rain or melted snow. There is a continuous flow during the most recent six millions of years as water seeks the lowest level, flowing around higher areas and eroding more deeply into the earth on its southward journey. What I have just described are the water courses and deep canyons of the Green, San Juan, Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers which drain 90% of this plateau. The Rio Grande drains the remaining 10%. Canyonlands National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park owe their dramatic terrain to this erosive effect. Add some wind, freeze-thaw and gravitational effect and you have the unusual stone formations of Arches, Bryce, Zion and many of the other National Parks of this area.
Here are a few scenes along route 128 as we headed to Moab.
More breathtaking scenery created by the awesome forces of nature
The weather was mostly overcast with periods of rain during our stay in the Canyonlands area. Clouds and gray skies affected our views and the photographs we took.
We considered taking a drive on some of the roads along the lower rim but were concerned about the effects of rain on the dirt road surface. Camping in Dead Horse State Park came with an electrical hookup (to power a heating pad for Toni) along with hot water and heated floors in the restrooms. Despite these amenities we moved along a day earlier and headed to Capitol Reef NP. A stay in a rustic motel with an excellent café restaurant improved our spirits but not the weather.
The name Capital Reef evolved from one monolithic dome which reminded some observers of the dome of the US Capital. The reef, not unlike those in the oceans, was a barrier to east-west travel. The only paved corridor is scenic US Route 24 which follows the breech in the reef created by the Freemont River near the historic LDS community and the park visitor’s center.
In a previous blog posting I discussed a monocline uplifting fold in the Earth’s crust in southern Utah called Comb Ridge. In Capital Reef NP there is a similar north-south monocline called “Waterpocket Fold”. This 80 mile long warp in the Earth’s crust (originating 50 – 70 million years ago) is a steep fold on one side of horizontal strata which is about 7000 feet higher in the west than on the eastern slope. The term “waterpocket” arises from round pools of water which resulted from the heightened erosion of the sandstone layer when a more recent uplift occurred 15 million years ago accentuating the gradient.
It is the combination of geologic forces and subsequent erosion that have created the cliffs, domes, canyons, arches and monoliths which are found in Capital Reef NP. We were captured by the variety of formations and photos of a few below.
The historic community of Fruita, UT along the Freemont River was settled by Mormons in the 1880’s. They planted orchards with several varieties of fruit trees (hence the name Fruita) and built irrigation systems to water the trees and pastures which enabled a self sustaining agrarian lifestyle. The national park maintains the orchards and several historic buildings to this day.
A renewal of friendships
A number of years ago we had the privilege of sharing our home with two different couples who each spent a year on an LDS mission at the Joseph Smith birthplace memorial which is just a stone’s throw from our home in Vermont. Visiting them on our way to Salt Lake City was an opportunity to renew the friendship. Each of them showed us some of the special features of their home community and welcomed us with open arms.
Sally and Phil in Salem, UT are both retired teachers and enjoyed traveling to historic sites during their year in Vermont. We heard all about their children and 21 grand children! They have a lovely garden in their back yard which features two Koi ponds had really benefited from the recent wet weather. Lunch at the Chuck a Rama Buffet was very filling.
Ruby and Nephi in Midway, UT hosted us for an overnight. They recently returned from a volunteer mission in Laos and regaled us with stories of the Hmong residents, their culture and the countryside. Most of their efforts focused on teaching English and providing potable water wells and storage facilities. They showed us some of the Hmong “Story Quilts” which they brought home with them after their year abroad. Ruby is an accomplished artist and a tasteful interior decorator which is evident throughout their home. I still treasure her gift of a painting of a Vermont Covered Bridge with a barn board frame created by Nephi. During our visit to the Heber Valley Artisan Cheese Factory a large mural painted by Ruby was featured prominently.
Salt Lake City is in a broad valley between two mountain ranges: The Wasatch Range on the east and the Oquirrh (pronounced Oak’ er) Mountains on the west. Both still had now capped peaks which is unusual for late May.
We arrived at the home of Dianne and Deb the day before they were due to leave for a meditation workshop. The house tour familiarized us with the mechanicals as well as their dog, Watson, and two cats Molly and Ivan. All three provided assurance we were acceptable guests before the evening was over. I fed the cats and gave Molly her insulin injections while their people were away.
Deb and Dianne are part of the alumni group from Trail Blazer Camps who gathered in Pennsylvania last fall. Toni was a counselor there during her college year summers. Juanita and Sylvia, also part of the alum gathering, joined us during a stopover from a Trail Blazer Camp related trip to New York City. What fun!
A Family Reunion over Memorial Weekend
An inauspicious beginning to my visit brought a cloud to the first sunny day in weeks. My brother Hank and I were stranded briefly 20 miles north of the city when their handicapped van broke down. We waited in a shady parking lot for a rescue by a car hauler and transportation back the city, thanks to Toni. All was not lost: Dinner at the Red Robin restaurant (thanks to a gift certificate from our niece Huntly in Virginia) and a promise of a return visit to the Air Museum at Hill Air Force Base later in the week wrapped up the day.
A family cookout on Sunday afternoon made good use of the continued fair weather. 21 family members were in attendance at Liberty Park including Clarissa who flew in from NY to complete the trio of surviving siblings from our immediate family.
Large family gatherings tend to be the rule when they include LDS members
Hank and I finally made it to the Air Museum—after all he is retired Air Force.
Next we head north to more National Parks in Wyoming & Montana