Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Wrap Up

The whole route!

Looking back on the trip, I can rate where I/we will return to and what will be avoided as follows.

The Good to the bad..

  • Silverton, Colorado - (10) This is unfair because Silverton seems like a second home now. We have returned 4 years concurrent and it will surely be the base from more exploration of the rockies in the future.
  • Taos, NM - (9+) Another favorite. I'd like to spend a good month in Taos exploring everything there is to see in that region including visits again to Chama and Eagle's Nest.
  • Tombstone, AZ - (8) I'd like to be in town when there are more festivities. I/we will return.
  • Bluff, UT - (7) I'd like to base out of Bluff and explore the surrounding area, dipping back into Monument Valley.
  • Liberal, KS - (6) this town and surrounding area looked to be very nice and should make a great base to explore the plains states.
  • Carlsbad Caverns and area - (4) I have seen all I need to. A return trip will be unlikely.
  • Amarillo, TX - (3) This area reminds me of an older, Inland Empire in the LA, California area. I will only stop to visit The Big Texas Steak House again, for RV and Truck parts or service or to see Palo Duro Canyon which we missed,
  • Dodge City, KS - (1) What a joke! What a disappointment! What a waste of time!
  • El Paso, TX - (-1000)  The town reminds me of East LA on Very Bad Steroids yet far, far from the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean. 

Next Trip -- Bonneville Speed Week!

Monday, July 18, 2011

ROAD TRIP - @ Monument Valley and a bit of The Grand Canyon

This is our second trip in a few years to Monument Valley. Previously, we were in a bit of a hurry and did not take the scenic loop in the Navajo Tribal Park, which is included in the $25 a car load entry fee to the observation point at the "The View Lodge". This time, we had the entire afternoon available and the Dodge 4x4 Pickup behind the Monsterhome, instead of my Wife's Caddy Escalade.  The Loop road is definitely rough and sandy in spots. The Navajo folks are right to only allow vehicles with decent ground clearance to make the trip.

More info on Monument Valley can be found as follows:

WikiTravel.org
WikiPedia - Monument Valley
Navajo Nation, Parks & Recreation

Needless to say, Monument Valley is a Photographer's Paradise of color and contrasts. I will attempt to live up to my formal experience with the following images.

A panorama shot from The View Lodge

A pano from the Loop Trail






RV PARK REVIEW - Goulding's Lodge Campground

Hmm, the highest priced park we stayed in, the entire trip. We paid $70 for one night with a Good Sam discount!! Add filthy bathrooms, a lousy wi-fi signal, cramped quarters. I rate this place a 2 of 10 and only deserving points for the close proximity to the tribal park. Without question, these rip off artists need some serious competition!

Info on this RV park can be found as follows:

Company Website
RV Park Reviews

Grand Canyon National Park

We had my wife's sister aboard for the trip from Silverton, Colorado to Las Vegas, NV and we agreed that it would be a fitting surprise for her to see the Grand Canyon again, having last visited when she was a very young child.

We entered from the east side on the south rim and stopped first at "The Tower".  This attraction had a good number of vistors that by all indications were made up @ 60% foreign countries. I say "thank you, we appreciate the business you bring. I hope you enjoyed your stay, and lastly please come again".

Pano from The Tower edge of the Canyon
Another!
Just something neat @ The Tower
Next stop was Mather Point. Wow, was it ever crowded. We stayed at nearby, Trailer Village in 2007 and the crowds were much less intense. This time, the parking lots were full with many, many people fighting for parking spots, bumping into each other and also into polls and other objects.

We had planned to take lunch at the Yavapai Lodge but, there was certainly no room to park our rig as we had before.

I loathe crowds but, I have to be happy for the Park and it's employees that are enjoying a high visitor rate this year.

Pano from Mather Point

Monday, July 11, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Silverton, Co to Monument Valley, UT

It's hard to leave paradise but, the Salt Mine has us all on a leash for now. We bid Silverton and our friends farewell, thanked them for their hospitality and camaraderie and hit the road for a two day journey back to our home in Las Vegas, NV.

This route would take us through both Monument Valley for a nightly stop over and the Grand Canyon National Park for a quick stop.


The drive to the southwest takes us to Cortez, Colorado where we make a fuel stop at Fraley's Sinclar, one of the last "easy in and out" truck stop in our path for the next 400 miles. Out of Cortez we are on the former Highway 666, now 160. this road is a bumpy mess all the way down to the junction off to Monument Valley where the road just gets worse. There is some construction to fix things up. Hopefully the next pass through this stretch will not toss all the clothes off the hanger pole in the RV closet.

To Monument Valley, we turned off on Colorado 41, Utah 162. Now this road is narrow, real narrow, like driving on some of the more remote stretches of Highway 1 in Baja, and then you have the bicyclists!!! We counted over a dozen spread out widely on this route, all fit woman, all heading west on a 12" wide shoulder.

Three in a row of a dozen. Check the heat waves
on the road horizon
Bluff Fort, Bluff Utah

There is a new reason to visit Bluff, Utah - The Bluff Fort is the benefit fo some very outstanding care-taking, restoration and craftsmanship. here are a few photos:

Pano of the cabin area of fort
Inside Pano of a Pioneer's Cabin
Inside the Meeting House

More info on Bluff, Utah and the surrounding areas can be found HERE .

Out of Bluff we descended into the magic of Monument Valley. Stay tuned for that entry, coming soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Small Town 4th of July

Vets in front of the American Legion Hall on the 4th of July
God Bless America!
There is nothing more patriotic on the 4th than celebrating this special holiday in "Small Town, USA", and Silverton Colorado is one of the best. The entire town turns out for the parade putting on a show that attracts 30,000+ people from surrounding areas.

There are events all day long - the highlights are the parade at 10:30am, followed by the Fireman's Water Fight, ending with the 45 minute long fireworks display at 9:30 pm.

Good Article on the Silverton parade.

ATV's and Jeeps are a big part of the parade!
Not a Prius to be seen in town - period!
A sailboat?
The Silverton VFD cooling of the crowd!
Let the water fight commence!

Click HERE to see the entire photo album.

Hi-Def Video- Fireman's Water Fight and Fireworks





Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Off-road - The Alpine Loop

Truly on top of the world at "Oh Point" near Engineer Pass, elev 12,800'
The Alpine Loop  over Cinnamon Pass to Lake City, then back over Engineer Pass is a "must do trip" for anyone with a 4x4 vehicle. The trip takes about 6-7 hours all told when traveling from Silverton, Colorado and then back. The road is very easy in the lower elevations near Lake City and slightly challenging in the higher elevations. Any 4x4 can make the trip.


You can download the Google Map HERE.

More photos from the top.

Looking East
Looking West
Info on these sections at TrailDamage.com

Cinnamon Pass
Engineer Pass

Traffic on the loop. Two guys on big BMW GS1200's in front of us.
Heading down after Cinnamon Pass near the Sloan Lake fork.
Switchbacks!
Once down in Lake City, we stopped at the famous "Southern Vittles" restaurant for their legendary Country Fried Steak meal. Many Texans hang their hat in Lake City in the summer and with them has come this great eatery.

You can find more about Southern Vittles HERE.

Southern Vittles Restaurant
AWESOME Country Fried Steak!
Heading back, we follow Henson Creek which was really roaring, and then up to Engineer Pass.

Huge snow pack at Engineer Pass

Wet roads yet, with great traction.

ROAD TRIP - Off-road - Clear Lake

Clear Lake Panaorama
One of the most interesting destinations near Silverton is Clear Lake. A turquoise, crystal clear, alpine lake, high above the timberline. In most years, you can drive to this lake by the 4th of July weekend. Any 4x4 vehicle can make the trip. A low range transfer case and some extra ground clearance is a bonus as the road does become steep and has some very mild rock crawling spots near the top.

Full Map
Detail Map of Switchbacks

You can download and see this Google Map HERE

Still lots of snow. The road had been open for only one day.
Looking down from above.
Just back under the Timberline heading down from
Clear Lake. The view of the valley below.

SOUTH MINERAL CAMPGROUND

The nicest, public camp areas near Silverton are at the South Mineral Creek Campground and Dispersed "Dry" Camp areas.

You can find more info HERE. Scroll down to the listing.
Also at the USDA for this site.

Campers along Clear Creek in the Dispersed "Dry Camp" area.
First come first served.

The South Mineral Campground.



Friday, July 1, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Off-road - California and Picayune Gulch

Silverton Pamorama from the Kendall Mtn Road
Time for some off-roading!  Me and the boys will make a short loop up to Animas Forks on County Road 2 and then into the loop on County Road 9 that goes into California Gulch, by California Pass then down Picayune Gulch back to County Road 2.

This short trip can be done by any 4x4 vehicle *car, truck, UTV or ATV" and will give you a good mix of the scenery, elevation and the more mild road conditions in the Alpine Loop area.

Full route map from an back to Silverton, Co.
Detailed loop map 

You can download this route via Google HERE.

From Silverton, take County Highway 2 north. You will pass the old Mayflower Mill which is open for tours on an irregular basis and also the road to the Old 100 Gold Mine which has regular tours well worth your time.

Mayflower Gold Mill
Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour

You will pass the very small town of Howardsville and the Gold Mill in that locale which may soon be back in operation. Farther up north past Middelton is the old townsite of Eureka, Co. This was the next biggest town in San Juan County for many years of it's heyday. Very little is left of the old towns or the one huge, Sunnyside mill. The locales are now a popular, dry camping areas.

Eureka, CO @ Ghosttowns.com

Campers at Middleton
The Eureka Townsite from the north
Past Eureka, the road narrows and the scenery continues. One incredible and commonly photographed scene is this cabin across the canyon, complete with waterfall.

A great summer house?
Once in Animas Forks, we are also at the junction of County Road 5 which is a leg of th Alpine Loop over to Lake City, Co. We'll cover that in a future post.

Animas Forks is one of the best preserved, old mining camps and ghost towns on the planet. There is ample parking and some interpretive info at the site.  There is much data on the Internet about this attraction as follows:

Animas Forks - Wikipedia
Animas Forks @ Mountains Rule Blog

We proceeded up County Road 9 to California and Placier Gulch and then into Picayune Gulch. Along the way are more very well preserved old mining structures and mills. Soon you will be way above the timberline!

California Gulch @ TrailDamage.com
Picayune Gulch @ TralDamage.com

An easy climb up to California Pass
Sound Democrat Mill in Placier Gulch

More on the: Pacier Gulch & Sound Democrat Mill

Leaving Placier Gulch, you will traverse a few easy switchbacks. Only one required a 2 point turn in my Big Dodge Pickup. From there the road is easy passing a remote cabin before it takes a fairly steep descent back to County Road 2.

Plenty of snow in the last week of June.
An old Skidoo abandoned along the road
Steep descent! Normally the uphill vehicles have the
right of way. In this case there was no valid place
for me to backup to so the UTV's made the yield.