"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again."
– Flavia Weedn
What a great couple of weeks we've had in Colorado. First, let me say that I am sorry we haven't updated the website in a while but we've been busy. We left Moab, UT and started our trek east back to Chicago to drop me off for school. Our first stop was Cortez, CO which is in southwest Colorado and is quite beautiful. We stopped there specifically to see Mesa Verde National Park to see the almost 1,000 year old ruins of the Pueblo Indians. The first few pictures of this series are Steve playing with different settings to capture the clouds that we drove into and some animals that we encountered on our way up to 8500 feet where the ruins can be found. Aren't they cool? Anyway, this National Park is home to some 4,500 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings. At its peak, some 30,000 people lived in this area, which is considerably more people than live in the Cortez area now. You may say to yourself, "how did these people find food and water?" Well the answer is that they farmed the tops of the mesas and lived under them along the cliff edges. Rainwater would run down the rocks and would be captured in cisterns. They had ample forest for wood requirements and they reached their farm fields by hand-and-toe-hold trails that they etched into the cliff walls. These were some extremely hardy people, wouldn't you say?
The first picture of ruins is the Cliff Palace, which can only be explored with the assistance of a Ranger. We didn't head down to see it first hand as there were a ton of school kids there on field trips. Plus, to get out of the palace, you have to climb a very rickety wooden ladder (see the pictures) and - - Homey don't play dat! Anyway, there is a black and white picture showing the state of the Cliff Palace when it was found and the next picture is how it looks today. As you can see, it was pretty well preserved as were all of the ruins in the park. The ranger told us that 95% of the structures are as they found them. Nice. Steve did a great job of capturing the educational signs that go along with the various ruins that we stopped to see. Check them out and learn some really cool stuff about these people. For example, between 1100 and 1300 A.D., the Pueblo Indians were thriving in this area. They were extremely industrious and very inventive - - developing housing from mere pit houses to the extravagant cities like Cliff Palace in a matter of 100 years. Then, for some reason, they left the area and never came back. These ruins then lay completely untouched until the late 1880's when two cowboys discovered them while on a hunt for some lost horses. It became a National Park in 1906 and is truly one of the best examples of cliff dwellings anywhere in the world. If you make a visit to the four corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado I would highly recommend checking out Cortez, CO as it is home to the Mesa Verde National Park, but is also a mere two hour drive North to Moab (see our previous post) and two hours west to Monument Valley, not to mention Taos, NM to the south.
From Cortez, we headed west to Alamosa, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Now, those of you in Michigan are probably saying to yourselves - "I've seen sand dunes. I mean, we have Sleeping Bear Dunes for crying out loud." Well, let me tell you, the Alamosa dunes make those dunes look like a mere drift. This sand deposit covers some 330 square miles and the dunes themselves reach to heights of 750 feet. In the summer, the sand gets to about 150 degrees so they are not a good place to hike, if you know what I mean. For most of the year, however, these dunes are climbed and sledded and snowboarded by visitors. You cannot imagine how high they are until you are standing in front of them and I have tried to climb sand dunes before so this was not an activity that beckoned Lauren Anderson, if you know what I mean. But we had fun seeing others having a good time on them.
From Alamosa we headed north to Colorado Springs where we basically stayed put while I worked on school-related projects in preparation for my two weeks in Chicago. We did do one thing that I truly enjoyed and that was a visit to Compassion International. As you will recall, we went to Haiti last November with this organization to meet our sponsored child, Wilguens. Visiting the corporate headquarters and touring the facility brought back a lot of very good memories for us. As you know, God calls upon us to have a heart for children and the poor and Compassion International is an organization that makes a difference for both. Check out their website and prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. It only costs $38/month and with that donation, you could save the life of a child and improve their family's quality of life as well. www.compassion.com.
Ok, so after Colorado Springs, we headed to Breckenridge where we meet up with Steve's sister Beverly and her husband Larry. YAHOO!!! I cannot tell you how special time with these two people are for Steve and I. We have been traveling together for years and always have a great time. Anyway, before I get to the fun stuff, let me tell you about Breckenridge. First, it's 9600 feet above sea level. HELLO! Can you say "suffocate"? Honestly, I have never experienced anything like it before but the altitude literally takes your breath away. Even when you are simply sitting in a chair watching TV, you are out of breath. There is this constant feeling of imminent suffocation - - like when you dive into deep water holding your breath and then run out of air just before you make it to the surface - - know what I mean? The scary part about it is there is just no place to go for air. There isn't any. I was particularly hampered by this and was nauseous and light-headed the entire time we were there. Then, on top of that, it snowed for three days. Yes, in late May, it was snowing. One area a little north of us got 24 inches the week before we got there. Say what? I cannot imagine actually wanting that kind of snow fall in May, but that's just me.
So, our first adventure with Bev and Larry was a drive up Pikes Peak. Steve volunteered to drive and man was he regretting it. He stuck as close to the yellow center line as he could and it still wasn't far enough away from the edge for him or the passengers on the right side of the truck. The drive up was really remarkable. It's 19 miles of some beautiful scenery but when you get to the top, it's absolutely FREEZING. The wind is blowing about 40 miles per hour and it was also sleeting. The lack of oxygen at 14,110 feet caused all four of us to have trouble breathing and all we did was walk around the gift shop. There were a bunch of crazy people riding bikes up the mountain (I mean, c'mon folks, really????) and on the way down, we were all stopped as a life flight helicopter was taking one of them to the hospital after being hit by a car. Based on the speed at which the rescue people were moving, the injuries were not life-threatening, so we are happy for that. Lastly, check out the picture of the blue bird that I took. Isn't he beautiful?
Our next adventure was a trip to the Royal Gorge. This is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world at some 1,178 feet above the Arkansas River below. We walked out to the middle of the bridge and watched some rafters down below us. On the other side of the bridge is a sort of bungee thing that people would strap themselves into and swing out over the gorge. No thanks! We played it safe and visited the little zoo there where we got to see some Big Horn Sheep (aka rock sheep), buffalo, and some elk, one of which had a very handsome rack! We also visited the old cowboy town they have there and stopped to see some funny headstones. Our last adventure was taking the tram back across the gorge but the walk to that tram nearly killed all of us. It was quite the hike up a steep hill (again, we're at 5,000+ feet of elevation) which is not something this old girl should be doing on a regular basis.
The last adventure for us was a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We were so blessed to see a good number of rock sheep, elk and even two moose, one of which had her baby with her. It was a beautiful day in Estes Park but as you can see from the pictures, the snow in the national park was still overwhelming. I was shocked to see the depth of the snow that is alongside the road and believe they need every bit of that snow plow we saw. Larry is in absolute heaven in the mountains so it was nice to see him really enjoying the drive. Steve was a passenger this time and hated every second of being close to the edge of the road like he was. I mean, there is no shoulder folks. It's a couple of inches of asphalt to the right of the white line and then nothing but cliff. We had a wonderful day and a nice lunch in Grand Lake, Colorado (which was an adorable town).
Steve and I said goodbye to Bev and Larry who flew back home to Toledo after visiting their friend Ursula in Boulder. We headed to North Platte, Nebraska where we are right now but heading to Omaha tomorrow. From there we hit Amana, Iowa and then into Illinois to deposit me at Moody (isn't that just the perfect name for a school for me????) Our next update won't be until late June as I will be in school for two weeks and then visiting family the week of June 17. After that, we are headed back west to Gillette, Wyoming for a rally with stops in South Dakota at Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument as well as a stop at Devil's Tower before we hit Yellowstone and a visit from my sister Carolyn. So there is much to look forward to in the weeks to come.
Take care everyone. Some of you I will see soon and I am very happy about that. Those of you that we won't see for a while, know that we miss you very much. Later!
"When you cannot make up your mind between two evenly balanced courses of action, choose the bolder."
– William Joseph Slim
Hello from Colorado!
We are making our way east again and heading for home soon. We haven't finished with the western part of the U.S. just yet, but I have to be in Chicago for school the first two weeks in June and Steve is going to take that opportunity to go home for a visit. Looking forward to seeing family and friends again.
So let's finish up our adventures in Utah. We moved from Salt Lake City to Moab for some time in two of our great National Parks. The first that we visited was Arches National Park. What a gorgeous place. The pictures do not adequately pick up the red color of the rock so you miss the incredible contrast between the red, the green of the sage, the blue of the sky, etc. Very picturesque. There are artists all over the place with their water color paintings going on and for good reason. This park holds great beauty, to be sure, but it is also a nice place to take a good hike. A lot of these arches were not available from the road so we got some good exercise while visiting this park. What makes hiking here even more adventurous is the altitude - - it is more than a mile up so breathing is difficult at times. An added bonus for this area are the petroglyphs and pictographs that are all over the place. It's fascinating to see these etched into the rock. Some of them definitely look like space men,don't they?
Another interesting park was Dead Horse Point State Park. What a nice surprise this place was. We stopped there on our way to Canyonlands and am I happy we did. The canyon views here are spectacular and both Steve and I felt they were more amazing than the Grand Canyon. That's not to say that the Grand Canyon isn't majestic or breathtaking - - what both of us felt about Dead Horse Point is that it was so much more available. The canyon below is only 1/2 mile down and not a full mile like the Grand Canyon, so the view of the river was better and there was clearer detail on the geological variations of the rock, etc. Plus the colors really popped more too. The name is such a deterrent to visiting though, don't you think. I would not have expected such beautiful vistas from a park named for a place where horses were sent to die. Check out this website for the story behind the name: http://www.utah.com/stateparks/dead_horse.htm.
Our last stop in Moab was to Canyonlands National Park. This place was sort of like Dead Horse Point, only the canyons were really much different. They were a lot more pronounced and held really cool geological features. Lots of good hikes in this park too, and one especially cool one leads to Mesa Arch which overlooks the canyon. Steve got some great pictures of this arch which looks, based on the cracks in the rock at the base where it attaches to the cliff, like it will go over the edge at any time. There were some spectacular wildflowers in this park too. Lots of yellows, purples, reds, oranges, whites, and blue. We weren't able to get a lot of them because they grow along the side of the road (of all places). But like Arches National Park, this place was awash in color between the rock, the canyon, the royal blue sky, and the wildflowers. Nice visual feast!
While in Moab, we experienced one of the most incredible wind and sand storms. The wind would gust upwards of 50 mph which would kick the red dust up into the sky to the point that you couldn't see a thing. It took two days of rain to get the sky cleared again and our pictures from Canyonlands suffered as a result. There was still a considerable haze when we were there so you aren't really getting the full impact of the view like we did. Anyway, Utah is an absolutely fabulous place to visit. From the south there is Zion National Park, Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon. In the north there are the ski resorts and the interesting history of Salt Lake City, and the central area has great National Parks like those we visited this week. If you are thinking about a place to visit for vacation, check out Utah. There is just so much to do here.
So we left Moab and headed to Colorado. We will update you on our visits to Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Colorado Springs in our next update. We are super excited because Steve's sister and brother-in-law, Bev and Larry, are flying into Denver on Saturday to spend a week with us. YAHOO!!!!!!
Take care people
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Hello from Utah. What a gorgeous state! Steve and I have been to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon before. We've even spent time in Lake Powell and that area, but honestly, the northern part and Central parts of Utah are even more spectacular, if you can imagine.
This week we will focus on our time in Salt Lake City. Next week, we will give you an update on Moab and the National parks we visited.
First off, let's start with one of the weirdest things I have ever seen - - the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is just miles and miles of the Great Basin covered in salt. It looks like snow but given the arid climate, it could never be snow. The first picture in the gallery from this area is not water. That is a mirage reflecting the mountains against it. Isn't that cool? The remaining pictures give you an idea of what i am talking about. In between the Nevada and Salt Lake City is what used to be a giant lake bed which is, I guess, where the salt comes from. Check out this website for more information: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/salt_lake/recreation/bonneville_salt_flats/Bonneville_Salt_Flats_History.html. Anyway, right in the middle of this salt flats, along Highway 80, is a sculpture called "Metaphor: Tree of Utah" which was created, built, and financed by an artist by the name of Karl Momen. It's 87 feet high and the balls on the tree are coated with native Utah rock and minerals. What a strange sight right in the middle of this stark landscape. I liked it though.
Our next adventure was to see the Great Salt Lake. It's quite beautiful with the surrounding mountains and such. This lake is 12% salt and, much like the Dead Sea in the Middle East, if you swim in this lake, you will simply float. There are no fish that live in the water due to the high saline content, but there are a number of water fowl that feast on the brine shrimp that are present. We met some locals and chatted with them for a bit. They said that the waves out there can reach 10 feet when the wind gets going and that's why the shoreline looks so far from the water. Sort of reminded me of the stories in the Bible about the Sea of Galilee and the storms that took place there. Anyway, the lake water was a funny color of greenish brown (not very inviting) and the salt remnants on the beach did not make this a very appealing place to hang out for me.
We ventured on to see the Olympic Park in Park City. WOW was that cool. This was the location for the various ski jump, free-style skiing (which is where they ski down to a ramp and then do flips and stuff in the air), the bobsled, luge and skeleton events. What a blast it was to tour around the back stage areas for these events and see the tracks and where the athletes would hang out. This venue is still used for Olympic training and qualifying. And because the Winter Olympics will take place again this coming February, Park City will be packed in the fall for Olympic trials. COOL! I cannot wait to watch these events on TV now because they will have so much more meaning to me. Anyway, let me get to the details. The ski jump is almost 400 feet up the top of the hill and the jumpers sail distances of up to 450+ feet once they sail off the end of the ramp. We stood at the top of that ramp and I gotta tell you, it had a significant "pucker factor" if you know what I mean. The bobsled, luge and skeleton runs were also quite cool to visit. These tracks are not very big in terms of the space in which the vehicle and the riders travel. The tracks themselves go about 8/10 of a mile and travel at speeds of 60-80 miles per hour. YIKES! The sleds that the bobsled team uses have absolutely no padding in them and the tour guide told us that she gets very bruised when she rides down the track in one of them. Speaking of which, this place is not just for winter recreation. The bobsled runs are used in the summer for tourists to take a ride. There are also zip lines that go from the top of the ski jump ramp to beyond the landing space for the jumpers (about 1,000 feet). There are 3 adventure courses, chair lift rides, alpine rides, and a free-style ski jumping show daily. Tons to do and a great place for a vacation. Check out this website (http://utaholympiclegacy.com/) and you can see what I'm talking about. Even if you don't avail yourself of any of the thrill rides, the Olympic museum is absolutely cool and very worthwhile to visit. That is free. To make our Olympic adventure complete, we went onto the campus of the University of Utah to see the Olympic stadium and the Olympic torch. We also visited the Olympic Oval, the venue used for the speed skating events. This location was quite the surprise as it lies right in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, surrounded by an elementary school and three-bedroom ranch homes. I cannot imagine how those people survived normal life with all the Olympic chaos going on around them. It had to be a nightmare.
Of course, no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete without a visit to Temple Square. This multi-acre complex houses the Mormon Tabernacle, the Mormon Temple, several administration buildings, a museum, a library, and two visitor centers. The landscaping and flower beds throughout this complex were breathtaking. I am a flower lover so I was just in heaven with all the beauty and color that surrounded us. The Visitor's Center gives you the history of Brigham Young's efforts to build the temple, which was begun in 1953 and took 40 years (to the day) to complete. The temple itself is not used for regular worship services. It is used for baptisms and sealing services (which is what the call weddings). Meetings of the church leadership are held here as well as educational programs. The worship services themselves are performed in the Tabernacle. When we visited the Tabernacle, they had a recorded performance of the world-famous choir playing, which was unbelievably beautiful. The organ has 11,600 pipes and there are only 5 people in the world who know how to play it. We met two Mormon missionaries and we had a rather lengthy discussion about their faith and ours, which was very interesting. We enjoyed our time here and went to dinner at a restaurant that is housed in Brigham Young's house. Nice day.
Our last adventure was to visit the Museum of Ancient Life. This was a great museum which houses a number of dinosaur fossils found in Utah. It's mind boggling to think about these giant creatures roaming the earth and the catastrophe that destroyed them all almost instantaneously. After visiting this museum, we went to see the new Tom Cruise movie "Oblivion".
That's it for this week folks. We are in Moab right now and I cannot wait to show you the pictures from this part of the country. Spectacular!