Sunday, July 27, 2008

San Jaun Skyway to Arches

Joe on the Run Through Molas Pass 10,910 Feet

The rain started again in the night and we awoke to find that the tent had leaked. It seeped up through the floor and there was a spot near the door that had formed a puddle. We quickly broke camp and packed a wet tent hoping that we would be able to dry it out at tonight's stop.

Soon after leaving Mesa Verde we stopped in Durango, CO to have breakfast. As we pulled into town we were greeted by the 8:15 am Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving town for Silverton. The D&SNGR is now an excursion train that runs coal-fired, steam powered locomotives on the same tracks miners and ore used over a century ago. As we waited for the train to pass the crossing we waved hello at the passengers. Breakfast was at the Durango Diner. They have huge pancakes and a good green chili. I had the biscuits and gravy and green chili. Pretty tasty. The one disappointment was the cinnamon roll we ordered. It was really dry.

From Durango we headed north onto Colorado 550 also known as the Million Dollar Highway and part of the San Juan Skyway. The route through the mountains has three passes over 10,000 feet and is one of the most beautiful drives I have taken. The weather was perfect which made it even more splendid. Water in snowmelt streams cascaded down the sides of the mountains and wildflowers added bursts of color. We stopped at one spot to wade in a stream but the water was near freezing. As we headed north we passed through a number of small towns and even some ghost towns. This area was booming in the late nineteenth century and towns came and went with the fortunes of the mines.

Once we reached Ridgeway, CO we turned west and into Utah. As we left the mountains we returned to the brown and red rock of the Colorado Plateau. Soon we were in Moab, UT and then Arches National Park.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Movie

Mountain Wildflowers

Whipple Penstemon Blooms Near a Snowmelt Fed Stream

Tunnel on the Skyway

The Idorado Mine Near Silverton, CO

The View Along the Million Dollar Highway

Utah is Straight Ahead

When we reached Arches National Park we were disappointed to find the campground was full. So we turned back to Moab and found a campsite at Canyonlands Campground. We set up some clotheslines and hung the tent up to dry. While the tent dried we drove back to Arches to do a little exploring since it was still fairly early in the afternoon.

Arches National Park was created in 1929 as a National Monument to protect and preserve the over 2,400 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In 1971 congress changed its status to National Park. As you drive into the park you begin to see the extraordinary features that are part of a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other I have seen in the world.

On the road we passed many rock formations like the Three Gossips and the Organ. A landscape of petrified dunes flowed off to the right and the Great Wall made a barrier on the left. We drove past Balanced Rock and then to the parking lot for the Delicate Arch Overlook. We hiked to the upper overlook and arrived near sunset. It was wild being on the sliprock as the sun was setting and the wind whistled around us. At the end of the trail we looked out over a canyon to Delicate Arch on the other side. Unlike the Grand Canyon, or perhaps because of our recent visit there, the landscape was more accessible, more human. It didn't feel that you would get lost in it.

Since it was late we returned to Moab and had dinner. The tent was all dried out when we returned to camp so we set it up and went to sleep.

The Three Gossips and Sheep Rock

Balanced Rock

Delicate Arch at Sunset From the Overlook

Balanced Rock Looks Like the Thumb to a Giant Hand

Mesa Verde National Park, CO to Arches National Park, UT, 241 miles 5 hrs 40 min

No comments: