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Travels with Grama

West Coast &
Redwood National Park

Road Trip -2005

Due to personal circumstances, I was unable to travel with Doreen in 2004. So by spring of 2005, I was chomping at the bit to hit the road. Winter doldrums were still lingering as our Alberta weather was not cooperating and it was overcast and rainy. So I was ready, boy was I ready to head for the sun.

We had toured the east, deep south, midwest and southwestern states, so we felt it was time for an ocean view. This year our travels would take us west into British Columbia before turning south to Washington and Oregon. We actually planned the first leg of the trip along the Oregon coast but after that it would be wherever the turns in the road took us. And somehow we knew it would eventually lead us to our favourite Hwy 261. Driving up and down this scary little road had now become a tradition for us. It just wouldn't be a holiday if we didn't make it to Red Rock country.

2005 West Coast and Redwood National Park Photo Album

British Columbia

There aren't a lot of roads to choose from when traveling from Alberta to BC so we opted for one with (hopefully) less traffic. We took Hwy 22 south and picked up Hwy 3 west. Highway 3 is an interesting road that winds its' way through the Crowsnest Pass into the semi-arid district of southern BC.

Doreen used to camp in this area every year during the early '80's at a pretty little place called Christina Lake. She showed me around the town and we continued on. She was craving some of the local food - Borscht soup in particular - so we stopped in Grand Forks and found a restaurant. Borscht is not one of my favourite foods but I did enjoy a healthy plate of cabbage rolls.

We left Grand Forks with the intention of entering the US at the Carson/Danville border crossing, but when we got there, they had no duty-free shop - again. At this time we were both smokers and I needed to stock up for the trip. Doreen wouldn't stop before we left home, assuring me we'd get a supply at the border.

So to shorten the story, we ended up driving another 100 miles to Osoyoos where we spent the night. In the morning, after shopping at the duty-free outlet, we crossed the border into Washington and left Canada in the rear view mirror. I might add it was still raining off and on so the hunt for the sun was still on.

Grand Coulee Dam, Washington

We learned early on in our travels that when you come upon an unexpected attraction, oddity, man-made wonder or phenomenon of nature - do not pass it by. Even if you only spend a short time checking it out, you may never pass this way again.

If it is interesting enough to warrant further investigation, spend the time or add it to your list of things to come back to at a later date.

So we turned off Hwy 97 onto hwy 155 and headed southeast for a short side trip to take in the site of the Grand Coulee Dam. Grand Coulee Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. In the United States, it is the largest electric power producing facility and the largest concrete structure. It is the fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.

The reservoir is called Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake, named after the United States President who presided over the completion of the dam.

The Grand Coulee Dam is almost a mile long at 5223 feet (1586 m). The spillway is as long as 5.5 American football fields. At 550 feet (168 m), it is taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza; all the pyramids at Giza could fit within its base. Its hydraulic height of 380 feet (115 m) is more than twice that of Niagara Falls. There is enough concrete to build a four-foot wide, four-inch deep sidewalk twice around the equator. Grand Coulee Dam Site

As a side-note, just a few miles north of Coulee Dam, we passed through a little town called Nespelem and stopped to read several signs regarding the history of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe. His grave marker is located in this town. The Nez Perce had been retreating and attempting to find sanctuary in Canada before their capture. In 2002 Doreen and I had visited a battle site at White Bird Canyon in NW Idaho. It was historically interesting to find out what had happened to the people from this battle and the man who's famous words ended the conflict.

From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

We followed the scenic Hwy 155 along Banks Lake to Dry Falls Dam where it merged with Hwy 17. This road took us all the way to Oregon border by McNary Dam. It is a very pretty drive with more lakes and parks than we could count. We crossed the bridge and entered Oregon. On the south side of the Columbia River we turned west onto a shortcut Hwy 730 before joining up with I-84. We stayed on I-84 until we got to the Old Historic Hwy 100, also known as Route 30. Chief Joseph History

Columbia River
The Historic Columbia River Highway 100 is a scenic highway in Oregon between Troutdale and The Dalles, built through the Columbia River Gorge between 1913 and 1922. It was the first planned scenic roadway in the United States and is still partially marked as US Route 30.
From the very beginning, the roadway was envisioned not just as means of traveling by the then popular Model T, but designed with an elegance that took full advantage of all the natural beauty along the route.
Both Doreen and I had toured this area many years ago and we were quite happy to find it again. After a very peaceful drive through the trees at the top of the mountain, we kept following the backroad signs in and out of small communities and acreages and somehow without a local map - came out within 6 blocks of where we needed to be in east Portland.
Doreen was hoping to stop and see some friends, but as luck would have it, they were still at work and wouldn't be able to go for coffee. So we gassed up and continued on our way till we ran out of daylight and stopped at Wilsonville, just north of Salem for the night.

Oregon Coast
The next morning we saddled up and headed for the coast on Hwy 18. This turned out to be an exceptionally pretty route, although we were still driving in and out of rain. Hwy 18 ends just out side Lincoln City and merges with Coastal Hwy 101. We followed it south and pulled into just about every scenic viewpoint, outlook and state park along the way.

The pictures here are at the top of Sea Lion Caves where the view is spectacular. To the north, along the shoreline, you can see the famous Heceta lighthouse. We drove around the area but didn't get out and hike to it.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse and Light Keeper’s house are circa 1894. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Heceta Head Keeper’s House is perched on a cliff with a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and the beach below. Paths from the Keeper’s House lead both to the beach and to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is a working lighthouse. From a height of 205 feet above the ocean, its “first order” Fresnel lens, casts it’s beams some 21 miles out to sea. It is the brightest light on the Oregon coast. It is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.

The Queen Anne style Keeper’s House has been restored to its original splendor. It now serves as an Interpretive Center by day and a Bed and Breakfast by night.

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon

Now comes the fun part of our excursion for the day. I finally convinced Doreen to "go underground" as the guide assured her the caves opened into the ocean.

However, the guide failed to mention it was still a "cave" with no exit for humans unless you dove in and swam out with the sea lions.

I think if she could have gotten past the smell of fish and fecal matter we might have lasted a little longer but our visit was short-lived and we headed back onto the elevator to the surface and fresh air.

I would recommend that travellers stop and visit the "cave" at least once. The scenery in itself is worth the time to stop and there is an exterior overlook where some of the sea lions rest during the day.

Florence Sand Dunes
South of Florence, the mountains move inland. The dunes lie along the coast, with the estuaries of three major river valleys connected by two long stretches of sand. This 40 miles of dunescape is made accessible at many points along Highway 101.

The Oregon Dunes are like no other dunes in the world. Desert-like landscapes, lakes, rivers, ocean, and forest blend together, creating diverse ecosystems of plants and animals. Managed by the USDA Forest Service, this is the only part of the Oregon coast covered by extensive sand dunes.

The sand dunes brought out the kid in us but our bodies weren't cooperating. Every step up took us two back, so crawling was the only option. We had quite a laugh at ourselves trying to get to the top of these things. Then we spent an hour wandering around on them, totally in awe of their incredible size.

How Were They Formed?

The present shoreline stabilized 6,000 years ago. Tides, wave action and strong coastal winds moved sand up to 2.5 miles inland for thousands of years. This area of dune development rests on a gently-sloping terrace of solid marine sandstone called the Coos Bay Dune Sheet. This low rock surface stretches 56 miles from Heceta Head to Cape Arago and contrasts with steep headlands found on most of the Oregon coastline which prevent inland movement of sand.

The sand in the Oregon Dunes is from the Coast Mountain Range, which is sedimentary rock that was uplifted 12 million years ago. As rock was moved downstream by rivers, it tumbled and abraded itself into sand.

Winds are a major influence in dune formation. Summer winds blow steadily from the north and northwest at 12-16 miles per hour. Mountain barriers near the coast deflect wind currents, sculpting the sand info many different shapes.

In winter, winds are generally lighter; however, they can exceed 100 miles per hour during intense winter storms. These winds blow from the south and southwest moving large amounts of sand. Seasonal changes in wind direction reshape dune sculptures and ridges.

Water influences dune formation. Strong ocean currents flowing north in winter and south in summer hold sediment from rivers near the shore. Currents, tides and wave action dredge sand from the ocean floor and deposit it on the beaches where the wind takes over.

Highway 101 Side Trips

After playing in the sand, we headed south again on Hwy 101 and at North Bend crossed the bridge over Haynes Inlet. Now I keep giving Doreen a hard time about her fear of "caves". Well, high bridges over water are my Achilles heel. And this bridge was a whopper. We could see it as we approached the base and I kept praying the road would go straight and we'd bypass it - no such luck. I sure wish I knew where this fear comes from because I'm not really afraid of heights, but over water, my stomach flip flops and my knees turn to mush.

Hwy 101 seemed to be taking an inland curve at North Bend so we decided to detour and take a bit of a side road excursion. We couldn't quite remember which turnoff we took but we ended up on Seven Devils Road which wound around through cottage areas, bush and marsh and eventually coming back out onto Hwy 101.  By now it was getting late in the day and we stopped for the night in the little seacoast town of Bandon, OR.

In the morning we did a short tour around town and then followed the "Beach Loop Road" along the coast. Bandon-by-the-sea is a small, charming coastal town with a huge interest in golf. It is home to three of the world’s premier golf courses (Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails).

Its sights and shops are almost all within walking distance of the renovated Old Town section, which makes it the perfect place for strolling, shopping and dining while you're on holiday. The Old Town area is just off Highway 101, and includes a collection of art galleries, curio shops and restaurants. It's right next to the boat basin, so it's easy to walk down to the basin for a breathtaking ocean view. We put a check mark on this location to make sure we stopped here on our next coastal tour.

Crescent City, California

In June 2005, Crescent City residents received a fright when a massive earthquake off the Pacific Northwest coast set off a tsunami alert. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the ocean floor that Tuesday night about 90 miles southwest of Crescent City, sparking the short-lived tsunami warning across Northern California's coast.

The quake struck at 7:50 p.m., and 24 minutes later the town's tsunami sirens began blaring to warn its 7,542 residents. By 8:59 p.m. the threat of a potential tsunami had waned, and residents began returning to their homes.

Residents were prepared and about 4,000 people were evacuated from the town. While it proved to be a false alert, Crescent City officials learned a lesson: Their community’s isolation means that they would have to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

They say timing is everything. Doreen and I had stopped in Crescent City for groceries and a late lunch that same day before heading further south into the Redwood area.  Imagine our surprise when we heard the news report later that evening that Crescent City had been evacuated due to a tsunami warning. We missed being caught up in the evacuation by only a couple of hours.

Redwood Forest

This attraction is very easy to find.  There is a 50 foot statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe in the parking lot to greet and talk to you.

We spent a few hours at Trees of Mystery attraction near Klamath, walking through the paths and trails.  There was so much foliage that most of the time we found ourselves under a canopy of green.

Because we were only using disposable cameras, many of our pictures taken there did not turn out well. It felt like walking through long tunnels with holes in the roof where light sneaked in.

The size and age of these trees is unbelievable. The Brotherhood Tree was named for the hope for the brotherhood of man. This tree is over 2000 years old, 19 feet in diameter, 60 feet in circumference and 297 feet tall. It lost 74 feet off it's top in a storm.

It is truly a humbling experience to stand beside one of the trees and realize just how small and insignificant we really are. They have outlived generations of mankind and will likely outlive all of us and our families from this century.

Lightning seemed to be the main natural destructor of these giants as we toured the park. They were spared by the logging companies and we can only be grateful someone was intelligent enough to see the value of making this an attraction or the trees would likely fall prey to some developer looking to mow them down.

Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains located along the border between California and Nevada, just west of Carson City, Nevada. The lake is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. The area surrounding the lake is also referred to as Lake Tahoe, or simply Tahoe. It is home to a number of ski resorts, summer outdoor recreation, and tourist attractions.

Highway 50, Nevada

U.S. Highway 50, just east of Austin, Nevada is a site that far predated the pony express. The earliest petroglyphs found at Hickison Summit date back about 8,000 to 10,000 years.

U.S. Route 50 follows a historic corridor, first used for the Pony Express, and later for the Lincoln Highway. It's route has changed several times through the years.

The highway passes through the center of the Great Basin and a series of Basin and Range features in its path across the state.

Highway 50 crosses the center of Nevada and was designated the Loneliest Road in America by Life in July 1986. The name was intended as negative, but instead, Nevada officials seized on it as a marketing slogan. The name originates from the highway traversing large desolate areas with no or few motorist services.

In the stretch of highway between Fallon and Delta, Utah, a span of 409 miles, there are only three major towns - Austin, Eureka and Ely. There are some smaller developments and communities along the way, but none provide all of the main amenities, such as restaurants, stores, lodging, and gas stations.

Ely is the only one that has a fast-food chain presence - McDonalds. There are several ghost towns along this path.

Pony Express

Highway 50 roughly parallels the route of the Pony Express trail.  The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the North American continent from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California from April 1860 to October 1861.

On October 28, 1861, the Pony Express completed its last run. It was replaced by the telegraph. An unforgettable era passed into history. Ten days was cut to ten seconds. Progress marched on but the legend would not die.

Pony Express, was born on April 3, 1860, when Johnny Fry rode west from St. Joseph, Missouri, and fellow rider Billy Hamilton headed east out of Sacramento, California.

Young men recruited as riders were around 18 years old, weighed about 120 pounds, and possessed good riding skill. For eighteen months, they made the treacherous 2,000-mile journey between St. Joseph and Sacramento, traveling both day and night and enduring harsh weather, bandits, and Indian attacks.

Among the 183 men who took up the challenge were James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and a 14 year-old William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

Messages were carried by horseback riders relay across the prairies, plains, deserts, and mountains of the Western United States. It briefly reduced the time for mail to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to around ten days.

By traveling easier, shorter routes and using mounted riders rather than stagecoaches, the founders of the Pony Express hoped to establish their service as a faster and more reliable conduit for the mail and win away the exclusive government mail contract.

The Pony Express demonstrated that a unified transcontinental system could be built and operated continuously the year around — something not seen since the times of the Romans in Europe. Since its replacement by the First Transcontinental Telegraph, the Pony Express became part of the romance of the American West. Its reliance on the ability and endurance of the individual riders and horses over technological innovation is part of "American rugged individualism".

Austin, Nevada

At Austin, Hwy 50 encounters hairpin turns and steep grades in it's ascent up Austin Summit in the Toiyabe Range. This area is inside the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the first part of US 50 to run inside a national forest since leaving Lake Tahoe.

At Hickson Summit, about 20 miles east of Austin, is a rest area that features a walking tour of petroglyphs.

Stokes Castle

Stokes Castle

Stokes Castle, a strange three-story stone tower, is located just outside of town. It was built in 1897 as a summer home by Anson Phelps Stokes, a wealthy eastern capitalist who had a financial interest in several of the local mines. It was only occupied for a month, and then left to fall into disrepair.

Austin is a small, unincorporated community located in Lander County, Nevada. It is located on the western slopes of the Toiyabe Range at an elevation of 6,605 feet. U.S. Highway 50 passes through the town.

Named after Austin, Texas, the town was founded in 1862, as part of a silver rush reputedly triggered by a Pony Express horse who kicked over a rock. By summer 1863, the Austin and the surrounding Reese River Mining District had a population of over 10,000, and it became the county seat of Lander County. The Nevada Central Railroad was built to connect Austin with the transcontinental railroad at Battle Mountain in 1880. By 1887 major silver production ended and the boom was almost over. As of 2004, its population was approximately 340.

Eureka, Nevada

The next town, 120 miles past Austin, is Eureka, which bills itself as the "Friendliest town on the Loneliest Road in America". The centerpiece of the historical district of downtown Eureka is the Eureka Opera House.

As of the 1990 census, Eureka had a total population of 650 giving it boasting rights to being the largest town in Eureka County - even if there are only two. Attractions include the Eureka Opera House (built in 1880 and restored in 1993), Raine's Market and Wildlife Museum (built 1887), the Jackson House Hotel (built 1877), and the Eureka Sentinel Museum (housed in the 1879 Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Building).

The town was first settled in 1864 by a group of silver prospectors from nearby Austin, who discovered rock containing a silver-lead ore on nearby Prospect Peak. The town became the county seat in 1873.

Mining, especially for lead, was the town's economic mainstay, as the nearby hillsides ranked as Nevada's second-richest mineral producer, behind western Nevada's Comstock Lode. Two of the largest concerns in Eureka were the Richmond Mining Company and the Eureka Mining Company. The population boomed, reaching a high of 10,000 by 1878, but shrank as decreasing mine production and changing market conditions led to the closing of mines.

Ely, Nevada

Another 120 miles from Eureka is Ely, home to the The Ghost Train of old Ely, a heritage railway. Here U.S. 50 departs the route of the Lincoln Highway, Pony Express and State Route 2. These routes proceed northeast towards Salt Lake City, while U.S. 50 continues due east towards Delta, Utah.

Ely, established in the 1870s as a stagecoach station and post office, was named in honor of Smith Ely, president of the Selby Copper Mining & Smelting Co. By 1902 extensive copper deposits were found in the area and by 1906 a boom had developed.

Ely's claim to fame - former First Lady of the United States Pat Nixon was born in Ely on March 16, 1912. As of the 2000 census, Ely's population was 4,041. It is the county seat of White Pine County.

One of my favourite stops has been the Hotel Nevada. My husband and I had often stopped for a meal in its' restaurant as the food is excellent. The lobby is full of antiquities and historical artifacts and it is interesting just to wander around, so of course I had to make sure Doreen got to see it all. There were no rooms available with 2 beds but the desk clerk was kind enough to give us a key to go upstairs and look at the rooms and decor.

Hotel Nevada

The historic, six-story Hotel Nevada opened in 1929. It was the tallest building in Nevada and its first fire-proof building. Prohibition was in still in effect, and from the beginning, bootlegged refreshment and gambling were available 24 hours a day. "Bathtub Gin" made from raw alcohol, water, and flavorings. "White Lightening" was conveniently supplied by local individuals. Hotel Nevada remains a popular lodging, dining, gaming and tourist stop.

The dramatic increase in demand for Copper in 2005 has once again made Ely a copper boom town. Copper concentrate from the mine is now shipped by rail to Seattle, where it is transported to Japan for smelting.

Originally Ely was home to a number of copper mining companies, Kennecott being the most famous. The copper market crashed in the mid 1970s, Kennecott shut down, and copper mining disappeared (temporarily).

With the advent of cyanide heap leaching (a method of extracting gold from what was previously considered very low grade ore) the next boom was on.

Ely is a good location to "fan out" and tour from. There are countless historical preserved sites to explore by car within a 100 mile radius, not to mention train tours. Since both Doreen and I share a curiosity of "what's down this road" - we've been rewarded with numerous surprises that would go totally undiscovered if we hadn't gotten off the main thoroughfares.

Bryce Canyon

From Ely we travelled east on Hwy 50 and then turned southeast onto Hwy 21 just outside of the Utah border and followed it to Beaver. It was a toss-up to continue east over the mountain pass to Junction and Hwy 89 or to take the quicker I-15 to Hwy 20 to connect with Hwy 89 to get to Bryce Canyon. The quicker route won out but we did promise ourselves to plan another trip which would cross the Utah mountain ridges.

Bryce Canyon National Park is a national park located in southwestern Utah. Contained within the park is Bryce Canyon. Despite its name, this is not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

The canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce. The area around Bryce Canyon became a U.S. National Monument in 1924 and was designated as a national park in 1928.

This early home of Ebenezer Bryce is two miles south of Tropic, Utah and on the east side of the Pahreah River. Bryce lived here from 1875 until 1881.

Bryce is distinctive due to its geological structures, called hoodoos, formed from wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views to visitors.

Bryce is at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet , whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet above sea level. The area therefore has a very different ecology and climate, and thus offers a contrast for visitors to the region.

Bryce Canyon is beautiful with its' colour and unique geography but we found it too overcrowded with tourists. It is similar to the south rim of the Grand Canyon with occasional pullouts for cars all vying for a spot to stop. With only one road in, then turn around and come back out, it was quite congested.

Drivers undoubtedly spend little time viewing and majority of time trying not to hit the pedestrians running across the road or get hit by the gawkers attempting to get a peek at the landscape. And this was only June - we wondered how bad it got during summer months. Oh well...been there now and done that and have the pictures to prove it.

Scenic Highway 12 Utah
After leaving Bryce Canyon, we continued winding eastward on Hwy 12 towards Escalante, Boulder and our intended destination that night of Torrey. My AMA agent had recommended a motel there that had the most charming cabins for a reasonable price.
Leaving the Escalante area and driving east takes travelers on the “Million Dollar Road to Boulder.” This section of Scenic Byway 12 was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and completed in 1935 (paved in 1971) providing the first year round access for automobiles to this isolated pocket in southwestern Utah. Before then, mail and supplies were carried to Boulder by mules and pack horses over Hell’s Backbone or the Boulder Mail Trail, both hazardous routes.

Fifteen miles east of Escalante, Scenic Byway 12 descends to Calf Creek Recreation Area. This Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument facility is a perfect place to wade in the creek, have a picnic, or for those who like to hike, take the six mile round-trip nature trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls where it ends at the 126-foot falls and an enchanting grotto with a deep pool surrounded by shade trees.

Since Doreen and I are basically lazy, we continued on and ignored the hiking trails. The next short leg of our journey was to be one of my funniest hi-lites.


From Calf Creek Recreation Area, Scenic Byway 12 climbs Haymaker Bench and crosses. The Hogback.  Neither of us had ever heard of The Hogback, which is a very narrow ridge with steep thousand foot dropoffs on BOTH sides of the road and you come upon it rather suddenly. The drop off started on the passenger side and my instinctive reaction to climb to the other side of the car started Doreen laughing at me, as usual.

A few seconds later she realized there was something missing - like land - on her side of the car. The laughter stopped, the colour drained from her face and I could see the panic in her eyes. Fortunately, for her, this stretch of road is short, but it was sweet, hilarious revenge for me to see the shoe on the other foot and I could certainly have used "Depends" at that moment. All I could do besides laugh was to make sure she didn't look down.

There are a couple of viewpoint pullouts so we stopped to take some photographs. Another vehicle pulled in and it turned out to be a fellow Canadian from British Columbia. He was also looking for places "off the beaten trail" so we exchanged travel discoveries for a few minutes, snapped a couple of pictures and went on our way.

It was getting late in the day and we were concerned about making it to Torrey before dark. This was not the type of unknown highway one wants to travel at night.

Torrey, Utah

Torrey is a town located on State Route 24 in Wayne County, Utah, eight miles from Capitol Reef National Park. It is a small agricultural community established in the 1880's by Mormon settlers with a population of 171 (2000 census). Torrey has had several earlier names such as Poverty Flat, Youngstown, Central, Popular, and Bonita.

It was dark when we reached Torrey and the Chuckwagon Motel, but fortunately, there was one cabin available. It was so comfy, we would have enjoyed staying another day or two but we still had places to go and things to see. Chuckwagon Motel, Torrey, Utah

The next morning we did a brief investigation of the town and then headed east on Hwy 24 towards Hanksville and eventually Hwy 261. Now we were leaving the sandstone rock and driving into the gold, rust and red rock areas of Capital Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park

We stopped for a brief photo shoot at Goosenecks Point and continued on to the Visitors Centre, Fruita and the wall of "petroglyphs". After touring the museum displays in the Visitor Center, we stopped at the "Petroglyph Pullout" 1-1/2 miles east. Petroglyphs and pictographs - the so-called "rock art" of prehistoric peoples - are found throughout southern Utah. A short path leads to the base of the Wingate Sandstone cliff and visible from this viewpoint are some of the most interesting petroglyph panels at Capitol Reef.

This particular site revolved around the Fremont people who lived throughout Utah and adjacent areas of Idaho, Colorado and Nevada from 700 to 1300 AD. The culture was named for the Fremont River and its valley in which many of the first Fremont sites were discovered. By 1300 AD, the Fremont had abandoned their villages. No one is completely sure why they left or what happened to them. Like the Anasazi, their disappearance was quick and dramatic and continues to puzzle archeologists today.


Of all the places in Utah for Mormons to create a community, Fruita might be one of the most difficult. Fronted by tens of thousands of square miles of desert, along a wild river prone to serious flooding, and in an area so remote that paved roads did not arrive until the 1960s, it is perhaps of little wonder Fruita, for most of its life, was home to no more than eight to 10 families.

Though it never comprised more than 300 acres, Fruita -- originally called Junction -- became an important settlement due to its relatively long growing season and abundant water. Settlers arrived in Fruita and planted thousands of trees bearing apples, apricots, peaches, pears, plums as well as walnuts and almonds.

Though no Dodge City or Tombstone, Fruita operated on the fringe of Mormon social culture -- the town, for example, never had a church, and moonshining was not uncommon. It was also on the outside edge of the law: polygamists, fleeing federal agents, often found shelter in the nearby maze of canyons and were aided by sympathetic locals. Butch Cassidy had maintained a hideout nearby as well.

Beginning in the 1950s the government began to purchase private land within the monument's boundaries. Today, Fruita is a semi-preserved and well-managed historic district, maintained by the National Park Service.

The historic district contains cabins, barns, the one-room schoolhouse and, of course, the orchards. We followed the park's scenic drive which leads to overlooks, canyons, arches and the slickrock wilderness before leaving the area.

We left Fruita and continued east to Hanksville intending to go to Goblin Valley State Park but hadn't left ourselves enough time to tour Goblin Valley and still reach Hwy 261 before the sun set. So we turned around and headed south on Hwy 95 to reach the upper portion of our favourite road.

Highway 261, Utah

State Route 261 is located entirely within south-central San Juan County, Utah. It runs 34 miles north to south, from the junction of State Route 95, just east of Natural Bridges National Monument to U.S. Route 163, three-miles north of Mexican Hat. The highway is part of the Utah section of the Trail of the Ancients, a National Scenic Byway that traverses the Moki Dugway.

The warning signs state "10% Grades - 5 MPH Switchbacks - Narrow Gravel Road for 3 Miles. This should give you a hint to what lies ahead but it really doesn't. Your curiosity takes you to the top of the butte and then the view takes your breath from you. Vehicles often turn around and take the 2-1/2 hour trip back north and around through Monticello and Bluff to get to the south junction rather than attempt this "shortcut".

"Moki" is a local term for the ancient Puebloan people who inhabited the Colorado Plateau hundreds of years ago. "Dugway" is a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside. The Moki Dugway is literally carved from the cliff face and talus slope on the edge of Cedar Mesa. The route connects Hwy 95 with Hwy 163 by crossing Cedar Mesa and plunging down the dugway at an 10% grade, revealing sweeping views of Valley of the Gods and distant Monument Valley.

Doreen is deathly afraid of heights and apparently, I am too, when sitting in a vehicle. Out of a car, I'm able to walk right to the edge and look over. Some primal fear of not being in control as a passenger turns my stomach and knees to jelly when looking over the edge through the car window. We literally scare ourselves silly and laugh so hard the tears run down our cheeks. One of these days I'm going to drive this road and make her sit on the outside edge.

We continued on to Hwy 163 Junction and headed for a nice supper and a bit of souvenir hunting at the Twin Rock Cafe and Trading Post in Bluff before driving to Monticello to spend the night.

Bluff, Utah

There are a couple of places we've found in our travels that warrant revisiting and the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff is one of them. The food is terrific, staff are pleasant and the west end of the building houses a gift shop which displays and sells numerous unique native artwork pieces.  Each year we stop to pick out something to add to our collection.

Twin Rocks Cafe is located at the base of two towering rocks that loom over the store and look as if they could topple and crush the building at any moment.  There is also an unusual balanced rock displayed at the front of the structure which is home to a multitude of geckos and insects.

Silas S. Smith led about 230 Mormons on expedition to start a farming community in southeastern Utah. After forging about 200 miles of their own trail over difficult terrain, the settlers arrived on the site of Bluff in April 1880. The town survived, despite hostilities from Navajos, Utes, outlaws, belligerent cattlemen and nature. The town's population had declined to 70 by the 1930's but rebounded during a uranium prospecting boom in the 1950's. With the uranium decline in the 1970's, Bluff again declined and now remains a small town with about 350 residents.

There is an historic section of the town preserved which includes a homestead, jail and sections of old Fort Bluff.

Today, Bluff is an active center for artists and crafts people as well as others involved in oil exploration, farming and ranching. Within this area of national parks, prehistoric sites, diverse cultures, wild canyons and river recreation, tourism has become a strong component in the local economy. There is something for everyone in this community.

Highway 191, Utah

In Utah US 191 is used to access the following parks: Monument Valley, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

Church Rock

Church Rock is a solitary column of sandstone in southern Utah along the eastern side of U.S. Route 191, near the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

The most remarkable feature of the rock is that it is partially hollow. Local folklore has that it was used for prayer services by early settlers and there is a road that leads right up to the cave entrance. Every time we drive past this unusual formation, I want to jump the fence and go investigate the opening that shows at it's base.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock, a State Historical Monument, records around 2,000 years of civilization in the area. It is easily accessible, standing alongside Route 211 into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. Etched into the sandstone rock are symbols that represent the Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo and Anglo cultures.

The symbols are typical of those found on many sites throughout the United States, but their true meaning is still not understood.

It is thought that they may record events of the time hence the name, 'Newspaper Rock'. The petroglyph panel forms one of the finest displays of Indian rock art to be seen in the U.S.

Wilson Arch

Wilson Arch, has a span of 91 feet and height of 46 feet, and is located about 24 miles south of Moab, Utah on US 191. The arch is visible from the road and there is a pulloff on the east with interpretive signs. According to the sign, "Wilson Arch" was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley.

This formation is known as Entrada Sandstone. Over time superficial cracks, joints, and folds of these layers saturate with water. Ice forms in the fissures, melt under extreme desert heat, and winds clean out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remain.

Wind and water attack these fins until cementing material give way and chunks of rock tumble out.  Many damaged fins collapse like the one to the right of Wilson Arch. Others, with the right degree of hardness survive, despite their missing middles, like Wilson Arch.

Hole in the Rock Slideshow

Hole in the Rock

Along U.S. Highway 191 twelve miles south of Moab, there is a unique 5,000 square foot home and gift shop. Inside are fourteen fabulous rooms arranged around huge pillars. Among the interior attractions are a fireplace with a 65 foot chimney drilled through solid sandstone, a deep french fryer and a bathtub built into rock.

The property boasts several landscaped cactus gardens including the final resting place of the original owners Gladys and Albert Christiansen.

In a 12-year period Albert excavated 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone from the rock. During this time he completed his famous painting "Sermon on the Mount" and his sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the face of the rock above his home.

Albert died in 1957 but the home was not complete. Gladys, in keeping with his wishes and lifelong dreams, continued to develop the home and gift shop into the world-renowned attraction it is today. When Gladys passed away in 1974 she was laid to rest next to Albert in a small cove near the home. The simple stone markers were sculpted by Gladys.

We had crammed in as many attractions and sights as time would allow but now our holidays were fast coming to an end. Purchasing a couple of trinkets and our usual ice cream cones, we climbed back into the car and headed north through Moab. A quick refresher spin up into Arches National Park for a couple of pictures and we finally had to leave this red rock area that we both love so much.

From this point, we drove straight north on Hwy 191 to Price and then turned onto Hwy 6 to Interstate 15 just south of Provo, only stopping for gas and food till it was time to quit for the night.  We were expecting to find rooms in Pocatello but there were conventions plus a dog show in the city and every place was full. We thought we might have to sleep in the car, but were finally able to get a room in Blackfoot, Idaho - about 20 miles further north. 

Even this motel had "gone to the dogs". Everywhere you looked there was someone walking a primped and polished pooch, carrying the standard plastic bag. I sure wouldn't want to be the maintenance person emptying "that" waste bin the next morning.

Blackfoot, Idaho

Blackfoot is a city in Bingham County, Idaho, United States.  As of the 2005 census, the city population was 10,646 and lucky for us - hosted a couple of nice motels.   It is designated the "Potato Capital of the World" and is home to the Idaho Potato Expo, a museum and gift shop that displays and explains the history of Idaho's potato industry.

Calgary Flood

As we continued into Montana, the cloud cover turned the sunny sky into a dreary haze and it hung over us all the way into Alberta. Every low-lying crop field was filled with standing water and some of the rivers were up to the base of the bridges we were crossing. The rippling creeks that ran alongside Interstate 15 were now muddy, raging rivers. Flooding was everywhere.

In June 2005, Calgary experienced the largest amount of rainfall during the month of June in its history, its' first state of emergency and the mandatory evacuation of 1,500 Calgarians from over 400 properties.

A record 248 millimetres of rain – three times June's monthly average – fell on the city in three large rainstorms: June 6-8, June 18-19 and June 26-28.

Storm water overflowed rivers, washed out pedestrian bridges and pathways, flooded roads and neigbourhoods, and damaged an estimated 40,000 Calgary homes - from a combination of river flooding, basement seepage and sewage backup. The flows on the Bow River in Calgary, Elbow River at Sarcee Bridge and Fish Creek near Priddis were from 4 to 60 times more than average for the month of June.

Another year, another adventure and "Thelma and Louise" arrived home safely again (a few pounds heavier) and slightly out of breath. Fortunately, the rain stopped, the rivers subsided and the sun came out again. We were already looking at the maps - where would we go next year????

Next 2006 Death Valley Road Trip