Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back in the Paddle Again

Yeeeah. I know its been awhile since I posted. Certainly left the Utah/Colorado trip story without a nice end. Well, sometimes you don't get closure. Needless to say, I'm home, back at work...ya da, ya da, ya da.

Tonight however, I finally got back together with Eliza (my kayak). It was so beautiful as the sun set. A little cold...and I'm thinking about getting those funny-puppet-paddling mits after all. Also thinking about going for a paddle some night in December...after all the Christmas lights are out. Anyone interested?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Road Warrior of the Hairpin Turns

In the last 36 hours I have probably been through over 18000 ft of elevation changes. Most on single lane roads without shoulders and guard rails. By the time it was over, the ride down from Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide was a piece of cake.

But back to Mesa Verde. It's a place far cooler than any picture or blog post could ever tell. I spent yesterday morning there. Walked around the Far View Terrace area, which few people visit, but which contains a few of the mesa top farming sites that were built and occupied before the cliff dwellings. Certainly an easier if not as impressive place to live. After that I drove down to Spruce Tree House which is like Cliff Palace, a little smaller, but with more Kivas, and one you can go down in. As mentioned previously, that was an amazing experience. Then I walked out to Petroglyph point, a really nice hike that gives you an idea of just how many other cliff dwellings are in the area as well as the typography.

Back on the road, Durango was the next stop. It's a very cute town. Very nice and the people are great too. Colorado seems to have the nicest most genuine people. They're not just talking to you because you're a potential customer or because you're from out of town. When they talk to you, you get the impression they're interested in you and what you're up to. In the last two days I've had some really great conversations with people about life, theories for living it, the desire of weathermen to exaggerate the forecast, the pros and cons of mining, shoplifting, and the highest use of ones talents.

Heading North from Durango I headed up the "Million Dollar Highway", for me a white-knuckle, no-shoulder, n0-guardrail, drive-while-meditating drive up over some pass or other. I think it peaked out at 11,000 ft. Then down to Silverton, where I had intended to stay but thought better of after walking down the dirt streets. Sure, it's a real live mining town, but hey - it's a real live mining town. So back in the car and up over the next pass to Ouray.

Ouray is definitely in the running for cutest mountain town, it certainly had the cutest houses, and the best historical society. The Ouray Motel, located downtown in a 1890's Victorian Motel is a great, reasonably prices place to stay. An early evening walk to Box Canyon was a nice end to the day - but wait - what were these pvc pipes running around the rim of the canyon? Oh! It's the plumbing for the Ouray Ice Park. Every winter they spray water all over one of the canyons so Ice Climbers can play!


By morning I realize this half of the vacation has taken a different feel, now it's that of a traveler, the Road Warrior is back. It's been awhile since I woke early and hit the road (usually roads much different than this - and I'd take Mountain passes over NYC rush hour any day) but the feeling is still there. So this morning I continued North and down the valley to Montrose, then East to Salida. On the way I stopped at Gunnison Canyon National Park - oops another 3000 ft. drop in and out of a canyon, the up and over the Continental Divide to Salida.

Salida is a unique blend of artist community/outdoor enthusiast/Denver escapist/miner/farmer hangout. The people are all great. Downtown is an historic district that is in various states of renovation located along the Arkansas River. I walked the shops for a while, bought two rugs and headed back to the hotel. Have to confess...I'm tired. Just so many new places, new things, etc. It's funny, I'm not the least bit tired of traveling. Having this connection, and now the 'cell' have made it so I can keep in touch so there's no need to get back for others, and I'm feeling pretty comfortable with this routine, and there is no end of places I want to go! I just need a little break. Tomorrow the plan is to head for Colorado Springs, hike out to some waterfall and then the art museum to see some original Georgia O'Keefe's. Then North to Denver to complete the Grand Circle! Of course, who knows what will really happen.

Kivas at Mesa Verde

Wow! Climbing into and out of one of those is an experience you'll never forget.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best of Both Worlds

Tonight I’m writing from the big fluffy bed I’d dreamed of…and I’m as close to out-of-doors and someone in a big fluffy bed can get.

But back to last night…after closing up the laptop I climbed the giant rock behind the tent to read and watch the sunset. There is nothing like a sunset in the red rocks desert. First you look East as the sunlight slides up the red rocks, that special evening color firing each and every stone. Then, when the sun sets, there is a brief intermission before the colors in the Western Sky begin. As red and fiery as the rocks were but softer. And then the stars come out, and when you’re in the middle of nowhere, the stars are right there above you. The Milky Way was so clear, and there were just millions of stars.

Morning came bright and clear and I packed up as soon as it was light. Something told me if I didn’t leave then, I might not ever go. So up the Canyon, then over the mountain I went. There were lots of mule deer, hundreds of wild turkeys and lots of cows. The Aspen had just changed and patches of the mountain were brilliant. Back down in the desert I headed East for the first time in a week.

Hovenweep is an early Pueblo settlement of stone houses set within, and on the rim of a small canyon. There is a short 2 mile hike around it that makes for a nice walk, and gives you just enough time to wonder who lived there and what it would have been like. I think the guy who designed Arco Santi just went too far. His ideas are just like those of there early Pueblo builders, but he just wants too much more, Hovenweep is all you need. A few structures built into the side of the canyon, with a tower or two on the rim.

Next I went to see the world’s largest ball of twine. Oh, no, I mean the 4 Corners. Located on Ute Reservation land the spot where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet is accessible only after paying a $3.00/person fee and fighting your way through Native American Craft stalls. I got a picture though.

Further East I drove by Shiprock, NM. The rock is very cool, the town sad, the fact that there is one more state on my list…awesome.

And then I returned to Colorado on the way to Mesa Verde and began to start thinking of finding a place to spend the night. As faithful readers will have noted…I was in need of a shower and a bed. Driving through Cortez, looking at the strip hotels was not thrilling. I’d spent the night before out under the Milky Way, would I now have to sleep beside a flashing neon light? Stopping at the Visitor Center I inquired about ‘quiet’ places to stay and the helpful lady there informed me that there was a hotel at Mesa Verde. It was primitive she warned…no tv. I asked if they had electricity and showers. Which she must have thought was a joke question – but she has no idea how primitive its been. I then hopped in the car, sped East to the Park and then drove some more. Hey! Is this some kind of conspiracy? Mesa Verde is on top of a mountain. Well yes, that is what Mesa means but its 2000 feet up. So was the hotel where I happily booked a room!

Then off down the road some more to take the 5:00 tour of Clift Palace. The pueblo ruin you associate with Mesa Verde. And it is cool, but it is only one of over 300 in the park. Tomorrow I’m going to check out some of the others and do some hiking. Now. After a great dinner at the restaurant here, a nice talk with a newlywed couple from Philadelphia (he’s a tattoo artist, she’s a professional photographer), and a loooong shower I’m going to go to sleep in bed that is in a room in the middle of a National Park!

Sweet and Sour or Cashew Chicken?

This morning I headed South intending to go to Monument Valley via Canyonlands – Needles District. Rt 191 is pretty uneventful, the radio stations non-existent, and the traffic flows right along so fast that I almost missed the turn to the Park. Thinking this was another of those parks where you drove until the road stopped at some lookout or other I didn’t figure it would take to long to drive the 60 miles round trip. But after stopping to look at Newspaper Rock things began to change. The valley opened up into a wide plain bounded by high red cliffs. Both beautiful. It was the kind of country I’d pictured in Westerns. A big plain with a lazy cottonwood creek running through the middle. Cows grazing everywhere. Like many of the places I go I began to wonder what it would be like to live in a place like this. Wide open, sunny, clear…not like a stuffy hotel room where I’d probably be spending the night. Truth be told I had been looking forward to throwing myself down on a big bed and taking a looong hot shower, but at the same time, I wanted to stay outside…out of doors. And that’s when I drove through the Park entranced and saw the campsites available sign.

I had a tent, a sleeping bag, a pad….2 bananas, 2 apples, ½ a bag of sunflower seeds. Hmmm. Not quite enough for a day and night…but wait…I had also thrown two backpacker pantry ‘meals’ in my bag. Technically I had no way to cook them but all they need is hot water, and you can get hot water in the desert…right? And it’s an amazingly beautiful campsite.

After setting up I packed up the bananas, the sunflower seeds and water and headed up a long 4 mile canyon to the Needles. Could help but think this is one National Forest that Edward Abbey just might like. The road doesn’t take you to all the cutely named scenic rocks. Nope. It just goes down the middle of the park. If you want to see anything, or heck, even experience the desert, you have to walk. And nothing is named that I could see. I did however not get to see it all as at the end of the canyon I was walking up you had to scale up the canyon wall to get to the next canyon. I made it about ½ way until I got to the part where you had to swing out just a little bit – and I couldn’t do it. But the hike back was just as nice as the hike up. I love these canyon streams and cottonwoods.

I’ve settled on the Sweet and Sour Chicken which is – hopefully – cooking on the hood of the black volkswagon jetta. Bon appetite!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lazy, lazy, lazy

I'm sitting in the Mondo Cafe (highly recommended if you're ever in Moab) and I don't think I'm ever leaving. They have couches, great coffee, and wireless. Also real nice people. Funny how that really makes all the difference.

The idea for today however, is to pack up and head south for Monument Valley.

Here are a few other tips for those traveling to Moab.

1. Be sure to buy juice to flavor your water.
2. Don't expect great food
3. Don't expect the people to be all that friendly - especially in the Information Center!
4. Go to Delicate Arch early in the morning
5. Plan to shop at night - stores are open to 10:00!
6. Spend some time on the Colorado River
7. If you're a camper, try and stay at the wilderness sites. They are in the best locations. If you have to camp in town - Up the Creek is a good place.

Moab, Day 2

Gosh, another busy day. Right now I’m taking care of the little things, doing laundry and charging the cell, but earlier I was hiking, driving and thinking. (Or perhaps I should say, hiking and thinking, and driving and thinking, but then again, sometimes I didn’t think either.)

So the hiking. First climbed the Moab Rim trail for a full view of the Moab Valley. I saw the tire tracks but really find it hard to believe mountain bikes and jeeps make this climb. Looks like one jeep must have ripped a hole in its gas, or oil tank because right after this really steep part there was oil all over the rock. But none of that while I was there. Just a nice early morning 2000ft rise over the Colorado River.

After that headed North to Canyonlands National Park. Which is basically (once you’re at the park) a 21 mile drive out a mesa that gets progressively narrow until at some points it is only as wide as the two lane highway. Swerve and you do a Thelma and Louise down a few thousand feet. (Being here you can’t imagine how they decided which cliff to have them drive off, the options are endless.) I took a couple of side hikes and some great photos, although the camera will never do the scale of this place justice. At the overlook there was a short 1 mile jaunt further out on the point which was amazing. Speaking of the camera, there is something here, something that just defies my sense of time, distance and scale. Looking back along the distance covered in that 1 mile hike, it seems so much further…but the time taken is right, and then yesterday the hike up the Canyon seemed so long, but really wasn’t. And over all things just seem too darn big, but really you can get from here to there without much trouble. While on the point I looked south to the Needles, where I’ll be tomorrow. It looked a hundred miles away, but the sign said 15.

You really got to wonder what Powell was thinking.

After Canyonlands I took a leisurely drive along the Colorado River and accidentally discovered what I call “Rock Climber Alley”. The road runs between the river and a shear red stone cliff that has people hanging all over it. Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration but there were several climbers there. I tried to get a few in the photo, but again scale, etc…

And now I’m doing laundry.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Good friends don't let good friend...drink Starbucks

This morning I'm writing and sipping good coffee from Mondo: Espresso Cafe in Moab. Good coffee is a blessing - and the egg sandwich isn't bad either. I highly recommend the place. (free wireless too!)

Hiking again!

After a day of driving I was so anxious to get hiking that I woke up at 5:30. Okay, actually it was so darn cold that I woke up as soon as I knew a diner would be open so I could get some hot coffee and warmth. Luckily I didn’t want food so much as it was awful. Just like the guide books said, good food in Moab is hard to come by.

But the people were nice and service was fast and I was driving into Arches National Park at 8 am. Arrived at Delicate Arch at 9ish. Pictures just never do the real thing justice. Not only that it wasn’t so much the arch that touched me it was more the feeling of the place. From the pictures I’d always thought the land around the arch was relatively flat. No so. The arch itself stands on a large fin that is pretty far up in the air and pretty far out in the middle of nothing. Walking up to it one goes along a cliff face then turns a corner and…there it is. I sat there, just around the corner, high up above the desert and finally, for the first time since leaving Denver, or maybe even much longer, relaxed. Just me, the sandstone, the arch, the La Sal Mountains and a few sparrows.

Eventually the place began to fill and I felt it was time to move on so after walking back to the car and driving further North I took the hike out to Landscape Arch, Navaho and Partition Arch. Had to turn back from Double O, it was O so narrow on that trail. After that I went to Window Arch where I sat awhile and enjoyed more of the Arches Scenery.

Feeling a bit parched, the temperature having risen to 69, I headed down to the Colorado River to hike up Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Bridge. (and yes some Moabians are not happy with the name of the Canyon, but that’s what the guy who settled there was called. And if I’d a had my druthers, I’d a settled there with him! I love these Canyons, there are like oaisiss. Tall red walls soothed by the sound of running brooks. Oaks, and willows, sage, and this one had poison ivy too. At the end of the Canyon some people were repelling off the bridge and hopefully you can pick that up in the photos.

Now I’m back at the campsite, typing by the light of the laptop. It’s 7:30, dark and the cold is settling back in. I’ve got a great book to read, and I’m a bit tired. Good night.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Back in Red Rock Country

...and it feels good.

Heading for the hills...and the desert

This morning I leave the land of fluffy king sized beds, room service, and free wireless for ... 39 degrees, and my hubba hubba. I am so excited! Oh and there is a chance of snow while crossing the mountains.

Last night was fun too. A bunch of us went to dinner at Lime, a Mexican restaurant that served good food, fine Margaretta's and plenty of entertainment. Walking home the streets were full. The more serious baseball fans were at the game, but those who couldn't make it were still enjoying the atmosphere and waiting for the after game fun to begin. As our waiter informed us, that's when things really started happening. It was pretty cool. Lots of good people and good energy. Looking at the building and all the events and arts, etc you know Denver is a city, but it sure feels like a town.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thought Provoking

Today was/is primarily a session-intense day. I think there are 6 in all, of which I'm only 2/3's of the way through. Still, it has gotten interesting as the sessions are getting more and more focused on different systems and means of working with, presenting and gathering data and stuff.

Over lunch I had a fascinating discussion on the purpose of Libraries. If Libraries were originally created to collect, preserve and share knowledge, (think Alexandria), what is our purpose now when the big challenge is that there is too much information? I mean think about it...

Meanwhile in Denver...rumor has it the streets are filling with Denver Rocky fans. The game is tonight, less than a mile from here.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Ranny's here!!!

I was sitting in the orientation session and in walked one of my bestest, funniest classmates from Syracuse. We caught up during lunch and then attended a really interesting session on Global Warming. (Strange topic for Library and Information Technology but very interesting.)

Pueblo Pottery

Last night I went to hear Stephen Trimble's talk on his book, "Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery in the 21st Century" at Tattered Covers bookstore. First off, he is an amazingly engaging speaker and a fascinating person. While the subject is fascinating, his presentation was warm, thought-provoking and concise.

Aside from discussing and showing slides of how the Pueblo Indians gather clay, and construct, decorate, fire and then sell their pottery he talked about the traditions involved in the making. How, distinctive decorating and vase styles evolved among Pueblos but that recently as the potters have continued to grow their traditions the styles have become more individualistic. The potters have also branched off into sculpture with amazing results.

And then I went to bed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Denver - land of many things

So I'm here. Have been for about 4 hours now. Immediately after checking in I dropped off my stuff and headed North through the 16th St. Mall. I have never seen so many restaurants offering wheatgrass. I tasted it once (somewhere else not here). They also have a lot of Starbucks (so the burnt coffee can offset the wheatgrass?).

At the very end of the 16th Street Mall, and over the river is Mecca, aka the REI flagship store. Ahhhh, built in the old, but significantly expanded trolley station this REI features and 3 story climbing wall, lots of boulders and is nicely located at the Confluence of two rivers which have been constructed into a whitewater kayaking run. Sweet. There is also a Starbucks (no wheatgrass). I looked at everything. Lots of fuuur this year. Also checked out REI's touring bike which is a possibility for the West Coast trip.

After drooling there for awhile I head back South and stopped at the famous "Tattered Covers Bookstore". Cool books, lots and lots of cool books. Funny how I left Borders the other day thinking there were no good books, and here, well here it was so hard no to buy them all. Tonight there is even an author lecture on 20th century South American Pottery.

So now I'm back at the hotel for a little rest.

Oh, and I can see there beautiful mountains from my window and they are calling me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

On again

It's been a week now since my buddy passed on. Don't think I've walked into the house once without expecting him to greet me at the door. Except for the occasional uncontrollable sobbing, I'm doing okay.

The Denver/Utah trip is on again. Not sure of the exact route but playing it by ear might be a good thing for me. At the very least the initial book selection has been made and is as follows:

The Whistling Season, Ivan Doig
The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman
Hitching Rides with Buddha, Will Ferguson.

There are lots of other books I'm reading and would rather read, but these popped to the top of the list because they're paperbacks. The "Hitching" book is about travel so that's good, the writer seems to have a good adventurous attitude so while he's traveling through Japan and I'll be in the desert we'll still be traveling. Ivan Doig is a great writer so that should be a good read. And so many people have recommended the World is Flat and a peek through the covers has been rewarding.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Last night on ebay

I highly recommend not going shopping or surfing ebay when one is in a funk. As it is, it appears I am the owner of a new bike.

I have been looking for a while. I mean the panasonic is 20 years old, and while it does qualify me to ride in the invitation-only-shift-on-the-down-tube annual races, and I can pass many a fully suited, high-tech rider, still...I covet the new bikes. So I agreed that if a good deal came up on ebay, a really good deal, I could buy a new bike. What is funny is that since I started looking several $600.00 Specialized Dolces have sold for $600 and $700. Its just weird.

So Friday night I noticed a Specialized Vita for auction. This is an alumunium frame, triathlon bike which retails for $1200.00. The bidding was at $550.00, so what the heck I figure. This will go for around $1300.00. I bid $560.00, and it was the winning bid.

She is a beauty.