Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
Oracle Park, Home of the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We Made It! – Tues., July 31

Vernal, Utah to Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming:

Believe it or not, we pulled out at 7:40 a.m. today. The first thing we had to do this morning was cross an 8,400’ pass with an 8% grade. Hoo boy. Here we go again. Going up, Bob had to go into first gear a couple of times, but completed most of it in second. Going down we used second gear and the brakes.

After about 15-20 minutes, there was a nice information pull out with a loop driveway which was very easy for us to navigate. An added bonus was restrooms! We spent about fifteen minutes there. Continued on a while longer, then stopped to view Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the bridge. I took a couple of pics.

US 191 in Utah/Wyoming is the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway. Along the highway are signs describing what era is represented in the rocks and the types of fossils found there.

[Pictures to follow in a week or whenever we find internet again.]

Our route took us across the dam. On the other side was a sign for a viewpoint of the reservoir. We turned off the highway and went down a very steep side road for half mile to the parking lot. There wasn’t much room to turn around. If there had been other cars parked there we would have had trouble, but there wasn’t anyone else there so we made it.

The rest of our drive on US 191 north was great. We were on top of a plateau for a long time and saw pronghorn antelope in a few places. The descent was gradual with wide, sweeping turns.

Upon our arrival in Rock Springs, Wyoming, it was time for lunch. The first exit had a Walmart, so we stocked up on some things for Yellowstone while we still had reasonable prices. After Walmart we crossed under the freeway for lunch at Taco Time.

Then we were back on I-70 east to connect back up with US 191 north. I drove about an hour so Bob could get a nap. There was a lot of high-desert-type scenery. We crossed the Pony Express Route and the Oregon Trail Route.

The scenery changed just south of Pinedale to irrigated farmland, marshes and willows. Between the two of us, we saw three moose today, a deer, herds of pronghorns, two osprey nests with osprey in them, magpies and turkey vultures.

The scenery just kept getting prettier. Soon we were in canyons with rock walls, pine trees, willows, and meadows. We pulled into Jackson, Wyoming and went to the Visitor Center where we asked about campgrounds for the next three nights. We didn’t have reservations anywhere. The Visitor Center staff were so friendly. They told us which campgrounds they thought might have availability and told us we could use their courtesy phones to call.

First we tried Colter Bay Campground right on Jackson Lake. They did not have availability for three nights. Next we called Flagg Ranch. They had availability tonight and Thursday night. We asked if we could be put on a waiting list for Wednesday night. The reservationist said we could ask the campground to do that. So, as we were making the reservation, a cancellation came in for Wednesday night and we were able to book all three nights in the same site! Sometimes we just live right.

We are now all set up and cozy in our site in the pine trees at Flagg Ranch. Very cool. No computer access even with our booster. The power is 20 amp, so no microwave, no blow dryer, no electric griddle, no vacuum, no A/C. The daytime temp is supposed to be in the 80s, nighttime temp 43F. No need for A/C.

We are getting up early tomorrow to go hiking. The trailhead is an hour from our site. We will be doing the Bradley and Taggart Lakes Volkswalk, 6 miles, 1,400 vertical feet. Description of the walk: Escape crowds at Jenny Lake with this scenic, leisurely wander through meadows and regenerating forest to a pair of glacial lakes. The untouched forests around Bradley Lake provide a vivid contrast to the Taggart Lake burn area. On a clear day, from the bridge over the outlet stream from Taggart Lake, you’ll find unobstructed views of the remarkable Grand Teton peak (13,770’). Switchback steeply over the moraine dividing Taggart and Bradley Lakes.

Good night all.


What? -- Mon., July 30

Delta, Colorado to Vernal, Utah:

Today’s plan: Drive from Delta, Colorado to Dutch John, Utah.

Bob grocery shopped and filled the truck with diesel, and came back to Rigamarole while I vacuumed, washed and put away dishes, secured the hatches and closed the slides. When Bob walked in the door, he said, “We have a flat tire.”

“What? Where? How did that happen?” I queried.

Neither of us could figure it out. While Bob was out, not knowing we had a flat, he stopped at Napa Auto Parts and bought an air compressor in case we ever needed one. Is he prescient or what?

He said, “No problem. I bought an air compressor .We can fill the tire with air and drive it over the bridge to Big O Tires.” That’s what we did.

Big O Tires told us we’d have to wait an hour for them to look at our tire. Luckily for us, it only took ½ hour. The verdict: The tire is fine, but the weld on the rim was broken and the air was leaking out at that point. They didn’t have the correct wheel so they directed us to Springworks in Grand Junction. We called to make sure they had the correct rim. (They had two.)

We were headed through Grand Junction anyway. Big O Tires in Delta, Colorado filled the flat with air and said we’d make it to Grand Junction with no problems. They were right. We purchased our new wheel, but Springworks doesn’t install them. They referred us to Big O Tires in Grand Junction.

Off we went to Big O Tires. Bob sure earned his driving chops getting the 5er into Big O Tires in Grand Junction. Bravo, Bob! They were able to install the wheel, but ran into a small problem when one of the eight lug nut bolts broke. They had to send someone out to buy a new one. In all, we were at the Big O Tires in Grand Junction for about 1-1/2 hours.

If someone gives you a lemon, make lemonade. I was able to walk to Petco from Big O to buy some cat food. As soon as I was leaving Petco, the thunderstorm that had been threatening the area decided to let loose with the rain. Got a bit wet walking back.

When I returned to Big O Tires, Bob walked to the Verizon store to have them help him get his cell phone working.

When all was said and done, our wheel cost around $60 at Springworks, and Big O Tires in Grand Junction charged us $17 to install the wheel. Not bad. We lost a few hours, but our tire and rim are safe now.

We debated taking CO 139 over 8,268’ Douglas Pass to Rangely, Colorado. Our other options were almost double the mileage so we decided to go over CO 139, Douglas Pass Road.

Looking up at the pass from below
Looking down at the road.
The paved road was our road up.
At the top looking down the other side.
We had no idea what the grades were or what the road was like. Turns out the road had 7% grades. It was our first time driving on such a steep grade while pulling Rigamarole. Going up, it was second or first gear most of the way. Going down, we tried first gear and immediately the speed went up to 40 mph. Had to use the brakes. Started smelling burning. Uh oh. My daddy taught me if you smell burning, pull over.

Bob pulled over and our left rear wheel on the pick up was smoking. Must let it cool. We stayed at the turnout for close to an hour while the brakes cooled. Thankfully, we had passed the worst of it and the rest of the way down was much more gradual. To tell you the truth, I was a nervous wreck.

The drive from Dinosaur to Vernal was uneventful. We debated continuing on to Dutch John that evening. Our drive continued through the town of Vernal and out the other side on US 40. I told Bob it didn’t feel “right,” that I thought we were supposed to turn north on US 191 out of the town of Vernal. We were way out of town to the west in the middle of nowhere. A passing lane came up with a wide shoulder. After all the traffic went by, we did a U-turn and headed 14 miles back to Vernal, Utah.

We fueled up the truck and went in search of US 191 north to Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was getting late. I really wanted to stop for the night. US 191 went north from the middle of downtown. Somehow we had driven past it the first time through. Come to find out US 191 in the downtown core was closed for two blocks. The detour was a couple of blocks away. We did not make it to Dutch John, Utah. Instead we stayed at the Dinoland KOA in Vernal, Utah.

Long day, tired people. Glad we stopped.

Travel Bug out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Preview of Coming Blog -- Mon., July 30

Colorado into Utah (or Frying Pan into the Fire):

Many friends and relatives read our blog. In order to keep you all from worrying, we are okay. I've just been too busy and too tired to blog yesterday and today. If all goes well tomorrow, I should have time to write about Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Preview of upcoming attractions (you won't want to miss Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park):

  • South Rim, Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • Cimarron Railroad Exhibit
  • Morrow Point Dam
  • Hwy 92, West Elk Loop Scenic Byway 
  • Thunder, lightning, downpour
  • North Rim, Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • Jeanette/Dinner, Zack's Bar-B-Que, Hotchkiss, Colorado
  • Air compressor at Auto Zone
  • Flat tire
  • Weld on rim broken
  • Big O Tires, Delta, Colorado
  • Springworks, Big O Tires, Petco and Verizon store, Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Hwy 139, Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway
  • 8,240' pass w/ steep grades
  • Brakes smoking
  • Vertigo
  • I'll let you know.
Wildlife sightings: One grey fox, lots of cottontails, ground squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, white-tailed deer, one prairie dog.

Welcome to new blog subscribers Kevin & Evelyn of RV Khronicles of Kevelyn, Dave and Susie, and Ray and Wendy. We hope you enjoy traveling with us.

Heading for bed early to get a very early start tomorrow.

Good night, sleep tight. Travel Bug out.

Wow! Wow! Wow! -- Sun., July 29

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, South and North Rims:

Before we left our 5er at the RV Park, a rainbow appeared over us. Delta, Colorado is known for the murals painted on the walls around town. I captured some as we drove along the main street.
Rainbow over us.

Dino art.

Sunday morning we were on the road (pick-up truck only) at 7:40 a.m. and arrived at the South Rim Visitor Center of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison by 8:15 a.m. 

The only words coming out of my mouth were “WOW! WOW! WOW! This is so gorgeous, spectacular, awesome, stunning.”
We watched a 20-minute video about the discovery of the canyon and the attempts at early exploration. Then we hiked to the viewpoint below the visitor center. The canyon walls fell away sharply--dark grey, light grey, white, pink and yellowish rock--formed by years of erosion. At the bottom of the canyon flows the emerald green Gunnison River, harnessed from its former power by dams upstream. The erosive forces of the river have slowed sharply over the recent years.

Viewpoint at South Rim Visitor Center

South Rim Visitor Center
Big fat lizard sunning.
Gunnison River

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park views are from above only; unless you are a highly experienced hiker, rock climber, or kayaker. Even then permits are de rigeur to go into the inner canyon.

For four hours, we walked or hiked at the turnouts, viewpoints and end of the road. Each section of the park we visited greeted us with dramatic views of rocks, canyon, dikes, river, cross fissures, vistas of the surrounding farmlands or mountains. 

The longest hike of 1.5 miles roundtrip at the highest point in the park (over 8,000’) traversed up and down over hills, through juniper and gambel oak forest to a viewpoint overlooking more of the canyon and mountains in the distance.

Juniper bark.

Our trail interpretive brochure pointed out a juniper that was a seedling when the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. 

A very old juniper.
Even though the altitude was over 8,000’, I didn’t get any more winded than a normal trail with the ups and downs of this one. Guess I’m in better shape than I thought.

The park ranger at South Rim told us the drive to North Rim would take 3-1/2 hours on the scenic route through Cimarron and over Blue Mesa Dam; only 2/12 hours going through Hotchkiss and Crawford. We decided on the more scenic route.

When our exploration of the South Rim was complete (except for a drive down to the bottom on East Portal Road with a 16% grade and hairpin turns), we exited the park and headed east on US 50, the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.

Next stop, Cimarron. What’s there, you might ask? A historic railway exhibit about the narrow gauge train that ranchers used for livestock shipping, that’s what. If you go, don’t miss out on the drive into the canyon to view the Morrow Point Dam and an exhibit of a narrow gauge railroad bridge. Also in the canyon are a picnic area and a hiking trail along the river.
Beautiful farmland exiting South Rim Black Canyon.


Narrow gauge vs. regular rail.
Exhibit of narrow gauge cars.
Drive into canyon.

Exhibit of narrow gauge bridge.

Gunnison River below dam.
Morrow Point Dam
From Cimarron we continued east on US 50 to CO 92 north and crossed over Blue Mesa Dam, then headed up more of the West Elk Loop Byway. We made a quick stop at the Blue Mesa Dam Overlook, made even quicker by the thunder, lightning and beginning of large raindrops on our heads.

The road was narrow and steep. Up and up we went, then up some more. Added to the drama of sleep cliffs on one side, and signs warning of rockfall and possible landslides, the sky opened up with a massive downpour. The road was like a river, lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and we continued driving. Pretty soon it felt like we were on top of the world.

A viewpoint at the top was staffed by a very gregarious park ranger who asked if we had any questions. Bob asked him about the geology. I asked him about the Hermit’s Rest Trail. The trail is 6 miles roundtrip, descending 1,800’ to Morrow Point Reservoir and back up. He drily stated, “I don’t think today would be the best day to do the hike.” (Ya think?)
Morrow Point Reservoir from above.
We made it to the North Rim turnoff close to 3:30 p.m. We were to meet our friend Jeanette, another full-time RVer, whom we met workamping at last winter. No cell phone coverage to tell her we wanted to have a later dinner, so we stopped by the campground where she worked and talked to her in person. (The campground was only two miles from the turnoff to the North Rim.) We wanted to set a time to have dinner and decided on 6:00 p.m. which would give us enough time to check out the viewpoints on the North Rim of the Black Canyon and give us time to return to her motorhome.

North Rim was as great as the South Rim, except a lot of the road is gravel. The viewpoints are either right next to the road or a very short walk with the exception of the trail to Exclamation Point near the North Rim Ranger Station. We did not have time to do the longer hike. North Rim Black Canyon photos:

Bob and "The Beast"

Finishing up at North Rim, we had some extra time, so we drove through Crawford and Hotchkiss, Colorado to check out restaurants. Upon our return to Jeanette’s MH, we sat and talked for a while then decided to try country bar for dinner. We drove a couple of miles out of Crawford only to find out they were closed on Sunday evening.

Plan B entailed driving 10 miles to Hotchkiss for a dinner at Zack’s Bar-B-Que. Good choice. The food and service were excellent. All of us enjoyed the dishes we ordered. Bob and I had the barbecued chicken dinners and Jeanette chose the Chopped Beef Sandwich. Our dinners came with chicken, barbecue sauce, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and a roll. We were hungry after all our hiking and exploring and we wolfed the food down. Such a great visit to get caught up with our friend.

Jeanette and Susan
We returned to the 5er around 9:00 p.m. to find a couple of very hungry kitties waiting for their dinner.

Wildlife today: cottontails, lizards, turkey vultures, cliff swallows, white-tailed deer, grey fox, ground squirrels, chipmunks.

Travel Bug’s lights out.