Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander



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Travel Blog 268: Beautiful Colorado

Ridgway State Park to Riverview RV Park, Loveland, CO

Buena Vista
The trip from Ridgway State Park to the Buena Vista KOA was gorgeous. However, whoever was driving had to concentrate on the steep inclines and declines and pay close attention to curves and drop offs. Gladly the weather at our destination was wonderful—in the low to mid-80s instead of the high 90s. Although a dusty park, the views were beautiful. A nice feature was that there was a trail that started in the campground and continued up into the forest. Perfect place to let Jack off-leash and let the crazy canine run wild.

Fort Collins
We had intended camping in the Denver area, but every campground within 60 miles of Denver was booked! Never seen anything like this before. So we had to drive all the way to Fort Collins, and then we could only stay five nights instead of the ten we wanted. I guess cheap fuel and a slightly improved economy is having its impact! However, our campground (Fort Collins KOA) was a gem—great place for dogs and for grandkids. We will remember it for future family ventures.

Quick Trip to Southern California
I didn’t get a chance to experience much of the campground or the area, though, as I had a business trip to Southern California. Good client, great food, and just awesome weather made the trip a success.
 
Loveland
Our next campground was off of Highway 34 in Loveland, only 30 minutes away from Fort Collins. Highway 34 is one of the main drives into Estes Park and on to Rocky Mountain National Park. 
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
One day we violated all our rules about visiting national parks, as we visited in the middle of the day on a weekend in the summer. Telling ourselves to be patient with all the traffic, we drove into RMNP, and finding it was re-opened after washing out many months ago, we took the Old River Road, the 14-mile, one-way dirt road up to the backside of the Alpine Visitor Center. There were wildflowers all along the way, and we saw a herd of elk and a brute of a marmot at exactly the same place I saw one last year.

RMNP Elk Herd

RMNP Marmot

On our way home outside of the park we saw some bighorn sheep overlooking the highway. Here is a pic of Momma and Baby.

Big Horn Mom and Baby

Afternoon Trip

Loveland Road Trip

One afternoon we decided to check out the Poudre River area. We headed back up and past the Fort Collins KOA, picking up the Scenic Byway Highway 14. Just a gorgeous trip along the Poudre River. At Road 27 we angled back south and east around curvy roads and 12 percent grades.

Pup Strolls
Close to our campground was an off-leash dog park and a big nature area complete with miles of paths and several  ponds. Each morning we started the day off enjoying this wonderful area.

Old Trucks

Old Community Fire Truck

Old Orange Truck

See you soon.

Travel Blog 267: Mountain Bluebirds and High Meadow Wildflowers

Paria Guest Ranch to Gouldings to Sundance RV to United Campground to Ridgway SP
 
Monument Valley
From the hot desert of the Paria Guest Ranch we traveled to Goulding Campground in the hot desert of Monument Valley that straddles Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. The location of some famous John Ford Western movies, the dramatic landscape is awe-inspiring in the right light and weather.

Monument Valley Sunrise

Monument Valley
 
Mesa Verde
After a couple days in Monument Valley, we headed north and east to Sundance RV in Cortez, Colorado. We took some short trips, including a tour of Mesa Verde, a wonderful national park that we had not visited in several years. Here is a shot from the Park plus one of Hunting Jack from a morning stroll.
 
Hunting Jack

Mesa Verde
 
Durango
From Cortez, we took the short trip east to United Campground in Durango. What makes this campground special is that the famous narrow rail Durango-Silverton train runs right through the center of the place! So every morning and every evening campers walked down to the train track to hear the whistle, smell the smoke, and view the trains chugging along…actually, it is quite addictive!

Durango-Silverton Train
 
Ridgway
From Durango we made our scenic way to Ridgway State Park, just north of the town of Ridgway and close to the great towns of Ouray and Telluride. This is one of our favorite areas in all of Colorado, and that says a lot.
 
Our large, wooded campsite was full of birds, and we spent much time viewing their antics. Especially fun to watch was the large number of bluebirds.

Male Mountain Bluebird

Female Mountain Bluebird

Pine Sisken

What Does It Take to Get a Drink Around Here?

White Breasted Nuthatch
 
Owl Creek Pass Day Trip
We took a wonderful trip up into the mountains to Owl Creek Pass. From there we headed north and east on to Silver Jack Reservoir, especially enjoying the wildflowers--Indian paints, cow parsnip, bull thistle, larkspur, daisies, scarlet gilia, penstemon, goldenweed, elk thistle, hawksbeard, fireweed, and on and on. This is the same trip we took a few years ago where we spotted our first mountain lion.

Owl Creek Pass Wildflowers

Morning Walks
Every morning we took the Pups down to the Ridgway Day Use area along the reservoir. Since there were only a few fishermen up at that hour, we let the Pups run loose. Jack chased everything that moved, including chippers, birds, and grasshoppers. Mitzy strolled along sniffing and peeing as the mood fit her. When she got tired we put her in her buggy and gave her a ride. One morning we saw a red fox, and the next morning we saw two of them together. We watched them jump, box, and chase each other as they played in the morning sun. I did not have a long lens, but I did at least capture the solo fox the first day.

Jumping Jack

Mountain Jack

Racing Jack

Run Jack Run

Brindle Pup

Jogging Mitzy

Smiling Madeline

Ridgway Fox
 
In the town of Ridgway there was a really cool mural and a really neat old truck at the train museum. Just a wonderful area.

Ridgway Mural

Old US Mail Train Truck
  
See you soon.

Travel Blog 266: Bryce, Capital Reef, Grand Staircase, and Vermilion Cliffs

Springville KOA to Paria Adventure Ranch

On to Torrey
From Springville we ventured off south to Torrey, Utah, staying at Wonderland RV Park. After settling in, we took an afternoon scenic drive into Capital Reef National Monument.

Capital Reef Country Scenic Byway

Wonderland RV Park Scenic Loop

We took a 155-mile loop of a day trip that was one of the best I’ve ever taken. We headed east on the Capital Reef Country Scenic Byway, past the entrance to Capital Reef National Park to our first stop to visit the petroglyphs.

Petroglyphs

After a few miles east, we turned south on the Notom Road Scenic Backway which followed the once underwater reef. We passed ranches and washes, creeks and mesas as we wandered through this dynamic, rugged, magnificent landscape full of reds, yellows, creams, whites, oranges, and greens. Amazing.

Jack and Skeleton

The paved road quickly turned to dirt which in many ways was good--we only saw six vehicles the first four hours of our jaunt. We moved along the Oyster Shelf Reef, named after all the oyster shells left there from several thousand years ago. At the Burr Trail Switchbacks, we headed west on the Burr Trail Scenic Backway, once again through fascinating scenery. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here is my attempt to capture some of the grandeur.

Capital Reef

Capital Reef 2

Capital Reef 3

We stopped for lunch at a marvelous restaurant in Boulder, and then headed home on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway, complete with more glorious vistas and several climbs on 10% grades.

Lower Bowns Reservoir

Capital Reef National Monument and the surrounding area are not household names and the lack of traffic proves this. However, in terms of impressiveness, they are right up there with all the big-name parks.

Fish Lake
The next afternoon we drove around Fish Lake, north and east of Torrey. After the bold, rugged trip of the day before, we enjoyed the soft browns and greens of the hills and blue of the lake. Looks like a wonderful place to hang for a few weeks or a few months. Here is a shot from Torrey of an old cabin.

Old Torrey Cabin

Bryce Canyon
We drove the 122-mile journey to Ruby’s Inn and Campground at Bryce Canyon City via 24 West, 62 West, and 22 South. Again, pleasant scenery, and except for some narrow stretches of road, an easy trip.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Leaving early morning to avoid the traffic we took the roughly 20-mile road that is the only driveable portion of this special place. Starting at the very end at the last stop, we took in all the main lookouts. The hoodoos are something, with great vistas everywhere.

Bryce 4

Bryce 7

Bryce 8

Bryce 9

Bryce Fisheye 2

However, the special place for me was Inspiration Point…I found it, well, inspirational. Staring down on the landscape your imagination takes off…sunlight glinting off a castle guarded by a giant, the broken walls of a city under siege, a majestic cathedral overlooking a valley, legions of warriors in battle formation, and so on and so on. I had a wonderful time taking photos and a few turned out decent.

Bryce Inspiration Point

Bryce Inspiration Point 2

Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
We journeyed east on Highway 12, that splendid scenic byway, through the town of Tropic, stopping a few times at overlooks to enjoy the views. My original plan was to travel the Devil’s Backbone (great name, don’t you think), however, talking to rangers at the visitor center just outside Escalante, they recommended another option. Heeding their advice, we took Highway 12 east again, traveling the highway to Boulder. Our first stop was the Anastazi Musuem at Anastazi State Park where they had an interesting display of ancient Indians. Right outside the museum was a food truck parked by a grassy area complete with picnic tables. On the advice of locals, we dined with them, splitting a burrito and a cup of coffee…delicious.

From there we backtracked to Escalante and took a 50-mile gravel/dirt road through the Dixie National Forest, ending up close to our campground.

Paria Guest Ranch
We packed up at our campground in Bryce Canyon City and headed 12 miles west on Highway 12. In bits and pieces, we have now traveled the entire length of the scenic byway that the Utah tourism department calls the most beautiful highway in Utah. Now that is saying something! Fourteen percent grades on skinny summits at 11,000 feet, gorgeous rock formations of every shape and color, just magnificent. At the end of Highway 12 we turned left on Highway 89 that took us south and a little west, then northeast, and then southeast to out next destination, Paria Guest Ranch, roughly midway between Kanab and Page, about a quarter mile from the edge of nowhere. Every morning I took Jack off leash to run and explore among the sage, rocks, and red soil.

Sagebrush Lizard

Sagebrush Jack

Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
Just a few miles north and a tad west of the Ranch was yet another national monument. Again, magnificent scenery.

Escalante Pano

Escalante

Mitzy and Jack at Escalante

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
As you go south from the ranch on unpaved roads you head into Arizona, into the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, ho, hum…

Vermilion Cliffs

Old Signs

Old Sign 1

Old Sign 2

Old Sign 3

Old Trucks
Hey! I am finally back shooting old trucks! Here are three beauties.

Old Utah Lake Truck 1

Old Utah Lake Truck 2

Old Torrey Fire Truck

Hot and dusty, but a wonderful journey. See you next time.

Travel Blog 265: Waterfalls, Dairy Cows, and a Small-Town Parade

Stanley to Ketchum
We begrudgingly left Stanley. Our 68-mile trip followed Idaho 75 South with hairpin turns and some gorgeous vistas, especially around Galena.

Elk Mountain RV Resort to Meadows

Ketchum
Ketchum borders Sun Valley, full of the vacation homes of the rich and famous. Mountain views, running streams, fabulous houses, paved paths everywhere, with beds of flowers (some the size of fields) blooming their colors everywhere. Here is a 59-second movie clip of a section of lupines bordering about a quarter mile of streets in a very upscale neighborhood.




It is also a wonderful place for dogs, as there were off-leash areas everywhere. Here is a pic from Trail Creek Road, one of Jackson’s and Mitzy’s favorite places.

Jackson at Trail Creek

Ketchum to Eden

Meadows to Anderson Camp

After four days in Ketchum, we took the 84-mile trek south on Idaho 75, then south on Idaho 93, and then east on I-84 to Anderson Camp. Here we met up with our RV buddies--a couple we have been RVing with for a month or more each year for the last several years. Here is a shot from our campsite.

Campsite View

Small-Town Parade
A small town just a few miles away was holding its yearly summer celebration, starting with a parade. The people of the community went all out, with scores of floats and the biggest number of trucks I have ever seen in any parade.

Parade 1

Parade 2

Parade 3

Parade 4

Parade 5

Shoshone Waterfall
We took a short road trip (to us) to a nearby natural wonder, Shoshone Falls. Even with the harsh, midday lighting I was very pleased with the photos.

Shoshone Falls 1

Shoshone Falls 2

Eden to Declo

Anderson Camp to Village of Trees

Jersey Girl Dairy Farm
A longtime friend of our traveling buddy arranged to have us visit a dairy farm close by--it was just amazing. They milk 11,800 Jersey and Holstein cows twice a day, every day. High-tech technology with high-touch care for the cows.

'Round We Go

Time for Milking

Good-Looking Jersey

Declo to Springville
After a couple of days at Anderson Camp, we left Idaho and drove down to Springville, Utah, past Salt Lake City and bordering Provo.

Village of Trees to Springville KOA

Day Trip: Mount Timanogos Wilderness Loop
We took highway 92 to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument were we hiked a nature trail along the water. From there we took the curvy, steep, and narrow trip up by Mount Timanogos, by Sundance, around to Bridal Falls, and back to our camp.

Timpanogos Day Trip

Nebo Scenic Byway
From our campground we headed south to Payson and picked up the Nebo Loop Scenic Byway. It took us around Payson Lake, up over Bald Mountain, above the Santaquin Canyon, up to Santaquin, and back to camp.

Nebo Scenic Byway

Devils Kitchen

View from Devils Kitchen

Nice visit around the Salt Lake area, but really warm.

See you next week.

Travel Blog 264: Sawtooth

Challis to Stanley

From Challis we headed west on Idaho 75, the pretty but winding road that parallels the Salmon River, passing by Sunbeam all the way through Lower Stanley, and then turning north on Idaho 21 at Stanley for six miles to our campground, Elk Mountain RV Resort. Another gorgeous setting with the jutting and dramatic Sawtooth Mountain Range dominating the view. Our campground was full of chipmunks and whistlepigs (that’s what folks call groundhogs or woodchucks in this area).

Chipper

Whistlepig

Morning Trip to Lowman

Elk Mountain to Lowman, ID

Just after sunrise we headed north on 21 for a mile, and then turned onto Stanley Lake Road. There we took a loop tour on Forest Road 455 that took us through a dense portion of the Sawtooth National Forest. After spotting a young buck deer and a large, well-fed coyote, we exited the lake area and again went north on 21 for about five miles before exiting on Forest Road 203 that took us through the Cape Horn Wetland—moose country. Alas, we saw no moose, but did see a pronghorn, more deer, some whistlepigs, a variety of birds, and many wildflowers that Jan enjoyed identifying.

Killdeer Family

Sleeping Lab

After about a dozen miles, our dirt road reconnected with 21 that took us up and around, down over Banner Summit, and south, all the way down the mountains into the little burg of Lowman, where we stopped for a late breakfast at a roadside restaurant. For about 15 miles the highway was side-by-side the South Fork of the Payette River, whose rushing emerald green waters produced dozens of oohs , lots of ahs, and a continuous stream of wows.

Redfish Lake
Late afternoon we gassed up at Stanley, and then drove south to check out the very popular Redfish Lake. With paved roads and lots of amenities it reminded us a little of Estes Park. After our initial exploration, we decide to get off the beaten path, turning southeast on Forest Road 210. I envisioned in my mind that this rocky path would take us above the congestion of the lake, providing a quiet location with magnificent vistas that we alone would share…well, good luck on that! The rocky road got really rocky, and my planned mountaintop view never materialized. After investing a half hour of bumpy travel, we decided to just keep going, as this path eventually connected with the highway. Just as I figured we were close, a fallen tree across our path brought us to a halt. After confirming that the tree could not be easily moved nor could we drive around it, we blew the bugle of retreat, completed a 26-point turn of the Jeep, and limped back to camp.

Trip Over

Pettit Lake
Early one morning we again headed south on ID 75 stopping by the side of the road to shoot the Sawtooth Range with cattle and fog in the foreground. We then turned west on Forest Road 208 due to Pettit Lake. Without a soul in sight we took a few pics in the brisk morning air. From there we headed south again to check out Alturas Lake. South of the lake we went off-road again taking Forest Road 204 south and west past the (very little) remains of the original Sawtooth City and on down to the end of the road at the Pilgrim Mine.

Sawtooth Range and Cattle

Pettit Lake Pano

Pilgrim Mine

A Day at the Beach (sort of)
After exploring both Stanley and Lower Stanley, touring the local museum, and taking a short drive on the highway (where Jan spotted a couple river otters playing in the Salmon River), we decided to hang out by the water. There are many, many choices within a few miles of our campground that fit that criteria, but we decided to find some solitude and headed down a gravel road to a spot along Kelly Creek. Here we pulled out our picnic supplies, set up our gear, and sat by the edge of the running creek with dozens of varieties of wildflowers all around us and the mountains in the background.

Jan Along Meadows Creek

Jan and Mitzy Along Meadows Creek

Sunrise Shoot at Stanley Lake
We left the coach at 5:15 a.m. leaving in plenty of time for pre-dawn set up on the east side of Stanley Lake just 10 minutes from camp. The moon was full, the air was calm, and as we waited we saw the gradual transitions of sky colors from grays to pinks to golds. Just beautiful.

Stanley Lake Pre-Dawn

Stanley Lake Pre-Dawn 2

Stanley Sunrise

This Sawtooth area is magnificent.

See you next week.