Katie and I left the Denver area on Saturday, after she put most of her stuff into my storage unit.
Top, the 5x5 storage unit, which now holds 2 bicycles and lots of other stuff; bottom, the car. As we were leaving Denver we saw this lovely piece of street art:
We drove to Great Sand Dunes, which I went to a couple months ago, but we needed to stop somewhere on our way out to southern Utah, so it might as well be somewhere another geologist might get something out of. (Though I think what Katie mostly got out of it was a tent full of sand.)
Katie slogs through the dunes ahead of me. The setting prompted a lot of quotes from movies such as The Hill, Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars, which had me in stitches, but when I decided that a movie of us would probably illustrate our dorkiness more than our cleverness, I kept to the pictures.
Some guy climbs the dunes.
It was so windy that night after dinner that my tent was being flattened by the gusts. The poles bent and the fabric was pressed down so that the outline of my sleeping bag could be seen through the nylon. Thankfully, things calmed down a little before I went to sleep.
The next day we went to Durango, which is where I realized that towns are not a good place to visit on a budget vacation. The pleasures of Durango... shopping, eating out, train rides... were pretty much inaccessible to us, and it's only so much fun wandering past things you can't spend money on.
That evening, the rains started. I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day and he said, all I see is good weather in your pictures... hasn't there been any rain? Well, yes, there were a few rainy days and some overnight storms last month. But it has been rainy for the past few days here now.
The sun came out for a while when we were at Mesa Verde National Park, which preserves a remarkable 600 cliff dwellings from 800+ years ago. We toured a couple of them.
Cliff Palace, which may have sheltered 150 people.
We climb to Balcony House.
A view of a ranger and boy through a window at Balcony House.
Spruce Tree House.
Neither Katie nor I is very much interested in archaeology... unlike the other 300 million people in America, it seems, most of whom Mesa Verde appears to provide summertime parking for... so a half a day was enough to enjoy this park. Then we continued on to Canyonlands in southern Utah.
Canyonlands is very popular in the fall, when it's not 110 degrees, and the campsites can fill before noon. It was six PM when we were approaching the park, so we found a spot in the nearby National Forest to camp. In the rain.
After I had set up supper on the trunk I realized that all my bottle opening implements were in the trunk, so I had to be inventive. I soon discovered that part of the door latching mechanism can be used as a bottle opener.
Try this at home.
It was sunny as we drove into Canyonlands the next morning...
Unfortunately, rain soon threatened, so we decided to do several small hikes... the type that not-so-fit people and families with small children like to go on... to see ruins, an old cowboy camp, and potholes filled with aquatic life, instead of the backcountry hikes I would have liked to go on to see some of the geology in the photo above. I have full rain gear and can hike comfortably in the rain, but assuming it's going to stop raining at some point, isn't it better to postpone the long, beautiful hikes for tomorrow?
Katie peers into a pothole, in which there are supposed to be shrimp. There were no shrimp. I was going to complain to a ranger about the lack of shrimp in this desert park but we found some in a larger pothole, two kinds of shrimp whose eggs hatch when it rains. I didn't get a very good picture of them, so here's a picture of a lizard.
That night, I sat in my hammock until it started to rain.
Katie, lacking the full rain gear thing, helped make that night's pizza from inside her tent. I had told her it should be fine to cook right next to the tent because I hadn't seen any warnings about bears at Canyonlands. Only ravens. (The next morning, I saw a warning about bears... well, it would have been an honest accident if she'd been eaten in the middle of the night.)
Click to read the warning about ravens. The best part of this is at the very bottom, where it says, "Experience your America." Apparently, the full American experience involves having your sandwich stolen by ravens.
We had planned an 11-mile hike through the backcountry, including a section through a slot canyon, for the next day... that is, today... getting everything set last night so that we could hit the trail early and be out before afternoon thunderstorms struck. However, the forecast this morning said there would also be storms in the morning and a flash flood warning would be in effect all day. So, no hiking in canyons today. We decided to go up to Moab and check our email instead.
We got a slow start this morning because of many things... including the fact that my small backpacking stove takes about half an hour to cook a pancake... but most amusingly because when we went to take down the tents, Katie could not get one of her stakes out.
I saw her travel back to the tent area with the shovel, and I went to go wash my hair in the campground restroom. When I returned 20 minutes later, she was still chipping around the stake with her knife. She had found another stake in the hole. She had not even begun to wash all the dishes I left her from breakfast. So. Small delay there.
Ironically, the storms did not hit until just now (about 3:30 mountain time). We certainly would have been finished with our hike. It's been beautiful, sunny and temperate. Oh well. But now, boy, the wind just whipped up and it has started pouring rain. We are wondering if we staked our tents down well enough. Oh, there is also a tornado watch in effect.
I have been very much looking forward to this section of the trip, in what may be the most beautiful area of the whole country, and to doing many hikes, and backpacking. Today has only involved a lot of driving and typing. But I could be driving and typing at home instead of in southern Utah.