28 September 2008

Roadtrip! Part 2 - the way home - wow!

So on Tuesday morning we headed back towards home, but decided to take a more northern and, according to the map, more scenic route, following Hwy 160 West towards Durango. Now the scenery changed from interesting to gorgeous! The first part from Fort Garland to about Monte Vista was still flat country (don't know why this is marked as a scenic route on the map), but the part from Monte Vista to Pagosa Springs is beautiful! That’s the Colorado I remembered from long ago when I lived there! The view from Wolf Creek Pass is fantastic!

View from Wolf Creek Pass

From Cortez we took Hwy 491, because we figured Blanding would be our overnight stop. It was only about 3:30 when we arrived there, so we decided to squeeze in a visit to the Bridges National Monument nearby. This alone would have made the trip worthwhile! Seeing those natural bridges, carved out of the rock by the water is awe-inspiring.

Sipapu Bridge in Bridges National Park

We walked a little bit on the trail to the Kachina bridge and found a quiet spot to just sit and listen to the silence. You could hear nothing except the buzzing of an occasional fly and the swish of some swallows’ wings as they sliced through the air. I could have stayed there for a very long time, just enjoying nature. There was no sound to be heard!

We also happened upon these mysterious rock carvings ...

... actually these are shoeprints in the sand on one of the steps of the Kachina Bridge trail – rotate the image 90 degrees counter-clockwise to see how it actually looks.

Then we drove back to Blanding to find a room for the night. We stayed at a new Super 8 motel, which was very nice, room-wise, but there were dogs barking almost all night (one was in a yard next to the motel). So far we hadn't had much luck with hotels!
The next day (Wednesday) we drove towards Kayenta, which of course passes through Monument Valley.

First view of Monument Valley as you approach it

Ever since I saw these rock formations in old Westerns as a kid, I wanted to see them. They are far more impressive in natura! Absolutely fantastic! We drove the 17-mile loop inside Monument Valley, which gets you close to these formations – the best view being Artists’ Point:

Monument Valley - "The Mittens"

Monument Valley

Monument Valley - Artist's View

The "Artist's View" absolutely deserves its name. You will also see a lot of these:

“Open” ... but what are they selling?

We continued on our northern route towards Page (we deliberately avoided the Grand Canyon, because we want to cover it on a separate trip), passing Lake Powel – a beautiful contrast of the deep blue lake vs. the pale red and whitish cliffs), the Grand Staircase and the Vermilion Cliffs, heading for St. George. In order to get to St. George, however, and staying on Hwy 89 (and then Hwy 9) you have to pass through Zion National Park. We did not even want to go there, but since it would have meant backtracking for quite a bit, we grudgingly paid the hefty $25 entrance fee. It turned out to be the best $25 we spent! Zion National Park is gorgeous. Not only are there fantastic rock/mountain formations, but also lots of trees, so you have wonderful red-green contrasts. This park is absolutely worth a trip for its own sake! I had never heard of Zion National Park before – it is a gem! No pictures, because we were too busy being awed by the beauty of it!

It’s too bad we only had a week for our whole trip. So many areas would have justified staying longer and really exploring them further
Since it was still daylight when we arrived at St. George, we decided to push on to Las Vegas, where we arrived at about 8:00 pm. We originally wanted to stay at the Luxor, but unbelievably, it was booked solid. So we went next door to the Excalibur, where we got a nice room with a view of the Strip. Here we had the best sleep of the entire trip! The room was quiet, and the constant hum of the traffic on the strip lulls you to sleep easily (we were on the 24th floor). We're not gamblers, but like everybody else, we love the buffets – so after sleeping in a bit, we had a hearty breakfast, and then drove the rest of the way home, via Hwy 15 to Barstow, then changing to Hwy 58. After passing Tehachapi and Bakersfield again, we continued on Hwy 58 west to Hwy 101, because we wanted to try a different route.

There is a stretch of about 40 miles on Hwy 58 after McKittrick that is the most desolate country I’ve ever seen. You see occasional pumps, but the whole area looks almost sinister. It changes again for the better the closer you get to Hwy 101. We even saw a Golden Eagle sitting on a tree right next to the road! Once we reached Hwy 101 it was just a matter of rolling off the miles back to the Bay Area.

Overall, this was a very nice trip. We didn’t plan much ahead - our objective was to look at the property. Bridges National Park, Monument Valley, and Zion National Park are each worth a lot more time than we had. There were countless roads leading to other parks, national monuments, Indian ruins, and other sites, which we simply had to pass by.

Till next time!

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