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Monthly Archives: June 2018

We spent the evening in Lusk, Wyoming. We’ve stayed there before when departing Denver in the afternoon. We were up early headed for Custer State Park. We purchased a park sticker and dove out to the Wildlife Loop. On the way we noticed several areas damaged by fire. By the time we reached the Wildlife Loop we realized that Custer State Park had experienced a major fire. We later found out that the Legion Lake fire occurred the second week of December but did not make the news back in the Midwest. This was the same time that California was burning. Apparently it was started by a tree falling on a power line. Strong wind quickly spread the fire to large piles of tree debris that had been left from logging operations. The park has been cutting many trees to help control the Pine Beetle which is devastating the west.

As we drove through the highest point on the Wildlife Loop the trees were covered with morning frost.

The air was filled with the sounds of chain saws and tree fellers. Logging operations were taking place throughout the burn area.

The Buffalo could be seen along the road resting and feeding in the burn area. In some places the grass was just starting to turn green.

The first shot shows the burn area near the Buffalo Roundup site. The second shot shows the Buffalo Pens. Apparently the Buffalo came through the fire with only a few casualties number of the Begging Burros were severely burned and several had to be put down.

The Damage from the fire extended south into the Wind Cave National Park.

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When we woke up in Colorado Springs it was fogy out and the trees were covered in frost. We had planned on driving out to the Garden of the Gods and when we arrived we encountered an incredible sight. All of the trees were covered in a thick coating of frost. This was one of those cases where luck brought us to the right location at the right time. We spent the morning hiking the trails and taking photos. More photos from this spectacular morning can be found on my website.

 

 

Following our visit to Mesa Verde we were undecided on our next destination. We had hoped to drive over to Durango, Colorado then through the mountains to Denver. However, there was a big snowstorm forecast for the mountains. We thought about heading south to Chaco Culture National Historic Park but I happened to run across a road report and decided it wasn’t something we wanted to do in a van. We finally decided to drive over to the Great Sand Dunes National Park then drive up the front range to avoid the snow.

I had visited the Park several times in the past but at a little later in the spring. I thought we would have to wade through water to get to the sand dunes and I was very surprised to find there was no water in the river. Apparently there was almost no snow pack this past winter resulting in a dry river bed.

The wind was blowing and there was a family flying a kite.

Sandboarding is apparently a popular sport at the Park. When I visited years ago I hiked to the top of the sand dunes and found a snowborder at the top trying to board down the dunes. He wasn’t having much success.

We didn’t have enough time for a long hike so we took some photos and then headed out.

The plan was to drive to Pueblo, Colorado for the night but we were making good time so we decided to continue on to Colorado Springs where we wanted to visit the Garden of the Gods. We started to question our decision when it started snowing soon after we left Pueblo. Fortunately it didn’t accumulate and turned into rain.

We arrived in Cortez late in the afternoon and drove out to the park headquarters to pickup some information and plan for the following day. The next morning we headed into the park. One of the advantages of traveling in the shoulder seasons is there are fewer people in the parks. One of the disadvantages is that many of the park attractions are closed. In the case of Mesa Verde this was particularly noticeable because there were no tours of ruins being offered.

We started out the day hiking the Petroglyph Point Trail. Fortunately the trail was mostly in the shade early in the morning. It turned out to be one of the more difficult trails we have hiked recently. Lots of narrow passageways and steep steps.

At the end of the trail there were a few petroglyphs. Just after the petroglyphs the trail took a sharp turn up with a handhold that required a little effort to get up. Once over this section the trail to the top was easy.

The return trail was relatively flat and offered some great views of the canyon below. There were a few flowers out.

At the end of the trail there were some nice views of Spruce Tree House. Unfortunately it was closed because of falling rock.

We then took the rim drive and stopped at various locations to view ruins. It would have been nice to be able to hike to them but as I mentioned they were closed.

Square Tower House

 

Pit House

 

Cliff Palace

After driving for a while we stopped and hiked the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail which offered some nice views but nothing up close.

We were on our way out of the park. This is a shot of a burn area. Not sure when the fire occurred.

We stopped and hiked a short distance on the Farming terrace Trail. We could see remains of farming terraces.

Just a short distance down the road was Cedar Tree Tower.

Our last stop of the day was the Far View Sites.

My wife is a  white knuckle driver in the mountains so I couldn’t resist taking here photo. I love mountain driving but she thinks I drive too fast.

 

After leaving Hovenweep National Monument we were headed toward Cortez, Colorado. We passed a number of ruins but decided not to visit them because they were off on dirt roads which we didn’t want to try in our van. We finally ended up at Lowry Pueblo. It was an interesting trip. We started out in the Great Sage Plain and ended up in farming country before moving back to the edge of the Sage Plain where we found the ruins. The two main attractions are the Great Kiva  and the Great House. The great house has been covered with a roof. The Pueblo was built about 1060 and housed up to 100 people for a century and a half. The Great House is shown below.

This is the Great Kiva.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are nesting. They don’t spend much time at the feeder during the day. They arrive, get a good drink of nectar an take off. Toward evening I’ve been finding them hanging around the bushes close to the house.

This fellow had a bad itch. It spent quite some time scratching on both sides.

These are the critters I photographed around the farm this week. This White-tailed Deer doe has been hanging around in the Prairie in the morning and evening. We suspect she has a faun around but haven’t see it. We did see a doe and faun along the road but not sure it was the same one. They ran along the edged of the road in front of the car before finally heading off into the woods.

We have had a Racoon hanging around under the bird feeder. Late in the day I was photographing a rabbit when I noticed movement out in the yard and a Racoon was running toward the house. I later caught it under the bird feeder. The next evening my wife caught it looking in the screen door on the back porch. It likes to do it’s business on our back porch.

This rabbit was under the bird feeder when I first saw it.

 

We left Canyon de Chelly early in the morning and drove to Hovenweep National Monument. Neither of us can remember being to Hovenweep before. On the way we passed through more desolate country. There was a large fire taking place and we could see the smoke for miles. When we arrived at Hovenweep we could smell the smoke and the sky had a haze to it.

We decided to walk the Little Ruin Trail which was only about 1.5 miles.

I was intrigued by the fact that several of the ruins were build in a gully. I would have though they would have been washed away in a flash flood.

 

 

It’s amazing what one can find walking around in the woods and prairie.

Butterfly

Skipper

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Fly

After leaving the Petrified Forest National Park we drove north to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We arrived mid afternoon and checked into our motel before heading out on a late afternoon drive along the South Rim Drive. The South Rim Drive is best photographed in the evening. Our first stop was Tunnel Overlook.

More photos from Canyon de Chelly can be found on my website.

We took the overlooks as they came so our next stop was Tsegi Overlook. The wind was really blowing so it was difficult to stand up to take photos. I considered getting the tripod out but figured it would tip over in the wind.

We then headed to Junction Overlook.

Our final stoop of the evening was White House Overlook. This was our last stop of the day. We headed back to our hotel planning for an early start in the morning.

We were up early for breakfast before heading out on a morning tour of the North Rim Drive. The North Rim Drive is best photographed in the morning. Fortunately it was not as windy as it was yesterday. We drove out to Massacre Cave Overlook and started working our way back to town.

Mummy Cave Overlook was our next stop on the North Rim.

Our final stop was Antelope House Overlook.

We then headed back to the South Rim. There is only one hike that can be made in Canyon de Chelly without a native guide and that is the White House Trail. Our goal was to take this hike. It looked a lot worse than it was. Although it was a warm day the hiking was relatively easy. We made it down and back in a few hours with plenty of opportunities for photos.

My wife is in her usual position as close to the inside of the trail as she can get.

Our destination was the White House Ruins.

After hiking back out of the Canyon we decided to finish the South Rim Drive that we had started the day before. Our first stop was Spider Rock Overlook.

We then stopped at  Face Rock Overlook on our way back to town.

We grabbed a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant before heading out on our late afternoon Canyon tour with a native guide. Ironically I had photographed him, from the South Rim, on the tour he led before ours. We had met him earlier in the day and he had an open jeep. I thought at the time that it would be a cold ride early in the morning. When he picked us up he had switched to an enclosed jeep because his morning customers froze to death. It had been very dry this spring. Normally we would have been driving through streams this time of year or maybe not being able to get into the Canyon at all because of high water. As the sand dries out it is more difficult to drive through. People were already getting stuck in the sand.

This is another tour group using an old army surplus vehicle.

Driving through the Canyon there were many examples of petroglyphs which could be photographed up close.

In addition to the petroglyphs there were plenty of ruins that could be seen.