28 October 2009

Yet another winter storm...

A storm was blowing in yesterday afternoon, so I hightailed it out of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and am hiding out at the Rustic Inn in Moab. I had optimistically hoped that the rain/snow/ice would magically disappear by the time I woke up, but it's currently 40 degrees (23 with wind chill) in Moab. I was going to go up to Island in the Sky today to do some hiking, but I think I'm just going to drive around and take pictures. Hopefully I'll have some visibility.

26 October 2009

Erosion Happens

It was another gorgeous day -- 55, sunny and windy.  I went to Natural Bridges National Monument and got to clamber up and down canyons today, and there was no wind when I was down in the canyon.  I was happy to be active.

Natural Bridges National Monument

24 October 2009

Plants that want to eat people

People sized viney or big-leafed plants scare me. I'm convinced that they secretly want to eat people.

I've always been nervous around big leafy plants. I've thought about it, and it's probably the result of A Little Shop of Horrors, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and an overactive imagination as a child. The first was because absent parents translated into no television censorship whatsoever, which really wasn't a big deal because we didn't have cable. The second was because in every episode of TMNT, radioactive waste would inevitably drip into the sewer system causing hostile killer vines to sprout through the sidewalk and wrap around a turtle. The vine would wave the turtle madly in the air, trying to strangle the life out of him, while his brothers desperately tried to hack him free. And, the last was because I was a social reject and had no friends.

Needless to say, I was especially careful to watch for sly plants trying to snatch me up while I was on the Petroglyph Trail. Fortunately, I made it out safe and sound so I can go back to stick it to the plants yet another day.

From Plants that might eat me

Cliff Palace and the Petroglyph Trail

Today was yet another good day.  I had told C that I'd be in Salt Lake City by this weekend, but once M left, I realized how much harder driving is when one can't share the load.  I decided to take it slow instead of trying to stick to a schedule, and I feel much better for it.

I slept in this morning, and then made my way back to Mesa Verde National Park.  It was sunny and 60 degrees when the wind wasn't blowing.  I paid $3 for a ranger guided tour of the Cliff Palace.  Contrary to what I had learned about the Anasazi growing up, they didn't mysteriously disappear as a culture, but spread out throughout Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico to become today's Puebloans.  Nor were cliff dwellings the norm.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

Around 1-100AD, the Anasazi showed signs of converting from hunter gatherers to a sedentary agrarian society, farming corn in the loamy soil of mesa tops.  Most Anasazi communities were built on mesa tops, and there are signs that the communities kept in touch with each other.  Getting from one mesa to another had to be tough - the mesa tops are 500-600 ft above the valley floor, and the Anasazi got around  by ladder or hand and toeholds cut into the rock.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

The cliff dwellings didn't come into existence until 1200AD, and it's speculated that they happened as defensive gestures.  Tree ring dating shows a long-term drought in the area around 1200AD, and archeology shows that the area had become increasingly populated.  The Anasazi kept no written records, so researchers can only speculate that resources had become scarce, so communities built hard to reach cliff dwellings to store their food.  Things must have gotten bad, because by approx 1270AD, the Anasazi had left the area.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

After the tour, I visited the Spruce Tree House, which are another set of ruins.  Perhaps I'm culturally insensitive (I am), but I'm starting to feel like all the ruins look the same.  I've now seen several Anasazi kivas, and I'm kind of... bored.   As cool as it is that the Anasazi were building multi-story towers in 1200AD, it was kind of late by European and Asian standards.  By then, basilicas and cathedrals had been built throughout Europe, Shaolin temples existed in China, nobles would soon demand that their king provide them rights and Confucious had already developed his philosophy.  I know I'm not supposed to stay stuff like that, but I haven't made anything up.

The best part of the day was when I walked Petroglyph Trail, a 2.4mi loop that passes a small section of Anasazi art.  The album shows some of that in detail.  I think I can make out two birds, a mountain range with people and a Anasazi village below it, a mountain lion, a big horn sheep, and a man with either a stick/sword/sickle in front of another man (possibly fighting?).  It's kind of cool.  Too bad we'll never know if it was just a bunch of Anasazi kids fooling around, or if this was the local artist went to put down his thoughts. :-)

From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

23 October 2009

The Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop at Mesa Verde

After lunch, I headed over to Mesa Verde National Park.  Since it was closing in on 3, I decided to drive the scenic drive and take a self-guided tour of the Far View Sites and Mesa Top Loop.  My initial plan was to camp in the park, but its only campsite closed last weekend.  I'm staying in Cortez for the night, and I'll return to Mesa Verde (a 15 minute drive) tomorrow to take a ranger guided tour of one of the residences and to walk the park a bit.

There's something about the sun.  Even though it was 49-51 degrees on the Mesa Top Loop (7000 ft), it made me so happy to be outside.  I didn't even mind driving, which I try not to do these days when I don't have to.  It was still chilly and windy, so it was a good day to drive too.  The sky was bright blue, and on a clear day, one can see Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona from Park Point (8572 ft).  The Wilson, San Juan and Sangre de Cristo are all visible then.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

The Mesa Top Loop had a lot of stops with ruins.  I had always learned that the Anasazi up and left their settlements with no trace.  It turns out, the Puebloans are the descendants of the Anasazi.  It shows how little I know.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

While on the Mesa Top Loop, I kept running into two retired couples.  Eventually, they joked that I should just get in the car with them.  It turns out one of the men is from Greer, SC and knew the neighborhood where I grew up.  He and his wife live in Albuquerque, NM now.  The other couple is visiting them from Georgia.  They wanted to know what was on top of my car, and why I was so far from New York.  Retired folks seemed to really like me today.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

I left the park as the sun was setting over its peaks.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

Today was a good day.  It's the first time since M left that I've started to feel my grove.

Fall in Durango

I spent the morning having coffee and walking around Durango, CO.  Now that I'm in southern Colorado, the weather is milder.  It was sunny, dry and in the high 50s, and the fall colors were in full effect.

From Durango

I stopped in at the Old Tymer's Cafe for lunch.  While there, I met a handful of  retired or close to retired California transplants.  Meeting retired folk is what happens when one has lunch on a Thursday afternoon at the local pub... :-)

Lunch was an O'Dell's porter (it's considered a local beer in Colorado) and a tortilla burger (nothing more than a cheeseburger with tortillas instead of a bun).  There's a bunch of microbreweries around here.  Interestingly, one of the more popular ones is Ska brewery.  Hmmm.

21 October 2009

In Florence, it's called whitener

I checked into a Super 8 in Florence, CO last night to wait out the storm.  It's a decent, clean, and quiet place, and the manager is very nice.

My room has a small fridge, microwave and coffeemaker.  I made coffee this morning, and as I reached for the motel-provided non-sugar sweetener and creamer, I noticed that the creamer was called whitener.  I decided to have my coffee with just sweetener alone.  Somehow, the thought of whitener in my coffee just doesn't have the same feel as creamer in my coffee.

16 October 2009

Perhaps I should have called it chasing the sun

because that's what this trip has been all about.

It started to pour on my way to Saratoga Springs from New York City, and I've been racing precipitation as I've moved west.

It poured my entire drive from Saratoga to Niagara Falls (Canada).

The sun broke free in the morning in time for me to see the falls but retreated as I drove through Ontario wine country.  While I loved the rolling hills of Ontario's green corridor and its vineyards, I did not like the showers that followed me.  By the time I arrived in Toronto that evening, the weather that accompanied me was a veritable downpour.  It rained on and off the entire time I was in Toronto.

It was unseasonably cold when I left Toronto, and by the time I approached the border, it was snowing.  It was pouring by the time I bunked down in Dearborn, MI.

It rained from Michigan to Ohio, and it was raining and gusting heavily when I arrived in Toledo, OH.

In Toledo, I thought I had broken free of my precipitatious hitchhiker -- the sun always made an appearance in the morning -- but my overcast nemesis always showed itself by late afternoon.  By then, I had come to expect it.

I was not surprised when it rained from Ohio to Indiana.  Nor was I surprised when it rained the entire day and night I spent in Indiana.  Or, that it rained my entire way through Illinois.

By the time I reached Wisconsin, I was going to rename the Gray Beast to Gloomy Gus to more accurately represent her rain cloud attracting qualities.  So, it stopped raining, and it snowed.  The temperature began to drop rapidly, and it sleeted.  My particular area of Wisconsin had been affected by an unseasonably early cold front, so instead of typical 39-59 temperatures, it never got warmer than 45 my entire time there.

I was not particularly shocked when it rained, sleeted and froze from Wisconsin through Minnesota to South Dakota.  It froze and rained in Mitchell, SD.  It froze and rained in Wall, SD.  It rained in Deadwood, SD.

I've been in Hill City, SD going on two nights now, and while it's rained on and off (with small rain clouds that seem to only hover over my immediate vicinity because I can see the sun wherever I'm not), the temperatures have started to return to their October averages, which should range somewhere between 39-60, not the 30-42 its been this week.

I head for Colorado tomorrow, and I feel optimistic.  Perhaps the Gray Beast should keep her name after all.

09 October 2009

Rain and snow? Er, it's not you, it's me.

I'm starting to wonder if it's me.

The weather was wonderful in the weeks preceding my cross-country adventure.  I was excited to experience fall.  Then, on the day I left New York City, the skies opened up.

But, it wasn't like the skies opened up in New York City, and I left the weather behind.  It's actually more like the skies opened up and then stayed open wherever I've managed to stop along my cross-country trip.  I haven't seen a lick of sun this entire trip, and I'm starting to wonder if there's a tiny rain cloud that follows my little gray Subaru wherever it goes.

K told me that when he and his wife drove from California to Boston, it snowed in Dallas.  I have to wonder, as I drive from New York to California, if it'll rain everywhere I go.  In which case, I'm very sorry New York, Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.  Wisconsin had better watch out, because it's next.

Congrats, Barack!

It's great that Barack just won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I'm happy for him, for this country, and for his cause, but I have to wonder...what'd he win the prize for?

President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a stunning decision that comes just eight months into his presidency.

Less than nine months into his presidency, Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Less than nine months into his presidency, Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Click to view next image

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it honored Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."