2018/06/22: Home

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Two and a half days of driving and we are home. After driving for about 4 1/2 hours on the 2nd day, we stopped at a rest stop. I asked Ed if he was ready to drive or if he wanted me to drive for another half hour. He choose letting me drive another half hour. We were back on the road for about 5 minutes when the traffic slowed down, actually stopped. The heavy stop and go traffic lasted about an hour, never did figure out why it was so slow. I asked Ed how he knew there would be a traffic jam ---- he really hates traffic jams so it was probably better that I was driving.

We were gone 26 days, drove 8,426 kilometers, visited 4 US National Parks, 4 US National Monuments, 3 US National Historic Site and a lot of other places. We only had one glitch on the trip. The air mattress we bought to fit the box exactly wouldn't hold air after the fourth night. The seal between the built in pump and the air mattress failed. Ed tried to seal "the seal" but it didn't work so we bought a $15 air mattress from Walmart. The cheap mattress was comfortable and held air.

It was a good trip as we learned a lot and saw a lot but it's good to be home.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
The weather is not co-operating as well today as it did yesterday. Overcast with low clouds, at least it's not raining.

Today we are going to one of the most popular parts of Rocky Mountain NP Bear Lake. We left early in hopes of getting a parking spot but no luck. Just before the Park and Ride the sign was indicating that the Bear Lake Parking lot was full. We find a parking spot at the park and ride and join the queue for the shuttle bus. On the bus we are told that sign was malfunctioning so don't be surprised to see parking at Bear Lake. In retrospect, given the number of cars in the Park and Ride the Bear Lake parking lot would have been full if the sign had worked correctly. It was not a pleasant ride as the bus was packed ---- we didn't have to worry about falling. The ride back was just as bad.

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Bear Lake

After hiking around Bear Lake we decided to try one off the other trails in the area (there's lots to choose from). This popular trail took us to Nympth Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake.

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Nympth Lake.

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A view along the trail to Dream Lake.

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Today's wildflower selection.

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Dream Lake

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We had to walk across a patch of snow to get to Emerald Lake.

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This photo of Emerald Lake really picked up the reflection of the mountain and trees in the water. You have to look closely to find the edge of the water. This was a beautiful spot to sit and contemplate Life, the Universe and Everything.

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As we were leaving Emerald Lake we spotted these two fawns.

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Another look at one of the fawns and of course we saw a few ground squirrels today.

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Couldn't resist this shot of the mountains when we had a moment of sun and bit of blue sky.

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We did a second hike that took us to Alberta Falls. Unfortunately, the falls, trees and rocks were positioned in such a manner that it was impossible to get a good look at the falls.

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When we left the Bear Lake area we drove to section of the park we missed yesterday. One of the beautiful views along side of the road.

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There's a lot of rocks near the west Alluvia Fan parking lot.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When I was planning our trip to Colorado I thought weíd only have time to do southern Colorado and a bit in the middle and if we were lucky maybe spend a day in Colorado Springs where we once spent an afternoon. About half way through the trip Ed and I realized that southern Colorado didnít take as much time as we expected and Ed decided that he really didnít need to go back to Colorado Springs. That put Rocky Mountain National Park on the agenda. Two days isnít really enough time to see this amazing park but itís what we have. Today we left Grand Lake on the west side of the park and drove Trail Ridge Road across the park to Estes Park. As the crow flies itís 29 km, by road itís 77 km. With stops it took us the entire day so you can imagine the number of photos we took today.

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It was sunny this morning so we spent a few minutes walking around Grand Lake and of course got more hummingbird photos.

Rocky Mountain National Park is 415 square miles of spectacular mountain environments. The eastern and westerns slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park's northwestern region.
The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915. In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves.

We saw Elk in a couple of places on the western side of the park. As hunting is not allowed in the park, the Elk are not afraid of people.

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The Colorado River isn't very big here.

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The wildflowers are absolutely amazing here as it's still spring high in the mountains.

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A Clark's Nutcracker.

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At the Alpine Visitor we followed the trail to the top --- 12,005 feet above sea level. It was very cool and very windy up there. I look a little chubby because I have my purse under my jacket.

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Some of the amazing scenery.

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These are lava cliffs. There's still some snow here, especially at the higher altitudes.

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Tiny, tiny blue flowers.

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Ed climbed to the top of a rock outcropping. The disc is a 360 degree map naming all of the peaks you can see.

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Everywhere you looked it was beautiful.

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A Marmot.

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Loved the little lake nestled high in the mountains.

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A Coyote. We and a lot of other people were watching a number of marmots when this coyote appeared. Not sure if he left because the marmots noticed him or because of all the people.

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I think this is a golden-mantled ground squirrel or it could be a chipmunk. I asked but he wouldn't tell me what he was.

Some more scenery.

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I think I may have gone a little overboard on the photos today but the park is so beautiful and I really did leave a lot out.

2018/06/17: Drive to Grand Lake

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we drive north to Grand Lake which is on the south western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. This part of Colorado received some much needed rain today, a nice steady rain that could soak into the parched earth. So be warned there's lots of clouds in today's photos.

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Monarch Pass doesn't look so scary when it's hiding behind the clouds.

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Chalk Cliffs, the bright white rock formations at the base of Mt. Princeton are not chalk but quartz that has been altered by the presence of hot water springs.

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First white thistles Ed and I have ever seen.

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One of many reservoirs we passed today. For much of the drive we followed the Colorado River.

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To me, the soft light makes this photograph look like a watercolour painting.

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Another roadside view.

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If you look closely you can see the streaks of rain.

We are staying in a cute little lodge in a cute little town called Grand Lake. Lots of interesting shops and restaurants here.

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The town of course is on the shores of Grand Lake.

A number of stores have hung hummingbird feeders up.

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A lot of broad tailed hummingbirds with zooming by and stopping for a drink. These hummingbirds make a loud sound when they fly.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Moving east today. We drove from Montrose to Monarch, a little less than 200 km. If you look on a map and canít find Monarch look for Garfield --- not sure when the town changed its name but they did and not everyone has caught up to that. Youíll see a lot of dark clouds in the photos which is giving hope to drought stricken Colorado. We did drive through one patch of rain which will hopefully help a tiny bit.

We stopped in Cimarron to view the Morrow Point Dam.

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The Dam. An underground cable brings all the power from the Morrow Point Dam generators to a switchyard at a voltage of 230,000. Overhead lines on the mountainside feed electric power to the Colorado grid.

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Looking away from the dam you see the Gunnison River continuing towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the East Portal.

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Before roads were built through the mountains, narrow gauge railways were used to transport people, goods and animals. Special train cars transported cows and sheep to the Cimarron area to graze in the high mountains over the summer months. At the end of the summer the animals were brought back down to town and transported to packing plants. Narrow gauge was chosen as it bent tighter and thus could make the tighter turns required in the mountains.

The Blue Mesa Dam is upstream from the Morrow Point Dam. The Blue Mesa Reservoir is 32 km (20 mi) long. In 1963 when the three dams were built on the Gunnison River, the railway tracks and 3 towns were swallowed up. The train had become unfeasible once the roads were built so it was no longer in use. Some photos along the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

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This small set of rapids is just outside of Gunnison.

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As we continue on our way towards Monarch I notice round bales of hay that are stacked in a way I havenít seen before. This may be normal for everywhere just new to me.

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Another view along the highway.

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We had to go through the Monarch Pass before arriving at our hotel. Weíve been through a lot of mountain passes on our trip but this way my least favourite --- no shoulders and just a guardrail between you and cliff. Going down was much nicer as it was more of a gentle roll off then a cliff.

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Just before we arrived at the hotel we saw this old mine.

Oh, did I mention that the camping portion of our trip has ended and we are staying in hotels during our last four nights in Colorado. Cooler weather and rain has driven us to the dry comfort of hotels. I canít complain if it rains as Colorado really needs rain.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we are going to the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. As the crow flies it's about 19 km, going the north route through Delta and Crawford google maps claims 102 km taking about 1 1/2 hours, going the south route through Cimarron and eventually finding a place to cross the water google maps claims 136 km taking about 2 hours. In the pursuit of adventure we decided to go via the north route and come home via the south route. The south route was much more interesting.

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Interesting rock we saw as we driving to the North Rim.

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We have seen signs indicating cows on the road countless times and finally today we saw cows on the road.

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It was very interesting looking across the canyon seeing where we were yesterday and knowing we were standing on what we saw yesterday. Again the photos do not do the canyon justice.

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A lot of the cedar trees are short due to the harsh environment they are living in. A few do grow to a substantial size. I'm standing beside the tree so you can see how big it is. The black streaks on the rock is canyon varnish. This shear cliff is popular with climbers though we didn't see any.

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The river.

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A couple of the wild flowers we saw today.

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A different rock structure, these rocks were very flat and squarish. I wish I new more about geology so I could explain why the rocks are so unique here.

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There were large areas of these wildflowers.

The south route followed the Gunnison River which was dammed and became a reservoir, then another dam and another reservoir, then a third dam (which produces hydroelectric power) and a huge reservoir. There were also lots of hills and curves on this route.

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Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is an awesome gorge. This canyon was named "black" because it is so deep, so sheer, so narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it.

The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans from time immemorial. Only it's rims showed evidence of human occupation. But in the early 1900s the nearby Uncompahgre Valley wanted river water for irrigation so a few of the residents decided to explore the river. In 1901 Abraham Lincoln Fellows floated down the river on a rubber mattress and said an irrigation tunnel was feasible.

We start our tour of the park by driving down the East Portal Road. A newer version of the road that was constructed so the irrigation tunnel could be built.

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Looking back at just a little bit of the East Portal Road. It was steep, winding and long. We went down about 500 meters.

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Finally at the bottom, the Gunnison River.

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This building is the start of the tunnel. Workers digging from both ends met in the middle in July 1909. On September 23, 1909 water flowed into the valley. It wasn't until 1922 that all the work was completed: a diversion dam was built, the tunnel was lined with concrete and finishing ditches built.

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A view of the cliff walls from the bottom of the canyon.

Back on the rim, we get spectacular views. The photos don't do the canyon justice as you can't make out all of the layers of rock. The photos are taken at different look outs along the South Rim Road.

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A pretty pink flower.

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The different types of rocks are evident by the distinct colours in this cliff.

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Lot of old junipers and cedars.

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The west portal of the tunnel. Water is flowing down the canal to irrigate crops in the valley. More than 100 hundred years later and the tunnel is still doing it's job.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we are starting the trek home though we are doing it slowly. We left Grand Junction and drove the Grand Mesa Scenic Route and ended up in Montrose.

According to the "visit grand junction" website, "The Grand Mesa in Colorado is known as the largest flattop mountain in the world, encompassing hundreds of square miles and standing more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The Mesa Scenic Byway winds through 63 miles of the national forest, providing beautiful views of the parkís lakes, wildlife and geological features." I have to agree that it was a beautiful drive and best of all it was cooler on the Mesa than it was in Grand Junction and in Montrose. When we arrived in Montrose about 5 pm it was 37C or 98.6F.

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Not sure what this building had been but it hadn't been for awhile.

One section of road had lots of interesting rocks.

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An interesting looking rock and the top of a gate post.

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As we climbed higher on the Grand Mesa we had some spectacular views. There is one down hill skiing resort, lots of cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well as snowmobiling up here in the winter.

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Some of the wild flowers we saw.

There were a lot of small lakes,

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and beautiful views.

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The token wildlife, a mule deer.

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This was taken just after we descended from the Grand Mesa. The flat green land that abruptly turns into grey hills.

2018/06/12: Wineries in Colorado?

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
I don't care if it's dry heat or humid heat 98F is hot, especially when you are in the sun. Ed and I were wimpy today and decided that it was going to be too hot to hike, so decided to tour around the area.

First thing we noticed were the street names. Some streets had actual names but a lot were numbered or lettered but....

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this is different, at least for us.

Ed turned the incorrect direction and pulled into a parking lot to turn around.

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We were surprised to see a number of restored older vehicles. Ed thinks it might be an early 50s Studebaker, but he's not sure. His first thought had been a Henry J. Hmmm, in my opinion it's just a cute car.

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The Palisades just east of Grand Junction is known for it's fruit trees and wineries. I don't know about you but when I think of Colorado I don't think about fruit or wine. Even though it can be very hot or very cold here, the fruit trees and grapes grow well in the Palisades. We were told it was because of "the wind" that blows through the valley. Apparently it keeps it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The Colorado River also helps as all of the fields are irrigated. We picked up some cherries at a fruit stand and they were really good.

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We stopped by a few wineries to check out the wines and were pleasantly surprised. Of all the wines we tried there was only one that I really didn't like.

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A view of the Colorado as we entered the town of Palisade.

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There were a number of interesting sculptures around town. The one of the left is titled "Rusty's Dream" and the one on the right is titled "Which came first... the dinosaur or the egg?

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A geocache was in a rose garden. Unfortunately, we missed the peak blooming time. The garden would have been amazing a week or so ago.

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Another view of the Colorado River.

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Cottonwood trees are plentiful in Colorado. Today we really appreciated the shade.

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The downside of the cottonwood tree is the white snow like fluff they produce in June. There was white fluffy stuff flying every where.

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We got a good photo of the grape vines at the last winery we visited.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
An update to a posting from a couple of days ago. There are three theories of how the Million Dollar Highway got it's name. One explanation is that an early traveler was so overcome by vertigo on the steep and winding stretch of road that he insisted he would never travel it again, even if he was paid a million dollars. Another explanation is that the construction of the road in the 1930's cost one million dollars per mile, or that the land cost a total of a million. My favourite theory is the name has to do with the fact that builders used gravel from the nearby silver and gold mines and that the dirt was so rich in ore, it was worth a million. The gravel on the road we drove on the truck tour was tailings from the local mines so as the guide put it we were driving on a highway paved with gold and silver. Now on to today.

The Colorado National Monument was created in 1911. It is 32 square miles of rugged up and down terrain with towering masses of naturally sculpted rock.

We started the morning with a 3 km hike up a hill quickly followed by a 3 km down a hill. We think this is a trail that a lot of the locals hike on a regular basis as it's close to the park entrance and a number of homes. Some of the sites on our hike.

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The 23 mile Rim Rock Drive climbs from the Colorado River to to the park's high country, then winds along the plateau rim. The views are incredible making it really difficult to choose photos.

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Red Canyon Overlook

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Ute Canyon Overlook. What looks like a road at the bottom of the canyon is actually a dry creek bed that is until it rains.

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At Artists Point the colour that paints the Monument's landscape is part due to the colour of the minerals in the rocks as well as the kinds of lichens and chemical compounds that coat their surfaces.

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I found a some shade on the trail to the lower look out at Artists Point.

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They are busy getting the park ready for summer --- part of the road is newly paved, here men are laying new curb stone and new guard rail is also being installed.

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I'm not sure if this is the named "praying hands" but it certainly looks like it.

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Window rock and this is Independence

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The "Coke Ovens", so named because the shape reminded someone of the ovens used to turn coal into coke. We followed a trail that took us to the out cropping just before the "coke oven" rocks (near the middle of the photo).

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Another view. .

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Lots of gnarly old cedars and junipers. Thought I should throw in a photo of something other than a rock.

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The first rock on the left is the "kissing couple" and the rock in front is "Independence" side profile.