Sunday, 5 June 2016

Zion to Santa Fe to Ontario

We left Zion on a beautiful day,

This little critter watched carefully while we dumped
on the way out of Watchman Campground

heading up

One last look down the canyon,
and through the tunnel for the last time. 

and a last look at the unusual sandstone.
But we stopped to visit several more places before we began the non-stop portion of our journey. We drove south on Hwy 89  on a wide open plateau,

Across a plateau

then back into colourful Zion-like mountains

Colours of Zion

often with the sand-dune markings in the sandstone. The road across the bottom of Utah was straight with mountains to our left and sandy desert to our right. 

desert to the right, mountains to the left

The road takes a huge U-turn around boulders and cliffs.

Through a huge rock cut

and boulders.

As we came out of the U, spread out before us was a huge plain, with Monument Valley-like formations rising from the floor of the valley.

Formations rising from the valley floor
It was an incredible sight.

Similar to Monument Valley...

Just before Page, we turned off at a Visitor Centre.

Outside display at Visitor Center

At the foot of Grand Staircase Escalante

This was a lucky stop. The ranger, Merle Graffam, on duty is in his words, ’an amateur paleontologist’.

In fact he was extremely knowledgeable about the dinosaurs. He had discovered one vertibrae when he was out for a walk on a nearby mesa in 1999. This turned out to be an almost complete dinosaur skeleton 15 feet long and over one ton with 15 inch claws, of a new type, one of a group of feathered animals called Therizinosaurs. Subsequently-10 years later in 2009- it was named after him, Nothronychus graffami. Since the late 1990’s there have been over 4000 dinosaurs found within 35 miles of this Centre, including four new species. At the present time there are 3 teams of paleontologists working on digs on the plateau above the Centre.

The Grande Staircase Escalante plateau 

Merle kept us captivated for over an hour with his knowledge and expertise. Interesting facts we learned include: it has now been proven that Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaurs had feathers; the shark has not changed from over 200 million years ago; and we were reminded that chickens are dinosaurs.

From here, we went to Antelope Canyon. This is Navajo land, and to see the canyon, you have to go with a Navajo guide. Five of us and 2 dogs in our group were taken in a truck, along a wide wash,

Driving along the wash

to the mouth of the canyon. There are 5 different tour companies which have tours to the Canyon, so there were quite a few trucks there. 

Trucks carrying clients to Antelope Canyon

The entrance, rather ordinary...

Our guide had us wait until most of them had come out. This gave us time to linger in each of the chambers to take pictures.

but wait...

the views

were anything BUT ordinary.

Around each bend, unbelievable colours, sculptured sides

entrance to the second chamber

stunning views, looking up

and ahead...

and a shot along a wall...

Incredible colours

He was most helpful showing us the best camera settings, and the best angles to take incredible pictures. It was an expensive trip, but well worth the money for the experience of awe-inspiring sights, each one surpassing the last.

The end of the Canyon

Looking back into the canyon...

Incredible sights as we retraced our steps,

 back the way we had come...

After spending the night at Walmart in Page, AZ, we drove on a plain at 5,500 ft, through a rock cut at 6,000+ ft,

Through a massive rock cut

where around the corner we got an incredible view of a huge plain in a valley. 

As we came around the rocks,

the valley spread out below,

with mountains and cliffs off in the distance.

The road wound down the mountain.

The road wound down the mountain.

We took the road off towards Tuba

Towards Tuba, some interesting formations
for a few miles, to view the dinosaur tracks.

Driving into the Dinosaur tracks site...

This is also Navajo land, so we had a very interesting guide, Nick. He was very knowledgeable about where the tracks were and what they were showing,

Nick used water to fill in the tracks

Two different dinosaurs were crossing paths

Nick showing us the outline of a whole small dinosaur

A very large track

but we had half an hour of a disjointed stream of comments mixed in with interesting information. 

We continued on to Winslow Arizona to Homolovi State Park

A beautiful pull-through site in the desert

for a couple of days. The first day we drove to the Homolovi II Pueblo ruins,

An explanation

The ruins

There are pottery shards throughout the ruins

A Kiva

The highest mountains

The importance of the mesas

The mesas

then the spent the rest of the day driving through the Petrified Forest and up to the Painted Desert. After an interesting tour of the Petrified Forest Visitors Centre,

The Museum and Visitor Center

How old are these rocks...

How the the trees petrified...

we walked the Long Log Trail out behind.

Petrified logs on the trail

petrified log up close

on the trail

 Stephen Mather laid the foundation for the National Park Services
The “logs” strewn across the land are incredible colours.

Wonderful range of colours

The path also goes through a section of badlands, where nothing grows.


As we drove through the “Forest”, we stopped at Viewpoints

Log bridge

and overlooks, sometimes looking into canyons,

looking into a canyon

with a petrified log perched on a buttte

or in the crevices.

Another canyon overlook

Newspaper Rock

sometimes driving on high mesas

looking at the "Teepees".
or on high grassy plains. Sometimes logs are strewn beside the road in the grass,

Logs strewn across the landscape

sometimes on the sides and floors of the canyon. John walked to the floor of the blue mesa canyon, while I walked the rim.

Blue Mesa

View down the canyon at Blue Mesa

We couldn’t get on to I-40, so we had to drive to the Painted Desert. The colours here in the cliffs and canyons are incredible.

We turned a corner and this sight met us...

The Inn, now a museum

 We stopped at the lookouts and at the Inn which is an historical museum, but unfortunately was closed.

Painted Desert

Why the colours?

These are more of the Chinles formation- deep canyons in the desert, with deep reddish brown cliffs.

While we were driving through the Park, we got 2 separate stone chips in the windshield- 3 years of travel, even up in the Yukon chip-seal roads without a mark. We were not happy campers. This meant, before we could leave, we had to get these fixed. Luckily, Winslow had a chip-repair man. But instead of just checking out the town quickly, we were delayed. When the chips were repaired, we parked and walked into the historic downtown, to the Eagles’ corner:

It looks like a building, but it is only a facade now!

Well, I'm a-standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me

And had a latte at a coffee shop in an old bank across the street.

Excellent Lattes!

Then we were on our way again, up to Chinle

Plains with some cliffs

to see Canyon de Chelly [pronounced -de Chay]. This is a National Monument, but run by the Navajo. The sites were various sizes, not too many large enough to accommodate easily our 28ft Airstream. Sites were fairly level, but, by this point in the year, should have been cleared of fall leaves and the prickles which were hiding in them.

One of the stray "Campground dogs"

The site we chose, a nice setting, level and quiet, but not cleared

The first afternoon, after visiting the Visitors Centre,

A Hogan

Summer shelter
we drove along the south rim of the canyon, stopping off at a number of viewpoints to look at the fabulous canyon.

The road around the rim of the canyon, often on Navajo land,
then on National Monument land as we neared the rim of the canyon

Beautiful colours and desert varnish, fertile farmland in the canyon

The path across the slickrock was often marked with smaller rocks

Beautiful colour and sculpted rock, with farmland at the bottom

A farm at the bottom of the canyon

The next morning, we drove the north side of the canyon. We followed a path out along the slickrock to the edge of the canyon to see amazing views.

Slickrock but not slippery
At one point we looked down on the Antelope House Pueblo ruins.

Place of  Running Antelope - Antelope House
Building began in AD 700 and continued off and on for 600 years

Antelope Petroglyph

Once again we were in awe of the colours and sculpted sides of the canyon.

Another viewpoint, The Mummy Cave Ruin, had three sections of a village.

Mummy Cave
The east and west caves comprise living and ceremonial rooms.  

The East cave

The middle tower on the ledge was added later by the people who migrated from Mesa Verde in the 1280’s. 

A branch off this road led to Massacre Cave, the site where, in 1805, 115 Navajo took shelter on a ledge from a Spanish military expedition. The Spanish spotted them and killed all the people on the ledge.

Massacre Cave by the ledge

Looking down on the ledge with the cave behind the bushes on the left

How far they fell...

After lunch, John took the hike to the White House at the bottom of the canyon. This long winding walk down is the only place you can enter the canyon without an expensive Navajo guide. It starts with a walk through a tunnel 

and, often on a narrow ledge,

Not too bad here...

but, this is why I stayed back.

to a path along the canyon floor,

Through a tunnel at the bottom,

to the Canyon floor, and

The White House with

Petroglyphs behind it.

A different perspective on the walls of the canyon
then an arduous climb back 600ft. up. But being able to get close to the White House ruins and being able to see the petroglyphs up close was well worth it.

Our next stop was Sante Fe. What a beautiful city!  We stayed at an RV Park on the outskirts of town, Santa Fe Skies.
The back patio in the daytime,

and at night. We saw many building with similar 'bags' which lit up at night.

This was a well-kept, well run park. Our site was level, graveled and long with a hill at the end, but we could put the truck in front of the Airstream.

The hill made hitching up a bit of a challenge, but manageable
The city centre is a collection of distinctive and charming mud-coloured buildings in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

One side of the central Plaza

A typical street

One of the Museums
Nearly half of the city of 68,000 is employed in the arts industry. Established in 1610, it is the second oldest city in the US [after St Augustine in Florida]. It is laid out with a central plaza,

The central Plaza

the social hub of the city, fronted by the Palace of Governors.

Native American vendors in front of the Governors Palace,
chosen by lottery each day

There are stringent building codes that define and maintain the Old Santa Fe style, from the 8” thickness of the walls to the shade of the stucco finish, of brown, tan or local earth tones.

A hidden courtyard,

Even the parking garage, 

and the stores 

This makes for a stunning downtown area like no other city in the US. It is a city of art,

Outside the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Art

Sculptures on the street

"King of Jacks"


A Private Gallery of Native Art

New Mexico Museum of Art

Worrell Gallery

restaurants and unique shopping. We walked around the central plaza, with the Native American artisans from some of New Mexico’s 22 pueblos and tribes displaying their jewellery and pottery in front of the Palace of the Governors, and various musical groups playing throughout the park. In the centre is the Soldiers’ Monument dedicated to those who died in battles [both with Indians and in the Civil War].

Musicians playing in front of the Soldiers' monument 
On one corner is the New Mexico Museum of Art. A block away is La Fonda, once a Harvey House, offering respite to travellers since 1607. 

La Fonda, where gunfight once took place in the lobby,
We walked past the Cathedral,

The Cathedral

to Loretto Chapel, with its unique hanging staircase.

Loretto Chapel, with The Inn

The story, just inside the door

The Staircase

The front of the Chapel

Entrance to The Inn, connected to The Chapel

The Inn
 Then we walked on up the Santa Fe Trail to the oldest church

Sam Miguel Church, the oldest church in the USA

and the oldest house,

Plaque on the Oldest House

The Oldest House

sketch hung inside

Inside of the house

before to making our way to the State Government buildings.

State Government built in the shape of the sun symbol

Then we drove to Canyon Road, the art lovers’ mecca. This is the street of Artistes and Galleries.

A whole yard full of wind whirlies

The ultimate flower garden

a unique water fountain

or add these to you patio- a but hard, but unique

the front yard of a home...

Magnificent horses of Siri Hollander

On our last day we decided to go to the Museum Hill to see the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture,

Steps from the Parking lot to Milner Plaza

A magnificent sculpture dominated the massive Plaza

sculpture in courtyard

outdoor section of the Museum

The theme of this section is Native Women sculpting Women

one of our favourites

three of the beautiful sculptures

outside the restaurant where we had lunch

before heading downtown to view the Georgia O’Keefe Gallery and to a last dinner at The Shed.

Lunchtime at The Shed's patio We had a couple of outstanding meals here.

The next day we began the long 3,200 km trek back to Ontario through New Mexico
Flat, straight I-25

not much change on SR-56 after Springer

until we turned north to go to Clayton Lake State Park, NM

to the border the first  night,

Path beside the lake

The path across the dam

Dinosaur tracks, but no Nick to interpret them

View of the Campsite from the dinosaur tracks


more green fields, and grain elevators in every small town
 as we scooted across Oklahoma


Kansas- Dorothy and Toto!
Railway Bridge

Story behind the bridge...

Kansas Scenery- green, with some trees

A beautiful site in Meare Lake State Park

However, delayed by 15 hours of rain, thunder and lightning.
Only the coots were happy! 

Rather odd washrooms- no roof

Kansas fields after the rain


Kansas City

Missouri River

More trees, less flat
Lots of billboards and road-kill!

Graham Cave State Park
Green fields, and lots of water from the rain

Farming in Illinois


Cagles Mill Lake State Park- no one there but us
- not even the Host in over 200 sites

Indiana-the worst roads we have traveled on in 3 years!

Ohio, Pennsylvania

A short hop through Pennsylvania

Sighting of Lake Erie- almost back...

and New York.

A lot of vineyards in New York

Other than a rain delay in Kansas, and a short detour to tour the Airstream Plant in Jackson Center, Ohio,

we drove straight through to Ontario. 

Into Canada...

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