Ups and Downs

Our journey from Santa Fe to Snoqualmie pass was mostly high altitude, windy and cold enough to warrant layers. Our next overnight leaving Santa Fe was not far away but took us through some elevation that we didn’t expect. We decided to take highway 84 north through Colorado as we had heard “you have to see Pagosa Springs”. It is twice the elevation of Calgary at a whopping 7126 feet. What a slice. Snow in the surrounding San Juan mountains of the Colorado Rockies melts into the river and is met by boiling, hot steamy, mineral spring water and that hint of sulfur.

We took a stroll along the paved river path and could see people peeling their clothes off and dipping into hand-made rock walled pools at river level. The hot water was pouring out of both sides of the river and on the other bank was a huge resort with white cascading formations through a century or so of filling the numerous cement pools in the resort. We were not prepared for a night of swimming in the pools, so a mental note taken for another time when we return. 

Next day we were heading for Moab. Mountain biking, paddling, hiking but no climbing for us. Iconic rock temples and sunshine beauty. Here we come! Lori and Mike headed out to get propane, we headed (in advance of them) on to Highway 160 West. The plan was to meet at Monticello in Utah. At one point as we climbed a long steep road, we thought, “hmmm, I hope they have enough fuel” as the climb would burn much more fuel than a long flat road. We texted them and they said they almost missed a turn off at Durango to continue west. Had they missed the turnoff they would be on highway 220, the road to an old mining town called Silverton. Not thinking much of our brief text chat with them, we passed by a ski hill admiring the chi-chi Whistler-like lodges and accommodations surrounding the resort. The scenic road climbed to the 10,640 ft. summit, providing awesome, scenic vistas that kept us enthralled with the beauty of the place. We parked at the top of Coal Pass and took pictures. The rest stop pit toilets were covered by impassable walls of snow but they would be enough to keep us discreetly out of sight from the road while we relieved ourselves of morning coffee.

We kept going until we saw a sign that said the distance to Silverton… WHAT???  We had missed the turn that Lori spoke of. And the road was narrow with nowhere to turn around. We kept going until we found an old road with less snow on it and barely enough space to make a dangerous U turn on a busy mountain highway. Heading down that mountain pass was humbling, especially when we saw the ski resort below us!!

Once back in Durango we found the correct highway and we were on our way to Utah again after replacing the gas wasted getting to the top of the 10,640’ mountain road. We passed Mesa Verde and again thought, must stop there one day. Too much to see. 

Lori and Mike stopped at the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) office in Monticello to find out where the good camping was. The recommendation was to go towards Moab then turn left on highway 211 where there is lots of dispersed camping along that road. We were only about 30 minutes behind them as a result of our unscheduled, scenic meanderings. We followed along but about 5 miles down the road we discovered there was no cell service. We hadn’t heard from Lori and Mike for quite a while. Damn, that “No cell service” thing can be annoying! As we descended through a jaw droppingly beautiful, multi-coloured canyon and completely lost any cell signal we discovered the striking beauty that is the Canyonlands National Park. With the stunning beauty of bucolic ranch lands framed by impossibly vertical, monumental pillar shaped rock formations, painted with orange, red, tan and green under vivid blue sky. Where the hell are we?!!

We were gobsmacked but also nearly out of fuel again. We had to turn around. We had no idea where Lori and Mike were. Hell, we hardly knew where we were! We had the dinner fixings, for the four of us, in our fridge, it was approaching late afternoon and we had no idea where we would camp in this desolate countryside. Frantically texting them, concerned for their reliance on our commitment to prepare dinner, we drove out of the canyon and found a remote BLM campsite on a rough ranchlands road. The surrounding hillside was barren, miles from anywhere and we hoped that companions would come back to a service area soon. We dropped the trailer and headed for Monticello to refuel. We were almost there when my phone pinged. An hour later, we guided them into the site we had found and had a well earned happy hour watching the sunset over the canyon that lead us to the Canyonlands beauty.

We stayed for 10 nights. It was high altitude so one night brought us some snow. It was away from the Moab “Jeep Week” mosh pit, and central to Arches, Bridges, Canyon Reef, and Canyonlands National Parks and Monuments. 

Below are some photos of some of the highlights through that time. 

Canyonlands NP – We came back to this park a few times and found some beautiful hikes. The Colorado River winds through the park and is the Green River confluence. The enormous park has 3 defined areas , Needles, Island in the Sky and the Maze, but we only managed to get to the spectacular Needles . We will need to return and find that Dead Horse overlook one day. 

Moab – busy with a young vibe, no chain stores and plenty of craft beer made us feel we were not in the LDS (Latter Day Saints) church hotbed of the USA. Jeep Week brings thousands of people and their expensive fat tire Jeeps. We avoided the crowds. Moab is the mountain biking hub of Utah. Al and I found some trails near the turnoff to Canyon Reef and Deadhorse park. From the trails we could see silhouettes of the rock formations at Arches National Park.  However every time we went for a ride, a wind would rile up the dust and throw it at us. We tucked our tails and found the solace of our trusty truck. Another day Albert took Mike on my E bike and found some of the famous slickrock trails. No shortage of hard slopes in that very old river bottom. 

The Priest and the Nuns, Castle valley and the La Sal loop Scenic drive. Caution, steep drops!!

The Priest and the Nuns

Arches NP  – ok , so it is pretty. But we had to book a time to visit and there were so many people. So the been-there-done-that-CHECK was about all we could stomach.  Across the road from the years-long uranium cleanup effort. We wondered if the wind blowing that dust was of radioactive consequence. 

Natural Bridges National Monument– not to be confused with Arches National Park had a few spectacular bridges that were along a riverside hike. We passed centuries old pueblos hidden under rock overhangs above the valley floor. 

At some point we figured out we had to start making our way home. We still had more of Utah to see, let alone Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Washington. We will definitely return to experience more of what Moab has to offer on our next trip south. 

Sometimes it was too cold to eat outside

Utah highlights after Moab–Capital Reef National Park, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra, Organ and camping at a BLM  in the mountains near Provo

Idaho –Boise and the Snake River canyon and nearby wine region. Who knew Idaho had a wine region!!

Oregon – quick stop at a lovely Harvest host Snow Road Winery in Echo Oregon

Washington – wine and the tri-cities and L’Ecole 41. 

We arrived home in May. It seemed winter was with us until July.

Summer on Vancouver Island –Telegraph Cove, Cluxewe, Alert Bay, San Josef Bay, Upper Campbell Lake and pedalling to Horne Lake from our home base at Qualicum First Nation Campground

Screeeeeeech!! That was April to August (2022), and now we are off to a big adventure for the winter in Southern Europe. We’ve visited Winnipeg last week, we are sitting at the airport in Calgary as I write (September 23, 2022), heading to Montreal for 5 days to see our daughter, Elly, and her fiancé Taylor. My sister Marnie,  and brother in law Jim, are coming with us!! On the 28th we are flying to Lisbon and Portugal for a month with Marn and Jim,  with plans for Albert and I to play near the Mediterranean until March 31, 2023.  Stay tuned… I promise we will be much more proactive with sharing our stories!!