A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: blgracey

What's Next?

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June for a teacher means the hard work is done for another year. Time let go of the marking and the lessons, the 'school night' mentality and the manic, micro-decision making that is exhausting. Time to rejuvenate and, for us, to travel. Hot on the lips of all my friends is "where to, this year?". Well, the answer is The Badlands of the Dakotas and the MidWest.

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We've been through before. Even stopped at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. But we've never stayed and explored. This year, that's our plan. We've got a few stops before we get there from Ontario. You'll need to tune in to see where, but I may need to have my hair in braids for a few days. We've got historical myths to explore about Jesse James, and a wall to camp upon. We plan to see an artifact that could have changed the world in the Cold War, and get our purple shirts out on the way home.

What we do in the in-between, will be in the Badlands, the BlackHills, the Bighorns and Theodore Roosevelt's playground.

We seem to plan less and less as we carve out more time for the adventures to evolve around us instead of us planning the adventures. We'll most likely pay for ½ the campsites we find and ½ will be free ones we happen upon.

Our wheeled house (our 21' Coachman Apex) is going through some new modifications, among which is a wonderful map of our travels thus far IMG_4776.jpeg

And our homemade table top.

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Stay tuned for the adventures. Summer awaits!

Posted by blgracey 00:34 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my! - Gothenburg history

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

The history of Gothenburg is embraced in many ways throughout the city. Gothenburg was founded in 1621 by Gustav II Adolf, but it was not the first town at the river Göta älv’s outlet. At the end of the 15th century, Nya Lödöse was built, and became an important trade city for Sweden. Before that, it was possibly a Viking stronghold. Gothenburg has been burned to the ground by invaders several times, each time rebuilding the city. The city was a fortified city and was designed by some of the most revered city engineers of the world at the time.
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There are remnants of the stone walls which protected the city 400 years ago.
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In 1923, Gothenburg hosted a World's Fair to coincide with it's 300 year anniversary (1621-1921). Many of the important tourist attractions were build during that time including Liseberg Amusement Park.
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The arts exhibition building is now a contemporary arts gallery, the Göteborgs Konsthall near to the Götaplatsen square with Poseidon's statue at it's centre, which was inaugurated for the fair.
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The celebration of the history of the city can be seen in many places. Inside Liseberg there are historic nods to the original intent of the park.
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There are posters on the streets that depict the rebirth of Gothenburg as the city prepared for the 1923 World's Fair.
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Statues of Gustav II Adolf who was the city's original imagineer and along with many other statues, highlight Gothenburg's long history as you walk through the streets.
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Gothenburg's City Museum is the official place to get a better understanding of the city's history.
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The Museum of Gothenburg is located in the East India House, which takes up a whole city quarter. The three sides of the building that are built in yellow brick are from the mid-1700s. The fourth part, the Wilson Wing, located at the back of the Museum is from the late 1800s.
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The building originally housed the East India Company headquarters for the Swedish division. The East India Company was a trading company which sent silver to China and India and traded it for porcelain, tea, spices and other goods to bring back to Sweden. In the 1800s the company was not profitable anymore and sold the building to the Swedish government and to the city of Gothenburg. in 1861 it opened as a museum and, although it has changed, renovated and been build onto, it remains a testament to Gothenburg's history.
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Inside the museum is housed a visual history of Gothenburg with many displays and artifacts. It has a viking exhibit which includes the remains of a viking cargo ship.
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The displays take the participant through the 400 year history of Gothenburg as a city and ends with a look to the present-day Gothenburg which is aptly a window to the street outside.
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Gothenburg is a city rich in history and a city that celebrates its beginnings but looks forward to what it can become.

Posted by blgracey 13:46 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my! Haga District

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

A section of Gothenburg is Haga. It is the Old Town. Built and rebuilt several times because of fire, this part of town was originally built with timber houses but now, as you can see, has stone buildings and cobbled streets. It dates back to the early 17th century.

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In the beginning, Haga was built to be the residences of the working class. Situated just outside of the walled city, you can climb the hill Skansberget, with the fortification Skansen Kronan on top, you get a nice view of the district and a large part of the city.
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I think we picked the windiest day to climb the more than 100 steps to the top. Pictures can’t show you how hard it was for us to stand still! Is was well worth the climb and the wind though.

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Nowadays, Haga is a trendy residential area with a bustling shopping district.

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Gothenburg is known for its cinnamon buns. We sampled several from different places but none that rivaled the Cafe Husaren in Haga. The display of sweets from the window and in the cabinets was art in itself.
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The raspberry meringue was stunning.

The cinnamon buns we’re literally as big as your head!

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Its history is intriguing and it was an experience having Swedish fika there. (Coffee break)
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We loved our time in Haga. The shops and atmosphere are not to be missed.

Posted by blgracey 08:48 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my!- Copenhagen, Denmark

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

Off to Copenhagen today! We took the early morning tram to Gothenburg central station and then boarded the train to Copenhagen. Riding by train would be far preferable to air if you had a choice. Lots of leg room and windows, air circulation is good and seats are comfortable enough to sleep in.
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We talked to a couple, who work in Malmo, for more than an hour. The conversation ranged from politics to sports and weather. Differences between Canadians and Swedes as well as some discussion about Americans and places to visit.
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We arrived in Copenhagen 15 min late and found our hotel right beside the train station. The Hotel Astoria is a beautifully restored hotel that was originally used for overnight stays for train conductors. The details like the elevator, doors and windows/balconies were beautifully preserved. We were in a room with 2 balconies. The bed was a little hard for our comfort but we slept well.
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We immediately went out in search of something to eat. We headed toward our first stop which was the Rosenberg Castle and found a good ‘ol McDonalds. On our way, we walked down very old streets and squares. Some churches, some government buildings and many diverse people. It was far more diverse than Gothenburg. It had a young hippie vibe to it.
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There was also more garbage around. And more graffiti. Not the type of place to be casual about your wallet.

Copenhagen is definitely a bicycle city. There were bikes everywhere and many of them not locked up. When I say many, I mean hundreds!
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We arrived at Rosenborg Castle right in time for our tickets and were ushered right in. If you ever have the choice to buy ticketed entry or not, buy tickets. Many others were in line and we stepped right in front. We got there at 2:20 and toured the castle until 3:45. They closed at 4:00 and we had just enough time to look in the gift shop before they closed.
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Here are a selection of the pictures from the Castle. King Christian IV of Denmark lived in the castle and had it built in 1606 asa summer house.
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Christian IV was one of the most colourful and popular kings in Danish history. He was very interested in culture, not least music. He was a very active builder too; during his reign several new towns were founded and many important buildings were erected, for example the Børsen, the Round Tower and Rosenborg, where he died. His reign was marked with many wars and struggles with the neighbouring countries, like Sweden.

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The details in the carved wood work and the s and tapestries hanging were so opulent.
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The stairs are a central spiral staircase.
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The basement level, which is accessed from the outside, is the treasury. The Crown Jewels and treasures of the Danish Monarchy are still housed there today. As you can see, some of the jewelry was being used by Queen Margrethe II at the moment. As a result of its active nature, there are military guards on duty all the time.
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After leaving the castle, we walked to Nyhavn which is a 17th century waterfront with shops, restaurants, sailing ships and colourful houses. This is the area where Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote his Fairy Tales like The Little Mermaid.
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Many restaurants have outside tables and basement inside dining. We had dinner at a pizzeria which was very small but the pizza was very good.
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Because we only had the evening to get a sense of the city, we decided to do a canal tour. It was dark but we didn’t get a sense of the city and learned a lot. The guide shone lights on the building he was talking about which didn’t make for great pictures. On our way back to the hotel we passed some of the buildings and therefore had some information about them.
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There is a statue of the Little Mermaid at the north part of the harbour. We saw her back from the water.
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There are many low bridges we went under as we worked our way through the canals. The city built the canals so that the fisherman at the time could bring their catch into the city for selling. This street is where the fish markets were.
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Our canal ride was inside so we were warm but outside it was getting chilly. Before heading back to the hotel, we got some hot cocoa with Baileys and some Glogg (mulled wine)
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Some buildings were lit up like a party! This is the Guinness World Record Museum.
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On the walk back we ended up walking down some of the quieter streets. We weren’t exactly lost. We were heading in the right direction but maybe not in the most direct way. As we got closer to the hotel it got busier with people again because we were nearing Tivoli which is an amusement park like Liseberg. We did not go into it (we had already walked 12 kms!) but saw the lights and heard the sounds of the rides.
We did get some street food though. We each got a hotdog from different vendors.

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During the evening, we saw and heard a lot of fireworks. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and fireworks in the streets is a literal thing here in Copenhagen. We saw 2 people walking around with a bucket and fireworks and setting them off on sidewalks. It happened all evening on and off until midnight when they set the rest off in front of the Central Station.
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I’m sure that there is more to see in Copenhagen but we feel like we’ve seen enough for now. We got a good sense of the city and the people.

Posted by blgracey 12:16 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my!- Liseberg and a win.

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

We planned to go walking through the Christmas market at Liseberg amusement park which is situated across the road from our hotel. The timing was important since we only have a one-day pass and we wanted to see the market in the daylight hours as well as with the nighttime lights. We woke up early to go get breakfast, which is always a buffet included with our hotel from seven until 10 AM. After breakfast, we decided to go to the local grocery store which is beside the hotel to get some room, snacks, and beverages. I
was interesting to see a lot of the same brands, but also many new ones on the shelf.

After returning to our room to stash our goodies, and then, to bundle up, we went over to Liseberg. Destiny tours had secured a day pass for everyone in the group, and so are entry was free. The combination of lights and booths as well as stores kept us busy for hours. All of the amusement rides are also open but I can’t imagine how cold it would be to go on a roller coaster when it is so cold outside.
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We bought a few souvenirs as well as a hot chocolate, and glogg which is the traditional drink of the area. Warm, mulled, wine with almonds and raisins. I’ll

need to look up a recipe and keep that drink as a souvenir as well.
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The atmosphere there was buzzing and Christmasy as well. It really was beautiful as you can see by the pictures.
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And there was entertainment!

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only 363 days until Christmas!

We talked to a few of the vendors and bought fudge from one of them.

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After changing for the evening game, we had dinner at the hospitality suite while we watched the pool B game on the big screen. Canada was playing Latvia, and while the game was only two nothing after the first period for Canada, by the end of the game it was 10 to nothing. The Latvian fans are really good sports and cheering for their team was fun. The Canadians had a third of the rink which made for very loud crowd when we scored.So much fun!
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We even met the mascot for the tournament Frolle who is a bison!
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Posted by blgracey 22:17 Archived in Sweden Comments (4)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my!- Canada Game one

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

Our first game day with our world junior hockey players ended up, being as full as full can be. We began with a walking tour, guided by a local person from Gothenburg. She pointed out the history of buildings and the significance of the 1923 Exhibition that brought the world’s eyes on Gothenburg. Many of the cultural buildings and the amusement park were created for that exhibition. We ended up walking almost the same route we took yesterday but now hold a lot more insight into what we were seeing.
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It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was mild. Once we got back to the hotel, it was time to change and head out for the game. With our name badges on and tickets in hand, we went into the hospitality lounge for the Destiny Tours group and watched some of the CZE vs SVK game on the giant tv and then headed over to the Scandinavium to find our seats.
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The arena holds 12000 and is one level. The concourse has the regular popcorn stands and coffee places as well as McDonald’s, but the prices were out of this world! Almost $9 CDN for a small popcorn! We were inside the souvenir shop and bought a few items with a crush of other people (mostly Canadians)

The game itself was a little tense for the first period and then Canada pulled away for a 5-2 win over Finland. It was so much fun to be in a crowd of Canadians all screaming for our team.
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We went back to our rooms between games and then had dinner in the Hospitality room. Burger, chips and salads that were excellent. The Gothis Towers staff and management have done a fantastic job welcoming all of us crazy Canucks. We went back into the arena to watch most of the Sweden vs Latvia game. Boy do the Swedes ever know how to party!

So all in all we walked 11kms, watched 2 entire games and parts of 2 others. Screamed for Canada and sang our National Anthem loudly.
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Tomorrow is supposed to be another good weather day so we plan to spend it exploring the Christmas Market at Liseberg. Followed by the evening game of Canada and Latvia.

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The view from our hotel at twilight.
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Posted by blgracey 21:41 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my! - Gothenburg check in

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View Gothenburg, Sweden Jan 2024 on blgracey's travel map.

It has been 26 hours since we left our house to fly out of Pearson airport in Toronto. All in all, things went to plan. We flew on a KLM flight out of Toronto to Amsterdam, and then onto Gothenburg. All our flights were on time, and actually a little faster than was expected. Flying is not our usual mode of transportation, and our ram truck is much more spacious lol.
We are traveling with a travel, agency tour group called Destiny Tours. Our trip is still just beginning but so far the level of detail in the planning has been outstanding.

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We got into Gothenburg around 10 o’clock and we’re transferred to our hotel via coach bus chartered by destiny tours. Even at that early hour our rooms were ready for us to occupy. We have a corner hotel room that overlooks the city and the Scandinavium arena where the World Junior hockey tournament is to be played. Hotel room is efficient and clean, but no more interesting than most hotel rooms.
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After a short hour of relaxation, we set out to get some fresh air and to get our bearings in the neighborhood. The temperature was 0 °C and it was misty. Since Christmas Eve is generally a time when no businesses are open, we had a look at some restaurant menus from the outside as we walked by and grabbed some snacks at the 7-Eleven across the street.

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The hotel, which is Gothia Towers, has beautiful reception areas with decorations for the season.

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and there was even a Lego miniature of the towers in one of the lobbies.

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And an art gallery!
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Many places for people to meet and share a drink. The number of Canadians that are staying here will no doubt overrun the hotel. Everywhere you go we see a sea of red.

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We had reservations at the seasons restaurant for dinner since most other restaurants in the area are closed for Christmas. The buffet was excellent. We had sticky chicken, Beef Bulgogi and a blue cheese and pear salad which was particularly excellent.

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We ended the evening at the 24–7 Café in the front reception area having hot chocolate and watching people come and go. We took the glass elevator back up to our room around 830. And we’ll wait until 11 o’clock or so for sleep so that we reset our internal clocks to Swedish time. In the meantime, we can watch our streaming services from home on the TV here to pass the time. Tomorrow, being Christmas day there won’t be anything open to visit but we’re hoping if it’s nice enough that we can walk around the city a little. Our Christmas reception from Destiny tours will be at dinner tomorrow where we will receive our jackets and IDs to get around the events here in Gothenburg.

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Posted by blgracey 19:04 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Sweden and Denmark and hockey, oh my! - getting ready

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It’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. We are usually the master of our own schedule and seek out the quiet and solitude of camping in the wilderness but this trip is going to be different. We are traveling to the Swedish city of Gothenburg to watch the Canadian under 20 Junior hockey tournament during the Christmas holidays. Unlike our usual trips, which are less planned, more wilderness, and fewer cities, this trip will take us to the cities of Copenhagen and Gothenburg, and enjoying our time with 1000 other Canadian junior hockey fans.

We have a list of things we’d like to see in the cities, but really it’s the experience of seeing a different part of the world in a very different way that we are excited for. We are traveling by plane from Toronto to Gothenburg with a transfer in Amsterdam. And we will travel by train to Copenhagen for a short 24 hour stay. Copenhagen has always been a place I would like to visit. Danny Kay Hans Christian Anderson in the movie I watched when I was little always stuck in my mind.

We will have tickets to all of the Canadian hockey games, as well as the other teams in our pool and that will keep us busy many days. But we have a couple of other special things planned, and since Gothenburg is said to be a very walkable city, we will be spending a lot of time roaming around on foot as long as the winter weather is not too bitter.
I will hope to write every few days and include some of the photos we take along the way. The next two weeks will be about packing and celebrating with family an early Christmas. I hope as always, you’ll come along for the ride.

Posted by blgracey 20:05 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

Desert Wanderings - Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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Our trip comes to a close with a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Researching the routes and scenic byways in and around Colorado takes a bit of work, especially when you are towing your RV. We knew that at some point, if we were this far north, we’d have to go across the Continental Divide and the Rockies. Hwy 550 goes North/South and is called the Million Dollar Highway. It is widely traveled by vacationers and truckers alike. It boasts some of the highest elevations and does not have many guardrails but the scenery is amazing, if you dare to take your eyes off the road.

We did not take the Million Dollar Highway. Instead, we opted for Hwy 145 and Hwy 62 which weaves back and forth and follows the San Miguel River and then Leopard Creek through mountain valleys much of the way. What a beautiful drive! And so much to do from rafting trips, to quaint little towns and markets. We definitely want to return to this area to spend more time. We did need to make that ultimate climb up to 11,000ft and over the Continental Divide and its always a fun drive with staggering views made better because the truck traffic was lighter today.

We made our way to Montrose, Colorado which was our last home base. We stayed at the KOA. KOA’s are sometimes expensive for what we use of their facilities but they are always predictably clean and safe.

We sent the next morning exploring the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This canyon, nestled inside the Rockies Mountains range, has a geology all of its own. It contains some of the oldest exposed metamorphic rock in the world. About 60 million years ago, a small area of land uplifted, bringing 1.8 billion year old metamorphic rock to high elevations. This is called the Gunnison Uplift. Then, about 30 million years ago, large volcanoes erupted on either side of this uplift, burying it in volcanic rock. The Gunnison River began flowing with force around 2 millions years ago which eroded away the volcanic rock and cut a deep canyon in the metamorphic rock.

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The black canyon walls are actually very colourful. Without taking in the scale of the walls which are 2250 ft tall, you might think you are looking at an elaborate marble countertop with deep graining. Great pressure and heat created the different metamorphic rock which are called schist and gneiss. 1.8 billion years ago. While still buried deep in the Earth, magma squeezed into the schist and gneiss, 1.4 to 1.7 billion years ago. As it cooled, minerals grew and formed the igneous rocks that bring vibrant colour accents to the canyon walls.

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There are several short hikes out to see different points of the canyon walls, none more than about ½ a mile long.

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A permit is needed for any hikes that go into the canyon itself. Rock climbing is permitted with a permit as well. We took a drive down to the bottom of the canyon where the Gunnison River begins its route through the canyon. The East Portal Rd is open only in the summer because it has 16% grades and curves and twists. It was quite a drive! Not long but VERY steep and the pay off at the bottom was worth it.

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We now head home from Montrose, Colorado to Ontario. It will take us 5 days, traveling 7-8 hours a day. Its always bittersweet to find ourselves making the drive home. We recount what places we would want to come back and explore more and which routes we haven’t taken yet. Lots of ideas and trips to plan.

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Posted by blgracey 01:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Desert Wanderings - Telluride, Colorado

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I suppose the title Desert Wanderings is not as applicable now. The plan was to spend the last week in Arizona but the weather had other plans for us. We escaped the heat into the nearby (5 hours away) mountains of Colorado.

We stayed south of Telluride, near Trout Lake, in a free boondocking spot. Trout Lake gave us the opportunity to ride our bikes on the Galloping Goose Trail. The trail lies on the defunct railroad which, in the days of ore and gold, was key to the area. There are remnants of the old railroad trestle still towering over the river that leads to Trout Lake. Constructed between 1910 and 1912, this 146-foot long wooden bridge is associated with the Rio Grande Southern Railway.

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We were also able to kayak Trout Lake for a few hours. It is a small lake but very picturesque and full of - you guessed it -trout!

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The drive into Telluride was dramatic and beautiful.

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If you like Whistler, BC, you should also check out Telluride, Colorado. With everything from off trading on mountain roads to mountain biking down the ski hills in the summer and a ski village with the same outgoing vibe in the winter, Telluride is a spectacle. Bring your money however because the shopping and the food is very expensive. The gondola ride from Mountain Village (the ski resort area) to Telluride (the business area) is free however!

Shopping in Telluride was an experience. Obviously catering to people who spend their weekends skiing in the area and who have expensive taste. The leather and hat shops peddle their own Telluride-made brands which are very original but not in our price range! $165 for a small change purse is not in the cards for these 2 campers!

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The town really does a great job to showcase their history. We had a bite to eat and a drink at the Stronghouse. Originally built in 1892 and used as a warehouse for storing goods, the Stronghouse was built of stone and metal and is one of the remaining buildings from the heyday of Telluride’s mining era.

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We spent 4 days at this campsite and caught some of the best skies we’ve seen so far. The view from our front door made us want to stay for a week.

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Only one more destination until we need to start the drive back to Ontario. It involves a National Park and rocks that were formed 1.6 billion years ago!

Posted by blgracey 01:19 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Desert Wanderings - Page AZ, Lees Ferry

sunny 42 °C

Page Arizona is a playground for all activities outside. From boating on Lake Powell, hikes to canyons, ATV tours and more, outside is where its at in Page. Too bad for us it was 42F in the shade. In the sun, our thermometer went to 54.5F. Too hot for this couple! Our first day in Page , we toured around and saw the Lake Powell dam and Lone Rock Beach. The dam had a very good visitor centre which explained all about how the dam was formed from 1956-1966. It had a nice theatre which played informative videos every 15 min. We overheard one couple say that they might watch them all just to stay inside for the day in the AC!

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Lone Rock Beach is where people can camp for free on the sand (you do need a permit to be in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area). We parked and walked down to the water. The sand was so hot that we moved pretty quick! The water was warm and the sand was very fine. Hardly a shell or a rock to look over. We were not prepared to bake ourselves on the sand like a few people were so we headed back to the truck.

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Even the crows thought it was too hot and were seeking the shade!

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In the evening, we found a little known lookout up on the ridge where a number of houses sat. From there we watched the sunset over Lake Powell.

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We spent a lot of time in our trailer with the AC on. It was too hot to even sit comfortably in the shade outside. We spied on a hummingbird in the afternoon who had made a nest in the tree outside our window. She was beautiful.

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The following morning, our alarm woke us at 4:30am to get ready for our kayaking adventure. Lake Powell was created after the dam was built in 1958. It controls the flow of water for the Colorado River at the start of the Grand Canyon. On the other side of the dam from Lake Powell is Lees Ferry. Lees Ferry was settled by John D. Lee who came to the area in 1871. Lee was fleeing persecution from the US military after being involved in a massacre of settlers in Utah in 1857. He and his family ran the ferry that shepherded new settlers across the Colorado River before there was a bridge to cross. The picturesque mountains and the Vermillion Cliffs were dazzling in the orange, early sunlight.

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There isn’t much in Lees Ferry now except historical buildings and a boat launch that caters to anglers and boaters. This is where our backhaul launched from. The boat took us and our kayaks upriver so that we could kayak back down to Lees Ferry. The company, Kayak Horseshoe Bend, and our guide, Luke, were both very professional and knowledgeable. We would highly recommend them. Our boat launched at 6:30am and the air was still crisp.

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Enroute we saw wild horses making their way on the cliffside in the early morning cool temperature and further upstream we saw two Big Horn Sheep grazing. The trail they come down has been used for centuries by the Anasazi people who have lived in the area for 12,000 years.

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Because, another person in our group was going all the way to the dam to begin his paddle (8 hours!) we got to ride all the way back up to see the dam from the bottom. This is the official beginning of the Grand Canyon. Our guide then dropped us at Petroglyphs so we could begin our paddle.

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A very short walk up the trail at Petroglyphs we saw the trail’s namesake. There are rock drawings made by Native Americans. They clearly show sheep descending and figures hunting along with other symbols.

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After our walk to the petroglyphs, we started out on our kayaks. Pictures just don’t do the actual view justice. The cliffs are a high as skyscrapers. They tower over you like ancient monuments to another time. Birds sing, lizards skitter on the rock faces, swallows swoop, and fish swim all around you. Open your senses to the nature around you and nature will talk to you.

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There are many boats on this waterway. Some backhauling people up river so they too can paddle downstream. Some people with personal power watercraft, and many kayakers. Most were very courteous, a few were noisy but we just let them pass. One person apparently needed his boombox on his boat with him. Ugh!

The following are some of our many pictures taken. Videos will come in a later blog when I am home to edit them.

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Lots of lizards make their homes on the Marble Canyon cliffs.
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This is a collared lizard posing for us.

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If you come to Page, AZ, do this trip if you do anything. You can rent kayaks from Kayak Horseshoe Bend. There are no rapids, the current takes you down stream and really all you need to do is steer. We took 5 hours to paddle from our drop off at Petroglyphs and 7 hours from when we arrived at Lees Ferry. Totally worth every penny!

On our way back to Page, we stopped to look at the Navajo Historical Bridge which was built in 1928 and made the ferry at Lees Ferry less vital. It is overwhelming to realize that these canyon walls will spread out to become the Grand Canyon downstream.

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The next morning we escaped the heat of Page. It was our original plan to stay the week, hike and explore but it is just not safe to be outside in this weather. The National park system was even recommending everyone stay in AC from 10am to sunset after a death in Death Valley this past week.

Because we could be flexible and move our vacation, we have driven into the mountains of Colorado. We are camping on BLM land in the Uncompahgre National Forest where it was 70F, more than 20 degrees cooler than only a few hours away.

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We are near Telluride, CO for the next few days.

Posted by blgracey 20:38 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Desert Wanderings-Natural Bridges,Valley of the Gods, Moki

sunny 40 °C

Epic days are rarely planned that way. At the beginning of the day, around the breakfast table, we were thinking of having a quiet day. Maybe doing a short drive up to see a viewpoint and then back to the trailer for lunch and the afternoon, and then possibly a drive out to see the stars along the dark highway scenic pullouts. That quiet day turned into a 13 hour long, sightseeing-packed adventure. Hint: Always bring everything for an adventure day, ‘cuz you never know where you’ll end up.

We began our day with our aforementioned drive to the view point. The Moki Dugway is part of the road named The Trail of the Ancients. It’s an unpaved road sends you up 1200ft over 3 miles at a grade of 11%. The road itself was very safe to drive with our truck in 4-wheel drive but, boy, was it steep!

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At the top, our plan was to turn around and come back down, and then back to the trailer for lunch. We decided, however, since we were so close to Natural Bridges National Monument (only 40 min) that we would keep going. We were glad we brought lots of snacks and water since there was not even a single house on top of the mesa we had climbed. The entire 40 min drive to the National Monument we saw 3 other vehicles and not much else. Beautiful wilderness.

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Our America The Beautiful pass got us free entry into the park. I think there were 4 cars of people that we saw in the entire place and by the end of our time there, we were the only ones there. The natural bridges were formed by water erosion over millions of years. Unlike Arches NP which were formed by wind erosion, the swirls of rock ledges and pockets for water whirlpools were evident. It reminded us of Banff and Jasper, Alberta, where you can find the same rock formations that are continuing to be carved out by water today.

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We saw several bridges from the overlooks at the road. You were able to hike down to the bridges which would be an estimated 10 mile hike to see them all. In better weather, we would have done it. In 104F weather, it was not in the cards. We did walk out to a few overlooks which were .2 and .3 miles and that was enough in the heat.

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We also saw a cliff dwelling ruin from Pueblo people abandoned about the same time as Mesa Verde, ~1300. There is evidence there in the architecture and pottery that they traded with the people from Mesa Verde.

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The park takes you on a loop drive to see the bridges and the last one on the drive was Owachomo Bridge. The hike was only .2 miles right down to see the floor of the bridge and so were took lots of water and headed down. We dropped 180ft down by way of stairs carved into the rocks. We had the place entirely to ourselves. This natural bridge is the oldest in the park and formed more than 240 million years ago. It is massive and the temperature change was noticeable under it. It is a safe haven for wildlife and it even has some water in puddles at the bottom. We spent 10 min down there just sitting and listening.

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By this time it was 3:00pm. We decided to head back a different way, not down the Moki Dugway, and headed instead into Blanding, Utah, to get some dinner. Not many places to choose from, but the dinner we had at a steakhouse was very good. The road to Blanding was not as epic as the Moki Dugway but was a neat drive too.

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On the way back to our trailer we visited the Valley of the Gods. The Valley of the Gods is a 17 mile road that is all on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) It is mostly flat but is very rocky. Disperse around the area are rock formation, not unlike the ones in Monument Valley. It is awe inspiring and the scale is really hard to conceive. There are no restrictions about hiking, but being a more wild place you’ll also have to watch for rattlesnakes and scorpions in the rocks.

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This is where we had planned stay a few nights boon docking but without AC that was really out of the question. We had thought about staying a few nights ago but when we came in with the trailer, we bottom out the trailer jack and bend it.

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A few swear words and worry later, we used some problem solving skills and fixed it ourselves, cut our losses and headed out to the KOA in Monument Valley. This evening, we drove back up the unpaved road, with its bumps and rocks, before sunset. Bud got his drone out and, since we are on BLM land, he was able to fly it and get some amazing pictures and video. (I’ll post that when we get home and I have the time to edit it).

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Drone footage and pictures are amazing!

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When the sun goes down in the desert everything comes alive. We saw bats, heard coyotes in the distance, even saw a jack rabbit run across the road. We saw this little speckled lizard in the Natural Bridges Monument.

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We stayed past sunset and into the dark to see the stars.

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We stopped a few places along the road on the way back into our campsite to get some Milk Way pictures.

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Back at our trailer, we had left our new friend Miguel in charge of things and he did a fine job.

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Time to put things back in order in the trailer and leave the Monument Valley area, but not before a bath for the truck and trailer!

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Posted by blgracey 22:21 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Desert Wanderings - Monument Valley

sunny 38 °C

The blog today will cover a few days partly because we’ve been busy, partly because we’ve been tapped by heat, and partly due to a lack of stable internet service. I do apologize but the pictures in this chapter will likely make up for the delay.

On our way to Monument Valley, we took a detour to see the only place in the United Staes that 4 States meet in one corner. It is obviously called ‘’Four Corners’’. It sits on Navajo land and they charge $8 a person to see the monument which is seen below. We got our picture taken, and then made the rounds of the Native American vendors. We bought a few items including an arrow from a person who made them right there on site. A bit of a tourist trap but it was nice to support local artists.

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We then drove to Valley of the Gods. You’ll have to wait until my next blog to hear about that adventure and see the pictures. We are going back tomorrow it was such an experience.

We are staying at a KOA right in Monument Valley. The plan was to camp out in Valley of the Gods but the heat is too dangerous right now. Hot (34C), we could manage, dangerous heat (42C) is not smart without a generator to run AC. This is the view from our campsite.

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Today, we drove through Monument Valley. The site is on Navajo land is is run by the Navajo Parks. $8 a person to gain entrance to a 15 mile drive which we used our 4 wheel drive on. While there were cars out there, I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your car!. Picking only some pictures from this drive was nearly impossible but we tried our best to give you the grand scale of the monuments and the colour they held.

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The road around the monuments was VERY rough.

We took several pictures of our awesome truck which is keeping us safe and comfortable during this crazy heat and roads. He is a BEAST.

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Everywhere you go, there is so much native art. From pottery of many styles, to bead work, jewellery and, in Monument Valley, we found these samplers of plants which I found fascinating.

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This evening, there were clouds in the sky and some rain drops followed by heat lightening in the distance. Clouds always make the sunset more dynamic. The heat has settled to 31C, enough for us to sit outside when the sun went down.

This is our sunset view.

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This is heat lightening below the horizon

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Tomorrow is our last day in the area and we plan to go back to the Valley of the Gods. Stay tuned for the exciting story of how this area almost beat us.

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Posted by blgracey 04:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Desert Wanderings - Mesa Verde

sunny 40 °C

Mesa Verde National Park is nestled into the Southwestern corner of Colorado. Home to the Pueblo peoples since ~550AD until ~1300AD, it is evident that these people were creative, clever and led rich lives. Half of the park is closed right now for renewal of their roads and structures, the other half took us the day to visit.

The previous evening, we drove to the Park Point Overlook area to watch the sun go down. It boosts the highest elevation in the park which is 8572ft (2631m) and from there you can see the land geography around you. Mountain ranges to west, flat canyon lands as well, as mesas reaching out like fingers across the landscape.

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The sunset was stunning.

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And then back at our campsite, Morefield Campground, we were able to snap these pictures of the stars. This is a Dark Sky Preserve and we caught the timing right with a new moon.

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Mesa Verde is home to a number of dwellings preserved from the time of the Pueblo peoples. Many of the dwellings can be seen from overlooks and stops along the winding road. There are also several ranger-led tours that take people down into the dwellings and teach about the area. We had tickets on the first tour of the day, 9:00am, at Cliff Palace.

The road that takes you down to the sites is long, winding and mountain driving. I thought we had underestimated the time and we might be late for our tour. But it turned out that we had time to spare, despite a brief stop.

The hike to Cliff Palace is only .25 miles but you descend over 100ft aided by steps and ladders. Our ranger was a descendant of Peoples from the Southwest and told us stories his life growing up following practices very near to the Pueblo peoples. Cliff Palace has over 150 rooms, and was a place for trade, politics and celebrations. It likely housed 23 families and hosted people travelling from other places as far away as the Pacific Ocean and the Chaco Canyon in Mexico. Most of what is seen today, and in these pictures, is preserved and original from 1150 - 1300 AD. Some reconstruction has taken place to make sure the site is secure, but very little was needed since the structures were built soundly.

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They used the natural cliff structure to build onto and around to give their rooms strength and longevity.

Kivas are the spiritual centre of the community. And I use the present tense because there are several communities still practicing in this fashion. Singing, stories and worship all take place there. They are circular rooms that were often sunken into the ground. A fire would be made and people would sit around the outside of the room. Each family grouping would have its own Kiva. As our ranger was teaching us about the kivas, he mentioned a hole in the far side that was meant to remind them that they are people of the underworlds. He went on to tell us about the creation story of the people who live in the southwest. Many of the Peoples have variations on the story but in their essence they are the same. I will not retell it here. It is not my place to tell a creation story from another culture, but please look it up if you can and learn for yourself about the creation story from this part of the world. It is beautiful and I thanked our ranger for sharing it with us.

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After the tour, the exit takes you along the original exit that the Pueblo people would have used. It is skinny! And you need to climb 3 long ladders. If you are scared of heights, the advise we got was to not look back! I didn’t look back.

After our Cliff Place tour, we set out to explore the other parts of the park. The Pueblo people first lived on top of the mesa where they grew corn, and had domesticated turkeys. They lived very near their crops much like settlers on family farms have done in North America since they arrived. At some point during ~1150 or so, the people began to construct dwellings under the cliffs. They would come on top of the mesa to tend to their fields of corn and then return down below the cliff edge. The cliffs provided protection from the elements as well as a strategic place to gather and do business. In the park, there are structures called Pit Houses that are the remnants of the topside house/kiva and room foundations. Some were stand alone houses and some were in small villages.

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Many cliff structures can be seen from the overlooks in varying states of preservation. The park is laid out chronologically and you can track the advancement of the communities throughout the more than 600 year presence of the Pueblo people.

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The influence of trading partners is seen in the artifacts that have been recovered, like seashells and even in the design of this temple called the Sun Temple.

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Despite the weather which reached a crazy 40 degrees C (104F), we had a great time here.
Mesa Verde is a place that is not just a beautiful park. Go to learn. Go to respect. Go to be in awe of a place that has held spiritual importance for centuries.

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Posted by blgracey 02:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Desert Wanderings - Santa Fe

sunny 32 °C

This travel blog is titled Quest For Nature but once in a while we do visit cities. Our destination in New Mexico was Santa Fe. Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the USA dating back more than 400 years. Its economy is now clearly built on tourism, culture and history. There are several main streets in the downtown area that are primarily gift stores and restaurants. But all the sights are all close by and within walking distance.

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We began our day early to avoid the crowds and get a good parking spot. Parking was cheap but the spots filled fast so we were happy we went before 10:00am. We began our exploration at the Oldest Church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. The chapel was first mentioned in recorded history in 1628 but is thought to have been constructed in 1610. The adobe wall construction is very typical of the Santa Fe style for which almost all other buildings are styled after. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

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Right across from the chapel is the Oldest House Museum. It is a house that has been preserved and was originally built upon a Native American pueblo built in 1200.

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The shops in the are are plentiful and boast everything from keychains and t-shirts to $25,000 original Native American artwork. There were 10’ tall metal transformers as well as bronze sculptures like the ones depicted here.

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Loretto Chapel was within 3 blocks of the San Miguel Chapel and is the home to the miraculous staircase. It was built in 1873 and certainly stands out against the adobe structures in Santa Fe. It was built with a choir oft but the engineer died before he had contracted a way to access the loft. Because of its height and the closeness of the walls, a staircase would have taken up too much room. Rumour has it that the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine day novena to Saint Joseph, patron saint of carpenters. On the final day of the novena a carpenter appeared with only your hammer and a carpenter square. He built what is known as the Miraculous Staircase with simple tools and wooden pegs. The wood is not native to the American Southwest and when the staircase was complete it is said that the carpenter disappeared. The staircase has two complete 360° turns with no centre pole for structural support. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair. The bannisters were added later due to the difficulty of climbing the stairs with no railing.

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Beating the lunch rush, we found The Plaza Cafe which is the oldest cafe in Santa Fe, opening its doors in 1905. There we had a delicious lunch with authentic New Mexican cuisine. I had an enchilada and Bud had a Quesadilla. When the waiter asks you ‘Red, Green, or Christmas?’’ He wants to know if you’d like red chilli sauce, green chilli or Christmas (both!). I opted for red.

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The Plaza Cafe sit in front of The Plaza. The Plaza is a place where history has been made for centuries. It has been the site of 2 major liberation battles 1680 and 1821, and the place where New Mexico was proclaimed as a United States territory in 1846. Now it is a gathering place, a shopping place and a cultural hotspot.

Thoughts about Santa Fe: It is a nice place to do some shopping for Spanish influenced, SouthWestern American, and Native American treasures. It has such unique architecture and an ancient history that it needs to be seen to be believed.

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We have taken our leave of New Mexico and have travelled into southern Colorado and found a dispersed campsite on BLM land north of Chromo, Colorado. We will spend only one night here, leaving in the morning for our first National Park at Mesa Verde.

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Posted by blgracey 23:12 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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