Aspen Final Findings

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So we found several large aspen groves but none at the peak of color change…  bummer. (Note the above picture are cottonwood I believe, see previous posts for aspen pictures).  So where to go next year and when.  Santa Fe really has some good prospects for mountain top coverage and should be relatively early ~ mid to late September – What do you think Gibby and Lydia??  Just tossing it out there.

Next point, as you know we were from the coast of NC so not too much experience with leaf change in the fall.  But meeting people from other areas, it seems that most 98% agree that east coast apalachian mountains and New England mountains put on the best show.

Out here there are a bunch of aspen and also cottonwoods and various other most of which turn a brilliant yellow with some orange thrown in.  Very rarely do you see any reds or other hues.   There is nice color her, but it seems not as great as the east coast.  Also different years produce different colors, so who really knows it is partially luck.

Cant wait to spend a fall in New England and south eastern Canada, but will probably be a couple of years!!!

 

Peace and Love

Pecos National Historic Park – Santa Fe

Pecos was one of the largest pueblos in the area around the 1400s. Evidence indicates that it was 5 stories tall and housed over 2,000 indigenous people. There was a very active trading culture and incorporated inventive architecture and beautiful crafts from pottery to distinctive wood carving. The Pueblo prospered until the early 1600s when Spanish Colonists came to visit and decided to stay.

The most impressive part of the ruins was the number of Kivas. There were a couple reconstruct4ed with roofs and ladders that you could go into, and several others without the roof just walls remaining.

Strangely the most prominent ruin was the Church. The Spanish Friars mission was to convert all these “savages” to Christianity. Their first Church was constructed in 1617 and had 6 bell towers, it must have been massive and was build right outside the city walls of Pecos. In the 1640 there was an uprising and the original church was burned. Notice original walls the more rock wall.

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The church was rebuilt, but much smaller. The community was much smaller at this time also, from attacking Comanches, illnesses that their immune system could not handle and other natural and manmade causes. This was in the 1690s and the Friars were at it again.

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Peace and Love!!!

 

Santa Fe, NM

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Camel Rock

We stayed in Santa Fe for two weeks and really enjoyed the city and surrounding area. It is located in the high desert and surrounded by mountains. We were again a little late for the Aspen color change, but think that this would be a great place to experience it. The Jemez Mountains to the south west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north east both were covered. There is also a lot of native American history in the area with several still active pueblos (Jemez, Zia and Taos to name a few) and National monuments protecting significant ruins at Bandelier and Pecos.

Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and was founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists although the area has been inhabited for several thousand years. I’ll bet that they have been eating chilis for several thousand years as well.

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Everyone was selling chili ristras , fall must be their season. They were all over the central Plaza downtown, the farmers market and in road side stands as well as hanging on porches around town. WE considered getting one, but were scared that it may over take the air in the bus. Where they were roasting them at the farmers market my eyes would burn. We didn’t take any chances and bought our peppers already roasted.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi downtown was very pretty and open for exploration.

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New Mexican architecture is wonderful and appears to have not changed since the 1600 as evidenced by the oldest house in town.

Also, downtown is the Canyon Road district, which is full of high end art galleries. They are open for exploration and even have a lot of wonderful sculptures outside.  We spent two afternoons exploring the Canyon Rd area. What fun.

 

Peace and Love!!!

Bandelier National Monument

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Evidence of human activity in the Bandelier area dates back to more than 10,000 years ago. The first inhabitants lived a migratory life style. Later as agriculture became a more important part of their lives they settled in to communities. The Frijoles Canyon was a great place for cave dwellings.  In the early 1900s there were approximately 500 people residing in this canyon.

First the creek is a permanent stream, one of the few in the area that have flowing water year around. Secondly because the cliffs are made of volcanic tuff – two large volcanic eruptions occurred over a million years ago that covered a 400 square mile area with up to 1,000 feet of volcanic ash. Over time the ash was compacted into a soft crumbly rock. This was a perfect place to settle.

There is evidence of community dwellings both on the canyon bottom and against the cliff using the caves. It seems that the choice was based on family clan customs or just preference. Dwellings on the canyon bottom were arranged in a circle with a central community “square” or circle as is the case. The houses were multiple stories and constructed of stone covered with a plaster. The circular holes in the center of the circle are Kivas, used for religious and ceremonial purposes. Access to both the Kivas and houses were from the roof so ladders were prevalent to assist with access.

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The cliff dwellings had rooms built against the southern facing cliff the southern wall stays warmer in the winter months. The rooms were also multiple levels and were attached to the cliff by logs that also helped to support the roof.

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You can see the rows of holes in the cliff where the roofs were attached. You can see how many levels the houses could be. They probably used the lower level for storage and lived in the upper levels.

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Behind the attached rooms they excavated caves as additional rooms for the house. The tuff is relatively soft and crumbly, but would still be difficult to excavate with only hand held stone tools. The tuff cliffs erode easier than most other rocks, you can see above these dwellings that the rock is already pocked with holes kind of like swiss cheese. These pocks were used as a beginning of the caves.

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In these communities extended families lived together. Each group would have their own storage rooms, sleeping quarters and kiva. Not really sure why, but one of these groups decided they needed a penthouse for their community and kiva. We climbed 160 feet up ladders to view the “alcove house.” It has a great view, but getting home at night would prove to be difficult. Notice the round kiva in the center and rows of holes from roof supports.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

This Park would probably be more inviting on a warmer day. It had just snowed the day before and you may notice snow on the river banks. We stopped since it was only slightly off our path from Colorado City, CO to Taos, NM and it was worth the stop.

To access the main attractions the dunes, you have to cross Medano Creek. It is not deep, but was cold, would be lovely to lounge in on a hot day. People were crossing and climbing the dune, but we chose to have a picnic and watch with warm socks on. The dunes are the tallest in North America reaching over 750 ft and cover more than 30 sq miles. This creates a very large dune field and from what I read the sand is very deep and makes for hard walking, much less climbing. On another day we would have crossed and explored, but probably would not have climbed very far.

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An interesting thing about Medano Creek is that it is one of very few rivers that has a surge flow. Surge Flow is where a river flows in waves. This typically happens in the spring and summer with snow melt and spring rain and can reach wave heights of about a foot. There were waves while we were there, but only a couple of inches high, you may be able to see in the pictures below. The waves are created by sand moving upstream, it first builds up to create a small dam, the water flow gets too heavy so the dam breaks and voila you have a wave. The come about every 20 seconds. Again, I bet it would be fun to play around the creek on a warm day.

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PS Nellie loves the snow!!!  Peace and Love

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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Taos, NM

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Have not been back to NM since coming across last January. Thinking about spending part of the winter around here, and really wanted to go to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Stopped in Taos on the way down, but they only had one night available so really did not do much but see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At the bridge the gorge is over 560 ft deep, this is the 7th highest bridge in the US and the 82nd highest in the world.

Driving out Hwy 64 from Taos it is basically flat high desert land, and all of a sudden there is a long split in the earth. And to be over 560 feet deep is just mind blowing!!! Notice how plat the land is from here to the mountains over 1o miles away, and a 560 ft. deep crack in the earth’s surface but less than 100 yds. wide. The power of water.

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Odd piece of history regarding this bridge, apparently, they had trouble with people committing suicide here. The town debated installing higher railings or barriers, but decided that it cost too much. Not sure when these were installed, but we guess this was the compromise instead of higher barriers???  Hope it helps someone…

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Peace and Love

 

Loveland, CO

Between our search for Aspen and my bout with the flu we ventured out in Loveland. There was an interesting rock formation very close to our campground, Devils Backbone, so we went left for a hike. Not even out of site of the parking lot we experienced our first RATTLE SNAKE!!! Needless to say, we did not complete the hike, but instead walked around a nice sculpture garden in Loveland. Hope you enjoy as much as we did.

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Peace and Love!!!

 

Fall Color 2

As mentioned we are on the hunt for the perfect Aspen grove picture. Some Aspen grow in large groves basically covering much of the mountain top and mix in with evergreens. Others grow a couple here and there with an abundance of evergreens. We want the quintessential Aspen grove picture with the color changing. We have seen numerous groves over our travels, but for some reason can’t seem to find one at the peak of color change.

We began seeing some fall color change around Flaming Gorge, and while driving to Vernal UT from Flaming Gorge found a large grove on the mountain summit. This grove was still completely green at that point so we were too early, but see other pictures in FG post.

Then in Loveland we went up to Rocky Mountain NP and found some color, but not the large grove we were looking for (check out fall color pics). Also from Loveland we went north to check out another canyon hoping for the grove, but instead encountered a snow storm and turned back when the road turned white.

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From Golden, CO (west of Denver) we drove up to the Loveland Pass (Eisenhower tunnel) up Interstate 70, but not luck on the fall color up there either. At this point decided to go to Kenosha Pass, which was supposed to have the best color in the area. Kenosha did not let us down for patchy Aspen…DSCF1806 (2)DSCF1827 (2)P1130627 (2)

But as for the large grove at the pass, we were too late.

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Moving south due to snow forecast in Denver stopped in Colorado City just east of the San Isabel national forest and what looked like aspen covered mountains.DSCF1884 (2)P1130710 (2)P1130746 (2)P1130775 (2)

The best yet, but still not that Money Picture we have been wanting. Still have hopes for New Mexico will keep you posted. Trying Gib, trying!!!

A bonus for the drive up the San Isabel mountains was the Bishop Castle. This place was fascinating, still under construction and open to the public free of charge!!P1130751 (2)P1130758 (2)

Peace and Love.

Fall Color

We are in Loveland, CO which is just east of RMNP, so we couldn’t help but climb the mountain.  We are on a quest for the perfect picture of Aspen fall colors.  This is a mission…

We figured that RM would be the perfect place for an aspen grove, and high enough that colors were sure to be changing.  Guess we climbed too high as there was no fall color at this elevation.

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A lot of the mountains around here are covered with evergreens, maybe we need look lower.  We did finally find some aspen, but not the money picture we are wanting.  So More to come later…

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Flaming Gorge

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Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the largest reservoir in Wyoming, but the dam is in Utah. The reservoir (lake portion) is mostly in WY flooding a large section of high desert north from the UT line to Green River WY. On the Utah border, the high desert gives way to the Uinta Mountains and various gorges that meander down to the dam. The Uinta mountains are unique in that they are a range in the rocky mountains that run east to west instead of north to south There is a distinct difference in the two areas of the reservoir.

We found a National Forest Service campground on the lake, almost on the state line in the Lucerne Valley. We are here for the last week before it closes for the winter and are sharing the campground with less than 30 other campers (they have about 300 sites) and lots of Pronghorn and I mean lots.

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This is really a great campground, approx. 300 sites and a large marina, popular summer get away. The bay that reaches west to Manila, UT flooded the small town of Linwood when the reservoir was flooded. It was situated on the Henry Fork of the Green River and right on the state line of Utah and Wyoming. It is said that a school was built on the line and the children from Wyoming went to the north section of the room and children from Utah went to the south side of the room…

We have visited and been around various reservoirs, but this is the first time I really have thought about what was here before. Flooded towns, communities or just old cabins on the river. And the gorge… The dam is 550 feet high and the deepest point in the lake it over 400 ft. Looking at the red canyon and the flaming gorge (or what is left of them) really made me think. What did it look like when John Wesley Powell first explored the area?? And was it accessible except via running the river??

Now we can drive to these various overlooks, campgrounds and lodges, but could you even see it before?? Or were there roads that followed or reached the river that were flooded with the rest?? Hard to imagine, the dam was completed in 1964 so not really that long ago. Just makes me wonder what lies beneath the surface and what it would look like with a couple hundred tall walls instead of the remaining walls.

Flaming Gorge

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Red Canyon

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Dam lake and bridge

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You also have to consider the wild life. This use to be a fast-flowing river whose water levels changed with the seasons and usually froze in the winter. Fish and land animals depended on this water. When it was dammed not only did the land animals habitat change, but the fish were now in a complete different environment from swift moving shallow river to lazy very deep lake.

The lake now has salmon. Not sure where they came from or how (I thought they were saltwater) but they live here and even swim up river on Sheep Creek to spawn and die after 4 years. We were here just in time to see the spawning. They are kokanee salmon, landlocked sockeye and if lucky after 4 years of life they turn a brilliant red (heads seem to remain gray) and swim upstream to lay eggs/fertilize eggs and die. Short life cycle, but I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be nice to know when to expect to die…

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Also saw some big horn sheep just out of town.

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We happen to be here for the beginning of leaf color changes for the fall. Some are brilliant yellows and reds, while others are still green. Really hoping to get to see some good aspen groves changing color. We drove thru a large grove on the way south to Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument, but they were not changing at all. Heading around to the east of the Rockies next week, hope we are not too late.

Leaf

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Nice place for Randy’s birthday and our 28th anniversary, live is really good and we are grateful for each and every moment. Living gratitude!!!

Peace and love