SmugMug Appreciation Sunday — No. 044

In brief, these posts serve to introduce new readers — and reintroduce regular readers — to photos from the early days of this blog and, occasionally, to photos from days before this blog came into existence.

Although Colorado has amazing scenery, Utah gives it more than a run for the money. .

Today, I review a trip we took in 2006 that included Mesa Verde National Monument, Utah’s Arches National Park, back to Colorado’s National Monument, through Independence Pass, and back home.

The original post for these photos is HERE. In this post, I’m sharing the 157 photos from THIS Gallery.

Note: some are shared as large files so that interested readers can click and zoom in. Be patient since I don’t know how fast theyll load.

In the middle of 2006, I was still recuperating from 26 years of automotive-related work (I rejoined the workforce in September of that year), but Melisa had a part-time job at Williams-Sonoma.  Because of her odd hours and erratic work schedule, we didn’t have many travel opportunities.

But then she had a break on her schedule . . . a whole weekend off.

We decided to take a whirlwind tour of Western Colorado and Eastern Utah.  This was primarily a driving trip to check out potential areas of interest for future trips.  As seen above, the drive was a loop: South from Monument, West to Mesa Verde National Park, North and West to Arches National Park, then back East to Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument Park, then South through Aspen, and finally over Independence Pass to pick up US-24 and get back home.

The AAA TripTick (Google maps was a bit erratic at the time) put the total distance at 914 miles (not counting local travel at the various destinations), and an estimated 16hrs driving time.  It may sound like a lot of driving in three days, but we both like driving trips.

Remnants of Knife Edge Road

The first photo (above) is from Mesa Verde, but trust me when I say the scenery was photo-worthy nearly the whole drive to the park.

Before they put a tunnel through a mountain and paved the road, that’s what access to Mesa Verde looked like. Here’s a sign giving a brief history . . .

Mesa Verde is the ancestral home for the Pueblo people, and it’s probably most famous for their cliff dwellings . . .

As explained in the post, we didn’t stay there long, and this photo was shot from the canyon’s rim road . . .

It looks like I was fairly close, but that’s the beauty of a long telephoto lens (80-400mm). This next photo shows you how far away I was when I snapped the above shot . . .

Anyway, we decided to make a run for Arches, and along the way, we saw this bell-shaped red-rock formation reminiscent of a similar formation in Sedona, Arizona . . .

I liked this one a bit better, and I also used it as one of my “Where in the World” posts (HERE).

. . . which reminds me . . . I either need to close out the series or continue with it. Anyway, that’s Church Rock, in Utah.

The first arch we saw was Wilson Arch (also used for a WitW post — HERE).

We got to Mohab late in the day and, not having made reservations, we found one room available after trying a few places. We had planned on hitting the park early but early turned out to be a little after 8:30am (“let’s sleep a little longer” striking again).

The first thing they told us at the park’s Visitor Center was that if we planned on hiking, we should get our butts out there and be done before noon when the temperature would reach uncomfortable levels.  Otherwise, they advised waiting until after 4:00pm.  We made our plans and decided to do the Devil’s Garden Loop (about 7 miles for the whole thing).

Two things to note about the photos . . . not for every photo, but for many, I tried different processing, eventually settling on a type of processing I’ve not used since. Probably because, while I liked it at the time, subsequent viewings had me rethink its appeal.

The other thing is that because of inconsiderate RV drivers, setting to the trailhead took longer than we had planned. If curses work, none of these people lived a comfortable life

By the time we got to the trailhead and got ready, it was already 10:00am.  Temperatures were supposed to top out at around 104, so we armed ourselves with plenty of water, an umbrella, 15+lb of camera equipment, a tripod, hats, and snacks, and we headed off.

An umbrella?” you ask?  Yep.  You see, the photographer half of our team is apt to stop often, and it is a scientific fact there is never any shade near the place where I generally take pictures.  That’s fine for me since I’m willing to fry in the heat as I fiddle with all my lenses, various gadgets, and a tripod.  However, Melisa gets to stand there and bake in the hot sun.  Ergo, the umbrella: portable shade.  The only thing she had to endure were the envious stares of people walking by, their skin slowly being dissolved by the unrelenting sun (it’s amazing how many people don’t even wear hats).

Again, odd processing, but I liked it at the time. I should probably reprocess these photos.
With Melisa in the frame for a sense of scale

One of the iconic arches is Landscape Arch (Park Trail info, Wikipedia Page), and I snapped several photos.

There are many more in the gallery.

This is another ‘bridge’ arch, and we stopped under it to get a brief respite from the unrelenting sun.

. . . looking straight up . . .

I should warn viewers the gallery has a few photos of us. Keep in mind it was nearly 104° and I was lugging around 15 pounds of camera equipment and an aluminum tripod . . . probably not my best look.

Interesting erosion under one of the wide arches (people put stuff in the holes).

As the name indicates, many arches in the park . . .

. . . and lots of red rocks . . . but I also liked this fossil of a giant sloth . . .

On the way back to the car, I concentrated less on the arches and more on the landscape.

We returned to the car around 12:30pm and took the time to reduce our food supply at a nearby picnic area.  The temperature display in the car read 104° but even though we knew it got hotter, the gauge didn’t change.  The plan for the afternoon drifted toward “drive around in an air-conditioned car”, and away from “hike in scorching heat”.  

We had planned to hike to Delicate Arch (Utah’s unofficial State Symbol) around 4:00 or 4:30pm, so in the meantime, we looked at other sights.

They call that Sheep Rock, but I see a lion . . .

The Park Avenue spires.

Impressive slabs of red rocks resembling skyscrapers along Park Avenue (NYC), and so named.

Like other rocky places we visited, there was the obligatory ‘balanced rock’ . . .

. . . one of the better examples I’ve seen . . .

We were treated to beautiful landscapes . . .

But when 4:30 rolled around, the temperature showed no sign of dropping, so we opted for a 100-yard walk to the Delicate Arch observation point instead of a 1.5-mile walk to the arch itself. I snapped a few photos with the 80-400mm lens, and I was fine with the results . . .

Shot from a mile away (according to the placard).

We spent 9 hours at the park and left many things unseen. The plan was for a return trip in the Fall, hopefully to cooler temperatures, but the whole ‘job’ stuff interfered with those plans.

By 5:00pm, we decide to leave and head up to Grand Junction.  That will give us some time in the morning (Saturday) to go through Colorado National Monument before heading back home.  We headed out on Hwy. 128, traveling East through a canyon carved by the Colorado River. 

The area has been the site for many movies dating back to the ‘40s.  With towering walls of red rock and the Colorado River adding a dramatic contrast, it’s easy to see why so many cinematographers found these ideal locations for their sets. (Scenic Byway 128 information).  

We were hauling, so while I did snap some pictures, they were not all that interesting.  I plan to drive that road again. This LINK has a list of the movies that were shot in this area.

Saturday founds us up a little earlier, and by 8:00am, we are driving the Rim Road of the Colorado National Monument.  Even after having been spoiled by both Arches National Park and Hwy. 128, the sights along Rim Road are spectacular.

With Melisa’s eyes glazing over every time I stopped for a picture, I became more selective about what I wanted to capture on (digital) film.  We did manage a mile-long walk on top of one of the many spurs and were rewarded with a great view of spires and canyons.

Did you spot them in the last photo?

I admit it’s an awesome place to be . . . not sure that Melisa would let me take up the sport. Not then, and especially not now.

Over the years, we would return to the park a total of four times (I think), often just passing through to somewhere else.

Again, the climbers.

At one point, we had considered moving to Grand Junction, and that would have put us within 10 minutes of the park . . . I’d have been there more often and certainly hiked the place.

Finally, Independence Pass . . .

Here’s the slideshow for the gallery. If you prefer, you can just visit the gallery by clicking on the link I provided above.

Note: the transition is set to 2sec, but — if you move the cursor anywhere within the photo — you’ll see a pause button on the lower left, and, once paused, you can use the left and right arrows on both sides of the photo to navigate the slideshow. This is especially useful because I included the captions.

If you click anywhere in the photo instead of the pause button, you’ll exit the slideshow and find yourself in SmugMug. You can then scroll through the photos or interact in other ways.

Slideshow of 2006 – Mesa Verde, Arches, and more Gallery — (157 photos)

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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