Jim, Dave and Tom's Trip out West Aug. 28 - Sept. 14, 2016

To see larger images, click on the photos throughout the letter.

Sun. Aug. 28
Dave & Jim got dropped of at the Ithaca airport by Scott, and they flew to Denver via Newark, NJ's airport.  We had a 5.5 hour layover in Newark (was cheaper), and so we got to explore that airport which we had never been in before.  It was huge, with multiple arms to various gates.  There were tables and seats everywhere with electrical plug-in outlets for charging computers, phones, tablets, etc.  Very modern.  Even the food court was different, in that no restaurant or convenient store accepted money.  You would order your food, then take a bar-code sheet to a cash register kiosk, and ring up the transaction by yourself.  This even was the procedure for a candy bar, so it was obviously based on an "honor system" since people were picking up food everywhere and just walking around.  I don't know how they manage security.  It's probably cheaper to let some people steal small food items, rather than pay a Security employee and all their benefits, I don't know.

Tom met us at the Denver airport, and took us to his house in Highlands Ranch, which was just under an hour's drive.   We had already planned a lot of our trip ahead of time, with Jim doing a lot of the hotel bookings online a long time ago.  We didn't stay up too late, and went to bed fairly early.

Mon. Aug. 29
We went to a nearby Enterprise Car Rental place to pick up our SUV for the southwest trip.  We had originally picked a medium-sized Toyota RAV4, but we smelled cigarette smoke in it, and told the clerk about it.  He apologized, and offered to upgrade us for free to a Jeep Grand Cherokee.  It was much larger, and had only had 8,000 miles on it.  It had all the bells and whistles that a 2016 vehicle could have.  We got spoiled quickly. 

Our Jeep Grand Cherokee

We headed West on Rte. 70 through the Rocky Mountains.  The scenery was gorgeous.  We took turns driving so we'd all get to enjoy the views. We starting running out of "Wow!'s" and other exclamations like "Oh, boy!", and "Look at that rock!". 

Black Dragon Canyon

We stopped for lunch at the Rockside Brewery, a premiere micro-brewery in the heart of downtown Grand Junction. Tom is a beer conissiour (Dave & I are not), and he got to try some local brew. The food was excellent, and we sat outdoors under an umbrella as the weather was perfect and about 72 degrees.

Tom's chicken salad at Rockside Brewery

We drove all the way to Kanab, Utah, about 1.5 hours north of the Grand Canyon Lodge, our destination. 

Tom & Dave with the Lone Ranger.

We stayed at a little Motel called Aiken's Lodge right downtown.  It was a nice, clean place with an outdoor pool, and within walking distance of shops and restaurants.  The air conditioner did sound like a jet engine, which helped drown out Jim's snoring. 

Aiken's Lodge in Kanab, Utah

Aiken's Lodge in Kanab, Utah

We walked to a nearby restaurant called Houston's Trails's End, which had great home cooking and American cuisine meals.  They had holsters with guns cemented in them for the waitresses to wear, keeping with their "Western theme".  The food was great and inexpensive.

Houston's Trails's End in Kanab, Utah

Houston's Trails's End in Kanab, Utah

Tues. Aug. 30

We liked the food so much at Trail's End, we ate breakfast there the next morning before departing to the Grand Canyon.  The drive to the north rim is like a never-ending driveway before you get to the Park entrance.  It's about 40 miles long, with lots of open spaces, forests, and some buffalo.  On the way in we stopped at the Kaibab Lodge, about 19 miles before the Park entrance, which had a little shop, cabins and a restaurant. 

Kaibab Lodge

Dave & Jim at the Kaibab Lodge parking lot

We got to the main entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, and Dave used his National Park Senior Pass, which granted us free access, and save us $25.  We used that pass to save us lots of money throughout the other National Parks.

Jim & Tom at the entrance

We got to the Grand Canyon Lodge in the morning, so we decided to take a hike on the Bright Angel Point Trail, which starts right next to the Lodge.  It was a very short .25 mile hike, to beautiful views of the canyon.  It was a paved walk, that went out to a point.  There were places where you could climb up on rocks to get even more views, which Jim did often but Dave & Tom mostly stayed on the trail. We started teasing Dave and calling him "Ranger Dave", because he would start teaching other visitors about what they were seeing.   It was hard to comprehend that we were overlooking only a small branch of the canyon, not the biggest part.

Dave, Tom & Jim at Bright Angel Point

   Click for video of panoramic view

Jim at Bright Angel Point

Ranger Dave at Bright Angel Point

Grand Canyon Lodge on the right

View from Bright Angel Point trail

We grabbed a light lunch at the Lodge Deli, and then went for another hike along the Transept Trail, which edged along the top of the Transept, an offshoot of the Canyon.  Along the way, Dave met a lone man who wanted to talk a lot.  It turned out that his best friend whom he had been caring for had just died suddenly the day before, and he was continuing their vacation trip without him.  He just really needed someone to talk with, and Dave was his sounding board.  We saw some giant pine trees along the way, and more gorgeous views of the canyon.

Jim on the Transept Trail

Transept Trail view

After about two hours, we headed back to the Lodge for a Ranger talk (not Dave) on Condors.  The Lodge is a beautiful stone and wooden building, with lots of porch seating, restaurant, Front Desk, Lecture Hall, inside viewing area, patio fireplace, Saloon, Deli, Gift Shoppe and Ranger Station.  There are no rooms at the Lodge, since the lodging is all separate log cabins and a separate motel and campground.  We learned a lot about condors, the largest flying birds in the western hemisphere.  Tom had a couple of beers, and we relaxed on the porch as the sun was setting.  The colors of the Canyon change dramatically.  We checked in and got our keys to our log Cabin #21.  It was a cabin that was made up of two separate apartments.  It was very cozy, and had a tiny bathroom with shower and sink.  The bathroom had 6 light switches!  We never figured out which switch was which.  We just randomly switched them up & down until we got what we wanted.  When Dave first went to take a shower, it took about 10 minutes before the hot water came on. Whew! There was a double bed and a single bed, but we learned that night that sleeping with Jim & his snoring was not going to work.  See the next day for the solution.  We had a nice dinner at the Lodge restaurant, then went to bed for the evening.  Here's some views of the Lodge and our Cabin #21:

Grand Canyon Lodge

Lodge Front Desk

Lodge Restaurant

Lodge lounge

Grand Canyon Lodge

Our Cabin #21

Our Cabin #21

Park Ranger talk on condors

Lodge porch fireplace

Lodge porch view

Lodge porch view

Sunset from Lodge porch

Wed. Aug. 31

Dave had french toast at the Lodge, and then we drove over to the North Kaibab Trailhead, the only trail from the North Rim that goes down into the Grand Canyon. 
We hiked from the trailhead to the Supai Tunnel, which was 1,441feet /  1.7 miles (out of the 14-mile trail).  It took about 5 hours, and was much tougher climbing back out than it was going down in. 
Even the trail guide map & signs had graphic warnings:

To put the Canyon in perspective, here is a map of our arduous hike:

 The weather was perfect:

We saw some mules fenced at the top of the trail, and later in the day we saw some climbing up as we were hiking down.  These mules looked much larger, more like horse-size.  They looked very sure of their footing, even over rocky terrain. We started at 8,241 ft., and had a great view at the Coconino Overlook at 7,450 ft.  We wound our way down to the Supai Tunnel, where there was a bathroom and a water fountain!  (even though we were warned there would be no water).  There were gorgeous views everywhere, although we were still only in a small offshoot (Roaring Springs Canyon) of the larger canyon.  We still kept running out of superlatives: "Look at that tree!"  "Look at that rock!"  "Look at that view!"   Here's some photos.

North Kaibab Trail - Tom & Dave

Mules coming up the North Kaibab Trail

Coconino Overlook

Dave on the North Kaibab Trail

Tom & Dave on the North Kaibab Trail

Dave & Tom at the Supai Tunnel

We hiked back up, and drove back to the Lodge for lunch at the Deli.  After lunch we drove the long and winding road to the Cape Royal Trail & lookout, about a 20-mile drive through the Kaibab Plateau and around the Walhalla Plateau.  It was a short paved trail, only half a mile long.  We could see more of the Colorado River from here.  At the end of this point, was a view of the larger canyon, and it was even more immense than you can imagine.   One thing we noticed about the Grand Canyon in general, was how QUIET it was.  Looking out  from all angles of the canyon,  we never saw anything move (other than birds), and never heard a sound.  We hiked out over Angel's Window, a natural bridge that lead to a point view that practically surrounds you with canyon below.  We stopped at other points along the road on the way back, and the sun started going down.

Angel's Window at Cape Royal Point

View from Cape Royal Point

Jim at Cape Royal Point

View from Cape Royal Point

Click for video of Cape Royal Point

We drove back to the Lodge, and had our dinner at the restaurant there.  Tom gave up trying to eat as slowly as Dave does. (no one can!)   Dave always takes 3 times longer than us.  We spent another sunset on the patio and relaxed.  We figured out a solution to Jim's snoring!  We decided we all need to sleep in separate beds, so we took the twin mattress off the bed, and put it on the floor.  Jim slept on the box spring (wasn't as bad as you'd think). That helped. 

Thurs. Sept. 1
We checked out of the Lodge, and headed back out of the park.  We stopped to watch a small herd of buffalo on the way out.  Dave had looked up where the Jacob Lake lookout tower was, along the way, so we stopped and looked at it.  The Jacob Lake 80-ft tall lookout tower has been used by lone fire lookouts for more than half a century. As in 1934, when the tower was built, vigilent lookouts still spot and plot fires from on high. It said that the public could climb up it, and you could see for 300 miles from the top.  It was a little nerve-wracking the further you got up it, especially when the wind started to howl.  But the metal staircase was quite stable, and we made it to the top. 

Jacob Lake Lookout Tower

Tom & Dave climbing the lookout tower

View from the lookout tower

Buffalo on the drive out of the Canyon

We continued driving on to Page, Arizona, about a 2.5 hour drive through Marble Canyon and Bitter Springs.  In the Marble Canyon we could see the huge walls of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument to our left.  They were massive walls with beautiful colors.  Again, we couldn't think of more words like "Wow" to say.  They are the second "step" up in the five-step Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau, in northern Arizona and southern Utah. They extend west from near Page, Arizona, for a considerable distance, in both Arizona and Utah. 

Vermillion Cliffs

We had lunch in Page, at a local restaurant called The Ranch House Grille, and then found out where to go to get to Antelope Canyon.  Dave had read about it, and I had seen a few photographs of it, and it looked really interesting.  We had to drive into Navajo Reservation land, and pay a fee just to drive in.  Then we found the place where two companies offered walking tours through the Lower Antelope Canyon, and signed up.  They said our tour left in 10 minutes, so we quickly got sunscreen on and took water with us.  At first, the guide started walking out into what appeared to be flat desert land.  After about 5 minutes, we saw a thin hole in the ground, with metal staircases going steeply down.  Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in the American Southwest. It includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon or "The Crack"; and Lower Antelope Canyon or "The Corkscrew".  The Navajo name means "the place where water runs through rocks."  It was the most unusual natural formation I had ever seen.  It is about 120 feet deep, and winds through the rock with gorgeous curved shapes due to the rain and wind.  Every now and then you'd see glimpses of the sky as you walk through the canyon.  Our guide was very informative and helpful in showing us how to get good photographs.  He even played a Navajo flute, which sounded beautiful in the natural reverb of the canyon.

Entrance to Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Tom & Dave in Antelope Canyon

Dave in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Exit from Antelope Canyon

We had heard about a Marina on Lake Powell that was voted "Best Marina with World's Largest Floating Restaurant", so we drove over to look at it.  It turned out to be nothing but an inlet with a lot of boats parked, and a box called the "floating restaurant" which didn't look very special, so we got in the car and headed towards our next Motel in Chinle, AZ, where Canyon DeChelly is. 

Lake Powell Marina

We checked into the Thunderbird Lodge, a neat little Motel with a Navajo look to it.  We ate at a popular local place called "The Junction".  Since we were in Navajo country, we seemed to stick out as the only white people around.  They had Navajo Fry Bread, which was used in a lot of dishes, and was basically a giant fried dough.  I had a lamb stew with one.  We used TripAdvisor.com to find most all of our restaurants and Hotels.  We found it very helpful, and steered us away from bad places, and found us great places to eat that we might normally would have missed.  We got a rollaway bed in order to have 3 beds, and the room was plenty big and comfortable. 

Thunderbird Lodge

Thunderbird Lodge

Thunderbird Lodge

Friday Sept. 2
We came to Canyon DeChelly because Dave had read about some films that were made there, and Tom had remembered Ansel Adams photographs of the area.  We had breakfast at the Motel cafeteria, and then headed over to Justin Tso's Horseback Riding stables, only a 1 minute drive from our Motel.  We had booked a ride months ago, and the owner Justin was very casual about it, but was easy to reach on his cell phone.  He is a Navajo native, and grew up in the Canyon DeChelly area. I got to know him well on our ride together.  He went to boarding school as a child, and then to the Univ. of California at Berkley.  He was a VietNam veteran, and told me he went through a difficult drinking period, but cleaned up and started an AA Group for Navajo natives.  He is also a painter of Navajo theme paintings, and had a book written about him.  The horse ride was very pleasant.  It was a 3-hour ride, through the lower level of the canyon only accessible if you have a Navajo guide with you. He showed us the Anasazi Ruins, Petroglyphs (carved into stone), and Pictographs (painted on stone).  It was a gorgeous sunny day with billowy clouds.  It was a great way to see the canyon up close and with a knowledgeable guide.

Riding in Canyon DeChelly

Justin Tso - our Navajo Guide

Riding in Canyon DeChelly

After lunch we drove along the south rim to see the views, and then hiked down the only open to the public trail that leads to the White House Ruins, a 1.5 mile hike.   It was a fantastic trail, very windy, down 600 feet of path that consisted of natural rock, as well as man-made steps and paths.  We saw wild horses, large black beetles, and an ant hill.   It was very gradual, so not difficult at all.  We got down to the ruins, and they were actually very small compared to the larger ones we saw on our horse ride.  They looked the same, only miniature.  There were some Navajos selling jewelry down near the ruins.  We noticed Navajo all along the driving routes selling their jewely as well, out of the backs of pickup trucks.  Just as we were climbing back out of the White house Trail, we felt the temperature drop quickly, and the winds picked up.  Then it started raining really hard with big drops.  Fortunately we were only a few hundred yards from the top, and we made it out without incident, but it got our heartrates going.  We saw a beautiful rainbow when the storm cleared. 

White House ruins trail

White House ruins trail

White House ruins

Click for video of White House Ruins overlook

Click for video of White House Trail

Click for video of White House Trail tunnel

Click for video of White House Ruins

We then drove to the Spider Rock Overlook, the Face Rock Overlook, and the Sliding House Overlook.  Many of the overlooks were without fences or handrails.  You could easily walk right over the edge of the 600 foot drop straight down!  Each overlook would have little metal pipes aiming at the ruins far below, so you could find them.  It helped that Jim brought his good binoculars on the trip to find them easily. 

Click for video of Tsegi Overlook

Click for video of North Rim overlook

South Rim Overlooks

Spider Rock overlook

Spider Rock

Face Rock overlook

Anasazi Ruins

Rainbow on the South Rim

We had dinner at Garcia's Restaurant at the Holiday Inn.  The server was incompetent, but the desserts were good!  Then it was back to the Thunderbird Lodge for bed.

Sat. Sept. 3
We had breakfast again at the Thunderbird Lodge cafeteria.  We drove the North Rim of Canyon DeChelly, stopping at overlook views along the way.  We could see many more Anasazi ruins from this side of the Canyon.  We barely saw any people at all at Canyon DeChelly.  It's quite out of the way, and not near anything else, so it was very peaceful and quiet during our whole stay there.  We almost had the place to ourselves.

Anasazi Ruins from North Rim of DeChelly

Canyon DeChelly from North Rim

At the very end of our tour of the North Rim, a rain storm came in, so we headed into Chinle to get gas.  Tom paid with his credit card, which he took inside, and then left it there.  The clerk had asked to see it again, and he never got it back.  We drove north to Kayenta, and had lunch at a little Mexican place called "Amigo", and had a nice meal.   Heading into Monumnet Valley, we stopped at Goulding's Lodge, formerly known as Goulding's Trading Post. It is a lodge, trading post, and museum located just north of the Arizona–Utah border, adjacent to the Navajo Tribal Park in Monument Valley. Harry Goulding introduced movie director John Ford to Monument Valley where he shot several of his classic westerns.  It was a really nice museum, with rooms set up like old times, a whole movie room dedicated to westerns filmed there, and lots to learn about. They had a gorgeous view from their location on the valley.

Click for video of approach to Monument Valley

Goulding's Lodge

View from Goulding's Lodge

Goulding's Trading Post

Goulding's Museum

View from Goulding's Lodge

Goulding's Movie Museum

Once we got closer to the Park, we entered Navajo land, and the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.  They had a really nice Museum, Restaurant, Hotel and Gift Shop there.  From their porch was a magnificent view.  We took a short ride into the park, then had dinner at the restaurant there, before heading to our Motel in Mexican Hat called the San Juan Inn, about 25 minutes away.  The Motel had a unique location being set in against the red rocks, and on the San Juan River.   They had some nice lawn chairs by the river where you could relax and read.  The room wasn't all that great, and they said their Wifi was down.  We also ate at their little restaurant, but they only had one waiter and terrible service.    But it was nice staying fairly close to the main Park.

Click for video of driving view from Goulding's Lodge

Click for video of view from Restaurant porch

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Hotel

Click photo for panorama view

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Tom & Jim at Monument Valley

San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat

Sun. Sept. 4
We drove to Goulding's Lodge for breakfast with a wonderful view.  Then we took the 17-mile driving tour through the huge rocks in the Navajo Park.  The road was really rough, and had lots of bare rocks and potholes to navigate.  It was also very sandy in some sections, so we were glad we had the Jeep Grand Cherokee with 4-wheel drive.  We stopped at a lookout called "John Ford's Point", where the film director had made many movies.  There was a Navajo on a horse that was accepting money for taking a picture of him, or of his horse. 

John Ford's Point

John Ford's Point

Tom & I went to use the PortaJohns there, and they were the worst we'd ever seen.  One was just two barrels (no where to sit), and both were overflowing with... well, you know.  But the drive was spectacular, especially one towards the end called "Artist Point".  

Artist Point / Monument Valley

Artist Point / Monument Valley

There were about 11 major Buttes or Mesas to see, spread out over a vast area.  We got back and had lunch with the best seats & view in the restaurant. 

Monument Valley drive

Monument Valley drive ("The Cube" rock)

Monument Valley drive

Dinner at Monument Valley

Click for video of Restaurant view

We then drove towards our next destination, the Natural Bridges National Monument.  To get there, we drove up the Moki Dugway.  The Moki Dugway, located on Utah Route 261 just north of Mexican Hat, Utah is a staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor.  It was the scariest drive I've ever taken, even with a 4-wheel drive Jeep.  There were no guard rails, and looking over the edge I felt like we were flying up in Father's airplane, way up in the air.  Dave filmed while driving up, but kept his eyes closed while doing it.

Moki Dugway

Moki Dugway

Moki Dugway

Click to view video

You may wonder what the difference is between a National Park and a National Monument is.  The main difference is that National parks are protected due to their scenic, inspirational, education, and recreational value, whereas National monuments have objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest.  We got to Natural Bridges National Monument, and stopped in their Visitor's Center.  It was a beautiful center, with lots of information and displays.  We could drive easily to most of the overlooks viewing the natural stone bridges.  The rocks here were mostly white, not red. 

Natural Bridges National Monument

Kachina Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

We checked TripAdvisor and found a nice home-cooking restaurant in Blanding called "The Homestead Steakhouse".  We had a good meal, then headed back to our Motel in Mexican Hat.  I stopped in the Front Office, and told them I identified the WiFi network, and so she gave me the password.  It was probably working all along.  Tom & I did some reading by the river, then went to bed.

Tom reading at the San Juan Inn

Mon. Sept. 5
We drove to Duke's Lodge in nearby Bluff, Utah for breakfast, and had fancy french toast on their fancy patio outside.

Breakfast at Duke's Lodge

Right in Bluff, we noticed a nice Bluff Fort Visitors Center, so we stopped in for a visit.  The original Bluff Fort has been rebuilt and lovingly restored and is open to visitors free of charge.   You can learn more about why the pioneers came to Bluff and their arduous journey over the Hole-in-the Rock trail.  It is operated by Mormons, but we never were preached to during our visit.  They must have a ton of money, because the displays were incredible.  In the Visitor's Center, a man dressed in period costume told us the story of the people who travelled through difficult areas to get to this area.  The buildings were well built, and displays were wonderful.  Each little building even had an audio tour button you could push (with a choice of 4 different languages) to hear about that particular house.  No one was there except us.  They were even contructing an elaborate water-wheel while we were there. 

Bluff Fort

Bluff Fort

Bluff Fort

Bluff Fort

We then drove about 100 miles north to Moab, Utah.  We got there before lunch, but we stopped in at our Motel, The Virginian, and let them know we arrived.  The owners were really nice people, who gave us some great suggestions on some places to drive to, as well as restaurant recommendations.  Downtown Moab is like a ski resort town, with lots of shops, restaurants, and activities.  We had lunch at Zax's, a pizza place where we could sit outside.  It had a waterfall display outside, with fire coming out of some logs, and mist spray for people walking by who might be too hot.  The weather was perfectly comfortable, mid-70's.  We then drove to Canyonlands National Park, and decided to see the north section called "Islands in the Sky".  Here there are countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. 
We stopped at Mesa Arch, which had a beautiful view of a valley beneath the arch.  There were many overlooks to see, as we were on a giant plateau above the Colorado and Green Rivers. 

Canyonlands National Park w/Tom

Dave at Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

We found a nice trail to hike, called the White Rim Overlook, which had no major sign, but was on the map. It was about a 2-mile hike one way.  Hardly anyone was on the trail.  When we got to the end, there was a fantastic view of the Colorado River, as well as huge canyons and rock formations.  We spent most of the day viewing all the great vistas all around us.  We also saw some strange creature along the way.

White Rim Overlook

White Rim Overlook


Click for video of White Rim Overlook

On the way back to Moab, we stopped at the Dead Horse Point State Park, on our Motel owner's recommendation.  We only paid a $10 fee, and stopped at their Visitor's Center, which had great displays and information.  They had a lot of mountain biking trails there, and a beautiful overlook with a roof for shade.  The views there were incredible.  From the prominence of Dead Horse Point, 2,000 feet you can see a gooseneck in the Colorado River.  The blue pools you see behind Tom are from the potash factory in the bottom of the canyon.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dave at Dead Horse Point State Park

Tom at Dead Horse Point State Park

Dave at Dead Horse Point State Park

Click for video of Dead Horse Point

We headed back to Moab, and saw more strange creatures on the drive back,


We had dinner at the Broken Oar.  Dave had the best strawberry lemonade ever.  Jim had thin sweet potato fries (which they were known for) that were drizzled with some sweet BBQ sauce. 
We got to our Motel, which was really nice.  They had a full kitchenette, two queen beds, and a rollaway bed.  Everything was really clean.

The Virginian Motel

Virginian Motel

Virginian kitchenette

Tue. Sept. 6

We had breakfast at the Moab Diner, a little 50's-style diner right next door to our Motel.  Today we drove only 5 miles from our Motel to the entrance to Arches National Park.  The park is adjacent to the Colorado River, 4 miles north of Moab, Utah. It is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, in addition to a variety of unique geological resources and formations. It contains the highest density of natural arches in the world.  We first drove to a view of Delicate Arch, since hiking there would have taken up a large chunk of our time.  We got a good view of it, and having binoculars helped. 

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch

Nearby the lookout we stopped at the Wolfe Ranch.   John Wesley Wolfe settled in the location in 1888 with his oldest son Fred.   They  built a one-room cabin, a corral, and a small dam across Salt Wash. For more than a decade they lived alone on the remote ranch.   We saw a small group of wild turkeys there.  There were also some Anasazi petroglyphs there as well.

Wolfe Ranch home

Wolfe Ranch Petroglyphs


We then met up with a Park Ranger giving a plant Tour in the "Windows" section of the Park.   He was very knowledgeable about the plantlife there.  Some of the blackbrush there was over 1,600 years old.  Dave hung around after the talk and got to know the Ranger, who said there are only 10 maintenance employees for the entire park.  (76,679 acres )  He said there were only about 24 total employess in the Park. Dave learned that the Ranger's name was Matt Smith, and that he had married a Navajo woman and had 3 children with her.  Their family lived on the Reservation for a while, and Matt told Dave many interesting facts about the Navajo people today, and of their poverty and lack of health services. Whenever we were on Native American land, we never saw any houses higher than one story.  It was obvious that their median income level is very low.  Tom & Jim hiked throughout the Windows area, and met up with Dave after about an hour. 

Park Ranger talks about plants

Plants at Arches National Park

Tom at the Windows Arches

Double Arch

We drove into Moab for lunch at Sweet Cravings Bakery + Bistro, ranked #3 out of 54 restaurants in Moab.  We got inexpensive panini sandwiches, and Rasberry Sorbet lemonades.  Delicious!   We also had dessert - Jim had a caramel pecan brownie that was out of this world, and Dave got a giant choclate chip cookie for having his sandwich ordered wrong.  Tom had a creme brulee brownie.  Then we headed back to Arches and went on a 2.5 mile hike to Broken Arch, Tapestry Arch, and Sand Dune Arch.  It was quite hot in the afternoon, probably around 88 degrees. 
It was a beautiful hike, through sandy sections, through Broken Arch, and we saw some beautiful shaped trees that must be very old.  We also hiked through some narrow crevases. (no pumas) At the very end, we viewed the last arch, Sand Dune Arch, and it required walking through some deep sand.  It was a great hike.

Hike to the Arches

Dave & Tom at Broken Arch

Tree along our hike

Sand Dune Arch

Click for video of Arches drive

We had dinner at the Moab Brewery, where it was packed with people and activity.  Tom tried the local brew, and we had a great dinner.  We noticed a young blonde employee near the entrance and our table, and for the 1.5 hours we were there, we could not figure out what the heck she did.  She seemed to flirt with young men employees, and feed gelato samples to all the other employees.  Once we saw her move some T-shirts, but we never saw her do any work.  Tom got a Moab Brewery glass, Jim had gelato for dessert.  It was a huge place,  very busy.

Wed. Sept. 7
We had breakfast at the Moab Diner again, having french toast, eggs, & bacon.  Then it was a long scenic drive along Rte. 128 and the Colorado River, then back up to Rte. 70 and northeast for about 5.5 hours to stop at Black Hawk, one of Tom's favorite places with casinos.  We had a buffet lunch at one of the casinos, then Tom & Jim played a few casino games.  We had to drive through rush hour to get home.  The traffic around Denver gets crazy during rush hour.  We returned our Jeep SUV to the Enterprise rental office, and then went to Target to buy an air mattress so we could each sleep in our own beds. 

Tom's house in Highlands Ranch

Thurs. Sept. 8
We had breakfast at Tom's house, then went and played indoor Pickleball at Tom's Highlands Ranch Southridge Recreation Center.  The level of play was quite good, and we played for about 3 hours.  Then we took a swim in the indoor pool there, which had a nice lazy river section where we could float around and relax.  Very nice! 

Highlands Ranch Southridge Rec. Center

After lunch we moved Tom's two couches at his house, switching the one upstairs in his living room with the one downstairs.  It was quite a feat, but with the 3 of us it worked out fine.

Fri. Sept. 9
We dropped off Tom's car for new tires and 2 rear shocks, and while we waited we had lunch at the Old Chicago restaurant nearby.
Sat. Sept. 10
Tom had a friend of his at work tell him about a nice hike just west of Denver, so we drove out to the Little Scraggy Trail in Pike's National Forest.  It was a spot near the Colorado Trail that many mountain bikers love, as well as hikers.  The temperature was a perfect 65 degrees, and the sun was shining.  It was a gorgeous hike with nice views, and giant boulders to climb and see.

Jim at the Little Scraggy Trailhead

Dave & Jim clearing rocks

Little Scraggy Trail

Little Scraggy Trail

For dinner, Tom's friend Mary Dellabella invited us over for a delicious home-cooked meal at her house.  Tom's friend Judy Beach also came over to join us, and we had a great meal and time together.  We also played pool on Mary's nice pool table.  Mary rents out her lower bedroom on AirB&B, and has a gorgeous home with a beautiful view of the mountains.

View from Mary D's house

Sun. Sept. 11
Tom had to work today, so Dave & Jim dropped him off at work.  Dave & Jim found a wonderful place to play outdoor pickleball called Cornerstone Park and ended up playing there for over 4 hours.  We started at about 8:30 am.  They were beautiful courts all dedicated to Pickleball only!  They had wind screens, perfect surface courts and nets.  They had 6 courts, and were talking of adding another 6.

Pickleball courts near Denver

In the evening we all went and saw the documentary film, "For the Love of Spock", a film about Leonard Nimoy and his career.  After the movie we stopped and looked at a huge Record store, that sold everything from records, toys, memorabilia, books, stereo equipment, etc.    At home we watched through Dave's FlipCam videos.  (I hope to post some on YouTube soon)

Mon. Sept. 12
We drove north and Jim met with his Aunt-in-law DeAnna Johnson, where they had a delightful lunch together at Black-Eyed Pea.  Dave & Tom went TV shopping, and then we 3 went to play Mini-Golf at a neat place we had played a few years ago.  We had dinner at a Mongolian restaurant called Hu-Hot Mongolian Grille.  You picked frozen food from a buffet, then had it cooked for you on a huge stone grille by a chef.  It was a great idea, and the food was delicious.

HuHot Mongolian Grille

Tue. Sept. 13
We went to a fancy golf driving range called Top Golf.  It was a huge 3-story building with a driving range with targets, where you hit golf balls containing computer microchips that track each shot’s accuracy and distance while also awarding points for hitting targets on the outfield.  Tom & Jim hit some balls, and Dave hung out and walked around.

TopGolf in Denver

Wed. Sept. 14
Tom drove us to the Denver Airport for our flight back to Ithaca.  Scott picked us up at the airport, ending a long and wonderful trip.  We really had a great time.  We were impressed with the wide variety of parks we visited, and the beauty of the Southwest.  We are also very grateful for Tom's hosting us at his house.