Monthly Archives: May 2013

Response to a Challenge

THE CHALLENGE:

“Let’s see you take Sweet Jean down the Lion’s Back

THE RESPONSE:

Kitten’s Belly    And yes, it’s steeper than it looks.

Kitten’s Belly Climb   on-board video.

Rocky Climb

Our videos were shot while traveling the trails to Snake House ruins and Butler wash.

Wahweap Hoodoos – Page, AZ

This post is about 5 days late due to our inability to get a strong enough connection to the internet even at busy places like our campground or the marina.  The canyons block all the signals.

While we were at Page we went out to explore some incredible rock formations located only about 20 miles from town and another 10 miles down a 4 wheel drive road.  A friend of ours from Florida, Michael, has joined us here for a few days as he journeys out west.

Wahweap Hoodoos

Wahweap Hoodoos

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Beautiful green, blue and white

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Beautiful sandstone formations

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Some of them where huge

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The brown cap was a layer of composite pebbles that prevent erosion beneath the sandstone

Mister Big Stuff.  Hoo Doo you think you are?

Mister Big Stuff. Hoo Doo you think you are?

We were lucky to be the only ones there

We were lucky to be the only ones there

This one had a tippy cap

This one had a tippy cap

This Horn Toad Lizard was almost invisible against the rocks

This Horn Toad Lizard was almost invisible against the rocks

Of course we had to have a photo of cactus in bloom

Of course we had to have a photo of cactus in bloom

Monument Valley

We’ve been battling poor internet connections for the past week, hence the delay in these posts.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

After our windy night at Gooseneck State Park we headed to Goulding RV Park in Monument Valley where, guess what, it was still windy.   The monuments were obscured  by clouds of dust.  We learned that there was an approaching front, but that the wind was supposed to die down by the next day.

A Hogan which is a Navajo dwelling

A Navajo dwelling called a Hogan

Fortunately, we were there for 2 days and by the next morning when

Interior of the Hogan

Interior of the Hogan

the wind had settled, we took a 3.5 hr  Navajo led tour of the valley.   This tour took us by a Hogan, which is the traditional Navajo living quarters.   The Hogan is made of logs positioned in a circular pattern, with a central

I love getting my hair done

I love getting my hair done

opening for the fire and a doorway that always faces east.   The exterior is composed of the bark that had been previously removed from the logs.  This bark is laid over the logs and then dirt applied over the entire structure.  This keeps the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

A new Navajo maiden has been created

A new Navajo maiden has been created

Inside the Hogan a woman was demonstrating traditional weaving techniques, using wool from the sheep that they raise.  She also wanted to demonstrate a traditional Navajo maiden hair style and since I had the longest hair of all the women there, I was chosen to demonstrate on.    She brushed my hair with a broom-like brush and then started weaving a long piece of wool through it.    It was beautiful and wonderfully cool and stayed tightly in place all day, even when the wind started to pick back up.

Sunset over the rocks

Sunset over the rocks

That evening just before sunset,  we went back out  and drove the 17 mile loop ourselves, where we were lucky enough to see a full moon rising over the monuments.

Gooseneck State Park

Heading south toward Monument Valley, we decided to stop along the way at Gooseneck State Park, which overlooks the San Juan River.    This is a State Park that allows free dry camping on the rim of the canyon overlooking the river.

There are actually 5 turns in the river at this location

There are actually 5 turns in the river at this location

It was beautiful when we arrived and we got a perfect spot close to the rim.  We settled in, put out the awning and chairs and prepared to take a siesta when seemingly out of nowhere this wind came up out of the canyon, straight toward us.   Even though we live in Florida and encounter strong winds during tropical storms, this was much worse.  It was unrelenting, probably at least 40-50 miles an hour, not gusts just steady wind coming out of the canyon and up toward us.   We tried taking in the awning and it became a sail that we had to hang on to with all the strength we had.     The wind whipped our voices away and we could barely hear each other.     We couldn’t get the awning to retract because the metal legs had bent from the wind.    Finally, Leonard was able to remove the legs and we could retract the awning which miraculously had not torn,  but the legs were flopping like broken wings.   Working at them with a hammer, he slowly was able to get them back into position and attached back on the RV.  It was totally exhausting and afterward we just collapsed inside the RV, which was rocking back and forth like a boat.   All that night the wind blew and a thick dust settled on everything.   Sometime early in the morning the wind finally let up and in the morning we emerged from the RV to quiet and beauty with no evidence of what had occurred.   By late morning when we left the wind was gusting once again for other innocent campers to battle.     It seems that all RV’ers  have an awning story to tell and now we have one of our own.

Morning calm

Morning calm

As a side note, the awning was tucked away for almost a week while we have been experiencing high winds, but Leonard and our friend Mike worked on it this morning and lo and behold they rebent the metal, greased it up and it works.  Not great, but enough to give us some shade if we need it.  Glory days.

Gooseneck Stae Park overlooking the San Juan River

Gooseneck State Park overlooking the San Juan River

River House Ruin and Butler Wash Petroglyphs

River House Ruins

River House Ruins

Located close to our campground, but still requiring the use of a  high clearance 4 wheel drive to access it, is River House Ruin.   Once again we had to air down the tires as we set off over soft sand and rough rock.  These roads are very bouncy and now that we know what the Jeep is capable of, they are a lot of fun.  Leonard has a grin from ear to ear after some of the challenging bits.

4 wheel fun

4 wheel fun

It’s strange, we’ve traveled a lot of dirt roads by now and almost never see anyone, but you never know when that will change.  We were on Navajo Reservation land a few days ago, in the middle of nowhere, and came across a truck plowed into the ditch and stuck up to its axle in sand.  It had 3 very intoxicated Indians in it.  Leonard put the Jeep through its paces again by pulling them out with all of them still in it because they were too drunk to get out.  They may never remember how they got out of that ditch.

Metate - corn grinding rocks.  Every ruin that we have toured has had ancient corn cobs still in them.

Metate – corn grinding rocks. Every ruin that we have toured has had ancient corn cobs still in them.

Then today, as we were returning back out to the main highway on this

Metate in window sill overlooking San Juan River

Metate in window sill overlooking San Juan River

very rough road and having not seen one other person all day, we came across a broken down ATV with a couple from Louisiana and their cocker spaniel.   They had ridden that thing about 30 miles on dirt roads from their campsite and were trying to get to the ruin.  It was already fairly late in the afternoon and we were just flabbergasted.   The guy thought his fuel pump had gone out and after consulting we all decided we would take his wife back to their campsite,

Butler Wash Petroglyphs

Butler Wash Petroglyphs

where she could get their truck and come back and pick him up.   Then miraculously the ATV  started, apparently just vapor-locked.  We followed them out as far as we were going, to ensure  they were okay, still just amazed by encountering  them and then watched them and the dog bounce merrily away.  You just never know what you’re going to see in the desert.

Some of these petroglyphs and nearby ones date back 13,000 years

Some of these petroglyphs and nearby ones date back 13,000 years

The River House Ruins had parts that were originally 3 stories but are in poor shape today.   The great fun was the road into the ruins and stopping by an old homesteader site along the way.

A mile further down the river from the ruins is the Butler Wash Petroglyph Panel, which is probably about 100 yards long.  There were 1000’s of them etched into the canyon wall and they were in amazing shape.    These petroglyphs and those from a nearby site called Sand Island, which we visited a few days ago, contain carvings ranging as far back as prehistoric times.  The Sand Island site has a woolly mammoth carving that has been determined to be 13,000 years old.  We tried finding it amongst all the others but never could.

Claret cup cactus

Claret cup cactus

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument

Towers at Square Tower Unit

Towers at Square Tower Unit

We decided to go on a road trip and headed for Hovenweep National Monument, located about an hour east of here on the border of Utah and Colorado.

Hovenweep is comprised of 5 different sections that contain towers grouped at canyon heads that were built by the Anasazi in the mid 1100 – 1250 AD.  The earliest towers were round or square buildings, but as time went on they became more elaborate – multi-storied, oval, rectangular or D-shaped.  Many theories have been offered to explain the existence of the towers including –   Observation; Signaling Stations; Living or Work Rooms; Ceremonial Chambers; Storage or Defense.

Storm clouds moving in

Storm clouds moving in

We hiked a two-mile trail around the main set of towers, the Square Tower Unit, dodging rain drops and then drove on a

Towers and fragrent Clliff rose which were in full bloom through the park

Towers and fragrant Cliff rose which were in full bloom through the park

Amazing Tower built atop a rock in Holly Unit of Hovenweep

Amazing Tower built atop a rock in Holly Unit of Hovenweep

Holly Unit of Hovenweep

Holly Unit of Hovenweep

rough, dirt road to the Holly Unit.  The views were amazing and made even more so by the storm clouds that were surrounding us.

The skies had been blue when we left the campground but darkened the closer we got to Hovenweep.    We were lucky enough to only get a few sprinkles,  never the deluge which threatened, but it was extremely windy and cool.

When we returned to the campground we heard that the same storm system was responsible for all the tornadoes and deaths in Oklahoma.  We’ve been unbelievably lucky with the weather on this trip, seeming to skirt all the big issues.

Along the road leading to Hovenweep

Along the road leading to Hovenweep

Georgous spring storm

Georgous spring storm

16 Room Ruin – Bluff

16 Room Ruin

16 Room Ruin

We’ve moved further south, to the small town of Bluff, where we decided to explore a ruin close to town called 16 Room Ruin.   Unlike the other ruins that we’ve

Taking in the great view

Taking in the great view

toured which have been located in canyons, this ruin was built overlooking a broad, fertile valley and the San Juan River.  We were able up to drive to the bottom of it,  a nice break after hiking all the canyons.

Some of the connecting rooms

Some of the connecting rooms

The ruin was built on a very narrow ledge in a large cave-like alcove.  The ledge is so narrow that there is only room for a single row of rooms between the alcove wall and the drop off.   Due to the narrowness of the ledge there were no outer doors to all the rooms, but only inner connecting doors and  access through the roof.   One whole section was two-story with inner doorways and peepholes that looked out to the valley below.

Overlooking the valley and San Juan River

Overlooking the valley and San Juan River

Columbines carpeted the area in front of the run

Columbines carpeted the area in front of the run