Summer in Colorado Part II: Boulder, Colorado Springs and Walsenburg

Boulder

There aren’t many places I’ve visited where I’ve said, “I could live here!”  Boulder is one.  However, Boulder real estate is offered at California prices.  Boulder was the perfect place to park and hang out with my niece, Theresa, from Florida. 

I parked at the Elks Lodge in north Boulder (known as NoBo).  It’s in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by open space and the Lodge had a pool! 

Boulder is a college town, so therefore it has all the wonderful things a college town has to offer…good entertainment, shops, museums, and great restaurants.  I ended up staying in Boulder for five weeks, but during that time I flew to Florida to visit my family.

Theresa and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was a rainy and foggy day.  I was so disappointed because that the only day Theresa had to visit the park.  She never did get to use her new hiking boots.  I did go back to visit the park after I returned from Florida and the weather was perfect.

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RMNP Rain and Fog for Theresa and I

Theresa is a huge Broncos fan and took a tour of the Stadium in Denver. We stopped by the LODO area downtown to have lunch and walk around.

Theresa and I drove up to Boulder Falls and just a short walk took us to the base of the falls.

We also went to Red Rock Amphitheater to see Killer Queen. As you might think…they play Queen songs and the lead singer looked exactly like Freddy Mercury and they sounded great.  Unfortunately, it rained throughout most of the concert. It was still a really good time. Red Rock Amphitheater was deemed the best music venue in the United States and it was really beautiful!

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Killer Queen Concert at Red Rock Amphitheater

Theresa and I flew to Florida together and I visited family for a couple weeks.  There are two new family members.  Theresa is a grandmother!  Her daughter, Arianna had a baby girl, Ashtyn, and my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren had a baby girl, Eloise.  It was Eloise’s first birthday. It was a wonderful visit and I honestly had a hard time leaving.

 

After returning to Boulder, I had a few more things to check off my list before heading south.

Of course, I had to visit the famous Pearl Street.  It’s a very popular area for shops, galleries and great restaurants.

I spent a day in Denver to visit the Museum of Nature and Science.  What a wonderful museum.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were the visiting exhibit. In addition, the Imax theatre was showing a documentary on Bethlehem.  I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land, not because I’m religious, but because of the amazing history of the region.  I’d like to visit Egypt too. I wish I had done it years ago before the turmoil we have now. It was a wonderful and educational day. I ended the day with dinner at Fish and Beer in the artsy, fartsy section of Denver called RiNo (River North Art District).  The food was delish!

I did make another trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and this time the weather cooperated.  I had visited the park when I was 19 years old.  I remember it being beautiful, but I hadn’t seen places like Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.  In comparison, RMNP is not that spectacular, but beautiful nonetheless.  The one thing that was unique was hiking on the tundra at over 11,400 feet. It was slow going, but I made it! The main road through the park is Trail Ridge Road and is the highest highway in the US.

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RMNP Hiking the tundra
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RMNP – The Top of the World!
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RMNP – Tundra at 11,400 feet

The Rocky Mountains form one of the world’s longest ranges, stretching almost unbroken from Alaska to south of the border.  RMNP preserves a small but important section of the Rockies. The altitude is so high the growing season is only six weeks long. I have loved spending time in the Rockies this summer.

Colorado Springs

My next stop was Colorado Springs.  Ralph and I visited the Springs a few years ago.  I decided to stop halfway to the Great Sand Dunes and see a few of the sites I missed the first time around.

I was parked at the Elk’s Lodge and it was only a couple miles from the Garden of the Gods so I decided to revisit.  It is a beautiful red rock area and a good place to hike.

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Garden of the Gods
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Garden of the Gods – Kissing Camels

I drove the 30 miles to see the Calhan Paint Mines. According to Wikipedia, the Calhan Paint Mines is “a unique blending of geological, archaeological, historical and ecological resources”. What makes it unique is the grassland and geological formations of hoodoos, colored clay and sandstone-capped spires. Archaeological evidence, such as arrow heads and stone dart tips, has found that there was prehistoric and historic occupation by Native American peoples as early as about 9,000 years ago. The clay was used in prehistoric and historic times to create and paint pottery and as paint for ceremonial purposes.

Paint Mines

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The small town of Manitou Springs is just a few miles west of the Springs.  While I visited Manitou I toured the Miramont Castle.  The castle was built in 1915 as a personal residence for Father Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother. The castle changed hands eleven times before the Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the building in 1976 and saved it from condemnation. It is a beautiful building to tour and acts as a museum on this history of Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is also where you can get the cog train up to the top of Pike’s Peak.

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Miramont Castle

Walsenburg

I have a love affair with sand dunes.  Therefore, I could not pass up the Great Sand Dunes National Park about 60 miles west of Walsenburg.  I parked at       Lathrup Lake State Park just off I25.  It was a really nice state park with electric and water hookups.  The sites have a lot of privacy. It was only the camp host and me for most of my stay.  Nice and quiet.

It was a beautiful drive to the Great Sand Dunes and the weather was nearly perfect.  I understand it can be very windy through the area.  The Dunes are nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and are North America’s tallest dunes.  The dunes formed by eroded mountains, then shattered by freezing and thawing, and tumbled by streams and winds. I did not hike to the top of the dunes.  It takes a couple hours to hike to the highest dune and I didn’t arrive until 4:00 pm.  I wanted to get there when the light was right to photograph the dunes. I’m so happy I took the time to visit.  I will also visit the White Sand Dunes Park in New Mexico.

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Highway of Legends and San Luis Valley

In the late 1800s, while much of the state mined gold and silver, the southeast region mined coal. Linked with this region are many legends and folklore. Such as the lost gold vein with nuggets so big, one nugget could provide enough wealth to live for a year. There is also the story of George Simpson who saved Trinidad from an attack from the Ute Indians by distracting them with taunts. You can explore these legends by traveling the Highway of Legends byway. Beginning in Trinidad, you can follow the Cucharas River, traveling through Cokedale, Cuchara, La Veta, and end in Walsenburg.  The byway is usually open all year and is 82 miles long. From the byway, you can see views of the Spanish Peaks as you travel through the San Isabel National Forest. The Sandstone walls of Stonewall also decorate the area, giving a Spanish appearance. The dikes of the Spanish Peaks protrude from the sandstone walls. Here, the ancient legend of the Devil’s Stairs was born. Long ago, the Devil came out from hell to survey the world, choosing the Cuchara Velley as his entrance. He would climb the steps and sit on the twin mountains (Spanish Peaks), plotting how to make it his. God learned of this, and noticing the beauty of the mountains and valley, took it as his own. He forbade the Devil to ever enter the area again, but the Devil’s steps still stand. It was a beautiful drive and I kept thinking what a great motorcycle ride it would be.

 

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Stonewall

Ludlow Massacre Monument

Being the Union supporter that I am, when I heard about the Ludlow Massacre I was very interested.  The massacre  emanated out of a labor conflict. According to  Wikipedia, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 hapless striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. About two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 people, although accounts vary. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The miners striked because of the dangerous, deplorable, working conditions.  They were paid In “company money” and could only spend it at company stores.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. An estimated total of 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. It was described it as the “deadliest strike in the history of the United States”, and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history”. Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour workday.

Ludlow Massacre Monument
Ludlow Massacre Monument
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Historic Photo After the Burn

My time in Walsenburg was short but packed full of great activities.

My summer in Colorado came to an end.  I have to say I think Colorado is my favorite state thus far.  I love the Rocky Mountains and the way Colorado appreciates and preserves their history.  And, people in Colorado really love the outdoors.  I hope to come back some day in the future.

Now it’s time to move south to New Mexico and a bucket list item for me; the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I’ve been trying to get there for three years and I’m going to make it this year!

Till the next time…

Telluride and Montrose, Colorado

Telluride

I’ve always been curious about Telluride.  Over the years I’ve read about the great skiing and the many celebrities that have homes in the area.  Now I understand why. 

Telluride Pano

Telluride is a year-round paradise for outdoor activities.  It has a National Historic Landmark District with gourmet restaurants, boutiques and fine-art galleries.  Telluride, like many small cities on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, has its history in mining.  There is a wealth of colorful, Victorian houses and a charming main street lined with buildings with clapboard and brick facades.  Telluride’s history is equal parts refinement (translate to expensive) and Wild West.  Butch Cassidy robbed his first back in Telluride. 

A little known fact about Telluride is that in 1891 the world’s successful, long-distance transmission of alternating current electricity (AC) occurred at Ames, Colorado and Telluride became the world’s first city to be electrically lit.

Telluride is surrounded by towering mountains with the highest concentration of 13,000 to 14,000 foot peaks in North America.  The Telluride area is the best the San Juan Mountains have to offer.

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Hike above Telluride
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Overlooking Telluride

I camped at Matterhorn, a forest service campground.  It was a beautiful, wooded campground located 10 miles south of Telluride.  I had a dry camping spot next to a creek for three days and then I was able to move to a full hook up site for the next four days.  This park has a seven-day limit.  I would have stayed longer, but for the limit.

I was only able to take one hike while in Telluride.  The altitude was kicking my butt! I hiked the trail to Cornet Falls and a portion of the Jud Wiebe trail that follows a ridge overlooking Telluride.

I took advantage of several of the wonderful restaurants and visited the Historical Museum that is located in the old military hospital. 

 

Telluride Historical Museum
Telluride Historical Museum

 

 

 

900 year old indian blanket
900 year-old Indian Blanket

 

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There are several mining towns in the area: some occupied and some abandoned. I drove to Ophir, a tiny mining town still occupied. The current residents (about 200) are often isolated in the winter due to avalanches for weeks at a time.  A rough dirt road passes over the Ophir Pass to Silverton.  Most of Ophir’s residents work in Telluride.

I visited Trout Lake and took the dirt road up to Alta Lakes, which passed through another tiny mining town, this time abandoned except for a small tribe of marmots. There is camping at Alta Lakes, but just for vans and tents.  The road up was rough and I had to put my CRV in first gear at times, but I made it with only scraping the bottom once!  I can see why many RVers like to travel with a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. I’ve heard there are more dirt roads in Colorado than paved roads.  And, I have to believe there are more Jeeps in Colorado than all the other vehicles put together.

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Trout Lake
My cabin
Should I buy it?
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Marmot Family
Ghost building
Ghost Mining Town
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Ghost Mining Town
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Ghost Mining Town
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Alta Lakes
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Alta Lakes
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Alta Lakes

While driving into Telluride I noticed something on the west side of the highway, down in a canyon.  I finally decided to stop and check it out.  I was surprised to see a semi and trailer upside down in the canyon.  Then I noticed the guardrail was missing.  Some poor trucker went over the side!  Someone placed a cross, so I knew the driver perished.  I inquired in town and was told this happens frequently in the area.  The trailer was full of sawdust and the first attempt to pull it up failed.  The day I was leaving the area, they were going to close the highway and try vehicle recovery once again with larger equipment.  I would love to have seen that!  To say I was overly cautious when driving the RV through the mountains to my new destination in Montrose is an understatement.

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Overturned Semi
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Overturned Trailer

My last stop before leaving Telluride was the Elks Lodge.  The original lodge building is located on Main Street.  However, the building was sold and the rent raised so high that the lodge had to move to a new location.  It’s in a small building on a side street and is the cutest lodge I’ve seen to date.  I went in to have a drink and talked with the female bartender.  Shortly after I arrived, three of her girlfriends came in and I had a great time talking with the local women.  The most fun time I’ve had at an Elk’s Lodge yet!

Telluride Elks
Telluride Elks Lodge
Elk girls
Elk Women

I hated to leave Telluride…it is my kinda place! Nonetheless, it was time to move on down the road to Montrose.

Montrose

My next stop was about 80 miles down a beautiful mountain road to Montrose and access to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  My friend Debbie Hayward told me about the park that she had visited on her six-month trip around the country several years back.  I was not aware of this national park before that. I stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge for ten days.

“No other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon”, Geologist Wallace R. Hansen. The Gunnison River drops an average of 95 feet per mile and carves the steep canyon.  The walls are an average of 2,000 feet deep.  The rock walls are only 40 feet apart at “the narrows”.

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Black Canyon
Black Canyon River
Gunnison River which carved the Black Canyon
Black Canyon view
Black Canyon

I took the South Rim Road and stopped at each of the seven overlooks. The road ends at Warner Point and then I took the two mile round trip hike out to the point for a spectacular view of the canyon.

Another day I returned to the park to take the drive to East Portal and access to the Gunnison River. It’s a five mile drive with a 16% grade down to the river. The river moves so swiftly through the canyon that it is unsafe to swim at East Portal.  The Crystal Dam controls the flow of the river.

The Gunnison Tunnel is a Civil Engineering Landmark along with the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Durango and Silverton Railroad. It is an irrigation tunnel constructed between 1905 and 1909.  The tunnel is 5.8 miles long and diverts water from the Gunnison River to the arid Uncompahgre Valley and Montrose.  Pretty amazing! river.

Gunnison Tunnel SignGunnison Tunnel

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Gunnison Tunnel
Gunnison River
Drive to East Portal
Gunnison River Bottom
Gunnison River
Car at bottom of canyon
Perspective

Due to the fire north of Durango, I was not able to take the Million Doller Highway from Silverton to Ouray and Ridgway. I was able to drive to Ouray from the north.  Ouray is another picturesque, small mining town nestled in the rugged and towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains.  It’s located in the valley at 7,800 feet surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks.  Colorado is full of these cute mountain towns!  Ouray is also known for it’s sulfur-free hot springs.

 

Ouray Silverton Road
Thank goodness they’ve improved this road!

 

Ouray has a colorful history of mining, ranching, railroad and Native American history. It is a well-preserved historic town. Two-thirds of Ouray’s original Victorian structures are still occupied. The Ouray Historical Museum documents the history in 29 rooms in the old hospital.  The movie True Grit was filmed in nearby Ridgway and at the Courthouse in Ouray.

Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Building
Ouray Victorian Building

I visited the Box Canyon Falls, which was formed when the rushing waters of the Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow box canyon through fault-weakened limestone.  There is an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge that leads straight into the belly of the falls.  The sound of the force of thousands of gallons of water a minute rushing eighty feet to the canyon’s bottom is deafening.

Box Canyon Falls
Walkway to Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon
Box Canyon Falls

The box canyon is an important bird watching area.  It supports one of the state’s largest populations of Black Swifts (a protected bird), which nest in the canyon walls and overhanging rocks near the waterfalls.  These small birds fly from Brazil to nest in the box canyon in the summer.

Black Swift

 

I enjoyed my day in Ouray very much!

Then it was time to move on down the road to Gunnison. 

Until next time…

 

 

Durango and Cortez, Colorado

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Durango

I caravanned with Malia to Durango so that Malia could complete tests, get a diagnosis and decide on next steps.  I’ve always heard good things about Durango and was anxious to check it out.  I found out the good things were all true!

We stayed in a funky RV park about ten miles south of Durango on Hwy 550 for the monthly rate of $500.  Other parks in the area charged $1,200 a month.  We had premium sites overlooking a canyon and it was a good place to stay for the month.

Durango is a quaint, small historic western town with lots of shops, good restaurants and many outdoor activities. As with most small towns in western Colorado, Durango has its roots in the mining industry.  It is a delightful, small western town and we enjoyed wandering around checking everything out.

I stopped at the Durango Museum one afternoon and learned about the small town. The museum is housed in an old schoolhouse that reminded me very much of the grade school I attended in Detroit, Beard School.  Beard is on the register of historic buildings too.  I remember sitting at a desk just like the ones in this photo…and yes, we started reading with Dick and Jane!  My gosh, I’m getting old! 

For my teacher friends and family…take a look at these rules for teachers.  And the punishment recommendations!

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My friends, Mick and Deb were in the area too.  I’m always so happy when our paths cross.  They camped at Haviland Lake and Malia and I went to visit them for a hike and dinner. Malia and I had checked out the campground on our way back from Silverton and said, “We should stay here!” We hiked around the lake and it turned out to be more challenging than we expected, but we all made it!  We had a great dinner and then headed back to camp.  Mick and Deb stayed for a few more days and left the day before the campground was evacuated due to the 416 fire, just north of Durango, in the San Juan Forest.

 

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Mick and Deb on hike around Haviland Lake
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Haviland Lake

 

 

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416 Fire – I did not take this photo

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We visited Malia’s friend, Polly and her husband and had one heck of a good time and a delicious dinner. They have a gorgeous home in the mountains above Durango.  They are always concerned about fire breaking out in their area.

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Malia and I drove the 35 miles to Farmington, New Mexico for the Riverfest and stopped at Aztec Ruins National Monument on the way.  The national monument preserves ancestral Puebloan architectural and engineering achievements found in the northwest corner of New Mexico.  It is a World Heritage site and is part of the Chaco Culture World Heritage site. It is on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. There is quite a bit left of the structures and there is a reconstructed great kiva.  The ruins were built as a public ceremonial, economic, and political center around 1100 AD and remained occupied by the ancestral Pueblo people until 1300 AD.  No one really knows why the people left this location and many other locations in the Four Corners area, with Mesa Verde being the most popular.  I think this is one of the best examples of ancestral Puebloan ruins I’ve experienced.  You can walk through the ruins and go inside the kiva.  Don’t miss this great site if you’re in the area.

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Malia
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Riverfest
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Aztec Ruins National Monument

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The Kiva

We made the 60 mile drive to Pagosa Springs for a day of soaking in the hot springs. It was a wonderful, relaxing day.

 

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Soaking with cocktails at Pagosa Springs

 

Malia’s great grandtwins came for a visit and we went rafting on the Animas River.  What fun! Last time I went whitewater rafting was on the American River many years ago.  The Animas River had a few Class III rapids, but nothing like the American.  Nonetheless, it was a blast!  Everyone had a great time and then it was Mexican food afterwards.  I have to say, I was exhausted by the time we got home.  This old, grey blond mare, she ain’t what she used to be! 

 

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That’s me in the light green hat

 

 When I’m parked for some time I like to hang my hummingbird feeder next to a window so I can get up close and personal with the hummingbirds.  This was a great place to do that.  I had 6-8 hummingbirds feeding almost all the time and I had to refill the feeder twice a day.  I recently purchased a new camera (Canon SX60 HS) with a 65X zoom.  I was practicing with the zoom and got a few great photos of the hummingbirds.  I especially like the one bird with the beautiful purple throat.  I think it’s the black-chinned hummingbird.

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By the time the month was up, I was ready to hit the road.  Next stop was Cortez, a whopping 57 miles.  I stayed at the Ancient Cedars RV park directly across the highway from Mesa Verde National Park.

Cortez

First thing Malia and I did was drive up to the small town of Dolores to visit the Anasazi Culture Center.  The center provides information about the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which preserves the largest concentration or archaeological sites in the United States, primarily ancestral Puebloan ruins and includes Hovenweep National Monument. Canyons of the Ancients is 176,056 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The Culture Center is a beautiful building with excellent exhibits and a great overview of the area. Definitely worth a visit.

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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Artifacts found in the area
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Artifacts found in the area
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Uppity women are not a new thing

The next day I drove to the Four Corners area and to Hovenweep National Monument.

The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.  It is the only point in the US shared by four states.  It also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments: the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Tribe.  I understand that the four corners monument is the legal point, but not the true geographical point.  Nonetheless, it was worth seeing for five minutes! 

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Hovenweep National Monument is  just a short drive from Four Corners. The towers of Hovenweep were built by Pueblo Indian tribes and were grouped at canyon heads.  Many dwellings stood right on the canyon rim, and some structures were built atop isolated or irregular boulders, not great for safety and access.  They have been vacant for 700 years.  Again, no one knows why the people vacated the area. Most likely drought and depleted resources. In the late 1200s the people settled in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico and the Hopi mesas in Arizona. There is a two mile hike from the visitor center that circles the small canyon where the towers are located. Definitely worth the drive to see this fascinating area.

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And last, but certainly not least, I visited Mesa Verde National Park.  When Ralph and I did our Southwest tour a few years ago we visited Mesa Verde and did the Cliff Palace tour.  Cliff Palace is probably the most popular tour and it’s the cliff dwelling you see in all the photos of Mesa Verde.  However, there are several other cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde: Balcony House, Step House, Long House and Spruce Tree House (which was closed due to falling rocks).  I chose to visit the Wetherill Mesa (the quiet side of the park)  this time and did the self-guided tour of Step House.  Mesa Verde incudes over 4,500 archeological sites and over 600 are cliff dwellings.  It is truly a remarkable national park.

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Cliff Palace
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Pit House

A  Family Note

My great nieces, (Theresa’s daughters) both had significant milestones.  Arianna graduated from college and Chyann graduated from high school in May.  Arianna graduated from high school with an Associate’s Degree from college. So, it was only two years for her to get her Bachelor’s Degree.  At 20 years old she is married, has a new baby and graduated from college!  I guess she’s on the fast track through life!  Chyann earned a scholarship to the local college for the dance program. She is a beautiful, talented dancer.  We are so proud of these two wonderful young women.  I thank my dear brother all the time for having children.  They are true treasures of my life.

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Arianna and Ashtyn
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Chyann

 

This flower pot art was at the entrance to the RV park near Mesa Verde.  Made me smile everytime I pulled into the park.

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Next stop for me is Telluride.  I will be traveling sans Malia.  She is headed straight to Oregon.  I will miss her terribly.  Traveling with a girlfriend in her own rig has been an unexpected delight.  Who will I laugh with until we pee our pants a little???

 

 

 

Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

I seem to be drawn to Arizona.  Yet again this year I stayed longer than I planned.  I was in Tucson until April 30 when I headed to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley with an overnight stay in Rock  Springs, Arizona. I’m caravanning with my friend, Malia (Malia’s Miles blog).

Our first stop was the Rock Springs Café.  We found a great boondocking spot in their event parking lot north of the restaurant.  Rock Springs Café is known for their delicious pies.  It was Malia’s birthday and she got a free piece of pie and free beer!  It was a small oasis in the desert and  a great place to spend the night. Rock Springs was half way to the Grand Canyon.

 

Rock Springs Cafe
Rock Springs Garden Area – Malia’s Birthday

 

The next morning we left for the Grand Canyon and found a beautiful boondocking spot on forest road 688 just 10 minutes south of the south entrance to the Grand Canyon. We settled in for the evening and were very excited to visit the Grand Canyon (south rim) the next day.

I woke up the next morning about 5:30 and looked out the window and much to my shock and excitement there was four inches of snow covering everything! You know I’ve been gone from Michigan a long time when I get excited about snow. The snow stuck to everything except the road.  It was a very foggy day, which helped keep the snow around for a while and it was completely gone within 12 hours.

 

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That’s me on the left

 

Even though it was pretty cold (45 degrees) we decided to head to the Grand Canyon wondering if we’d see a layer of snow in the canyon.  We were very surprised to see the canyon totally covered by fog.  Both of us had seen the canyon before and knew what to expect.  When we couldn’t see anything we both burst out laughing.  I felt sorry for those there just for the day. We knew we were returning the next day so weren’t upset at all. So plan B…we went to the IMAX theatre and watched the Grand Canyon movie.  It had been a very interesting day with a couple surprises.  I do like days like that!

 

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That’s the Grand Canyon behind us!
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The tower
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Airplane crash over the Grand Canyon

 

The next day was perfect weather and we hiked the Bright Angel trail for a couple miles.  We stopped into the lodge for a cocktail and snack before heading back to camp.

Bright Angel Sign

Ro on Bright Angel
Bright Angel Trail
Ro at Tunnel
The first tunnel on the Bright Angel trail

 

 

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Malia on Bright Angel
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Just a big hole in the ground!  Ha!
Fireplace
Fireplace made with the same layers of rock as the canyon
Bright Angel Trail
Looking down on the Bright Angel trail
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Sharing the trail
Cork LIfe Jacket
Life vest made from cork

 

 

Storm
And then the rain blew in

 

Then it was off to Monument Valley, a bucket list item for me.  I was not disappointed!  We stayed at Goulding’s RV Resort nestled among the red rocks. Goulding’s Resort started years ago to support the movie industry in the area. They have a small movie museum that is worth a visit. 

 

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Goulding’s RV Park (that’s me on the left)
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Trail from the RV park
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Trail leads to a red rock arch

The Monument Valley in part of the Navajo Reservation.  You can take guided tours of the area, but we chose to take our own car and drive the Valley Road. That let us get down and among the mesas, buttes and spires.  The weather was perfect.  There are stops along the road with Navajo vendors for art, rugs and jewelry. Of course, we had to stimulate the economy and purchased a few beautiful items.

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Monument Valley
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Us on the Forrest Gump road
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I made it to Monument Valley !

 

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Wall painting in the visitor center

 

Our time in Monument Valley was short and very impressive.  I’m so happy that I finally made it there.

Our next stop is Durango, Colorado where I will spend a month exploring the area.

 

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And off I go!

 

Till next time…

Arizona, Jan – March, 2018

Yuma

I keep returning to a boondocking area just 17 miles west of Yuma, technically in Winterhaven, California. The BLM area is near the Ogilby exit off Interstate 8 on Sidewinder Road.  This was my fourth time camping on Sidewinder.  Sometimes alone and sometimes with friends.  Ralph, Mick and Deb were with me as we killed time before heading up to Quartzsite to meet up with other friends and attend the big RV rally.  Deb and I visited the Imperial Sand Dunes and took a few photos.  I LOVE sand dunes.  I don’t know why…I just do.

 

 

My nephew and his family, Kevin, Mariya, Mason and Kyle, came to visit and roast weenies.

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Mason, 5 years old
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Kyle, 1 year old

Quartzsite

When we arrived in Quartzsite we found a fairly flat area in the Dome Rock section about five miles west of Quartzsite.  I like to camp here because it is elevated and has great views of the Quartzsite lights at night.  You can see the sunrise and sunset right from this location and it is much quieter than camping in Quartzsite.   

Eventually there were five rigs: Deb and Mick, Cheryl and Jesse, John and Bill, Ralph and I, and one of my bookies, Lynn, who was on her maiden voyage with her new rig.  John brought a LOT of firewood and we had a campfire every night and even some mornings.  We all spent money at the RV Big Tent, went to the Desert Bar, looked for unique rocks and had a great time with wonderful friends. 

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That’s a “Mick” fire.  Those of you who know him will understand! 🙂

The frosting on the cake was the Blue Moon/Red Moon and total lunar eclipse. We got up at 5 am to catch the eclipse and also had a campfire and watched the sunrise.  What a unique experience!  Deb took some wonderful pictures.

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Blood Moon, Lunar Eclipse
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Lunar Eclipse

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We stayed two weeks and it went so quickly. Ralph hitched a ride back to Sacramento with Cheryl and Jesse, while Lynn and I headed to Martinez Lake to join a few of the Escapee’s Solos for the week.

Martinez Lake

Martinez Lake is about 10 miles north of Yuma on the Colorado River. Being near water in Southern Arizona is a rare treat.  Several Escapee Solos were also camped there, so we had a built-in social group.  Lynn did some work on her rig and Fred and I just hung out and visited.

 

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Martinez Lake

 

I had visitors every evening right after dusk.  Fred just watched them through the window.  I doubt he’d ever seen anything like this before.

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So cute and friendly.  I didn’t dare feed them. They would never leave!

 

I also crowned another Road Queen; my friend Lynn.

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The newest Road Queen, Lynn

 

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Freddy and Owen by the campfire

 

I was just getting ready to head to Tucson and spend a couple weeks with my friend Malia (Malia’s Miles blog) when I came down with the Shingles!  UGHHHHHH! What a nightmare!  First I had a lot of pain that I couldn’t explain and then the blisters broke out.  That’s when I realized what was happening. I went to a walk-in clinic and started the anti-viral meds, which worked to stop the virus in its tracks.  However, what was already there was bad enough. As of the date of writing this, I’ve had shingles for seven weeks. The blisters are gone, but,  I still have a lot of nerve pain.  I sure hope it goes away soon!

Instead of heading to Tucson, I went to my nephew Kevin’s house and parked in front of his house for another week. I stayed until I felt like I could handle the 240-mile drive to Tucson.  Kevin and Mariya took good care of me and I had a chance to spend more time with the little ones. Baby Kyle is one year old already. 

While in Yuma I took Fred to the vet for vaccinations, where they discovered that Fred needed a couple of teeth surgically removed. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the end for our little buddy, Freddy the Freeloader.

Tucson

My original plan was to spend two weeks in Tucson with my friend Malia and then fly out of Phoenix to Florida to visit family.  However, after making the drive to Tucson it was clear that I was in no condition to travel to Florida, so I canceled my trip.  On top of feeling terrible, Fred was going to need surgery for his teeth.  Ralph decided to fly to Tucson to help Fred and me.  I was soooo grateful.  I had no idea what lie ahead for Fred.

We found a vet in Tucson and went in to have the pre-surgery blood tests complete.  This would tell us if Fred was healthy enough to survive the surgery.  When the vet opened the door he said, “I don’t have good news for you.”, my heart sank.  He informed us that Fred’s kidneys were failing and he could not perform the surgery.  He advised us to administer sub-cutaneous fluids for 14 days and return for another blood test.  Maybe this time he would be healthy enough to survive the surgery. After a few days of the fluids, Fred was a new cat!  He wasn’t sleeping the entire day, was very playful and wanted to go outside all the time.  I was so hopeful. 

When Ralph and Fred met up with me in Oregon, I noticed how much weight Fred had lost.  He was also drinking much more water and peeing a lot.  After Ralph left at the end of January, it was just Fred and me.  I could tell he just wasn’t himself.  He was hiding in the back of the rig, sleeping all the time and even vomited.  I now believe that his body was full of toxins because his kidneys were not working and he was close to death.

The vet told us that 65% of old cats die from kidney failure.  It was a surprise to us that Fred was an “old cat”.  Since he adopted us, we didn’t know how old he was.  We thought 7-8 years old.  The vet told us he was 11-12.  We lost 5 years with Fred overnight!  We also learned there is nothing that can be done to reverse or even stop the kidney failure.  Fred only had about 6 months to live and that’s if I gave him the sub-q fluids every day.  Ralph was leaving for Oregon to continue his house hunt and there was no way I could handle that by myself.  I couldn’t watch Fred die over the next six months, so we had to let our little Freddy go.  It broke our hearts and I cried for two days straight.  I cry every time I see his ghost in the spots where he always slept and on the back of the dinette next to the frig where he would perch and wait to be fed.  I miss his little face when he woke me up in the morning by touching his cold nose to my nose.

 

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The last photo of Fred

 

Fred was a wonderful travelling buddy and a friendly, adaptable cat that everyone loved.  Ralph said that Fred changed his mind about cats. I miss him so much.

After losing Fred we had to do something different. 

Our friends Mick and Deb we were at the Escapees Park in Benson so we decided to join them for a week.  It was only 51 miles and I knew Ralph would enjoy having someone to play with because all I was doing was lying around hurting and grieving.  The Escapees Park in Benson is a great park.  The sites are huge, the people are friendly and there are many activities.  They even have a workshop with equipment for the men.  Ralph was a hit with the ping-pong guys and shot pool in a couple of tournaments.  Deb and I went to a beading class.  Ralph and I even did some sightseeing and drove to Tombstone, Sierra Vista and Bisbee one day.  It was nice to finally get out and do something. 

Then it was time for Ralph to fly home.  We drove back to Tucson and I parked at the Diamond J RV Park.  I was finally going to get to spend a couple weeks with Malia.

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Lookin’ out my backdoor!
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Labyrinth in the desert

As of this writing, I’m still in Tucson and at some point I’ll head to Deming, New Mexico and begin my tour of the Land of Enchantment. I have Johnson relatives in Albuquerque and I am looking forward to spending some time with them.

Until next time…

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California

Continuing south on Interstate 5 from Medford, it was back to California.  I had come full circle!  The first stop was in Redding and a stay at the Redding Elk’s Lodge located on the Sacramento River.  It was still Fall and Redding was putting on a very colorful show. 

 

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The River Walk in Redding

 

From Redding, it was only a three-hour drive to Sacramento. Ralph is still with me and we were lucky enough to stay at my book club friend’s ranchette in Wilton.  This gave me a chance to take care of some health appointments, get my hair done, and go up to Saint Helena to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends.  The friends that hosted Thanksgiving were in the Santa Rosa fire area.  It’s a miracle their home and animals survived the fire when everything around them was destroyed.  There was plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

 

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The view from the rig in Wilton

 

While in Wilton I was able to get together with my bookies (book club girls), whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. It was actually great to be back in Sacramento and see friends.

Monterey

Soon it was time to leave the Sacramento area and drive the three hours to Monterey.  Again, I stayed at the Monterey Elk’s Lodge.  This was a great location from which to explore the area and go to the Monterey Bay aquarium.  As luck would have it, friends Mick and Deb, who are also full timing, were in the area and we were able to spend some quality time together.  We attended the boat parade and the Monterey Bay aquarium.  I hadn’t been to the aquarium since my stepdaughter, Stephanie,

was about 12 years old.  That was many years ago.  I loved it then and I love it now.  It is truly a remarkable aquarium.  After visiting the aquarium, we had a delicious dinner on the wharf.  This short video is the aquarium in motion.

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Lover’s Point

 

Next stop was Pismo Beach and this time the Elk’s lodge was within walking distance to the beach.  I’ve always loved the central coast and was happy to be exploring the area.  I visited a loofa farm, downtown San Luis Obispo, and of course, spent time on the beach.

 

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Pismo before the smoke came
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Pismo after the smoke moved in
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A slightly smokey sunset

 

Did you know that loofas grow on plants?  I did not.  That is until I took a tour of the loofa farm!  A loofa starts out as a gourd.  What we recognize as a loofa is actually the inside of the dried gourd.

While in Pismo Beach the smoke from the fires in Los Angeles intruded.  I certainly had my share of smoke in the Summer and Fall.  First in Montana, then Idaho, then California.

Have you ever visited the gum wall in SLO?  I have!  Yuck!

 

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Yes!  That’s all chewed gum!

 

After Pismo Beach we headed to Desert Hot Springs for a week at Sam’s Family Spa.  We took full advantage of the hot water spa.  I drove into Palm Springs a few times to check it out.  We also took a short hike that led to an overlook of Palm Springs and right beneath Bob Hope’s house. 

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So proud of the use of renewable energy in California!  Wind and solar here in Palm Springs.

 

 

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Bob Hope’s house inn Palm Springs

 

After our week in Desert Hot Springs we drove further south to Borrego Springs where we would spend Christmas and New Year’s boondocking in the desert with our friends Mick and Deb.  We visited Borrego Springs a few years ago and it was nice to return to the area.  This time I did a little more exploring, hiking, and discovering desert art. 

 

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Christmas Dinner in the desert

 

 

 

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Christmas in Borrego Springs
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Christmas selfie…Deb was sick.
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Freddy, my little desert hunter
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The boys…just hangin!
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A little hike up and over the hill to discover the desert rock art.

 

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And no trip to the desert is complete without a Roadrunner spotting!

 

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Ricardo Breceda large metal sculptures – 130 of them in the Borrego Springs area

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This one crosses the road!

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Hiking to the palm canyon

 

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Slot Canyon Hiking

 

 

We stayed in Borrego springs until it was time to head to Quartzsite, Arizona for the big RV rally.  Several friends from Sacramento met us in Quartzsite. Stay tuned…

 

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This never gets old!

 

 

Portland, Sutherlin and Medford Oregon

I know it’s been awhile since my last post.  I’ve been very busy, but I’ll try to catch up.

It took two hours to drive to the Vancouver/Portland area  and the Elks Lodge.  The lodge is located right next to I205 and it was like sleeping on the side of the freeway.  It was the most noise I’ve experienced to date.  I chose this Elks Lodge because it was close to my friend’s house.

It was almost a near miss with my friend and fellow Michigander, Debbie, however, it did work out that we could spend the week together.

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Debbie and I at dinner

 We attended the Pompeii Exhibit, a Humane Society fundraiser and took in a movie.  It was great to spend girlfriend time with a dear friend that I don’t get to see very often.

The Pompeii exhibit was so interesting.  I knew that Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano eruption, but that was about it.  Here’s what I learned.

In 79 AD Pompeii was a commercial port and strategic military and trading city. Forgotten after  Mt Vesuvius erupted, the city was rediscovered about 250 years ago.  The exhibit features around 200 artifacts including frescoes, mosaics and precious items belonging to the citizens of Pompeii. The items were well preserved under the volcanic ash.  It was humbling to see ash body forms left behind as the volcano instantly covered everything in its path.  Check out some of the photos. 

I also visited the Pendleton Factory and took the tour.  I was a Clothing and Textiles major at Cass Tech so I found this extremely interesting.

Deb was off to Japan and I moved down I5 to the Escapees park in Sutherlin to wait for Ralph to drive up from Sacramento.  He sold his house and wants to buy a house in the Roseburg, Grants Pass or Medford area.  It was a nice, quiet two weeks in Sutherlin enjoying the area and the brilliant fall colors. I got a daily visit by jack rabbits and turkeys. 

While in Sutherlin I drove to the coast and visited Winchester and the Oregon Dunes State Park. I had been to both when we toured the Oregon Coast three years ago. It was a clear, sunny, warm day and I always love it when I have a chance to spend time by the ocean.

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You can actually drive on the beach.

I drove north about 60 miles to Eugene for the Saturday Market.  Eugene is a collage town with a great vibe.  Hills and many trees with brilliant falls colors surrounded Eugene.  I also visited the Cascades Raptor Center, a nature center and raptor rehabilitation center.  The center is definitely worth a visit!

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Eagle
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Ever seen a Turkey Vulture up close?
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Looks like a happy little owl!

Once Ralph arrived, we looked around the Roseburg area.  Roseburg is a small town on I5 surrounded by hills, rivers and farmland.  The Melrose wine region has surprisingly good wine. And there are many covered bridges in southern Oregon.

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Ralph didn’t find a house on this trip so we headed further south on I5 to the Rouge River State Park.  It was the perfect spot from which to check out Grant’s Pass, Eagle Point and Medford and the house search continued.

Ralph and I have friends that moved to the Medford area.  I was able to see two long-time friends Mary Joe and Alana, both Bay Area women I met when I first moved to California in 1979. Love spending time with my girls! 

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The newest Furtah, Eloise, with my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren

Since Ralph didn’t find a house, I invited Ralph to join me as I moved my way south through California.

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It was great to experience Fall in Oregon!