Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Brenda
Valley of the Gods is a scenic road through the backcountry of southeastern Utah, near Bluff. It’s a 17 mile long dirt and gravel road that winds it’s way through the valley.
Reading the reviews for the Valley of the Gods roadway, people were saying that they drove it without an issue in their sedans. So surely we could drive it without an issue in our Saturn Outlook SUV.
OK…now having driven through Valley of the Gods in our SUV, I can honestly say that the people that have driven through there in their sedans were nuts. A vehicle with a high clearance is recommended and 4×4 is preferred. While we did OK, we are by no means considered high clearance. And yes, we did scrape the bottom of our vehicle a few times.
The road is sandy and bumpy with steep inclines/declines to be thrown in for more fun. There was one point where we approached a very sandy wash that had been pretty much washed out and in order to cross it I had to get out and guide David’s tires along the one path where he wouldn’t sink into the fine powdery sand.
We just kept commenting on how expensive it would be to have a tow truck come out and pull us out of the sand. You are after all, out in the middle of nowhere.
We did have fun though despite the nail biting once in a while. It would have been more fun to do this trail in a Jeep or some other type of off-road vehicle.
Hardly anyone else was around, I think we saw a total of half a dozen cars the entire time we drove the 17-mile road, which was very peaceful. There are plenty of places to pull over and stretch your legs and go for a hike. They even offer tent camping in some areas.
David took some opportunities to fly the quadcopter and get some nice aerial shots of the area.
While it wasn’t the best looking day being overcast and kind of gloomy, he managed to get some great video.
We were warned that flash flooding can occur at any point. Even if the rain is miles away, you could get trapped in this area with water fast filling the washes until it clears out again. It’s best to watch the sky and forecast and go when you know it’s clear. We had no rain when we went, however, towards the end we did see some rain in the distance.
It took a few hours to drive the 17-mile stretch road. So keep that in mind when planning your day.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are traveling this route is you are really close to Goosenecks State Park. This is a great little state park with some awe-inspiring views. So make sure you give yourself some time to make this short detour.
It’s a small state park with a self pay kiosk of only $2 bucks a vehicle. There’s not much else to do in this park but look at the magnificent views and the San Juan River, which carved it’s way through the desert at over 1000 feet below.
I would not recommend driving to it in a big rig, however, it could be done. You would just have to take your time as the road in and out is windy. There should be plenty of room to turn around only if the parking area is not full. The parking area is gravel, however the road in and out is paved. When we were there, there were a few people. It’s not a very popular state park I would imagine, as there are no hiking or biking trails.
It was worth the quick stop since we were in the area for Valley of the Gods and you drive right past the street that goes into the park.
All in all it was a great day of scenic overlooks and drives. Make sure you have plenty of water for both locations, as there is no shade.
You are in the Utah desert after all.
Here is a quick video David made with some low speed flying and high aerial views…
Posted on October 18th, 2014 by Brenda
On our way out of Cortez, Colorado and into Utah we took the southern route, route 160 to 162 into Utah. When one does this you pass through the Ute Indian Reservation, ending up on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Close by is a very interesting monument.
There really is nothing out there but this monument. The road is totally open and easily drivable with a big rig.
The monument itself is called Four Corners Monument. You may have heard of it. It happens to be the only place where four states intersect at one point. Pretty interesting and since it was only 5 miles or so off our route, we chose to check it out.
Well, it’s exactly like we had thought. Looking at the pictures online and now in person, it really is just a plaque in the middle of a granite pathway where the four corners join together.
So here’s my question. Looking at Google Maps and the Four Corners Monument, it looks like the actual plaque depicting where the four corners meet is wrong. So, is Google Maps wrong or was the monument plaque built slightly off?
It’s actually not a new question. Looking at the Navajo Nation website, the four corners and where they actually meet up have been disputed for over 100 years. According to their measure, the monument is anywhere from 1,800 feet to 2.5 miles off. According to the Director of the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, the current plaque/marker is correct according to the law that was in effect at the time of the surveys, back in the 1860s. The Four Corners Monument was first surveyed by E. N. Darling in 1868. Darling’s location was marked by a sandstone marker.
In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.
So I guess we’ll take this monument as a true placement of the four corners.
Here’s our video flyover of the Four Corners Monument with a really cool ending. (At least we think so.)
When we left the four corners we headed to Bluff, Utah. What’s in Bluff, Utah you ask? Well, with a town of around 200 people, we weren’t expecting much. There actually was much more than we thought to this sleepy little town.
We stayed at the Cadillac Ranch RV Park, which was right in town. It was totally big rig friendly and the Wi-Fi worked wonderfully, surprisingly enough. Seeing that Bluff is pretty out there and there’s not much surrounding it, we did not have high hopes for Wi-Fi. We actually had better wifi than some larger, more modern rv parks we’ve been to.
I chose Bluff, Utah because it made for a nice base camp for exploring some of the southeastern area of Utah.
Here is a quick video of the Cadillac Ranch RV Park
One of the things we did not know was in Bluff was a nice museum called Fort Bluff. Located just across the street from the rv park, it was actually a really well done museum.
Bluff was the first Anglo settlement in southeast Utah. Settled by Mormon pioneers seeking to establish a mission on the San Juan River in 1880, the museum has a great display of the early settlement and their struggles.
It depicts how the settlers had carved out the route through the Hole-In-The-Rock, expecting the journey to take 6 weeks; it actually took over 6 months. Historians consider the Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition one of the most extraordinary wagon trips ever undertaken in North America and a fine example of pioneer spirit. Many sections of the trail were almost impassable. To allow wagon passage, the men spent 6 weeks blasting and chiseling a path through a narrow 1,200 foot drop in the sandstone cliffs known as the Hole-in-the-Rock, which is still visible at Lake Powell today. As a matter of fact, you can drive part of the Hole-In-The-Rock route that the early pioneers carved out.
What amazed us most about this journey the early pioneers had established was that in that entire time, there was no loss of life.
Protected by a secondary rooftop, the original Barton Cabin may still be seen at the Fort.
A memorial wall has been erected to honor those pioneers that first made that arduous trip across the state and established the town of Bluff.
I highly encourage anyone in the area to visit this museum. It’s actually free of charge, donations accepted, and you gain a lot of knowledge about the area. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.
Another feature of Bluff, Utah is the Navajo Twin Rocks. Shadowing the Twin Rocks Cafe and Trading Post, these rock formations symbolize the Navajo Twins of the Navajo creation tradition. The cafe and trading post are nothing special in our minds. Just a touristy place to shop and eat. Of course we tried the cafe and it was average. Nothing spectacular. Then again, you’re in Bluff. This cafe is really the only place around.
Bluff, Utah really surprised us with all there was to do around the area. In another blog post we’ll get into some of the spectacular drives around the area.
Posted on October 14th, 2014 by Brenda
The San Juan Mountains in Colorado are just gorgeous in the fall. The roads are big rig friendly but you do have a slower drive with the elevation and the sharp curves. It’s very doable though.
However, I would not want to drive these roads when theirs bad rain or snow. So I would recommend checking the mountain weather before you start off on your trek.
The San Juan Mountains are home to many cute, popular and historical towns such as Telluride, Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. We did not however get a chance to visit any of these. We have to leave something to do next time we’re in the area after all.
We stayed at the Mesa Verde RV Park near the Mesa Verde National Park. A great place to explore the area. Really long pull throughs. Nice views. Their Wifi worked for us but not our friends. It really depends on where in the park you are located. Verizon worked ok with our booster. We’d stay here again.
We had some awesomely dark nights and our friends we were traveling with broke out their camera and gear to take some great shots of the night sky.
Almost every night was this spectacular.
We had some real fun taking these pictures.
Thanks Jay and Joanne for these!
There is a main tour that you can take with a Park Ranger where they take you through the dwellings. They have some good stories of how these various rooms, they believe, have been used. According to the National Park Service, these cliff dwellings are some of the most notable and best preserved in the North American Continent.
It really is amazing to think that the Ancestral Puebloans climbed up to these locations and made these cliffs home.
While here, our friends Jay and Joanne invited us to their Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish New Year celebration, which this year fell on September 24th (yes, we’re a little behind in our blog postings). It’s a two-day celebration, which begins the first day of Tishrei, which is the first day of the civil year and the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year in the Hebrew calendar.
They had a wonderful dinner planned. Starting at sundown with the lighting of the candles and a prayer. You then start off with apples dipped in honey, which signifies a sweet New Year.
While traveling around we encounter many different cultures and traditions. Whether the traditions are religious or just something passed down from generation to generation, it’s always interesting to experience first hand. That’s one of the reasons we travel. It was a great dinner and we appreciate our friends including us in on this celebration and experience.
While here we also drove to Durango, Colorado for a day trip.
Durango was much bigger and much more congested than we were expecting. We did enjoy walking around the main historical main street area.
I have to admit though; the best part that we found about Durango was the Durango Diner. This is truly a gem in the heart of the historical main street area. Established in 1965 it still has the 1965 charm and original countertop. We were lucky enough to find them early enough as they close at 2pm. Serving breakfast all day, we ordered an omelet and one blueberry pancake, which they are known for, and shared both.
Boy…were they good.
So we’ve been touring all over this area and we have seen a lot. However, there is so much to do and see in this area, looking back, I feel like we’ve hardly touched the surface. Next time around we’ll definitely have to make it up to the mountain towns.
As mentioned, we stayed at the Mesa Verde RV Resort. Here is a video David did for them…
Posted on October 8th, 2014 by Brenda
Montrose, Colorado is considered the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Montrose and the KOA that we stayed at made for a nice stop for a few days to explore the area and the National Park. The KOA that we stayed at was one of the better ones that we’ve seen. It had nice long pull throughs, plenty of room for our 45 foot motor home and our tow behind and nice grass between the sites. The very bright rainbow that appeared one evening made for some nice photo ops.
The National Park was just a short drive up the road which made it very convenient.
The “Black” in Black Canyon gets it’s name because it’s so deep, so sheer and so narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it.
Fun Fact: According to the NPS info, in just 48 miles in the Black Canyon the Gunnison River loses more elevation than the 1500 mile Mississippi River does from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The power of the fast falling enables the river to erode tough rock.
The river drops an average of 96 feet per mile in the National Park. It drops 480 feet in one 2 mile stretch. Fast, debris-laden water carving hard rock made the canyon walls so deep.
We had a great day for hiking this area. We took the South Rim Road from the Visitor’s Center that takes you along the rim, winding up to an elevation of over 8200 feet. There are many over look areas and areas you can get out and hike to various points of interest. Some you can even rappel down to the water if that’s your thing. That’s a little too much for me though.
It was such a nice day that David got his Quadcoptor out and did some flying. Not much though as the wind picked up and as you can imagine, between the higher elevation and the wind tearing up the cliff walls, that can make for some hard flying. The elevation plays a factor as it makes it more difficult to get lift, thinner air and all. The motors are working harder as well and therefore the batteries do not last as long. So you must really watch your time that you spend in the air.
David did manage to capture some nice video footage despite the wind.
You also have the issue of the deep canyons, for if your battery start to run low, the programming on the quadcoptor tells it to start to slowly descend to land. If over a canyon at that time, it’s over. So short flights and a constant eye on power is and was a must. There was so much more we would have loved to fly but could not risk it.
So if you find yourself in this area of Colorado, Montrose and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are worth the stop.
All in all, we hope you enjoy this wonderful view of the Black Canyon National Park with a hello to those we met on the trails.