Monday, November 30, 2015

Sand Dunes #2

This one has been the front page picture on my iPad ever since...


The next morning, James and I climbed the nearest dune peak.
The wind had done a good job of smoothing out all the footprints of the day before, and ours were the first footsteps of the day.

Back to the lodge for a traditional US-stylee breakfast (pancakes etc), and we were back in Boulder that afternoon.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sand Dunes

Last stop on our tour was somewhere we have managed to not visit on several occasions, due to it being a bit out of the way: Great Sand Dunes National Park. We arrived in the afternoon and stayed at the nearby lodge, which was excellent with lovely views of the dunes.


The existence of the dunes is very interesting; a source of sand in the hills, plus wind blowing and water flowing in the right directions. One might wonder why there are not more dunes about, but these seem to be the only ones in the vicinity, apart, of course, from the ancient ones like those we saw at Canyonlands.

It was fairly quiet and there was no evening meal available at the lodge, but the rooms had microwave cookers, so we had shopped in a supermarket along the way. Before dinner, we went to have a closer look at the dunes.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015


After Hovenweep, we crossed over into Colorado and headed up a dirt road out of Durango. There in a patch of trees live two people I'd never met: the sister of a friend of mine from Japan and her husband. In earlier posts I might accidentally have been a bit impolite about some Americans. Actually I think they are a more evolved life form.  My friend, Audrey, had often times told me of her sister (Wendy) in Durango and suggested we visit. Being a straightforward kind of a person, I can't tell if these kind of invitations are serious, but Audrey is a lovely person, so I decided to take her up on the offer of her sister's hospitality! And they were indeed amazingly generous. It was actually my friends's sister's husband (Rob) who did more of the hospitality as he was not working that day. The couple had built their house 20 odd years ago using the proper American method of buying a patch of forest and reconfiguring the trees therein into a log cabin.

1 over cabin dcabin-1

It only took them 3 years. Wow. People like this in the UK get television programmes done about them! After a comfortable night in the cabin, Rob took us on a delightful tour of Durango. 

Next stop was the million dollar highway and Ouray. Ouray is another very cute town. But instead of more pix of buildings, here are some nice mountains. 

Continental Divide

The first is the high point of the highway before Ouray (the "conninennal divide"), and the second is the view from the top of the Box Canyon Falls in Ouray.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dustville #2

Sorry for the gap in the holiday snaps. I had to do some other writing - of a scientific kind. Just when we were getting to the best bit of nothingness, too...

After touristy Bryce we enjoyed Utah scenic byway 12 which is not only scenic but also passes by the best named National Monument of all - "Grand Staircase-Escalante". However, the camera was tired from Bryce. After some pizza the car was set to cruise control, destination Dustville#2  Hanksville.

Hanksville (population 215) is quite the metropolis. It is so important that, when you're 50 miles away, it is still the only place on the road signs. Like Dustville#1 (Dinosaur), it has very few facilities, but the difference is that twice as many of them are open and they are also clean. I might be wrong, but it seemed a bit like all the open and clean places might have been under the same ownership. Suspect it's just one big happy family...

Whispering sands motel, Hanksville.
Hanksville Motel

A day of being in the middle of nowhere called. First stop was Natural Bridges National Monument which was the only place in the trip where some jobsworth checked my ID along with my parks pass. Of course he couldn't resist making comments of the "you're not from round here are you?" type, and so I tried to frustrate him by telling him we were from Boulder. Pops is a kind and well-mannered gentleman and so gave the game away, but to his credit he did his bit by bamboozling the man with stories about his times living in Colorado in the 1960s. However, once that was over, Natural Bridges turned out to be quite nice. We made Pops walk down to give one of them a closer look. 

Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges

My delightful travelling companions after their strenuous walk.
My companions @ Natural Bridges

Vegetative patterns...

It was a Sunday. Scarred upon my mind is a memory from the end of the last century which involved failing to get any refreshment in a North Wales town on a cold and wet Sunday. We found out last year that North Wales has moved on but I feared Utah may have not. However, the Subway in the great Megalopolis of Blanding (population 3581) was open. Almost back in civilisation (Colorado) by now, we made one more diversion, and visited Hovenweep National Monument. This is Mesa Verde for those with their own imaginations. i.e. you don't get a guide and a big group of other tourists to get in your way, but instead can wander round wondering what life was like living in these places.

Better end with a question for the reader. Interesting masonry here - are the little stones in the mortar, structural, or decorative, or both?


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bryce Canyon

Arrived at Bryce Canyon to a cloudy afternoon, so decided to enjoy retail therapy at the inn, rather than visit the park for a non-existent sunset. We looked at cute trinkets for a while, wondering whether to buy a souvenir. Then I remembered having expressed regret that we bought such tiny ornaments while in Japan, as the ones we have disappear into the enormous house we have bought. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, and egged on by both Pops and James (a Yorkshireman and a Scot both trying to make me spend money is surely a sign of something!), I picked almost the largest brightly coloured enamel kokopelli we could find (not unlike this one). It is quite strange that such a large and bright thing can look merely elegant in sufficiently large, dark surroundings.

Next morning James and I visited Bryce for sunrise, and then picked up Pops after breakfast for a more extended tour.

pre-dawn at Bryce

Dawn at Bryce

Bryce Canyon

Aspen and a hole at Bryce

Flowers!!! at Bryce Canyon


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cedar Breaks

Unlike at RMNP no one made silly remarks about our attire at Cedar Breaks. This could have been because the scenery really is too spectacular to bother looking at people, but probably it was really because there were not many people there, and those that were there looked cold and like they wished they had our woolly jumpers, hats and windproof jackets. We even sparked up conversation with two cyclists. It looked like too much camping and high altitude had got the better of them, so James was curious to know what they had been up to. Cycling up hill for a very long time indeed seemed to be the answer.





Friday, October 23, 2015


After a regulation Moab cappuccino granola banana nut pancake breakfast, we visited the lower, south part, of Canyonlands. My dirt road driving non-abilities (and James reluctance to let me dent the rental car) stopped us visiting the actual Needles up close, but there was, nevertheless, some impressive geology.

In the visitor centres to these places there are fanciful hand-wavey tales of oceans going in and out, and things being uplifted and tilted and eroded. Note layers of white pillows which were once, apparently, sand dunes, interspersed with what was once, um, red mud stuffs.

I suppose we were there at the driest time of year. The signs indicated that the eroded hollows in the surface usually contain water.

Finally, the answer to one of life's great questions: meteorology + geology = art !


Thursday, October 22, 2015


Don't know how people survive without breakfast, but we didn't want to hang around waiting for service in the one open restaurant in Dustville Dinosaur. Next stop Moab is the opposite; very commercial with cappuccinos on every corner. It also badly needs a bypass, as it has a roaring road ripping it in two. It was quite hot for late September (low 90s F), so we spent the afternoon in the pool, and headed to Arches National Park for sunset.

James and a tree


The next morning we again left Pops in bed, and sprinted up to see Delicate Arch. I wasn't sure why it is such an icon of the region as it looks just another arch when portrayed pictorially. I think the answer is that it's not so much the arch itself as the location...
Delicate Arch panorama

But of course, I had a go at taking its portrait too. I can't decide which picture I like best, so here are two. It should have been better light at sunset, but Pops wouldn't have enjoyed the climb (he's robust, but still 85, you know! ;-) ).
Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Steamboats and Dinosaurs

Steamboat Springs, in Colorado is probably where people go skiing. There wasn't much snow about when we were there, so instead I enjoyed the hot springs at dawn. They were actually quite cool compared to Japanese hot springs, but they did include a nice swimming pool, which is not something I've ever encountered at an onsen. Other differences - the bathers were less naked but more more mixed sex. It was too expensive for both of us to enjoy this luxury so James went for a dawn run instead, upon which he met a family of moose. 

The Yampa river botanical gardens exceeded expectations, and were very colourful. 





After enjoying all this alive stuff we skipped over to Dinosaur National Monument (which spans Colorado and Utah) to admire the long dead. There is a very impressive wall of real dinosaur fossils and a trail to go hunting for more. The layers of rock are tilted by practically 90 degrees, which makes it very easy to travel through time and admire the different fossils. I don't understand dinosaur fossils. Usually, in the geologic record, something the size of Stego's thigh bone would represent quite a long period of time. But Stego's thigh bone can only actually represent an instant... so how does that work then?


Monday, October 19, 2015

Rocky Mountains

James says I must start blogging pix from our recent trip to the USA.

Day 1: RMNP

Rocky Mtns from Boulder
View of mtns from Boulder.

Bear Lake, RMNP
Took Pops for a walk round Bear Lake and ate lunch half way round. No chance of seeing any bears as there were so many people. Day was overcast, but pleasant nevertheless. Americans on a day out come across as really quite strange because they seem unable to walk past without making a personal comment about the most extraordinary small details in the person walking towards them - aren't they supposed to be admiring the views? I think it must be because of the gun culture. As you approach their alien fear kicks in and they instinctively check to see whether the gun you are carrying is bigger than the one they are carrying (that's just a sandwich in his hand, but maybe his gun is under his hat), and then comes the personal comment as a kind of cover-up. 

Aspen and mtn
Drove dutifully along trail ridge road admiring mtns and aspens. Onslaught of weird comments continued. One bloke, clearly panicked by James' knuckle duster of a wedding ring, asked James if it meant he was an engineer. Eh?! Others told me my camera was "real serious", but even so I managed to restrain myself from shooting them with it.


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