Thursday, September 24, 2020

Palisade, CO: Colorado National Monument

 Well, "hay" there, minions!  We're coming at ya from Palisade, in the Grand Valley of Western Colorado.

Palisade is part of the Palisade/Grand Junction/Fruita trifecta of quintessential Colorado cities, with wide open views, outdoor recreation galore, and more wineries that you can shake a grape at:  more than a quarter of the state's wineries are here! 

The landscape here is littered with darling little fruit stands, this being a peachy place for peach orchards.  

The Palisade Basecamp campground is hard not to like, given its natural setting, as well as its convenient location.  

Next door, a marijuana dispensary.  That's right, the "Happy Camper" dispensary is next door to a campground!  That's pure marketing gold, regardless of how you feel about marijuana!

Next door to the other side, Colterris Vineyards, one of the nicest wineries in town, offers tasting flights of 100% locally-produced wines amongst the vines. 

Perhaps this winery was a little too wonderful, as I don't remember much of the 2nd half of the day. 

Above: 2020, Palisade, Colorado. Below: 2018, Monteforialle, Italy.

Apparently "the hills are alive" after heavy wine tasting, no matter where I am, amiright Julie Andrews?

One night, Colterris hosted a live concert with an Eagles tribute band.  We had the best seat in the house ... at our RV!  We could hear the music easily with the winery being right next door.  

 

Our primary reason for the stay in Palisade was to see the gorgeous nearby Colorado National Monument.


The Rim Rock Drive is 33 twisty, turny miles with multiple pullouts and scenic viewpoints.  



Colorado literally means "colored red," and you're immediately reminded of that seeing the red-rock monoliths and canyons.


Though there are some hiking trails throughout, it is certainly the kind of place where you can enjoy a "windshield tour" and not even have to feel guilty about it.


Many hardy souls take on Rim Rock Drive, a trophy ride for roadies, on two wheels.  This is not for the faint of heart, or the out of shape ... you'll be going up and down huge elevation changes throughout!


Popular viewpoints include Independence Monument, the largest free-standing rock formation in the park at 450 feet high.


The Coke Ovens, named for their resemblance to the man-made structures used to produce clean-burning fuel from coal of the same name (not the ubiquitous drug of the 70's), are very unusual formations.


The roads in Colorado National Monument resemble this trip so far ... many unexpected twists and turns (Covid closures, snow in September, wildfire smoke rerouting the entire last month of the trip), but around every new bend ... unexpected delights!


Up next: heading into Utah for the final three weeks of this trip! Expect many other natural treasures ahead, including Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Grand Escalante National Monument, and so much more!  Thanks for touring along!


Friday, September 18, 2020

Flaming Gorge, UT: Pivoting Away from California's Wildfires

A quickly revised travel plan sent us through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, with its immense watery playground, candy-colored cliffs, towering 1,000 foot walls, and non-existent crowds.

But before that, we were in Island Park, Idaho, just a few miles from the state lines of both Montana and Wyoming.  Perhaps you're noticing the jacket, scarf, and goosebumps ... 

... as an unseasonal snowstorm brought out the icicles in all of us!


Our last week in Idaho was filled with indecision ... should we stay, or should we go?  To California, that is.  Our long-planned itinerary had us pointed in the direction of the worst wildfires in history for the second month of this trip.  

  The smoke map sealed the deal ... southern Utah was looking better by the minute.   Shortly thereafter, the California cancellations starting pouring in.  South Lake Tahoe -- campground closed.  Sequoia National Park -- hundreds of square miles scorched.  Kings Canyon National Park -- closed completely.  Good thing our home has wheels! 

Our favorite hike along the Henrys Fork Snake River, where the water color, river grasses, and algae combined to make a Monet watercolor painting.  (I point out in case my high school English teacher is reading this, that the proper spelling of Henrys does not include an apostrophe.)


Hawks swooped around us as we explored, no doubt eyeing Sprinkles as a tasty little snack.

We kayaked the Big Springs National Water Trail, but quickly realized (too late) that it was too fast-moving to be able to return upriver to our vehicle.  What to do??!! Oh well ... nothing we COULD do but decide to enjoy an easy 2.5 hour float and then hitchhike back to our car. 

Mesa Falls is an impressive set of waterfalls in the area.  The Upper Falls can be viewed via a series of multiple staircases.

The Lower Falls can be seen via a 2-mile hike and then a steep downhill trail.

The Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, about 15 miles away, had wolves, bears and otters just the way I like 'em ... safely contained.  Having run into bears in the wild, it is much more fun to admire them without fear of death. 


My favorite animal!!!!  Their playfulness is something to aspire to.
 

Make no mistake, this area is ranchin' country ... you can tell by the wide open views ....


...and also by the playground equipment!


Heading for Utah, we overnighted behind a convenience store in this Wyoming farm field, just long enough to catch the Arizona Cardinals on TV in their season opener.  Hey, we've got priorities!
Cardinals > Travel


Who needs tailgating, when you have RVgating?


Continuing onward, Flaming Gorge is half in southern Wyoming, half in northern Utah, and completely in the middle of nowhere.



It was named in 1869 by the famous explorer John Wesley Powell, who wrote in his diary, "...a brilliant red gorge is seen ... we have named in Flaming Gorge."


Flaming Gorge is NOT, I repeat not, named for the truck that was on fire as we rounded the corner on one of the high mountain passes leading to the rim of the gorge.  Yikes!

 
Long and narrow, this lake is 91 miles in total with multiple drive-in and boat-in campgrounds, and some of the best trout fishing in the country.  They estimate there are 15,000 trout per river mile here!



We wanted to rent a pontoon boat to do some sightseeing.  They told us, just go to the dinosaur in the rowboat.  Ummmmm .... excuse me?  Did you just say to go to a dinosaur in a rowboat?


Yep, that's the marina office.  You can boat from Lucerne Valley Marina to the Cedar Springs Marina and back (only about 13 miles of the 91 total) in about 5 hours.


You can tell that there is a LOT of water to enjoy here by the tiny white boat in the super-wide river below.  With all the twists and turns and spurs to explore, this place is a nautical dream come true!
 

Not naming names, but a certain somebody didn't enjoy much scenery, snoozing away on the deck for the majority of the trip.  Of course, she woke up when the picnic lunch came out!



A large herd of pronghorn antelope (probably 200 or more) live in the campground and saunter throughout at all hours, winding their way through the trailers and RV's, driving Sprinkles crazy.



Wildfire smoke has made the area a little hazy, but given conditions elsewhere in the West, we certainly can't complain.  


Flaming Gorge has been "gorge-ous" (get it?), but we are continuing south to Utah on our hastily devised new route. Rollin', rollin', rollin' ... there are more adventures to be had, wildfires or not!