7/5 Thursday

We checked out of the motel in Durango and headed downtown to look around the shops. Around 11:30, we left Durango and headed to Albuquerque. We stopped at a Subway for lunch along the way.

We arrived in Albuquerque around 3:30 and headed for the Sandia Mountain Tram. At 2.5 miles, it is the longest aerial tram in the world. It lifts travelers over 4000 feet into the air to Sandia Peak to a total height of around 10,400 feet.

Unfortunately, is was shut down due to bad weather. So we decided to try it later after a trip to the Petroglyphs National Monument.

After a short visit with the petroglyphs, we checked in to our motel, and headed back to the tram since the weather was looking better. This time, it was running, so we caught a 5:45 ride up the mountain.

After a brief look around, we went on a hike to the north along the crest trail. We stopped at the Kiwanis house for some pictures. This is a stone room build by the CCC in the 1920’s as a rest stop for hikers. After that we continued north to the next scenic overlook. Then we headed back south to find some supper. The total hike was about 4 miles.

When we returned to the tram area, we made a reservation for the High Finance Restaurant that is connected to the tram landing. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. The service was very slow, but with views like that from the
top of the mountain, who cares. The food was good, but perhaps a little overpriced.

After a good meal we headed to the tram stop. So had a lot of other people, so we had to wait about 45 minutes to catch the last tram down the mountain.

We got back to the motel about 11:15 p.m. after a great evening.

7/4 Wednesday

After breakfast at the motel, we headed north on the San Juan Skyway toward Silverton. We stopped at the trailhead for the Pass Creek Trail to Engineer Mountain just past the ??? Rest Stop.

We had read that this was a great summer hike bacause it leads to a meadow that has a lot of flowers in bloom in July and August. The trail started at about 11,000 feet. We began at 10:45 a.m. After 2.5 miles, at about 12,000 feet, we came to what the locals call “the big rock.” We at our packed lunch there. There were some light sprinkles and some lightning on the other side of Engineer Mountain, so we watched the weather very closely. After things cleared up a bit, we continued up the mountain to the first major landing after the big rock. The trail was steep at that point, and there was also a lot of snow/slush to make things more difficult. The weather was still looking iffey, so we turned back at that point.

The meadow was spectacular with the flowers, and the view from the meadow and further up the mountain was also great. It was really a good hike. We went about 6 miles roundtrip and up about 1500 feet.

After the hike, we continued north through Silverton and up to Ouray. The skyway going into Ouray is really spectacular. We stopped in Ouray for a snack, and returned to Durango around 6:00 p.m.

We cleaned up from the hike, and headed to downtown for supper and fireworks. We ate at the Tanqueria right on Main Avenue. It was a very festive place with good service and good food. After that, we shopped at the few shops that were open on the holiday, and headed to the area to view the fireworks.

The fireworks lasted about 35 minutes. It was a pretty good show.

Then we returned to the motel around 10:00 p.m.

7/3 Tuesday

We checkout out of our Cortez, Co motel and headed to Mesa Verde NP early in order to be at the Visitors’ Center by 8:00 a.m. when they opened. We got tickets for the tours at Balcony Place and Cliff Palace. After viewing the intro movie at the Museum, we did Balcony Place at 9:00. Then we visited several of the self guided sites on Chapin Mesa. We had a picnic lunch near the Museum and continued from there to visit more of the sites.

The heat was extreme, and we were running out of motiviation to continue visiting sites, so we went back to the museum to look at the exhibits and the Spruce Tree House until our 4:00 p.m. tour of Cliff Palace.

After the Cliff Palace tour, we headed to Durango. We checked in to our motel, then went to the downtown section for supper. We ate at Steamboats Brewery and returned to the motel.

7/2 Monday

We went on a 3.5 hour tour of Monument Valley beginning at 9:00 a.m. In addition to the main monuments, the tour also visited several restricted areas farther into the Navajo reservation.

Being in Monument Valley in person is quite different than seeing the buttes and mesas in a TV commercial or an old western movie. The feeling created by the size and stature of the monuments is quite humbling.  After the tour, we headed to Four Corners via Kayenta, where we ate lunch at Golden Sands Cafe. Once at the Four Corners Monument, we did the usual tourist thing where someone stands in all four states simultaneously while another takes a picture. We also visited several of the Navajo merchants that surround the monument. So we got to shop in four states, also.

We arrived in Cortez, CO, around 4:30. After checking in at the motel, we went the vistors’ center for information. In addition to information about Mesa Verde NP, they pointed us to the Cortez Cultural Center for some night activities.

So, after supper at the Dry Dock, we headed there. There was an hour-long program of Navajo dance, followed by an hour-long talk by one of the surviving Navajo code talkers from World War II. Both programs were very interesting.

7/1 Sunday

After checking out of the motel, we went to the Vistor’s Center at Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is the least visited national park in Utah. We decided to do the most popular trail in the park, the Hickman Bridge Trail, which was 2 miles round trip. After that, we did the scenic drive of the park which was cool. Then we looked at some petroglyphs in the rocks.

We got lunch in Hanksville at Blondies. We got gas at a gas station there too. The gas station was built into a rock. Then we went to Natural Bridge National Monument. It had 3 natural bridges in it. We hiked down to 2 of them and saw the 3rd one from the overlook. The trails were neat and different.  One had a ladder on it made from tree limbs.
We continued our trip to Monument Valley. We checked in and ate super at the restaurant in our motel. We both got Navajo tacos. Dad ate just about all of his but I didn’t eat all of mine. We watched an introduction movie to Monument Valley. It wasn’t really that good. It was mostly pics but not alot of words. I was expecting more information from it.

After that we drove around to watch the sunset and take pics. Then back to the motel.

6/30 Saturday

We went on a one-hour scenic rim tour on horseback at 9:00 a.m.. The stable was right across the street from Ruby’s Inn, so that was convenient. It was an easy ride, but served as a good introduction to riding for Teagan, and a refresher for Richard (who hadn’t been on a horse in about 50 years).

We checked out of the motel around 11:00 and headed to Escalante to stop at the Visitor’s Center for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We got some hiking information from the center. Then we ate lunch at a diner in Escalante.

Next we went to Devil’s Garden. It is located 15 miles along a dirt/gravel road out of Escalante. It had lots hoodoos that we could hike to and explore.

We returned to Scenic Byway 12 and headed to Calf Creek Falls Trail. The trail was 3 miles each way to a 100+ foot waterfall. The trail went through a beautiful canyon carved out by the creek. The trail was very sandy, so he hiking was difficult. We started the hike at 3:15 p.m. It took us 90 minutes to get to the fall. It was cooler when we returned, which took us 70 minutes.

Next, we went to Boulder and took Burr Trail Road into GSENM. After 11 miles, there was a slot canyon we explored. Then we returned to Boulder for supper at Boulder Mesa Cafe.

After supper, we continued along Highway 12 until we got to Torrey, where we spent the night.

6/29 Friday

We left Springdale around 8:00 a.m. to head to Bryce Canyon. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center for information and an intro movie. Around 11:00, we started our first hike. Beginning at Sunset Point, we took the Navajo Trail to the Queen’s Garden Trail and returned to Sunset Point along the Rim Trail. The Navajo Loop was partly closed due to a recent slide near Wall Street. Being able to get down near the hoodoos was really neat. We really saw up close how erosion has created some of natures strangest geological features.

After that hike, we ate lunch in the nearby picnic grounds, and then drove to Inspiration Point for a 2:00 p.m. ranger talk geology. After that, we drove to the south end of the park. The view from the south end was amazing. We could see over 100 miles away. We could see distant features like Navajo Mountain, the White Cliffs, and the Vermilion Cliffs.

We drove back to Ruby’s Motel and checked in. Then we went to the north end of the park for a hike to Mossy Cave and a waterfall. Then back to Sunset Point to see how the sunset was shaping up. After we took some pictures of the hoodoos with the warm light from the low sun, we decided the sunset wouldn’t be that interesting there, so we checked out the gift shop at Bryce Lodge and also at Ruby’s. We returned to Sunset Point to see the full moon and take more pictures, then back to the motel.

6/28 Thursday

We got up early to get started on a full day of hiking. After parking at the Visitor’s Center in Zion we took the shuttle to the Dripping Springs stop. From there, we took the trail to Hidden Canyon. This was a moderate hike, but it had a neat ledge we had to walk along near the top.

The maintained trail ends in Hidden Canyon about 800 feet above the main canyon floor. From there, we continued on into Hidden Canyon, but scrambling and rock climbing skills were required to get very far. The situation was made more difficult by the slick rock and loose sand. After a couple of difficult obstacles, we turned back.

On the way back to the Visitor’s Center on the shuttle, we stopped to take pictures at the Court of the Patriarchs. From the Visitor’s Center, we drove toward the east entrance to do the Canyon Overlook Trail. This was an easy trail that lead to a great view of the canyon that comes into the park from the east.

After the hike, we returned to Springdale to pick up lunch from a deli and return to the motel. After a rest, we drove up the the west part of Zion off I-15 to Kolob Canyon. We did the 5-mile scenic drive, stopping for pictures. We would have hiked some trails, but we wanted to return to the main Zion canyon to do the Angel’s Landing hike.

After parking the car and taking the shuttle to the Grotto stop, we began our hike around 6:00 p.m. The first two miles of the trail was pretty standard canyon hiking along switchbacks to ascend quickly. There was also a level part of the hike into a nice side canyon (Refrigerator Canyon). After the very steep second set of switchbacks (Walter’s Wriggles), we got to see why this hike is one of the most famous in the National Park System. A narrow fin of rocks is all that connects the landing to the main canyon wall. Rock cairns and chains are in place to use as needed. The fin itself slopes down on each side. Falling one way will land you about 1200 feet down on the canyon floor, the other about 800 feet down in Refrigerator Canyon. Best to stay in the middle along the fin. The final ascent to the landing required use of all four limbs, and felt more like rock climbing than hiking, but Teagan loved it. Richard was somewhat less enthusiastic.

Once atop the landing, the view was simply spectacular. We got a nearly 360 degree view of Zion Canyon that was awe inspiring. We stayed there at least 30 minutes soaking up the view.

We left the landing around 9:00 p.m. to return down. There was plenty of twilight to traverse the fin, but once we got past that we used a flashlight for safety. We arrived at the Grotto shuttle stop at 10:00 p.m. to await the shuttle.

By the time we got a shuttle and drove back to Springdale, it was after 11:00. The only place open in town was the Bit and Spur Saloon. Luckily, they were still serving food, so we were able to get something to eat.

6/27 Wednesday

We left the motel in Page around 7:30 a.m. On the way out of town, we stopped at a dam overlook to try to see the Glen Canyon Dam. After a short hike to the edge of the overlook, we got a pretty good view of the two different water levels. Teagan took some pictures.

We proceeded through Kanab on to the Zion Nation Park east entrance. We parked in the visitors center and looked at the exhibits. Then we caught the shuttle to the history museum to watch an introductory film. It was pretty good.

We decided to head into Springdale to check-in and find lunch. We ate at Sol’s. We both got falafel’s which were ok, but not great.

Then we went back to the park to do some hiking. We rode the shuttle to the Grotto stop and picked up the Kayenta trail headed toward the Emerald Pool trails. We explored the middle and lower pool trails and headed to the lodge. From there, we went to the Weeping Rock Trail which led to a nice dripping area.

Then we took the shuttle to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava and did the Riverside Walk all the way to the end of the paved trail.

We took the shuttle back to the Big Bend stop. We got off there to take a picture of the Great White Throne. Then back on the shuttle to exit at Canyon Junction for a walk on the Pa’rus Trail back to the Visitor’s Center.

We stopped at the Spotted Dog Cafe on the way back to the motel for supper.