September 12, 2019 – Mesa Verde National Park

This morning we headed directly to the section of the park with the ruins. I forgot to mention yesterday that the drive itself is memorable. It is 23 climbing, winding, and high miles inside the park to get to them.

There were not many cars pulled over for the pit houses. I suppose people are just interested in the more famous cliff dwellings. I am gla we stopped. It had not occurred to me that ancient people also lived on top of the mesa, not just in the cliff alcoves. From the signs, we learned the time period and peoples that people used different house construction and could see how they advanced over time.

This shallow pit is the earliest. The Puebloans had learned to farm and lived in these home permanently, unlike their ancestors who followed the animal migrations for food. There were small villages in spots where the farming was good. You can tell their harvests were successful from the food-storage alcove at the back of this ruin.

The signboard gave me a better idea of what it was like. It reminds me of the houses we saw in Patrick Point a few weeks ago.

Whoa! Look at the mug the archeologists dug up. Those folks were just a bit too early for Starbucks.

The pit house ruins were covered under roofs with sliding covers for the windows. I guess they will be preserved for a long time. This one had three phases of improvements in home design.

This house was built deeper into the ground for better insulation from the bitter winters. It had a vent (I call it a chimney) to get the smoke out without the heat going out the top of the house. It’s that semi-circular hole in the back. The hole at ground level is the “chimney”.

Next, they got the idea to build with stones at ground level.

This is the kiva, a ceremonial hut where meetings and rituals (or maybe meditations) were held. Pueblo people still use these today. I asked and was told that these are not the sweat lodges we had seen in California.

I think this was an example of housing built on top of housing over the ages.

The stone in front of the fire pit was labeled a “deflector”.

I am not going to attempt naming these ruins as I am having trouble matching pictures of signs to pictures of ruins. I didn’t think to photograph the sign for the overlook.

Here is my first look at what I was expecting. Seeing it was an emotional, heartfelt experience. Cliff dwellings really do exist, just like I saw in my school books.

It is not clear why they moved to the cliff alcoves. Weather? Protection from enemies? A roof over their heads? They still farmed on the mesa above.

Please read this Wikipedia brief description of the peoples who inhabited this area over the eons. I found it fascinating – and a lot more depth than what I got from the signs.

Here is a closer look. Even though trees obscure the fact, this village is still far above the canyon floor.

Another closer look.

We saw this Sun Palace from across the canyon.

Later, we found it by road. There was apparently no way inside as we walked around the tall walls. The sign showed us what is inside.

We walked past the pylons into that little square notch just above the You are here dot in the above photo and looked into the apparent entrance holes. I stuck the camera in and took a picture.

This is the view down the canyon from the Sun Palace, so named because of its orientation to the sun. The experts have no idea what this was used for. No household artifacts have been found here.

Another village.

and another closer look.

We did get a closer look at this village we had seen from across the canyon. There were groups of people waiting for their tours. I looked at the steep metal stairs leading down the cliff to get to the village and realized there was no way Andy could make it down – or back up.

That was the morning in Mesa Verde. Then we took off for Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. The campground in the park was full so we went back out to the KOA near town. Better, because we had a full hookup and running water. This was our view of the moon rising in the early evening. The moon was sharp and clear, not fuzzy like my picture show. Huge monoliths dot the entire landscape, not just in the park.

This one is just as red when the sun was on it.

Here is Scamp tucked in for the night.

September 11, 2019 – Black Canyon to Mesa Verde National Park

We left Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and 0900 and had another epic scenic drive to Mesa Verde National Park. We stopped in Telluride and picked up some sandwiches at the grocery store for lunch on the road. Then we continued on to Mesa Verde through more mountain roads and scenery.

This is our first view of the gigantic mesa.

The visitor center fits right into the landscape.

This sculpture is “The Pueblo Potter” made of Indiana Limestone. I was enchanted with her.

Here is another thing I haven’t seen before. Well, I have seen chains used as downspouts. But, this chain goes down to a “bucket” of rocks and into a fancy-grated French drain that directs the water off the plaza.

There were some displays inside including this Mesa Verde pottery.

We watched the movie and then asked about the ruins. There were none to go into that did not require steep hikes, lots of stairs, or very tall ladders. Our option was the driving tour, stopping at overlooks to view the ruins from a distance. I was sorely disappointed but did not want to go on a tour and leave Andy waiting somewhere for a few hours.

This butte, mesa, or mountain was so big, I could not take enough pictures of it.

We had not gone uphill long before we had views like this.

We decided to stop at this overlook for lunch.

Here is a closer look. There was a picnic table under the pavilion, but we chose to sit in the sunshine. The wind was blowing brisk and cool.

This is our lunch view. The sandwiches were good too.

This rattlesnake slithered by while we were eating.

After lunch, we drove to Park Point and walked up the long paved trail to the fire tower. I say that loosely since there was no tower at all. Just the box sitting on top of Park Point. At 8,572 feet it is the highest point in Mesa Verde National Park.

We walked back downhill a bit to the overlook with a big telescope thing to look through.

There was a picture sign identifying the objects and their distances. There were also a few showing what used to be more visible before the air quality decreased. When the park was created in 1906, it was recognized as having “one of the grandest and most extensive views in the country”. One photo showed mountains 152 miles away. Today, the only thing I could make out clearly with the naked eye was Ship Rock 46 miles away.

We had just gotten to the section of the park with the overlooks to see the ruins of cliff dwellings in the alcoves. Andy was anxious about our fuel level so we turned back to town to top off the fuel and postponed the cliff dwelling until tomorrow.

September 10, 2019 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The mule deer were out in the morning.

The park visitor center is an adorable log cabin with a deck on two sides.

Our water tank has sprung a link, so we bought a gallon of water from the grocery store to make coffee when we are not in an RV park with a water hook-up. I topped off the water jug and then Andy filled his Bubba cup at the visitor center.

Of course, we watched the movie before going out to look in the canyon. The visitor center had a few exhibits and some rocks in cases.

Holy cow! Another first for me. Look at that log picnic table. I bet it weighs a ton.

Here is the view of the overlook from the back deck of the visitor center. You can see the split-rail fence where people are walking down to the overlook at the edge of the light brown bluff.

No, it is not the Grand Canyon, but this place is truly awesome. I looked up some statistics:

The Black Canyon is incredibly deep and sheer, with plunging cliffs, soaring buttresses and a thundering river. The following lists will help you understand the physical size of the canyon in comparison to other canyons and man-made structures.

Greatest Depth:
Warner Point
Chasm View
Gunnison Point
2,722 feet (829 m)
1,820 feet (555 m)
1,840 feet (561 m)
Narrowest Width:
At the rim (Chasm View)
At the river (The Narrows)
1,100 feet (335 m)
40 feet (12 m)
Total Lenth of
Black Canyon:
Total Length
Length in National Park
48 miles (77 km)
14 miles (22.5 km)
The River:






Average descent over the entire length of canyon:
43 feet/mile (8 m/km)Greatest decent: Occurs in the park at Chasm View –
240 feet/mile (45 m/km)

There is some interesting history, HERE, if you are interested in the early explorations of the Gunnison.

We walked down the trail from the visitor center.

I got a nice shot of the visitor center sitting at the rim.

Out at the overlook, the Gunnison River is just a sparkly ribbon of water.

At the top, I noticed that the “bushes” were oaks.

Our wildlife sighting was the grasshopper-looking guy sitting in the sun on the trail.

From the top, you have to be right on it before seeing that there is a deep, steep, and rough canyon down there.

We moved on to the next overlook.

This viewpoint is at a wide section of the canyon. The narrowest is only forty feet wide.

We stopped and listened to a ranger talk about rock climbing. This high wall is one of the most popular spots for climbers in this park with dozens of marked climbs (for expert climbers only). I could not see the bottom.

After two overlooks, Andy said he could not walk anymore. We took the rim drive to the end of the road but did not get any more looks into the canyon. I did see the Painted Wall but did not get out of the RV for a better look. Here is one borrowed from the web.

September 6, 2019 – Lassen Volcanic National Park

Our first stop in the morning was a back-track to the park entrance where I could get a photo of Mount Lassen reflected in Manzanita Lake. Maybe I didn’t walk around the lake far enough to get the whole mountain in. Even if I had, the ripples in the water were not going to allow the reflection I was after.

Our next stop was the ranger station, the home of Benjamin and Estella Loomis before the park’s existence. Loomis took a series of photographs of Mount Lassen’s eruption in 1914.  They became a sensation across the nation.  He then rallied for Mount Lassen to become a national park.  They maintained the right to stay in their home for life.

Loomis built a museum and gift shop to show and sell his photos. It is still a museum and park visitor center.

Loomis also bought a seismograph and housed it in this small building in front of the museum.  The U.S. Geological Survey still collects data from it. There are nine seismographs in the park monitoring Lassen’s activity.

What a drive.  The road is very good: a two-lane highway with diving lines painted on it.  There are white lines painted at the edge of the pavement.  Beyond the white lines, in many places, is nothing but air.  The scenery is breathtaking, even when there is no fear of falling off the edge.  I paused a few times to take a picture. We drove a good distance through the park when I saw a must-have photo opportunity.  I had already passed it.  Fortunately, it was not too much farther when we reached the parking lot for the summit trailhead.  So, I pulled in and head back to THE SPOT.

I used the zoom to get a better picture of the distant lake.

It was exciting to then make a U-turn to head back in the right direction.  The road was just wide enough with the pull-off to make a U-turn, only backing up once. I am happy to report that we did not roll down the hill.

This is Lake Helen.  The blue is just and blue and colorful around the shore as Crater Lake was.  I assumed it was just a shallow spot that gathered rain and snow and was surprised to read in our guide that it is one-hundred-ten feet deep.  It is named for the first white woman to climb to Lassen’s peak. I still haven’t learned to stitch two photos together, so here is Lake Helen to the left

and Lake Helen to the right.

This enormous rock sticking up out of a mountain caught my eye.  I didn’t see any sign identifying it, I think it is bigger than an office building.

This is an errant boulder placed here by a glacier. The photo does not really show how precariously it is perched at the edge. The woman under it told her party she was going to push it over. She is my scale model today.

I walked around and found a vantage point more to my liking.

Errant Boulder

This scene is above the boiling mud pots.

There are more in the park, but we only saw two at this stop. This mud pot was at a furious boil and little blobs of mud were going airborne. My picture did not capture the copious amount of steam rising from the pot. These are the same features seen in Yellowstone. Like Yellowstone, Lassen is an active volcano.

Boiling Mud Pot

This is the hillside just to the right of that mud pot. According to the sign, the colors are from the minerals in the water seeping from the ground uphill.

The second mud pot, across the road, was also boiling and steaming but farther away.

Lassen is not the only volcano show in town.  Many of the peaks here are volcanoes.  The park has all the four types of volcanoes: plug dome, composite or stratovolcanoes, shield, and cinder cone. The literature says that there was once a large mountain and these are just what is left of it. Lassen is the southern-most of the string of volcanoes starting with Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia.

There are many fascinating sights in the park that we did not see because of the long or strenuous, or long and strenuous hikes to get to them. We stopped in the visitor center near the park exit (for us).

Visitor Center

I saw the view out the back windows and then the café to my left with the same view.  It was lunchtime. That was one of the best veggie wraps I’ve ever eaten.

There was an excellent movie showing many of the sights we missed and a good explanation of volcanoes.

Andy decided to leave a day early and go on to the next stop in Provo, Utah. It was a long drive and I was tired and hungry – and cranky – by the time we got there. I seem to have lost the pictures I took of our nice campsite by the lake in Utah Lake State Park.

September 5, 2019 – Eureka to Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

California Route 299 connects US 101 (the Coast Road) to Interstate 5 at the north end of California’s Central Valley. My photos don’t show it, but it is one of life’s memorable drives. I did take some pictures because there were so many spots where road repairs stopped us.

This was a particularly scenic spot, with an overlook to take in the scenic mountain view. The entrance to the overlook was just where the flagger was standing with a stop sign. When we finally moved again, we decided not to stop there.

I did take a picture out my window of the scenery uphill. We were close to the top.

I was surprised to see a rest stop and pulled in to take advantage of it. This was in a narrow-valley section of the road and the hill was steep just behind the building.

This is the rest-stop cat.

The road follows the Mad River and its tributaries through the mountains. We were often far above the gorge and could not see the bottom.

Those are some mean looking mountains.

At one point, I saw a place to pull off the road where I could get out of the van and take a picture of the river. This is not the most scenic spot.

There were many cascades.

This stop was a long one. From the amount of dust in the air, we thought they were blasting ahead, though no signs advised it. I looked to me as though they were clearing back the hillsides farther away from the road to prevent rock slides onto the highway. Loaders were filling dump trucks with rubble. We saw this in several spots.

This photo was through the windshield while we were stopped, yet again.

Note the piles of dirt/gravel on the roadside ahead. The actual roadwork was around the bend.

At Redding CA, and Interstate 5, we took California 44 right to Lassen. That drive was also scenic, but no road work gave me an opportunity for pictures.

Here is Scamp in our campsite in the Manzanita Campground in the Lassen Volcanic National Park. It smelled so good there!

Every campsite has a bear box and a sturdy picnic table.

The trees are magnificent. I think these are Douglas Firs.

This is Manzanita Lake, which is next to the campground. I suppose, though, I should say the campground is next to the lake.

The campground store has a great log bench in front.

August 20, 2019 – Crater Lake National Park

It was breakfast on the road again, since the RV park people told us we should go to Beckie’s. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s also adorable. The resort is across the road. Beckie was a man named Beckelheimer (or something like that). Beckie was his nickname. The restaurant has been serving food since 1926.

Beckie’s Restaurant

Here is a peek inside. We ate in an adjoining white room, not as charming as this.

Beckie’s Restaurant Interior

Then we were on (up, up, and uphill) to Crater Lake. This is the visitor center where we saw an excellent film about how the lake was formed about 5700 BC by volcanic eruptions in several spots around the mountain. Then the top of the mountain caved into the void created by those eruptions. They estimate that Mount Mazama was about 12,000 feet before the eruptions and collapse and 8,000 feet after. Over the millennia, the average 43 feet of snow annually filled the crater with water. It is the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet. It is also the cleanest water in the U.S.

Crater Lake Visitor Center
Crater Lake Park Headquarters

Would you please look at the size of those rocks in the visitor center building?!

We took off for a 33-mile drive around the lake. The lake is 21 square miles. There are more than 50 turnouts along the drive and we probably hit most of them. This is our first look at the lake. It is more beautiful than any photos depict. It is beautiful enough to make a person cry. Crater Lake Blue is mesmerizing. And, the whole place smells like a Christmas tree.

That is Wizard Island in the lake. It is a volcano. Mount Mazama is not extinct; there is still hot water at the bottom. Another interesting fact: the lake seldom freezes. The last time it froze was 1949.

There are still a few patches of snow in the crater and on surrounding mountains.

The dark rock on the side of the caldera is called Devil’s Backbone. It is magma from underground that came up through a fracture.

These guys are everywhere. I had to look it up: the difference between a ground squirrel and a chipmunk is that the ground squirrel does not have the stripes on its head.

Ground Squirrel
Scamp at Crater Lake

It may be past peak flower season, but we did see some. I don’t know what any of them are.

Crater Lake National Park is not just about the lake. the rim road around the lake has elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. Many of the pullouts are overlooks from the mountain.

Our guidebook says that on a clear day you can see Mount Shasta, 100 miles away in California. It took us a few minutes studying the signboard and the horizon, but then we saw it. Once we spotted it, it was clear to see. I zoomed all the way with my camera for this shot.

I think this is Hillman Peak, but it could be the Watchman.

Pasqueflower seedpods also called Mouse-on-a-stick
Wizard Island
Llao Rock
Wizard Island Again
Mouse-on-a-Stick
Toilet Building
Union Peak (7,698 feet) (older volcano) OR Mt. Thielsen (9,182 feet)

I don’t see how the lake can stay pristine with boat traffic on it.

Boat on Crater Lake
Cleetwood Cove
Yellow Flowers Over Crater Lake

The lake seemed to get a deeper blue as we moved around and had the sun behind us.

Pumice Castle (the red rock)

The rock formation jutting out of the lake is called Phantom Ship. What is most interesting about it (to me) is the picture of what it is like underwater from the signboard.

After our drive, we went to the Lodge for a meal. This is the lobby.

The next room is a large lounge.

There are large fireplaces in each of these big rooms.

The lodge sits right on the caldera rim, so there are great views of the lake while you eat. That is if you sit on that side of the room.

Dozens of (occupied) rocking chairs line the balcony/porch overlooking the lake.

Crater Lake Lodge

I kept snapping one more last picture of the lake as we walked back to Scamp.

A man asked me if I would take a picture of his family and then he took some pictures of us in the same spot.

It was a wonderful day with perfect weather. And, I FINALLY got to see Crater Lake.

December 8, 2015 – Dates, Times, and History

For the past few days, I have been reading through my Big Creek Journals and deleting dates, changing times from 24-hour to 12-hour or deleting them altogether, and writing a little history paragraph about Big Creek. Patricia Ross had said that an essay has observations and then reflections on those observations.  I realized that I do have some reflection and perhaps just need to expand on that. I am a bit encouraged.

There was once a logging operation and town, called Crestmont, in the Big Creek watershed when the park commission began acquiring property for the park in the 1920s. I found some old photos in the ranger station and photographed them. The only remnants left of the logging operation and the town are some pieces of metal, bricks, and strange cement structures in the woods.

I have tried and failed to match these photos to today’s reality. I can’t even find Big Creek.

Crestmont Lumber Mill

Buildings in Crestmont NC

Crestmont from Hill