Archive for July, 2019


NP Unit Road Trip OH, KY, MO, NM, CO, UT, and NE

July 5, 2019

The following describes a 6,400 mile National Park Unit road trip to sites in OH, KY, MO, NM, CO, UT, and NE

6/11 TuWilliam Howard Taft National Historic Site. Helen and I did the house tour on one of our trips to Cincy, however, I did not have any photos. So, I felt I had to return.

27th U.S. President, 1909-1913

He was the only President to have also served as chief justice of the Supreme Court (1921-1930)


3hrs to Mill Spring Battlefield National Monument KY. This was the site of the Union’s first decisive Civil War victory on January 19,1862; 4,400 Union troops turned back about 5,900 Confederates. It became a National Monument in 2019.

I began my tour by walking through the adjacent National Cemetery. Union casualties amounted to 40 killed, 207 wounded, and 15 missing; Confederate losses were 125 killed, 309 wounded, and 95 missing.


I did auto tour stops 1-8 (15mi) driving from the Visitors Center south to the Cumberland River

There was an interesting 0.5mi trail at Zollicoffer Park where the fiercest fighting took place

Confederate Cemetery

Zollicoffer monument

Ferry Landing on Cumberland River


4.5hrs to Parker’s Cross Roads National Battlefield Park TN (Affiliated Park Unit).

In late 1862, Confederate Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry campaign (1800 men) in Western TN had been successful in harassing Union forces, destroying railroads, and disrupting communications. When Forest reached Parker’s Cross Roads on December 31st, a part of Brig. Gen Jeremiah C. Sullivan’s (3000 men) Union forces under Col. Cyrus Dunham tried to cut Forest off from retreating back across the Tennessee River. Forest successfully attacked Dunham and demanded an unconditional surrender, Dunham refused.

Forest was then attacked from the north by the other part of Sullivan’s forces under Col. John Fuller. Forest ordered attacks on both fronts and then retreated across the Tennessee River to Lexington TN.

The Confederates had about 500 casualties and the Union 237. Because Forest had been successful in his Western TN campaign up to this point, and was able to escape, Confederates called this a victory. However, Union forcess claimed victory as well. A Confederate bias can be noted in this description.

In April 1864, troops under Forrest’s command massacred Union troops who had surrendered, most of them black soldiers along with some white fighting for the Union, at the Battle of Fort Pillow. Forest joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1867 and was elected its first Grand Wizard.

Drove to Dyersburg TN where I had soup and salad at a Chick-Fil-A. Afterward, the Sequoia would not start. I tried to jump the battery; that didn’t work. Then I replaced the battery (Advance Auto Parts) and it still would not start! Slept in Chick-Fil-A parking lot. Bright lights, but I had the foresight to bring eye blinders; so, I didn’t have a problem sleeping.


6/12 W – had Sequoia towed to Toyota dealer. A part in the shifting column had broken and they could not get it until the next day. I walked downtown, toured the county courthouse, and had lunch (5mi round-trip). Note the Confederate Monument.

I picked up about 35 aluminum cans for recycling on my way back to the dealership. They pushed the Toyota to the outside parking lot so I could sleep in it that night.


6/13 Th – Unlucky 13? – parts came in but no new bolts. I told them to put it together anyway. I learned how I could start the vehicle manually, even if the gear connection broke again. I was on the road by noon.

7hrs to George Washington Carver National Monument MO. We had visited here in 1982 on our way to HI.

Though closed, I was able to do the 1-mile loop trail

This was the first park to honor an African American scientist, educator, and humanitarian. He is perhaps most famous for his discovery of various ways to use peanuts.

The “Boy Carver” (tripod moved when shutter clicked)

Moses Carver Home

I stayed in a Fairfield Inn (free with points) in Oklahoma City. We have always had good experiences with them but this one was a dive.


I had planned to return to Fort Smith NHS AR and Chickasaw NRA OK (formerly Platt NP) for pictures but had to cancel this part of my trip due to the loss of 1.5 days


6/14 F – 8hrs to Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque NM. This stop was not in my plans but added when I was able to get here before the Visitor Center closed. Chad and I did the NM in 1998 on his 15-year old Road Trip.

Let’s see, at 1 park a day – that would only be 50 days; a nice two-month vacation!

Those who value National Parks –

After touring the Visitor Center, I drove a few miles north and hiked the Mesa Point Trail in Boca Negra Canyon

Those who do not value National Parks –


It took 1.5hrs to drive to the El Malpais NM Vis Ctr off of I40. The black areas are lava flows.

This was my third time visiting the monument. Today I concentrated on the National Conservation and Wilderness areas and started by visiting the BLM Ranger Station.

Sandstone Bluffs Overlook – where sharp lava meets smooth sandstone, elevation 6000-7000 ft

Did the hike to La Ventana Natural Arch

1hr to Airbnb in Cochiti Lake, NM; I traveled 870 miles today!


6/15 Sat – I was the first one at the entrance gate to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (BLM) at 7am. There is limited parking in the monument. Only 96 vehicles are allowed in at a time. After that, you must wait for someone to leave before you can get in. Wait times may range from 30 to 90 minutes.

The hikes here were some of the best of my trip

Formation of Tent Rocks

I started with the 3mi rt Slot Canyon Trail, gain 630ft


Hiking through the slot canyon was great fun

More here than rocks

Start of climb to overlook


Descending to the 1.2mi Cave Loop Trail


1.5hrs to Bandelier National Monument – As I was passing Santa Fe, I saw signs for Bandelier NM, which was right on my route. So, I decided to go. This was my second visit; first visit was 1982. I discovered I had to take a 20min shuttle into the monument from White Rock. Well, I just missed one, so had to wait 20min for the next one. As soon as I arrived at the Visitor Center, I picked up the monument brochure and stamped it with today’s date.

Frijoles Canyon

Because of limited time, I only did the 1.2mi Main Cliff Dwellings and Long House ruins trails.

Oval shaped Tyuonyi Ruins

1982 photo


Close-up of kiva


We were told there would be a shuttle returning at 2:30, so I hustled to make it and was there on time. However, there was no shuttle until 2:50. This snafu put me an hour behind and I was afraid I would not get to Valles Caldera National Preserve before it closed.


I took Rt4 W from White Rock and arrived at the Valles Caldera Visitor Contact Station at 4pm.

That gave me 1hr to enjoy the Preserve. About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the 13-mile wide circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams. The area also preserves the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embraces a rich ranching history.

There were hundreds of Elk but the herds could only be seen with binoculars

I got directions from the volunteer ranger to my next stop – Chaco Culture NHP. I took back roads and 4WD tracts that had recently opened after enough snow melt. I took a 4WD Rd off Rt 126 into the Santa Fe National Forest and slept in the SUV.


6/16 Sun – It went down to 31 degrees! I got up at 4am (full moon) and made it to a 24/7 truck stop to get warm!  It was Father’s Day; every member of the family called at some point (when I had cell service)

3.5hrs to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Rt7950 that enters the park from the NE and is poorly maintained. It is a terrible “washboard” road; so, you bump your way into the park!  Canyon was central to thousands of people between 850 and 1250 A.D.  It was good to tour in the morning before it got too hot.

This location was the Center of Chacoan Culture for the entire region

It is a World Heritage Site

I hiked to several of the “Great Houses”

My first hike was to Una Vida, the “Great House”

My next hike was to Chetro Ketl – right center

Then it was on to Pueblo Bonito, the largest great house

Pueblo Bonito had at least four stories, 600 rooms, and 40 kivas


I had a good time walking to and through the ruins

Next up was a walk to the Wetherill Cemetery

Pueblo del Arroyo is located at the end of the park road into Chaco Canyon

I stopped at the Casa Rinconada Community ruins a little further on along the park loop road

It was a short walk to the Great Kiva – the largest excavated kiva in the park. I found a young man there who was doing his PhD dissertation on the roads that led into the canyon and the Great Kiva. He stated that, from 800 to 1100, many well-constructed major roads extended hundreds of miles from this religious center. He pointed out how, on the summer equinox, the sun shines through a specific window of this kiva casting light on a specific alcove on the inside wall. The square formed by the four large columns that held up the roof are constructed precisely so it has north, south, east, and west sides.

I should have recorded his name; he can be seen in this photo

Fajada Butte

A 2hr drive N took me to Aztec Ruins National Monument, home of pioneering archeologist Earl Morris. These structures were not built by the Aztec Indians of central Mexico. Early explorers were inspired by histories about Cortez’s conquest of Mexico and mis-named this place Aztec.  Aztec NM advertises itself as the “Gateway to Over 300 Sandstone Arches…and counting!”

This site preserves a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms

Present day American Indians with ties to Aztec NM include Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Acoma, Tewa, Zia, Zuni, and others. The 15-min video explained the immigration story for many SW tribes – how their people emerged from the center of the earth (represented by the Si Pa Poo, which is a hole in the floor of every kiva) and first populated Mesa Verde, then Chaco Canyon, then Aztec Ruins, and then areas and pueblos further south.

Aztec Ruins NM has the only reconstructed kiva of the 19 SW Indian National Park Units

Photo taken through entrance

Interior, note the brick, mortar, and wood construction of the columns


View from opposite entrance

A walk through the ruins

I liked this embedded United States Department of Interior (USDI) plaque, elevation 5642.6

Aztec was a stop on the Old Spanish Trail

When I was leaving, I showed the ranger my 1968 Aztec brochure. She was quite excited to see it, made a copy, and had her intern take pictures of me to post on their NP website. I camped (parked) in the Pinon Loop of Navajo Lake State Park about 18mi away. They had a hot water shower! Yeah!


6/17 M – After a 1.5hr drive, I arrived at Chimney Rock National Monument (USFS) in southwest CO at 8am. It opened at nine, so I took a few pictures and had my standard breakfast of Honey-Nut Cheerios and an orange.

There were two nice displays at the entrance gate. Designated in 2012 by President Barack Obama, making it the seventh national monument managed by the USDA Forest Service. The Chimney Rock National Monument encompasses 4,726 acres of the San Juan National Forest between Durango and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Chimney Rock represents one of the largest Pueblo II (900-1150 AD) communities in southwestern Colorado and is considered a Chacoan cultural “outlier.” The Chaco phenomenon was a complex system of dispersed communities bound by economic, political and religious interdependence centered in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.   The pinnacles that give Chimney Rock its name frame multiple astronomical alignments. The Ancestral Puebloans incorporated their knowledge of astronomy into the design of their community. Today Chimney Rock is one of the best recognized archaeo-astronomical resources in North America, with alignments with the northern lunar standstill, summer solstice, equinoxes and Crab Nebula. Chimney Rock preserves 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings, some of which have been excavated for viewing and exploration: a Great Kiva, a Pit House, a Multi-Family Dwelling, and a Chacoan-style Great House Pueblo. Chimney Rock is the highest in elevation of all the Chacoan sites, at about 7,400 feet above sea level.

You are not allowed to go to the Great House Pueblo near the chimney rock without a guide. So, I worked out an arrangement where I would follow the shuttle to the end of the road, do the Mesa Village Trail with the guide, and then do the Great Pueblo Trail on my own when the guide started that part of the tour. That saved me at least an hour. The guide was well informed and did a good job.

Great Kiva Trail, also called the Mesa Village Trail – 0.33mi

Great House Pueblo Trail

It was about 1mi roundtrip with a gain of 200ft. The chimney rock itself is 315ft tall


I ate my lunch of Triscuits, Monterey Jack cheese, and beef jerky while the Sequoia was serviced in Pagosa Springs CO. I then continued through some beautiful but sparsely populated land (Rt84 S, Rt64 E, and Rt285 S) to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (BLM). I entered the NM at the Orilla Verde overlook.

A very steep gravel road with hairpin turns drops you into the canyon

Crossing the Rio Grande del Norte on the Taos Junction Bridge, campground on west side

An Indian family enjoying the river, boys jumping from the bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center

I did a section of the Las Minas trail by the Visitor Center in a light rain

I then drove N for over an hour to the Wild Rivers Campground. This is a large (242,455 acre), relatively new (2013), NM. I took a picture of this poster to show how the Rio Grande cuts through the Taos Plateau. I believe the mountain in the distance is Ute Mountain at 10,093ft.

Map of the NM indicating the location of the campground

The Visitor Contact Station was closed but I was able to get a photo of today’s weather and river flow posting through the gate

I did the Rio Bravo Nature Trail as the day was ending

The trail takes you to the La Junta Overlook, with a view of the confluence of the Red and Rio Grande Rivers

Rio Grande Gorge, slept in Sequoia at the Montoso Campground on the rim of the gorge


6/18 Tu – 5:30am 37 degrees, 2hrs to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

I arrived before the Visitor Center opened, so I hiked the Mosca Pass Trail into the National Preserve part of the park, which is a separate National Park Unit!

I hiked for about a mile and then turned around and returned to the Visitor Center

Signs around the outside of the Visitor Center

The ranger inside was excited to see my 1967 park brochure. She copied it and took my card for documentation.

Medano Creek – must cross to get to sand dunes

I visited here in 1966 while on a Road Trip with my mother and brothers Joe, Mike, and Pat, when the park was a National Monument

I visited again the next year on a 1967 Road Trip with Jay Kearney – hiking through the dunes

Climbing the Star Dune (750ft), tallest in the park

Playing – jumping off the Star Dune

It states – HI Tom and Jay

I drove the 4WD Medano Pass Road but turned around before I reached the washout point


I gave $10 and my can of Pringles potato chips to a homeless man on my way (2hrs) to Hecla Junction Recreation site, which is now part of Browns Canyon National Monument (BLM) in CO

The Arkansas River runs through the monument and there were many rafters and kayakers enjoying the white water. The river was up and running swiftly; note the sign – in the water

I continued N to the Fisherman’s Bridge Recreation Site, which is a popular put-in spot for rafters.

There are more rafters on the Arkansas River than any other in the U.S. Stacy and I drove through here on her 1986 15yr old road trip; unfortunately, she did not want to raft the river.


From here, I drove into the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and hiked part of the Turret Trail

I didn’t realize that part of the trail was a scree slope. I had worn the wrong shoes. When I got to this point (0.5mi), I decided to return to the trailhead.

Unlike National Park Service Monuments, ATVs, Jeeps, etc. are permitted in many BLM Monuments


Two more hours of driving took me to Curecanti National Recreation Area

I had planned to hike the Neversink Trail in the eastern part of the NRA (right), however, it was under water!

I stopped at the Elk Creek Visitor Center and stayed longer than usual due to a strong micro-storm

Afterward, I hiked part of the Dillon Pinnacles Trail

View of the Dillon Pinnacles from across Blue Mesa Reservoir

Continuing west, I stopped at the Blue Mesa Dam Overlook

Gunnison River downstream from Dam

I continued on Rt50 to Cimarron, where the Visitor Center highlights the importance of the railroad to the area

The reconstructed Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive #278, railcars, and supporting structure were impressive


The sun was setting as I drove west and then into Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

My first stop was Tomichi Point Overlook

I then walked past the Visitor Center (closed) to Gunnison Point

Gunnison River, over 1,800 feet below; cutting through rock with water, weather, and time

In 1987, Stacy and I drove the entire park road stopping at many of the Overlooks/Lookouts/Views when Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a National Monument.  It became a National Park in 1999.

Painted Wall View

We hiked to Warner Point at the end of the road

I had made a lot of progress today and was ahead of my schedule, wo I decided to drive all the way to Cortez CO in order to be one full day ahead. I bought a burger in Montrose and started heading south on Rt550 at 8pm. As I drove into the mountains, I saw one of the best double rainbows I have seen in my life. It was raining but I still stopped several times for photos and even took a video.

As it turned dark, it started to storm and continued for over two hours as I drove south through the San Juan Mountains of SW CO.

  1. There is a 2000ft gain in elevation from Montrose (5,807ft) to Ouray (7,792ft)
  2. From Ouray to Silverton (9,320) you cross Red Mountain Pass (11,075ft)
  3. From Silverton to Durango (6,512ft) you cross Molas Pass (10,910ft) and then Coal Bank Hill Pass (10,640ft)

The section from Ouray to Silverton is called the “Million Dollar Highway.” It is said that it cost one million dollars per mile to build in the 1920s. This is a difficult drive during the day in good weather. I drove it at night during a storm – torrential rain, snow/sleet, wind, fog, etc.! I encountered deer, rocks, standing water, and trees on the road. Water was crashing off the cliffs and running across the road. It was horrible driving necessitating 5-10mph on numerous blind hairpin turns. According to Wikipedia, “. . . the route is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves; travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway.”

It cleared by the time I got to Durango and then it was a straight shot to Cortez on Rt160. I arrived at my Super 8 Motel after midnight for a two-night stay.


6/19 W – I rearranged my schedule while eating a 6am breakfast. It was a short drive to Yucca House National Monument, about 11mi S of Cortez, CO. Yucca House National Monument preserves one of the largest archeological sites in SW Colorado. The unexcavated nature of the site preserves its integrity for future generations of scientists and visitors. However, it is not a place you would likely go to as a tourist.

I came upon a mule deer while on my early morning hike around the unexcavated ruins


I then made a unplanned stop at the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor Center east of Cortez

This was my third visit to the park

I did both ranger tours and hikes with Jay in 1967 and Stacy in 1987

Square Tower House 1967

Cliff Palace 1967 and 1987

Kiva and Upper Level Painting

Balcony House 1987


The BLM Anasazi Heritage Center 10 miles N of Cortez serves as the Visitor Center for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. It is excellent, even compared to National Park visitor centers, which are typically outstanding. It interprets the history and culture of the Four Corners region. Anasazi refers to Ancestral Puebloans who lived in the area between 1 and 1300 AD.

Many displays and interesting photos


I did the trail to Escalante Pueblo ruins on a hill behind and above the museum

Escalante Pueblo


Then drove (0.5hr) to Lowry Pueblo; road hazard on County road CC

Lowry Pueblo is the only developed site in Canyons of the Ancients NM

As you can see, there is a protective roof over part of the ruins

I did the short trails in and around the Lowry Pueblo

There were 8 kivas in this Pueblo, but this was “The Great Kiva”



After touring Lowry Pueblo, I took Rt10 to Hovenweep National Monument, across the state border in UT. First stop, Visitor Center to organize my hike.

The start of my 2mi loop hike, note the Twin Towers across the canyon

I had been here in 1967 with Jay when we were on our BIG (10,000mi) “Western Road Trip.” The NM was undeveloped back then and there was no Visitor Center or established/marked/signed trails. It would not be acceptable to climb on the ruins today! Jay on top of the Twin Towers, looking back across the canyon to where I was standing in the previous picture.

Pic taken from Hovenweep Castle – Square Tower and Hovenweep House on other side of the canyon 2019

Pic taken from Hovenweep House – Square Tower and Jay leaning against Hovenweep Castle on other side of canyon 1967

Looking east at Sleeping Ute Mountain in CO


2hrs of backroad driving took me to Bears Ears National Monument

Now, in this photo, the rock outcrops really look like “Bear’s Ears”! It looks like the top of the bear’s head is on the other side of the ridge.

Turning on to 4WD road that ascends to the pass between the “ears.” Bears Ears NM is the 12th NM managed by the USFS; it is the fifth to be managed jointly by the USFS and the BLM.

President Obama designated Bears Ears in southeast UT as a National Monument in 2016. President Trump cut the area of the monument by 85 percent in 2017. That executive decision is being litigated. Currently the monument has a south and a north unit. Today I visited the Shash Jaa or South Unit. It is the unit that contains the “Bear’s Ears.”

As you can see, one ear is higher than the other

North of the ears, some of the amazing landscape that the Trump administration has cut from the monument

Descending from the “ears”


1.5hrs (including 0.5hr construction delay near entrance) to Natural Bridges National Monument. Water is available in the visitor center and the water spigot in the visitor center parking lot. Visitors are limited to 5 gallons (19L) of water per person per day. Natural Bridges has made protecting its dark sky a priority; so that people can enjoy the stunning river of light formed by the Milky Way rising over Owachomo Bridge. I thought I would be camping here but, as mentioned earlier, changed my schedule. Some have wondered how I get pictures of myself on these trips. Answer, a tripod. However, sometimes it takes a few tries!  Ten seconds is the maximum delay. I thought I would form a bridge with my legs. However, I am really forming an arch.

First stop, Visitor Center, I was blessed with wonderful weather on this trip

What is the difference between a bridge, arch, and window?

This is the Bridge View of the first of three major bridges – Sipapu Bridge


Horse Collar Ruin Overlook view of Sipapu Bridge


Bridge View of Kachina Bridge

Bridge View of Owachomo Bridge – a little above the middle of this pic

In 1967, Jay and I hiked to the bottom of the Owachomo Bridge


We then climbed to the top. I am standing on his shoulders in this photo.  A friend of the other man took the photo


On my way back to Cortez at the end of the day, I stopped on County road G and did part of the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument


6/20 Th– 2hrs from Cortez to the Indian Creek Unit (i.e. what remains of the north unit) of Bears Ears National Monument. My first stop was at Newspaper Rock

Rt211 is the only paved road in and out of The Needles, or south section, of Canyonlands National Park. It goes right through the Bridger Jack Mesa in Bears Ears NM.  A beautiful drive –


The Canyonlands National Park Needles are named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone

Wooden Shoe Arch

My first hike was the 0.6mi Pothole Loop Trail

Which led to a nice view of “The Needles”

The next hike was the 2.4mi Slickrock Trail, that provided a 360-degree view of the park

Follow the cairns – Little Spring Overlook

Big Spring Canyon Overlook

View of Elephant Hill

0.6mi Cave Spring Loop Trail

Trail took you to a historic Cowboy Camp, under an overhang

And to Cave Spring, it provided a nice respite from the sun – watch your head!

Going Up

The last part of the trail crossed the top of a rock outcrop


It took 2.5hrs to drive Rt211 back to Rt191 N to Moab, and then on to Rt 313, which is the access road to the Island in the Sky (northern) part of Canyonlands National Park. Shafer Canyon Overlook, opposite the Visitor Center.

My first hike here was to the second overlook on the Upheaval Dome Trail, 1.8mi roundtrip


Looking back to the first overlook

Upheaval Dome, cloud cover muted the colors

A Mystery – ranger told me he thought it was caused by a meteor

Green River Overlook

Grand View Point Overlook

Start of 2mi roundtrip hike along Mesa to Grand View Point

I climbed a rock outcrop at the end of the trail to get a good pic of Junction Butte

Orange Cliffs

Last hike for the day – Mesa Arch, 0.5mi roundtrip. It is recommended you come here at daybreak to see the sun rise under the arch

8 miles of “official” trail hiking today, plus lots of other walking

Primitive BLM Cowboy Campground outside of Canyonlands, no facilities, no people, perfect!

Sunset from my bed – the wind rocked the Sequoia and me to sleep


6/21 F – Sunrise from my bed, next task, empty my pee bottle. Then, shift boxes so I can sit in the back seat and eat my dry Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast

4hr drive to Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and the new (2019) Jurassic National Monument (BLM) in the northern part of the San Rafael Swell in east-central UT, 32mi S of Price UT. It is currently only open 10-5 on Fri and Sat. So, I had to organize my schedule to be there on one of those days. It has the first ever BLM Visitor Center – built in 1968. Be careful, the unpaved roads are hazardous when wet.

Many layers and many fossils

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found

The word Dinosaur means “terrible lizard.” However, they were not all terrible and none were lizards!

How big was Camarasaurus?

Quarry buildings

Start of the 1.5mi Rock Walk Trail

Partial rib of a sauropod

This boulder is part of the Cedar Mountain formation at the top of the cliff, it fell off and was washed down to this point

The orange-brown limestone layer in the distance is from the late Jurassic Era


4.5hrs to Cedar Breaks National Monument, I made it just in time before it closed at 6pm

I started with the Sunset Trail and the Point Supreme Overlook. Notice the snow – the monument was closed one week ago!

Next stop, Chessmen Ridge Overlook

North View Overlook, the sun was finally starting to come out as it was setting. I hiked out to the point behind me

Views from the point, south, west, and north (the video is better)

Olympic National Park WA – 1969

Cedar Breaks National Monument UT – 2019    WOW, even the snow looks older!

See the snowball?

I stopped for a Ribeye steak dinner and beer at Rocking V Café in Kanab UT and then slept in a campground in Glen Canyon NRA


6/22 Sat – 1.5hrs to Navajo National Monument in northeast AZ

Sweathouse 2019 and 1987

1.3mi round-trip Sandal Trail to Betatakin dwelling overlook

Photo in Visitor Center

Entertainment on the trail

Canyon View Trail 0.8mi round trip

Historic Ranger Station short distance from Betatakin Canyon



Beauty of the desert canyon – Red, White, and Blue + Yellow!


2hrs to Four Corners (AZ, NM, UT, CO), Welcome to ?

I did not enter, because I had been here before and did not want to pay the $5 admission

Stacy and I were here in 1987 – did a handstand in ALL four states at the same time!


The weather was turning bad, so, I bought new wiper blades in Pagosa Springs CO before going over Wolf Creek Pass

Wolf Creek Pass – 1967

6 more hours driving brought me back to Browns Canyon NM CO, where I camped for the night


6/23 Sun – 1.5hrs to Florissant National Monument

1800s Hornbeck Homestead

Interesting Visitor Center

Monitoring deterioration of petrified wood to assist in conservation

Hiked (2.5mi) the Geologic, Petrified Forest Loop, and Ponderosa Trails

The Big Stump

Redwoods in Colorado?

Making the Monument

2hrs to Arvada CO, visit with Nick, Linda, Cathy, and Lisa


6/24 M – 3.5hrs Denver to Fort Laramie National Historic Site WY, located in a bend of the Laramie River; access obstacle

Visitor Center in former Commissary Storehouse (1884)

Crossroads, notice native American tepees

Left to right, Post Surgeon’s Quarters (1875), Lt. Colonel’s Quarters (Burt house 1884), Post Trader’s Store (1849), and Stone Monument

View from Guardhouse

New Guardhouse (1876)

Story of Mormon Handcarts

Cavalry Barracks (1874)

Officers Row (1881)

Window view of Guardhouse on far side of Infantry Barracks Foundation


I was fairly close (~1hr), so I did an unplanned stop at Scotts Bluff National Monument in NE. This was my third time at this NM. Chimney Rock National Historic Site just east of Scotts Bluff 1968

Sentinel Rock on left Eagle Rock on right – Oregon Trail goes through Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff

Between 1841 and 1869, over 350,000 people traveled west past Scotts Bluff

View from the South Overlook – 1967

Helen in a notch on the bluff – 1968


1hr drive N to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, I started on the west end with a hike on the Daemonelix Trail

One of the highlights of this one-mile loop trail are two Daemonelix or Devil’s Corkscrews – magnify to read text

The spiral burrows were made by dry land beavers (Paleocastors)

These dry land beavers lived in colonies much like present-day prairie dogs. Their spiral homes have become petrified over time


Rock Records


Ancient Dunes

The NM land was previously owned and ranched by James Cook of Agate Springs Ranch and neighboring ranchers. It is vast, open tablelands that form the northern terminus of the High Plains east of the Rocky Mountains.  While riding across the prairie, Cook spotted old bones sticking out of the ground. Years later, paleontologists unearthed the giant ferocious-looking head of a Dinohyus.  The animal died during a drought 20 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch.

Visitor Center – PBS was filming a documentary on the identification, protection, and preservation of fossils by the National Park Service

History lesson

James Cook (Agate Springs Ranch) was on very good terms with the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and had an extensive collection of their artifacts that he donated for the museum at the Visitor Center

Fossil/Education Road Show

4hrs to Valentine NE and a drive across the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (FWS) before dark

Views from Cornell Bridge over Niobrara National Scenic River, first east, and then west at sunset

Scouting the river

Camped at and rented my kayak from Dryland Aquatics in Sparks NE


6/25 Tu – 8:30am start at Cornell Bridge in Fort Niobrara NWR. The 76 miles of the Niobrara National Scenic River winds through dramatic bluffs, incredible wildlife diversity, gorgeous waterfalls, and world-class fossil resources.

Paddled 12-miles. Water is public; land (shore), outside of parks, is private

River was flowing at about 5mph.  I did not see another boat or person for my entire paddle.

Smith Falls State Park landing

Smith Falls (63ft), Nebraska’s highest waterfall

Take-out at Nichols landing in Smith Falls SP

Overlook of Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

Niobrara NSR Visitor Center in Valentine – paddling the Niobrara River is nothing new


Had an oil change in Valentine, then drove 4hrs to Niobrara NE and then across the Chief Standing Bear Bridge into SD. It is the eastern end of the 39-Mile District of the Missouri National Recreational River. The Missouri River is sometimes referred to as “The Original Highway West.”

The Chief Standing Bear (in a landmark court case he proved that Indians were “persons” under the law, free to enjoy the rights of any other person in the land) Bridge Overlook provides some interesting Missouri River history. Note the river flooding, several of the roads I wanted to take were damaged – and Google Maps had NOT made any adjustments! Once I figured that out, I was OK, because I have no problem using printed maps – old technology!

Because of road closures, I had to take a long detour to get to the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, on the western end of the of the 59-Mile District of the Missouri National Recreational River at the Gavins Point Dam. That resulted in me getting there after the Visitor Center had closed. Bummer, thanks Google Maps!

The Visitor Center overlooks the Gavins Point Dam

I drove across the dam into SD and the Chief White Crane Recreation Area on the opposite side. From there I climbed up the north side of the spillway for this photo back toward the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center in NE.

Bluffs on the south side (NE) of the Missouri River

I drove a section of the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway (Rt12) east to get to Mulberry Bend on the Missouri River

First Overlook, called the Village Vista

Second Overlook, called the River Bend Vista

I then hiked the Mulberry Bend Trail loop as well as all of the spur trails (0.75mi) – bur oak, cedar, ash, and other native trees

Oak Overlook

Bluff Overlook

Sign along Rt12

Slept at a truck stop just north of Cedar Rapids IA


6/26 W – 8.5hrs to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is about 10 miles south of St Louis. Helen and I had toured the house in 1997, followed by a Budweiser Brewery tour across the street. However, I did not take any photos. Thus, the return today.

Lobby of Visitor Center

As expected, displays describe Grant’s attributes and accomplishments

They also provide information related to criticism of Grant. They attempt to answer the following questions; Butcher? Incompetent? Failure? Prejudiced? Sphinx? and Drunkard?

I did the self-guided walk around the historic trace – White Haven

Hiram Ulysses Grant (1822-1885) was born in Point Pleasant Ohio. Julia Boggs Dent was born in 1826 and grew up at White Haven. She married Grant in 1848 after the Mexican-American War and they had four children. Grant’s abolitionist father Jesse, who disapproved of the Dents owning slaves, refused to attend their wedding, which took place without either of Grant’s parents. However, Julia was warmly received by Grant’s family in Bethel Ohio a month after their wedding. Grant continued in the Army with a variety of assignments but had long separations from his family. He resigned his position in the Army in 1854 after he was found “under the influence.” He had a previous episode of drunkenness and had told his commander that, if it happened again, he would resign. The Grants had received 80 acres across the road from White Haven as a wedding present from Julia’s father. Ulysses returned to White Haven, managed the estate and farmed his land across the road. He built a log cabin on the property (1855-56). They called it “Hardscrabble.” He tried many jobs/businesses in addition to farming but was not successful. In 1860, he took a position in his father’s leather goods business in Galena IL and in a few months paid off all his debts. Grant rejoined the Army in 1861 shortly after the start of the Civil War. In 1866, after the war, Congress promoted him to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States. Grant worked under President Andrew Johnson, who took office after Lincoln was assassinated, but was a political opponent. Grant accepted the nomination for President of the U.S. in 1866 and served for two terms (1869-1877).

Ulysses and Julia

Ice House and Chicken House

Signs along the walking tour

After my tour, I drove to a side gate of the Anheuser-Busch property across the street

In order to get a picture of Grant’s “Hardscrabble” log cabin (home), which is now part of the brewery outside tour


1hr south to Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park MO (Authorized 2019) – Bienvenue! The village of Sainte Genevieve was founded in 1735 by French Canadian colonists and settlers from east of the river (now IL). It was the first organized European settlement west of the Mississippi River (present-day MO). It was the capital of French Louisiana. In 1763 France ceded “Louisiana” to Spain, making it the capital of Spanish Louisiana. In 1801, Spain ceded it back to France who, within a few weeks, sold it to the U.S. as the Louisiana Purchase.

The new NPS Historical Park is separate from but works closely with the city Welcome Center (#1), which provided this map

Much of historic Ste. Genevieve’s charm and ambiance is due to the remarkable preservation of its original vertical log structures. Its narrow streets and fenced gardens surround some of the most significant eighteenth-century architecture in the nation, offering visitors an unparalleled glimpse into its colonial past. “Poteaux-en-terre” construction, which means posts in the earth – vertical logs built directly on the ground. This model is in the Welcome Center. Another style was “Poteaux-sur-sol” or posts on a sill.

The NPS also works closely with the Centre for French Colonial Life (#2). The center has its own museum (opened in 2018)


And administers five nearby historic “Houses.”

After touring the museum, I had an individual tour of the Louis Bolduc House, built in the late 1780’s with an addition made in 1792.  Note the French and Spanish flags.

The NPS also cooperates with the MO DNR, which administers the Felix Valle House State Historic Site (#5)

This Federal-style limestone building was constructed in 1818. It represents the American period after the Louisiana Purchase. It has been authentically restocked as a mercantile store of the trading firm Menard & Valle. Unfortunately, most items were packed in plastic crates and ready to move because of the possibility of increased flooding of the Mississippi River!

The Bauvais-Amoureux House (Missouri State historic Site) is now the NP Visitor Center. The location can be seen near the bottom of the Welcome map (#3). It was constructed in 1792.

Since I was the only one there, I received a personalized Ranger tour!

Here are a few more photos of some of the many historic buildings, first the nearby, privately owned, Bequette-Ribault House

Janis House – Green Tree Tavern (ca. 1790)

Bolduc LeMeilleur House (1816), another of the Centre for French Colonial Life “Houses”

Dr. Benjamin Shaw House (1819), visitor center for the Missouri State Historic Site


7hrs to Springfield, the first two hours were horrendous, driving through a major thunderstorm with lots of lightening.  The wipers were on full speed when I hit standing water on the Interstate going through St Louis and started hydroplaning.  It was like I was driving through a river!  I could not see for at least 3 seconds (it seemed like 10) in heavy traffic.  Fortunately, I was able to keep the Sequoia relatively straight.  I arrived home at 11pm, one day early.