Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Rest of the Month: October 2020

Catching up was what I did in October. Catching up on housework, errands, appointments, writing my travel journal, and editing photos. I also had a several freelance photography assignments from the Mountain Democrat newspaper. 

Our dahlias were blooming profusely and both our lemon trees had ripening lemons. I harvested our butternut squash and pomegranates.

Syd and Pandora really seemed to miss us, and we had a lot of missed cat walks to make up.

It was still hot and still smokey when we got home. As the month progressed, temperatures finally moderated while advancing toward fall.

Because high winds were expected our electric company, PG&E, shut off our power, the power to around 38,000 households in El Dorado County, and about a half million homes in Northern California. We were lucky because we had barely a breeze at our house and power was off for just 20 hours.

While we were traveling, two more people in El Dorado County died of Covid-19. September and October, respectively, added 213 and 208 new positive virus cases bringing the grand total to 1388 positive virus cases.

Back at home it was same-same, making bread, and still anxious about the election.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Road Trip Part 5, Heading Home: September 29-October 4, 2020

Mural in Shiprock, NM

From our overnight in Albuquerque we headed toward Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado first stopping at Malpais National Monument, New Mexico, just to see what it had. The "ranger in a glass box" directed us to La Ventana Arch. The photo he showed us captured the separation of the arch from the rocky background. When I got to the arch I discovered that in order to get the separation, we had to go beyond the fencing and scramble up rocks for that shot. As I was scrambling up the slope I heard a guy below tell his kid, "what that woman is doing is very dangerous." I didn't want to find myself an example of what not to do, so I stopped.

La Ventana Arch at Malpais National Monument

In Shiprock, New Mexico, even though it was midday and hazy, we found a closer position to photograph the enigmatic Shiprock formation. As we resumed our travel northward, I stopped to photograph a colorful Beware of Covid-19 mural shown above.

We arrived at Mesa Verde late afternoon. It's a long, slow drive from the front entrance to the sights within the park. Along the way there are signs identifying the name of and date of past fires that have ravished the land.

The light had faded by the time we got to some of the cliff dwellings. As we turned and headed out, the full moon was rising.

We checked into the quirky, cheerful Retro Inn in Cortez, Colorado. Each morning they gave us a bag lunch of snacks, water, and breakfast burritos (to be heated up in the in-room microwave) which made it very easy to get to the park early and stay late.

The construction of the Cliff Palace occurred between 1260-1280 CE. The dwellings were inhabited for one to two generations before being abandoned. 

Square Tower House
View of Cliff Palace from the other side of Cliff Canyon
Panorama of the Cliff Palace from above

National Park Service information states:

Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.
Spruce House

The Spruce House has been closed to visitors for several years because the right side of the ledge is not well supported so the entire ledge is slowly falling. 

The 3-mile loop Petroglyph Trail begins below the Spruce House cliff dwelling along narrow paths gradually working its way up to the mesa above Spruce House.

Axe Sharpening Grooves
Cliff dwellers used stone for tools. Axe heads were made out of hard rocks, sharpening them by rubbing the stones on sandstone.

Wall of Petroglyphs

This eroded mountainside reminded me of Roman Coliseum Ruins

Our next night was in a B&B near the east entrance to Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way we detoured to Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. 

Our first stop was a hike to Sipapu Bridge which is 220ft/67m tall and 268ft/82m wide and involves descending/ascending 3-4 ladders, polished sandstone, and flights rock steps. Bridges are formed by the erosive action of moving water. Standing under the bridge the bridge looks too narrow and fragile for its span of 268ft.

Leaving Natural Bridges, we continued north on scenic Highway 95 crossing over the Colorado several times.

We still had light when we arrived at the eastern entrance of Capitol Reef so we kept going into the park to see petroglyphs. From 600 to 1300 CE Fremont Culture people made their home at Capitol Reef. This panel has anthropomorphous and bighorn sheep. Some petroglyphs have been lost as panels of sandstone crack, erode, and fall.

We checked into our room at a B&B in Notom just in time to see the sun setting. The view is toward the Golden Throne in Capitol Reef.

The next day Capitol Reef had smokey, hazy skies. In the morning we hiked 1.8 mi round trip to Hickman Bridge a 133-ft natural bridge.

We drove the scenic drive taking photos of fascinating geologic features along the way.

Smokey view from the Goosenecks Overlook

We began the long drive to Ely, Nevada for our last night on the road. Skies and air continued to be disappointingly smokey at this point and continued all the way back to our house.

Wind Power and Smokey Skies in Utah
It was quite cold overnight in Ely, Nevada, but we got going early because we were headed home. Just west of Ely on Highway 50, we passed a guy slowly headed east riding a Segway. There was an advance car in front of him and a chase car behind. 

We had lunch in Fallon, Nevada, at The Running Iron Cafe. When we got there, tri tip slabs were being smoked out back. Masks were optional for staff, but lunch was fabulous. It is almost worth making the trip there just to eat lunch. In our 34 days of traveling, we haven't had many meals worth raving over, but this one certainly was.

Along Highway 50 in Nevada west of Ely

We got home just in time to feed Syd and Pandora their dinner. It was good to be home, but if we didn't have appointments to keep and cats, we might have kept driving a few days longer. In total our road trip loop logged 7300 miles.

Unlike our time around Salt Lake City in the north, masks were mostly non-existent in southern Utah. There were no masked workers at restaurants, at the visitor center in Blanding, or even at the B&B we stayed at in Notom. As I write this journal, we've been home almost one month. We are well. Except for our family visit in Arkansas we were masked or socially distant from others. At this point in time, North Dakota, Utah, and many of the other states we visited are on the list of top 10 hotspots for Covid-19 cases per capita.

I look forward to more road trips and eventually more travels abroad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Road Trip Part 4, Family visits: September 20-28, 2020

From Ely, Minnesota, we drove south toward Lake Superior continuing through Wisconsin and Illinois to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my first great niece. Aurora Amador was born to Brittany and Anthony on September 6, 2020, which was also the day after her mother worked her last day. 

It took us two long days of driving to get to Aurora's house from Ely. Along the way we drove through Finland (Minnesota) and stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior.

1909 Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior
Our car's GPS had quite a few "senior moments" going through Ohio, but finally we arrived. We spent all of the next day with Brittany and Aurora and my brother Leonard and his spouse Kristin (Brittany's parents) who had arrived in Ohio just a few days before. Because of all the Covid-19 restrictions, we haven't visited with Leonard and Kristin for months. We haven't seen Brittany and Anthony since sometime last year. We wore masks because of all the places we'd recently visited.

The Amadors (photo borrowed)
The next day we stopped in to say our goodbyes and drove south again this time to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky because it was on the way to our planned family visit in Arkansas.

Mammoth Cave NP was a good place to catch our breath after all the driving. We walked every trail--none of them are very long and visited Mammoth Cave. 

We saw several deer on our trail walks. The woods has some really large trees, but the vegetation was so monotonously green despite having both conifer and deciduous trees.

Because of Covid-19 there are no ranger-led tours of the cave. The park service did have rangers spread out along the walking route to explain key aspects of what we were seeing.

Because the dinner restaurant at the park was closed, we drove to nearby towns to have dinner. We stayed in Mammoth Cave Lodge's perfectly comfortable Sunset Terrace building. Pre and post Covid-19 a visit to the park would have been more interesting with many more cave exploration possibilities. Also, they will once again have a lantern tour of Mammoth Cave that sounded very cool.

After our Mammoth Cave interlude, we made the long drive to Rogers, Arkansas, to visit with my Aunt Bessie and Uncle Bob. Bessie is my mother's sister. In the 1990s we visited Bessie and Bob while they were working in Papua New Guinea. Now, they live in the town where Walmart began. We got on the road early and arrived in Rogers in time to enjoy a wonderful meal together at the River Grille.

The next day, my cousin Wayne and my cousin Paul and his spouse Amy arrived for a visit.

Amy, Paul, me, Dan, Wayne
Paul, me, and Wayne
Our next family visit was a big detour south to Plano, Texas, to have a meal with my niece Christine and her husband Bill. It was last minute because our reason for returning to California by October 1 had vanished allowing us to keep traveling a few more days. At Christine's suggestion, Dan and I got tickets to the Dallas Arboretum to see their Autumn show. We love gardens so that was a perfect way for us to fill the time until dinner. The gardens were extraordinary and the pumpkin installations were creative and fun. Even though we were in an outdoor garden, masks were required for everyone at all times.

Quinceañera photos
The Dallas Arboretum provides a beautiful backdrop for quinceañera photos. We saw lots of beautiful young women in gorgeous gowns surrounded by photographers.

Squares drawn on the grass to keep groups separate
Bill and Christine at Mexican Sugar Restaurant
Despite pandemic worries and masks, it was really nice to visit, however brief, with people we love.

The next day was another early morning for a long drive to overnight in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Next stop: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.