Southwest 2017:
Day 8 - Utah


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Southwest 2017: [Day 1 - Missouri] [Day 2 - Texas] [Day 3 - New Mexico] [Day 4 - Arizona] [Day 5 - Arizona] [Day 6 - Arizona] [Day 7 - Arizona] [Day 8 - Utah] [Day 9 - Colorado] [Day 10 - Kansas]

Friday, November 24, 2017: Just before checking out, Debbie made a second attempt to duplicate ...
... this photo from 1978. A few things have changed, but the pool, sign, and Circle K in the background are still there.
We drove past the Sanderson building again ...
... and stopped for a second. It is now home to Sanderson's Into the Grand.
It's a dinner theater that closed a few weeks earlier for the season, unfortunately. We were sad to miss the opportunity to see the river runner memorabilia inside as well. Maybe next trip?
Next, we visited the Page Cemetery.
One of the guides from Debbie's 1980 river trip, Don Safley (nicknamed Schmedly), had been killed in a plane accident in the Colorado River in 1986 and we were here to pay our respects.
It only took a few minutes of looking to find their double grave.
His young son had died in the accident with him and they are buried together here. Little Gent's side of the monument had been decorated with little toy cars.
Debbie got choked up when she saw that Don's side had been decorated with a Sanderson River Expeditions belt buckle. RIP, Schmedly, on behalf of the hundreds of people who enjoyed your river trips.
We headed just outside of town ...
... to Antelope Canyon, where we had tickets for a morning tour.
Good thing we had bought our tickets in advance as they were completely sold out for the day. It turns out that Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one. Our guide, Tyler, was up from college for the weekend and was helping out with tours.
We started by walking a short distance ...
... to the entrance, which consisted of a long walkway, most of which had a cover over it. From here, it was a 45-minute wait to get into the canyon.
Fifteen minutes in, we had moved a little bit. Groups were allowed into the canyon by tour ticket time.
Tyler chatted up our group, most of whom were foreign. We asked him about his Star Wars button, which led to a full Star Wars discussion. He mentioned having a tattoo which he allowed us to photograph. It's certainly the first Navajo-inspired Star Wars tattoo we've ever seen before.
From this point, it was another 10 minutes before we made it into the canyon.
For safety reasons, absolutely no cameras or phones may be out while descending the stairs to the canyon floor, so here was the next photo we took.
Once in the canyon, we all lost our minds and photographed everything we could think of, but we needed to pace ourselves, because the really good stuff was going to come later.
We took a lot of photos but have edited them down to just a couple dozen.
Here's Debbie stepping through a narrow spot, ...
... and here's Tom in a little corner of the canyon.
The rock in the lower center looks like a lion's head.
The tour starts at the lower end of the canyon and slowly works its way up. In some places, we climbed stairs and ladders to ascend.
One of the couples on our tour photographed each other or themselves every five feet. There they are behind Debbie working on yet another selfie. By the end of the tour, they probably had at least 150 photos of themselves, and this really isn't an exaggeration. We got six.
Our guide told us that this section was used in an early Windows backdrop, but no amount of internet searching could confirm this.
Here are some steps made out of rolled steel.
Tyler arranged to photograph each of us at a couple of points along the tour.
Here we are.
And here we are again a little further up the canyon. Thanks, Tyler!
Here's another little step on the canyon floor to help keep from slipping on the sand and smooth sides.
Tyler told us this view was used in Windows 7, but again, we had no luck confirming this online.
At the start of our tour, Tyler adjusted all of our cameras for us, so that the photos came out as vivid and sharp as possible. He also was helpful about taking photos of things that needed to be photographed from specific angles.
For example, Tyler took this photo for us by aiming it almost straight up. He told us it was called Rocky Mountain Sunset. That checks out online.
Here's more pretty scenery.
And more.
This beautiful formation is referred to as Pocahontas.
This one looks like a bison head.
This photo gives you an idea of how far ahead the previous group typically was. At this point, we had gotten ahead of the annoying couple so that not every photo we took consisted of them posing.
More scenery.
And more us.
Being a morning tour, the sunlight didn't break through in many places, but now it was starting to shine more often.
Here's another ladder to climb. It was a really fun walk/climb the whole way.
Knowing we were Star Wars fans, Tyler took Tom's phone and got photos of ...
... Jabba the Hutt and ...
... Darth Vader.
It's a little more obvious from Tyler's vantage point here.
The shape of the sky in this shot looks a little like a seahorse, and as everyone knows, chicks dig seahorses.
The last five minutes of the tour consisted mostly of clijmbing out of the canyon. Here's the group ahead of us.
Here's the last set of stairs after the previous group was gone, taken while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive.
An hour and 45 minutes after we started, we emerged out of this crack in the ground.
To give you a sense of scale, here's someone from the group behind us photographing her friends as they get close to the surface.
In no time, we were back on the road and driving past the Navajo Generating Station.
Here's some pretty scenery on our drive to Kayenta.
More scenery.
We passed the Black Mesa mining operation.
A coal train tunnel is built right over the highway.
More scenery.
As we neared Kayenta, we could see El Capitan in the distance, our first indication that we were near Monument Valley.
Kayenta always welcomes us with the Burger King billboard advertising the Navajo Code Talkers Display.
Of course, that's where we headed for lunch.
The Burger King had been either rebuilt or remodeled since we were last there in 1998, and the Navajo Code Talkers display had been updated as well.
In addition to several smaller wall displays, an entire wall gallery contained mementos and information.
We headed north to the Utah border. That's El Capitan up ahead on the right. Couldn't find the name of the formation on the left, unfortunately.
Behold, El Capitan!
To our left, we passed another one of those cool hexagon-shaped homes. Our Antelope Canyon guide had told us that these were called hogans.
To our right was the Arizona portion of Monument Valley. We could have taken a circle drive through it, but we were working our way north.
So we crossed into Utah and continued heading north.
We found the exact spot to get out and recreate ...
... this photo of Debbie from 1978.
Now here's a fun wildlife crossing sign.
This was another recreated shot from 1978. Shown here from left to right are: Stagecoach, Big Indian, and Sentinel Mesa.
Further up the road is the classic Monument Valley shot. This view is so famous that it is the place where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie.
We weren't the only ones here trying to get a good shot. Debbie helped this gentleman get just the right photo on his phone.
Our next point of interest was the town of Mexican Hat. But where is it? To see it, you will need to drive down a 10% grade hill.
These hotels were pressed against the rock walls so they could overlook ...
... the lovely San Juan River.
The town is named after the Mexican Hat rock formation just north of town.
On our way out of town, Debbie managed to find the exact stretch of road ...
... where this photo was taken from a moving Buick LeSabre back in 1978.
Goosenecks State Park is very close to Mexican Hat, so we went there next.
The Goosenecks are a series of horseshoe bends all in a row. Here's the left bend, ...
... the middle bend, ...
... and the right bend.
Tom was good enough to get a panorama shot to tie it all together.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Oh, hey, there is Monument Valley way off in the distance, just beyond the middle gooseneck.
We went down for a walk to see if we could recreate a photo of Debbie from 1978. Debbie had found where it was taken, courtesy of Google Maps, but it turns out that we are cautious old people and did not want to follow in foolish young Debbie's steps, ...
... so back up the rocks we went.
Much to Tom's dismay, we drove along the canyon's edge to see if there was a better angle to try to get all of the goosenecks in one shot. Conclusion: there wasn't. Our trusty van, Septimus, handled the pothole-filled dirt-and-rock road like a champ. Our trusty driver, not so much. But here's a view of the lookout point where we were a few minutes earlier.
Next, we continued heading north. More scenery.
Check out the bands of color in these mini-canyons.
Let's go there.
There's a 17-mile scenic loop drive through the Valley of the Gods, but none of it is paved.
Almost immediately, we encountered a large puddle (or small stream, depending on if you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person). It did not phase Septimus, of course. This was taken on the way out, as it was just too traumatic to take a photo on the way in.
We didn't have a lot of time, and Tom didn't have a lot of interest in driving on a dirt road, but we went in a bit to at least get a photo. Here it is.
And we're off again.
At this point, it was becoming a thing to photograph an oil pump in every state. Here's the Utah photo, ...
... just prior to arriving in Colorado.
When researching Monument Valley, Debbie was disappointed to learn that we wouldn't be able to see the famous formation called Shiprock, because it was located in northern New Mexico. That turned out to be false, because there it is off in the distance!
Rising 1,583 feet above the desert floor, it's an impressive sight. Let's zoom waaaaaaaaaay in. Score!
More driving as we made our way to Cortez, Colorado.
Cortez is a cute town with many charming things, such as this Tomahawk Motel with a tomahawk in the sign. This would be fun to see at night.
Here's an old west mural along one city block wall.
The Cork 'n Bottle Liquor sign is another one that would be great to see at night.
The Colorado Visitor Center was the first public restroom we had seen in hours, so in we went.
Imagine our delight to find a statue inside that is part of a parade of statues! This one was titled "Sky Prowler" was part of the "Pumas on Parade" exhibit in 2005 sponsored by the San Juan Mountains Association. We got a brochure that noted the locations of the other statues in nearby towns.
We were starting to see some legit mountains in the distance. Colorado-sized mountains.
It was getting close to sundown when we passed the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. We knew we wouldn't have time to see anything there, but we felt that what we had already seen more than made up for it.
Putting the world's largest Jarts on your property is a very compelling way to lure potential customers to your trading post.
We drove around Historic Mancos for a few minutes trying to find some of the puma statues that are noted to be there. They were either removed or stored indoors, so we didn't find any.
Here's the scenery as we got closer to Durango.
We found a liquor store in Durango so we could buy some sampler packs of local breweries. We loaded up three of them and a six-pack of Ballast Point's Habanero Sculpin, one of Tom's favorites.
We searched for a place to get dinner, and when Debbie happened upon a place called Taco Boy, we knew we had to continue our streak of eating at places with "Taco" in the title.
We ended up getting burritos, because that seemed to be their specialty, so don't judge.
On our way out, we were greeted by the neighborhood cat, Mittens (according to the name on her food bowl).
An hour later, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Pagosa Springs, the Alpine Inn.

It was a very welcoming place with a nice comfortable room.

Day 9 >


Southwest 2017: [Day 1 - Missouri] [Day 2 - Texas] [Day 3 - New Mexico] [Day 4 - Arizona] [Day 5 - Arizona] [Day 6 - Arizona] [Day 7 - Arizona] [Day 8 - Utah] [Day 9 - Colorado] [Day 10 - Kansas]

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