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1997 West Vacation - September 13 through 27, Part 6 of 6


My 1997 West Vacation - 14 days, 5440 miles.
Days 11 to 14, Colorado National Monument to Home.

Utah 279 - September 23

The Colorado River starts in Colorado, but it doesn't become legendary until it hits Utah. (And the Colorado wasn't named after the state, but I digress.)

In my opinion, it's one of those scenic rivers that rivals the best. I've been down the Northwest river system (the Lochsa, Snake and Clearwater), the Central river systems (the Missouri, Mississippi and the Ohio) but none are as scenic, or as used, as the Colorado River.

We followed Utah-279 for a few miles. We were going to take a backroad through the backdoor of Dead Horse State Park, but we found out it was a four wheel drive road, and had to double back.

Utah 279 / Colorado River
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Canyonlands National Park - September 23

Canyonlands National Park
Grand View Point, Canyonlands National Park.
Canyonlands is a relatively new park, established in 1964, and sprawls for 527 square miles over the Utah desert. It averages less than 6 inches of rain per year, and there are 30 days in July, and 26 days in August that are over 90 degrees. This Park is the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, breaking the park up into three sections: the Island in the Sky, The Maze, and the Needles. The Island and the Sky district of Canyonlands, is the closest to any form of civilization, so, well, that's where we went.

Just to the South of Canyonlands, is the Glen Canyon NRA, and shortly beyond that is the Grand Canyon. So Canyonlands is sort of the Grand Canyon Lite...

I returned here in 2008 to take some pictures, and visit Dead Horse Point State Park, another of those places gutted from this trip...

We spent the night in Moab.

Canyonlands National Park
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Arches National Park - September 24

By this time in the trip, I thought I'd seen a lot, but Arches National Park was something just...alien. It isn't just the arches that make this place weird. Almost everything here is red, except for the plant life, which is usually green-brown because of the lack of water and soil.

Water erosion has left odd formations all over the park, some recognizable as familiar creatures, some standing upright like unfinished statues.

Of course, this place isn't called Arches for nothing. There are more than 1600 cataloged arches within the parks boundaries, the greatest density of stone arches anywhere in the world. This is probably one of the premier National Parks in America, and definitely in my top 10.

I was also back in 2005 Desert Southwest Vacation, just to take some panoramics and video, and did a jet boat tour down the Colorado River.

Arches National Park
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Utah 128 - September 24

Utah-128 is one of those legendary places that probably looks familiar to everyone, but no one knows why.

There were literally hundreds of movies shot in this area, from Rio Grande to Thelma and Louise. Utah-128 starts in Moab, Utah to I-70, and is one of the few roads that follows the meanders and curves of the Colorado River. It's a magnificent drive, full of history and unending vistas.

(If you ever watch Rio Grande, Maureen O'Hara describes a spring just outside of Moab, that they would visit every day to and from the set. It's still there.)

I also took Utah 128, but in the opposite direction in 2008 West.

Utah 128
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Colorado National Monument - September 24

About a hundred miles down the Road from Arches National Park, is Colorado National Monument, the edge of the Uncompahgre Uplift. Wind, rain and frost eroded canyon walls, leaving magnificent vistas, deep valleys, and unusual rock formations.

A guy named John Otto first came to the Uncompahgre plateau in 1906, and was convinced that the area should be a national park. He built miles of trails, and started an endless campaign to get the land recognized by the politicians in Washington DC. All without any personal gain.

The park did become a National Monument in 1911, where Otto was named the park's caretaker, where for the next 16 years, he worked for a dollar a month. He may not have done it for money, but he did get into the history books.

We spent the night in Glenwood Springs, CO.

Colorado National Monument
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Rocky Mountain National Park (Part 2) - September 25

Rocky Mountain National Park
Jo found the snow so amusing, she built a snowman. Rocky Mountain National Park.
About 2 weeks after first being in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was there again, only this time entering the park from the Grand Lake side. It had snowed since I was there last, letting me know that life is quite different at 11,000+ feet. It was a perfect opportunity to sit my butt down on Milner Pass. I'm such a tourist...

The same place Jo built the little snowman is where there were 6 foot drifts that closed the roads in 2008. The park looked quite different when covered in snow.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Part 2)
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On the road home... - September 25 & 26

One of the stops we made on the way home was in Abilene, Kansas, the birthplace of Dwight Eisenhower, and one of the West's most notorious cattle towns.

On the road home...
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1997 was a milestone for me, showing me the Wonders of the West. As soon as I was back, I knew Yellowstone would be up for next year.

Keane's 1997 West Trip:
Days: 15
Miles: 5437 miles
Miles/Day: 362 miles/day
Gas (Gallons): 198.25
Cost (gas): $272.49
Miles/Gallon: 27.42
Cost (lodging): $797.21
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End 1997 West Vacation - Part 6 of 6.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

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