Windows Arches

The road into the National Park is a one-way in, one-way out paved road. We plan to take the Jeep on some of the dirt roads within the park in the  upcoming days. We visited about half of the arches on this day and some required short hikes and others required longer, more strenuous hikes to get to the actual arches. The first few pictures below are of the Sand Dune Arch. To get to this arch, you had to pass through a small opening filled with sandstone from the rocks. The arch is deep inside the formation (the first picture below). We are under the Sand Dune Arch in several pictures and this was one of my favorite attractions of the day!!

The later pictures in this section are of the Broken Arch which was a mile or so from the Sand Dune Arch.  Greg is standing underneath it in some of the pictures. After hiking through this arch, we followed the cairns (rock formations) on the trail to connect back to the Sand Dune Arch.

 

More pictures from the day. We continued our trip by visiting the Windows Section of the  park which many people say is the beating heart of Arches national Park. The area contains a large concentration of arches and is one of themes scenic locations in the park. We were able to hike to North Windows, South Windows, and Turret Windows. There are others in this section but we will have to visit on another day. These arches were caused by the cutting action of wind-blown sand (not stream erosion as many of the others are). Below in this section are the Three Gossips and the Courthouse Towers from the earlier post as those formations are at the beginning of the road. Today we are going Jeeping…we want the Jeep to do the work, we’re tired from our hikes yesterday. Tomorrow, back to the park for more hiking and views of the arches!

 

God’s Amazing Handiwork

Our KOA Campground is nice…gravel and dirt and rocks like all of the other neighboring campgrounds. They’re all kind of pricey because they know campers will come…and all of them are booked solid this weekend. We started our trip to Arched around 9:00am which is the busiest time for people to enter but traffic wasn’t too bad upon entering and the park is so big there’s plenty of room for everyone to tour the sights. After passing the visitor’s center and climbing steeply along switchback roads, the first major area of the park we saw was Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers area. We walked along the massive monoliths and towering walls and could see beautiful views of the La Sal Mountains nearby. We didn’t do the hike at this stop, but will on the next trip.

Then we came to the Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic features in the park. It’s 128 feet tall and this formation is’t actually balanced the top sandstone actually sits attached to its eroding pedestal of mudstone. They know that eventually the 3,600 ton boulder will come tumbling down as the erosion process continues to shape the landscape. You should come see the formation soon as eventually it will collapse.

 

Greg and I also climbed to the top of the mountain to see the Delicate Arch which is the most famous of all of the Arches. We viewed it first from a short climb to a view point (one mile up) and then made the 6 mile hike to see it up close. This free-standing arch is the most widely recognized symbol of the state of Utah and is one of the most famous geologic features in the world. The opening beneath the arch is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide making it the largest free-standing arch in the park. It has been described as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area”; hence the name Delicate Arch.

Another few pictures of the park.

McDonald’s Arches are Nothing Compared to These Arches

Today was our first day at Arches National Park and I was not prepared for the beauty we witnessed today. The pictures don’t do it justice. I took over 500 pictures today because around every corner was another beautiful scene. Some of the arches/sculptures have names and I’ve listed the ones we saw with names. Some are just beautiful to view and for those I’ve shown the pictures but no captions appear when you scroll over the picture. Water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement are responsible for the sculptured rock scenery of Arches. It’s hard to imagine that such violent forces created this land of the world’s greatest densities of natural arches. There are over 2,000 catalogued arches ranging in size from a three-foot opening, the minimum considered to be an arch, to the longest, Landscape Arch (which we will see another day) which measures 306 feet base to base. Some of the arches are visible from the road and some you must take trails to actually see them. The trails range in very short to several miles long and they also range in difficulty of climb and distance. These are a few of my favorite photos taken with my phone. In the next blog I’ll include more variety of photos.

Driving to Utah

These pictures show the scenery on the drive from Colorado to Utah. We drove through rain and snow and went from over 11,000 feet above sea level to around 5,500 feet. We passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel which is about 60 miles west of Denver. The tunnel carries Interstate 70 under the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. It is the highest vehicular tunnel in the world at an elevation of 11,158 feet. It’s in the Arapaho National Forest and originally it was designed as a single bore tunnel but in 1975 the second bore began and was completed in 1979.  The length of the westbound tunnel is 1.693 miles and the grade of it is 7%, which means I was gripping the arm rest of the Coach while Greg was driving. I enjoyed the scenery, now you can too. Arriving in Utah in a couple of hours.

Last Day of Mountain Driving

Today was our last day in Colorado. Off to Utah tomorrow. The first section of pictures are some of my favorite from the past several days.

These are some pictures from Central City (where we stayed and where small casinos are located) and also pictures of Black Hawk (where the larger hotels and casinos are located).

We took a ride to Golden, another small city near the campground and the home of the Coors factory. The ride was a beautiful one and we stopped several times to watch mountain climbers and view the scenery. Read the captions beneath the pictures to see which pictures have climbers in them. You have to stretch out the pictures and look hard to find them. We enjoyed watching but it stops there!!  Tomorrow we head to Moab. See you then.

How to get to the better mountain to climb. Park on one side and swing to the other side.

There’s Gold in Colorado (and I found some)

The highlight of the trip today was a trip to the Hidee Gold Mine near Central City and Black Hawk. At the end of the tour we were able to stop at a real 5 foot wide vertical gold vein where we used a single jack hammer and chisel (see my video below) to chip a gold ore sample loose. The Central City area where we’ve been camping is the “richest square mile on Earth” and the Hidee Gold Mine is located in that area. It was a chilly trip into the mine today as the temperature is always 46 degrees year round. Mining is back breaking work and there were lots of dangers in the dark underground and today we learned about Tommyknockers that helped the miners. It was believed that these wee little men (we would call them gnomes) were sent to work as slaves in the mines. They were known to commit both good and bad deeds and they played practical jokes and committed random acts of mischief. The miners would often leave them gifts so they would bring them good luck and protect them while working in the mines. So in today’s mine, there were Tommyknockers all around the mine to bring us good luck as we searched for gold. We also learned about “Widow-makers” while on the tour. When first mining, miners used a hand drill and hammer and black power was used for blasting. Later, pneumatic drills were developed and compressed air was fed into the drill, which operated a piston that hammered the bit into the rock. Once the hole was deep enough, explosives were placed inside to break the ore into more manageable pieces and water was not used so a huge amount of dust was created. The drill earned the nickname “widow maker” because many of the men who operated the drill died from illnesses related to inhaling too much dust. We learned a lot at the mill and it was lots of fun as well. And I even left with two bags of ore filled with gold. The map below shows all of the mines in the area and the Hidee Gold Mine veins were outlined in red. Gives you a good idea of how many mines were actually in the area. This mine is currently only used for tours; it isn’t a “working” mine.

Red Rocks and Guanella Pass

Our day began with a trip to Central City, CO which is the city we can see from our coach’s windshield. This city is known as the “Richest Square Mile of Earth” because the first mining claims were made in this small town.  Now the streets are lined with casinos which were brought in to keep the town from becoming a ghost town after the mining boom ended. Many of the old buildings in this historic town have been converted into casinos and lots of new casinos can be found in the nearby town of Black Hawk. Check out the town below.

 

Then we made the drive to the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It was amazing to see the boulders surrounding the theater. It’s an open-air amphitheater built  into a rock structure and it’s a pretty cool venue for concerts. When we were there lots of people were using the area as an exercise arena, jogging, up and across the steps, doing yoga, etc. We just enjoyed the view and took pictures while there.

 

Next we visited the town of Georgetown. Georgetown was a former silver mining camp along the Clear Creek in front of the Rocky Mountains. This town sits at an elevation of 8,530 feet above sea level and it’s tucked into the mountains along Interstate 70. Because it was a silver mining camp it earned the nickname the “Silver Queen of Colorado”.

 

Our last stop of the day was a drive along the Guanella Pass with an elevation of over 11,000 feet above sea level. The pass provides a scenic route between Georgetown and Grant as a link between Interstate 70 and Highway 285. There are lots of trails off of the pass and it’s often closed because of so much snow.