Archive for May, 2010

Echo Park

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Our motorcycle ride took us to Echo Park, the end of the road and a major stop-over for the rafters. At the center of Dinosaur National Monument the Yampa river flows into the Green river which then twists around a huge monolith named Steamboat Rock. Echo Park is the campground in a natural amphitheater opposite Steamboat Rock, at the end of a fantastic road through a sheer walled canyon.

The canyon leading to Echo Park.

Ancient petroglyphs pecked into the sheer canyon wall, 35 feet up!

The 'bow' of Steamboat Rock with the Green river flowing around it.

Exploring Dinosaur Nat’l. Mon.

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

We decided to move from the busy raft put-in site at Deerlodge Campground, but we had to find a spot we can park the camper and trailer out of the way! The spot we found is off a county road at the border of the park on BLM land about 1500 feet higher in elevation with great views towards the Yampa river valley and canyons. The weather was windy, but warm and sunny so we took a motorcycle ride on the Yampa Bench road in the park. The road follows the river on a high bench with occasional overlooks down onto the river.

The ride started with a long view through a burned out area towards the river canyon.

We then descended the twisting, turning road along the side canyons.

At Wagon Wheel Point Overlook we got our first look at the river and saw the rafters that had cast-off on Tuesday from Deerlodge!

At Harding Hole Overlook we looked over sheer cliffs to see the oxbow turn in the river.

At Castle Park Overlook we looked down on a lush green private ranch on the river, as well as the Park Service rafters that had cast-off on Tuesday as well.

Rafting the Yampa

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

We woke to a beehive of activity. We soon discovered that we are camped at THE prime spot to put-in for rafting the Yampa river at this highest-flow time of year. We learned that the Yampa is the last undammed, free-flowing, wild tributary to the huge Colorado River system. As we relaxed drinking our morning coffee we watched 5 groups arrive, pump up their rafts, pack, load gear, gather for their pre-boating safety lectures, don their life-jackets, load passengers and cast off! Just as the last boat floated away, tomorrow’s group began to arrive to camp overnight before their launch. What we thought would be a remote, quiet campsite is one of the busiest spots for rafters in the country! By late July the natural run-off will diminish and the river will shrink to a trickle and the campsite will truly be a remote, quiet spot.

The National Park Service arrived with 5 rafts and a group of volunteer "weed warriors" who travel the river corridor and eliminate non-native plants.

The pre-boating safety lecture for another group.

The commercial guided trip casting off.

The campsite is situated on a natural flood plain that is occassionally under water!

The Yampa River

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The day after crossing the Rockies brought a cold, windy, wet storm. We had camped along the Yampa river west of Craig, Co. but the weather didn’t afford any recreation for us so we moved further west to Deerlodge Campground in Dinosaur National Monument, also on the Yampa river.

The storm over the Yampa.

The storm started breaking up after 5pm when we arrived at Deerlodge campground.

A beautiful sunset reflected on the receding clouds.

Crossing the Rockies

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A break between storms allowed us a great day to cross the Rockies on Sunday, May 23. As we drove towards Fort Collins, CO we saw the mountains  in the distance rise from the prairie. We went through Fort Collins and followed the Cache La Poudre river (or ‘Pooder’ as we later learned the locals call it) towards the pass. We descended from the first pass into a high plateau ringed by snow capped mountains. Over the next snow covered pass we came into Steamboat Springs, CO, a green oasis of lush grass, aspens and ski slopes.

A tiny portion of the Rocky Mountains!

Some of the mountains surrounding the high plateau.

The welcome oasis in Steamboat Springs after crossing the "Rabbit Ears Pass".

Shortgrass Prairie

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

We’re camped at Crow Valley campground in the Pawnee National Grassland of northeast Colorado. Apparently this is a world-class birding site this time of the year, affording glimpses of over 300 species of birds, some of which migrate through on their route up the east side of the rockies. The ‘people watching’ is interesting too, all the L.L. Bean clad visitors with binoculars or cameras glued to their faces, looking up into the trees. We were planning on going for a walk to take pictures as it cooled down this afternoon, but at 4:46pm the wind shifted and increased to a howling, cool blast. The temperature dropped from 87 to 65 degrees in 15 minutes! So no current pictures, but here’s a shot of a buffalo we saw in Wyoming in May of 2006. I’m sure these grasslands once supported buffalo, but they aren’t here anymore. We have seen some pronghorn and lots of prairie dogs though!

Turkeys and Orioles

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

On our walk today we saw a beautiful yellow-orange bird flitting around the yucca and grass, then flying into the cottonwoods chasing a paler version of itself. It took me many clicks of the mouse to discover what birds they were. I finally settled on Bullocks Orioles (see some pictures by clicking on the name). This is the extreme eastern edge of their breeding range. We’ve also seen blue jays, cardinals, goldfinches, many other songbirds and wild turkeys. On our recent cross country drive we’ve even seen turkeys doing their mating dances in open fields. Here at Church Grove we’ve gotten just glimpses of the wary birds, but their tracks are evident in the rain soaked roads. We also found broken egg shells, hopefully from turkey chicks hatching, and not marauding raccoons.

Pretty flowers compete with the colorful birds.

Southwest Nebraska

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

From the huge Lake McConaughy (Bic Mac to locals) on the North Platte river near Ogallala, Nebraska, we traveled south to a smaller more remote reservoir on Frenchman Creek at Enders, Nebraska. We’re hunkering down for a few days to let a weather system pass. We’ve had some rain and some breaks in the weather to walk and entertain Mavrik, but it’s still snowing in Colorado, our current destination.

Church Grove in Enders Reservoir State Rec Area.

Frenchman Creek flowing towards the reservoir.

The Prairie; you get the feeling that you're "out west" in this environment.

Turkey tracks on the road.

May 7-15 Hinsdale, IL

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

We spent a week in Robert’s hometown of Hinsdale, Illinois to help celebrate his Mom’s 92nd birthday. She is an amazing woman, preparing a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for her 3 sons, nephew and daughter-in-law, on her own birthday! Thank you Mom, for taking such good care of us while we visited.

We enjoyed a few breaks in the rainy weather to walk around town and admire the fine architecture and meander the forest preserve, Fullersburg Woods, alongside Salt Creek.

The sky reflected in rain-swollen Salt Creek.

For a mere $2,299,993 you too can live in Hinsdale, only 3 blocks from Robert's Mom's house!

Back in Winona

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

We are spending a week visiting my Mom in her hometown of Winona, Minnesota. We’ve had Walleye dinners and an eyeful of midwest spring vegetation.

In 2009, visiting the site of my great-uncle's marina on the Mississippi river.