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phoebus - The Amazing Adventures of Sid - Week 6
Grand Canyon NP, Little Colorado River Gorge, Glen Canyon NRA, Lake Powell, Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Bryce Canyon NP, Kodachrome Basin SP, Capitol Reef NP, Arches NP, Denver
Bright Angel Canyon from Canyon View VC
View from Canyon View Visitor Centre along Bright Angel Canyon - a branch of Grand Canyon.
Northwest from Grandview Point
View northwest along Grand Canyon from Grandview Point.
West from Lipan Point
View west along Grand Canyon from Lipan Point. In the distance you can see the Colorado River at the bottom of the Inner Gorge. You can quite clearly see the two canyons separated by the Tonto Plateau.
Checked out of the lodge and went to the first lookout point over the canyon. The sun was beating down with all its might making it very hot indeed. It seems that the canyon is in fact a canyon within a canyon: the Grand Canyon is the main part and surfaces out at the Tonto Plateau, about two thirds of the way down. After that the Inner Gorge is cut from the Tonto Plateau the rest of the way. At the very bottom is the Colorado River. The Tonto Plateau is a shelf of extremely hard rock that has been exposed by the softer rock above it and has a soft pale green appearance due to the foliage that has managed to grow on it; it also has a number of trails snaking around it that can be followed for miles. The whole
North from Navajo Point
View north along Grand Canyon from Navajo Point. The Colorado River is again at the bottom.
Little Colorado River Gorge
The Little Colorado River Gorge from a distance. It looks like a scar in the land.
canyon is set in the Colorado Plateau, a massive area that covers Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, which was uplifted during the creation of the Rockies. All around the rim
Little Colorado River Gorge
A closer view of the Little Colorado River Gorge. This is slightly less travelled so there are no barriers and you can walk right to the edge.
of the plateau are the national parks and canyons that everyone goes to see, created by water running off the top. It seems that there is one thing that geologists can't decide upon, which is why the Colorado River decided to cut its way through this area of the plateau (which is slightly higher than the rest), rather than going around it. After driving east along the south rim and stopping at various points to view the canyon, I ended up at the eastern-most viewing point, Desert View, that gave a view all the way along the canyon
North on US-89 towards The Gap
North on US-89 towards The Gap. I think this is the Painted Desert.
North on US-89 towards The Gap
Still north on US-89 towards The Gap. In the distance you can see the cliffs of Preston Mesa.
and around to the north where the river enters - quite spectacular. Having weaved my way around the German and Japanese tourists by the coach-load (literally) I made it back to the car and continued out of the park on highway 64. The road met up with US-89 and headed north through some of the most bizarre landscape I have ever seen. All around were smaller
Northeast from US-89 to Preston Mesa at The Gap
Looking northwest from US-89 towards Preston Mesa at The Gap. (The Gap is the town at the bottom in case you were wondering).
canyons cut by other rivers, but from the viewpoint of the road on top of a plateau, it appeared to be a series of large, winding scars cut into the land. After this small, smooth hills and stacks coloured grey and red surrounded most of the journey; it actually looked like someone had simply dumped piles of sand all over the place (I have since discovered
North on US-89 through Echo Cliffs
Approaching Echo Cliffs on US-89.
Navajo Stalls on US-89 on Echo Cliffs
Navajo stalls on US-89 on Echo Cliffs (from where the panorama was taken). They had some great rugs but they were $750!
that it was probably an area called the Painted Desert). Then a wall of red rock erupted like a knife, which the road followed beside for about 80 miles, until turning and going up, over and down the back of it. The road went slowly down the back of the rock wall, which on this side was a much shallower angle, and into another area of canyons, the Glen Canyon. Eventually I ended up driving to the Glen Canyon Dam, which dams the Colorado River creating Lake Powell, a huge lake populated by the rich with their large boats and other playthings. I walked around the area for a while, which contains the Glen Canyon Power Station, an amazingly clean and new looking station and then headed back towards a town called
View from Echo Cliffs Panorama
A panaroma from half way up Echo Cliffs. It doesn't quite match up, but you get the idea. The smoke in the distance is the forest fire on the North Rim of Grand Canyon. The scars on the land are smaller canyons.
Page that overlooks the canyon and dam. I checked into the Travelodge, since both the Best Westerns had just received a number of coach-loads of people and were fully booked, and went for dinner in a steakhouse around the corner.
US-89 Bridge over Glen Canyon from Glen Canyon Dam VC
The US-89 bridge over Glen Canyon Dam from the Visitor Centre. Right at the bottom you can see a row of boats that take people on journeys up and down the river. I've no idea how they get down there. Maybe they've all just travelled from Acapulco.
Lake Powell from Glen Canyon Dam VC
A view of Lake Powell from the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Centre.
Lake Powell from Wahweap Panorama
Another panorama that doesn't match up. This is of Lake Powell near the entrance to the Glen Canyon Dam. It doesn't really curve like this, that's just the effect of the panorama.
Northeast across Lake Powell from Wahweap Slipway
View northeast across Lake Powell from the Wahweap slipway.
Checked out and drove down to the Glen Canyon Dam, over it and turned off the highway to follow the shore of Lake Powell. I stopped off a few times to admire the views of the lake and surrounding canyons and hills and eventually ended up back on US-89 and drove over the border into Utah. After a while amazingly-coloured cliffs (red, pink, orange, white) started appearing a few miles from the road. I turned off onto an information site and noticed there was a gravel track (county route 585) going further into the cliffs. The range of cliffs the track heads into is called the Vermillion Cliffs, and rather appropriately for they were coloured in the most vivid pinkish-red. They are one of a series of
Cliffs from CR-585
Some of the amazing cliffs I passed in the gravel track CR-585. For a sense of scale, the bushes in the distance are a couple of feet taller than me.
Cliffs from CR-585
A slightly closer view of the cliffs. The colours are a little washed out again - I don't think my digital camera likes bright sunlight like this (or I don't know how to work it).
cliffs aligned parallel to one another, each having a name apt to their colour, hence: Vermillion Cliffs, Chocolate Cliffs, White Cliffs, Grey Cliffs and Pink Cliffs. They, together with the Grand Canyon, make up the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which is a heavily eroded area of the Colorado Plateau. Following the gravel track was
Cliffs from CR-585
More coloured cliffs and part of the track I was on. The Vermillion Cliffs stretch across the background.
great fun and gave plenty of opportunities for skids and wheel spins, for which I think the car was truly grateful. The track was extremely rough in places, so much so that I thought the dashboard was going to fall off, and alternated between soft sand and small rocks. The car also received several severe bumps due to the road crossing a number of dried riverbeds, and some scrapes from the narrow road and rocks protruding from the side. Lots of other roads came off the track but were impassable by a nasty little car such
Southwest along CR-585
Going back along the gravel track shortly after plunging into a dry river bed.
Cliffs in Dixie National Forest
Some of the cliffs in Dixie National Forest shortly before Bryce Canyon. Again, think of it as being redder.
as mine, so I continued on into the cliffs, which were fantastic, being striated with several different bands of colour. After reaching the end, turning round and going back onto the highway the back of the car was completely covered with red dust, making it look pretty rugged, I thought. I continued along the highway and turned off on Johnson Canyon Road,
Cliffs in Dixie National Forest
More of the cliffs along the road through Dixie National Forest.
although I didn't see Johnson Canyon (I guess I missed it) and the road became a gravel track after a while. The road went up and down a number of hills and valleys and at several points along the journey there were lots of cliffs off the edge of the road, making it quite difficult to continue skidding around corners. The road ended up several miles further up US-89 at Glendale, and I turned off onto highway 12 towards Bryce Canyon. Amazing rock formations appeared on either side - spires and fins of red rock sticking out of cliffs.
Bryce Canyon
Looking down into Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon
More of Bryce Canyon. On the right you can see the trail I walked along.
I turned off route 12 onto route 63 and into a town called Ruby's Inn where I tried to book into the Best Western but they had just received a coach load of Japanese (again) and were booked up. Fortunately the guy at the reservation desk knew of a few places in a town down the road called Tropic and he reserved a room in an inn there for me. Having
Trail into Bryce Canyon
The trail into the depths of the canyon. It doesn't look too bad here, but just when you think you're there...
secured the room I continued down route 63 into Bryce Canyon National Park and stopped at Sunset Point (which seemed apt due to the time). The view was amazing with unbelievable formations of rock spires called "hoodoos" striped red, orange, and white - thousands of them stretching for what seemed like miles. The setting sun made the colours almost glow in the dusky light and gave a very surreal view. The spires are created when large beds of rock are split along parallel lines by uplifting and then the resulting fins are broken
Trail into Bryce Canyon round the corner and see you're only half-way down.
Wall Street in Bryce Canyon
This is Wall Street near the bottom of the canyon. The tree at the top of the picture actually has its roots on the canyon floor - the trunk is right in the middle of Wall Street.
down by erosion, some collapsing altogether, some leaving remnants of themselves in the form of spires. I walked down a zigzagging path, which was very steep, through the spires and down to the canyon floor. The path passed through an area called Wall Street, which was two sheer cliff faces either side of the path creating a passage not more than 10 feet wide, and into an opening with trees scattered around a dry river bed. I continued walking along the path for a while until I noticed that I could no longer hear any people around
Bryce Canyon
A view across Bryce Canyon after sunset. If I'd stayed on the trail I'd be standing near the top left of the picture (and it would be dark).
and it occurred to me that I didn't actually know where I was going, so I turned around and headed back (it turned out to be a good decision as the trail map I looked at later showed the path to continue for another seven miles). I walked back up the path and immediately realised the consequence of walking into a canyon - the path was so steep that I thought I would pass out at any given moment. Eventually making it back to the top, an hour after setting off and getting rather dark (I would not have enjoyed being down there in the pitch black), I drove out of the park, past Ruby's Inn, and into Tropic to check into the Bryce Valley Inn. It has to be said that I have seen some of the most incredible views and rock formations ever whilst in southern Utah and northern Arizona; things I don't think exist anywhere else. I shall definitely have to plan a return journey some time.
Kodachrome Basin
One of the spires in Kodachrome Basin.
Kodachrome Basin
The back part of the semicircle of cliffs within which Kodachrome Basin exists.
First thing I called Dollar car rental and informed them that I was still 1500 miles away with only two days to drop the car off. Fortunately they allowed me to get an extra day and drop it off in Denver, Colorado, which gives me a good excuse to go there. After checking out I drove through Tropic and onwards on highway 12 east until turning off in
Kodachrome Basin
One side of the end of the semicircle. One of the roads goes all the way around this to more cliffs on the other side.
Cannonville (a very small town with a few small wooden houses), down highway 400 towards Kodachrome Basin State Park (bizarrely, it's actually named after the Kodak camera film). A small way into the park a turnoff required a $5 fee popped into an envelope; I'm not sure if everyone that enters the park does this as it's entirely based on trust, but I did since it goes towards upkeep of the park and roads. Kodachrome Basin was amazing, there were several trails to walk along - varying from half a mile to around three - and I walked
Kodachrome Basin
Slightly further out of the semicircle this rock stands alone amongst acres of flat land. For scale, the sign to its right is about waist-height.
View from SH-12
A view of cliffs outside the park. For scale, the green dots on the cliff side are trees.
on a couple until exhausted by the steep climbs and extremely hot sun. The park is set inside a huge semicircle of cliffs within which are 70 or so spires of red sandstone rising out of the ground and cliffs. It creates a very strange atmosphere. Some of them are still joined at the top creating bridges and arches, some of them cluster together and some
Southeast from SH-12 Viewpoint
Southeast from the viewpoint across the wilderness. You can see the road snaking off into the distance. Having read a little more, I think these hills might be petrified sand dunes. In the distance are the pinkish-red rocks of Glen Canyon.
stand entirely on their own in a semi-desert landscape. They are apparently the result of liquid sand seeping into cracks and faults in old rock millions of years ago. The rock was then uplifted and eroded away, leaving the harder spires standing alone. After grabbing the chance to throw the car around some more gravel tracks I left the park and rejoined highway 12 east through Escalante (allegedly one of the largest town in the vicinity but to be honest there were barely 20 buildings in the entire place). The road then went up a huge hill, coming out on the other side to overlook a vast area of endless smooth rock hills with a road winding its way through. Apparently this area provides one of the best places for star gazing since the closest source of light is over 37 miles away. From the lookout point you can see Lake Powell, Glen Canyon and most
Northeast along SH-12 from Viewpoint
A view from the same viewpoint but of the road I just came along.
Northwest from Hog's Back
Looking northwest from Hog's Back. I believe that Calf Creek is at the bottom of the gorge where the trees are.
of the Grand Staircase, as well as several mountains over 100 miles away. Since it is entirely uninhabited it is one of the largest areas of complete wilderness left in the States. I followed the road down in to the wilderness area and it eventually came out on top of a long ridge called Hog's Back with near vertical drops down both sides and providing huge
Grand Staircase from Boulder Mountain
A view of the Grand Staircase Escalante (what a great name) from Boulder Mountain. I think that the pink cliffs are the Waterpocket Fold and in the distance are the Henry Mountains.
views in both directions. The ridge ended and there was a rough gravel road off the highway on the left which I decided not to follow since it was called Hell's Backbone and goes around an area called Box Death Hollow, not particularly inviting. The road continued through a town called Boulder, which was the last town in the States to receive mail by pack mule until the highway was built. After Boulder I stopped on several viewpoints off the highway as the road rose up into Boulder Mountain, on the Aquarius Plateau. Trees were becoming more and more evident and eventually resembled New England in autumn due to the range of colours - red, yellow, orange. The views were stunning, going over a hundred miles across various ranges of mountains and cliffs. After the stops I drove into Torrey and decided to bed down for the night in a Days Inn, which was actually quite nice. Highway 12 is without doubt the best road I've ever driven along with the finest views, I shall definitely have to do it again.
Cliffs from Scenic Drive
The cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold along the Scenic Drive.
Waterpocket Fold from Scenic Drive
A view north along the Waterpocket Fold from the Scenic Drive.
A quick note on the National Park System:
It really is the friendliest and most informative public system I have come across. The system comprises hundreds of National Parks and Monuments across the US, each of which provide you with full maps detailing the area in great depth and trails you can follow, along with a newspaper of current events, road closures and information on what wildlife is
Waterpocket Fold from Scenic Drive
A view south along the Waterpocket Fold from the Scenic Drive.
currently around and what to do to see it, or avoid it, depending on the time of year. The visitor centres are excellent, with hugely detailed maps of the area and occasionally models of the park. The staff are always friendly and knowledgeable. The maps and newspapers are handed out at the entrance stations, where you also pay to get in. Normally it costs $20 for each entrance (one fee lasting a full 24 hours) but if you buy a National Parks Pass (which I, fortunately, did on the first visit to a park) for $50 you get free
Cliffs from Scenic Drive
Another set of cliffs further south along the Scenic Drive.
Cliffs from Scenic Drive
More cliffs along the Scenic Drive - the different colours are amazing.
entry to everything for a year. All the money goes straight to upkeep of the parks. There is certainly something to be said about the way that Americans go about organising their public lands.

I left Torrey and drove along highway 24 until coming to Capitol Reef National Park, stopping at the visitor centre to find out what it was (naturally they had a large model of it).
Road & Cliffs in Capitol Gorge
The road into Capitol Gorge along more cliffs.
It turns out that the park preserves a formation called the Waterpocket Fold, which is a "giant, sinuous wrinkle in the Earth's crust" stretching for 100 miles. It is absolutely vast. It was created by the same force that uplifted the Colorado Plateau, and is basically a single fold, eroded along its entire length into a series of multi-coloured cliffs, domes, spires and canyons. It was named "Capitol Reef" because some of the rocks are domed like the capitol buildings. Reef was a word settlers used to describe an impassable rock.
Capitol Gorge
Capitol Gorge - the sandy track to the right is a large wash. The trail ahead goes all the way to the top of the cliffs.
Road & Echo Cliff
The road into Grand Wash along Echo Cliff.
I took the main Scenic Drive south through the park, which follows the west face of the fold for about 10 miles. The park is much larger and extends around 15 miles to the north of the visitor centre and 40 miles to the south of the end of the road (where it meets up with Glen Canyon National Recreational Area), although you need a high-clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle to explore the rest. All along the road the vertically scarred cliffs created by the erosion stand imposingly tall (their sheerness means that the road is quite close) and
Echo Cliff
Echo Cliff (which doesn't).
are coloured in creamy shades of yellow, pink, orange and red with coloured horizontal strips running the full length. Every few hundred feet the road breaks to dip down into a "wash" area - a concrete depression to allow water from the ridge to wash out to the lower land - and although they are completely dry, there are constant warnings not to park in them due to sudden flash flooding. It seems that just one inch of rain can cause a flash flood several feet high and with enough force to tip cars over. At the end of the road I took a gravel track for another two miles that turned into the ridge and along the floor of a deep, twisting,
Grand Wash
Grand Wash - the walls narrow further ahead. You have to watch your step around here as there can be rattle snakes.
Road & Cliffs in Grand Wash
Echo Cliff again with the road heading out to the Scenic Drive.
sheer-walled canyon called Capitol Gorge. All along the canyon walls was a dark residue called a varnish caused by the water dripping down the cliff face and depositing clay and minerals. It's thought that the majority of the varnish in Capitol Reef was left during the last ice age. At the end was a place to park and a short walk along a sandy wash to a narrow area of the gorge where the walls were no more than 40 feet apart. After this was a trail called Golden Throne that was described as "a strenuous seven mile shadeless trail,"
Arch in Grand Wash
An arch in the cliffs of Grand Wash; you can see the varnish all over the roof and sides.
and foreseeing my early demise from the altitude and extreme heat I decided against attempting it. I headed back to the car and towards the visitor centre, stopping halfway along the main road to go down another gravel track that took me into another canyon, this one along the Grand Wash. Just before the end of the track was a high, curved, sheer-faced canyon wall called Echo Cliff (which didn't echo - I tried), which had arched caves eroded from its base. At the end of the track was another trail that runs all the way to the other side
Dry Lake on Route 24
What looks like a dry lake outside Capitol Reef National Park.
South Caineville Mesa
The South Caineville Mesa on route 24.
of the fold (apparently where Butch Cassidy had a hideout) that used to serve as the main road. There was a photo from the early 1900s of two cars just able to pass one another along the sandy, rocky track between the two canyon walls. I got back to the car and headed back out of the park.

North Caineville Mesa
The North Caineville Mesa; the lower areas are from where the name Luna Mesa comes.
After the park the road passed alongside a number of other areas of uplifted rock - North Blue Flats, Bentonite Hills and the North and South Caineville Mesas - all presenting coloured cliffs. The South Caineville Mesa was a long line of grey cliffs with a grey desert-like landscape in front of it, occasionally breaking for smaller grey cliffs, which was reminiscent of pictures of the moon - a fact confirmed by the area being locally known as Luna Mesa. At the junction of highway 24 with highway 95 I stopped for gas in a town called Hanksville - basically a gas station and a shop - at a gas station that was actually set into the side of a cliff. The shop door was at the front of the cliff and the entire shop had been cut out of the rock - it wasn't a small shop either. A little way further up highway 24 I stopped at a viewpoint by the road where there were a number of small tubes
Gas Station in Hanksville
The Hollow Mountain gas station in Hanksville.
Rocks from Viewpoint North of Hanksville
Some strange rock formations next to a viewpoint just north of Hanksville. They stand alone on top of a mound.
mounted horizontally on top of poles at head height. Each one had the name of a rock formation or mountain underneath it, allowing one to view each of the items through the tubes - a nice touch I thought. Whilst there, a couple of bikers turned up and we chatted for a while. It turned out that they had travelled from Illinois and were continuing to the canyons to the south so we swapped information on what was to come. I continued on my way north and passed through the San Rafael Desert - a vast expanse of low, undulating, sandy
Rafael Reef
The Rafael Reef in the distance. This was as close as I got but it looked quite interesting. It looks like there are ribbons wrapped around the top.
land with small shrubs dotted around every so often. Half way through the desert my digital camera ran out of memory so I had to stop and download what I had into my laptop to free it up. Whilst there I discovered the intense heat of the area and found that I could actually feel the sun burning my skin after only being in direct light for a minute - not somewhere I would want to live. After getting back underway I met up with the I-70 and headed east towards Colorado.

At the last minute, about halfway between the junction and the border, I decided to head south on US-191 to a town called Moab because I wanted to visit the Arches National Park
Moab Fault Sign in Arches NP
A sign in Arches National Park explaining the Moab Fault, which I thought was quite interesting.
Moab Fault from Arches NP
The Moab Fault from a viewpoint at the top of the road from the visitor centre.
having seen a sign for it (and also a slight reluctance to leave the land of deserts and canyons). I booked into a motel and headed straight out to the park, Moab being a few miles south. After the entrance gate was a steep road, switching back on itself four or five times to climb the 1000 or so feet to the top of the Moab Canyon. The place was amazing, bright red sandstone cliffs were everywhere, with boulders balanced precariously on the top. The main road went past several red sandstone monoliths at least 100 feet high standing on their own, a petrified sand dune desert, and many other strange and unlikely rock formations. Unfortunately failing light dictated that I should save the rest for the next day (although that gave me an excuse to hang around for longer) so I headed back into Moab for the night. By the time I'd got back to the top of the Moab Canyon, it was practically pitch black, which provided quite a scary drive back along the hairpin bends now that I could no longer see what was beyond them. Moab was a nice town and probably the largest I've seen since I was in Las Vegas. It had several hiking and clothing shops and seemed to be there for the sole purpose of the summer and winter sports the area seems to support. It also had lots of bars and restaurants to cater for the obviously young population, one in which I ate dinner (it had a brewery attached to it - more local brews to try) that turned out to be very good.
Courthouse Towers from Courthouse Towers Viewpoint
Courthouse Towers in Arches NP. They are almost completely flat.
Three Gossips
The Three Gossips in Arches NP.
I up got earlier than usual this morning to get into Arches National Park and then make a start towards Denver but managed to drive 30 miles in the wrong direction before realising
Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock in Arches NP.
that the sun should have been on my right and not my left. Having turned around and made it to the entrance station, I'd wasted over an hour, but still entered the park because I wanted to see it in decent daylight. The colours were even more fantastic in the sunlight - almost seeming to glow red. I made my way around the first half of the park, stopping for photographic opportunities and amazing views provided by the elevation. There are several long trails that can be walked which take you around some of the more difficult to find arches. The trails are very clearly defined and warnings abound that wandering off the trails is prohibited by law. This is to protect the cryptobiotic crust that grows over nearly
North Window
North Window in Arches NP. The South Window was obsured from where I was but there is a trail that goes around them.
Cove Arch
Cove Arch from the same viewpoint.
75% of the ground surface of the 130,000 square-mile Colorado Plateau. It's a kind of dark, knobbly, brittle crust that consists mainly cyanobacteria, lichen, algae and fungi and protects against erosion, absorbs moisture, and provides nitrogen and other nutrients for other plants, so it's pretty important. If trampled upon, it can recover, only it can take
Park Avenue
The right hand side of Park Avenue. Each of these slabs is around 40-50 feet high.
as long as 250 years to get back to its previous state.

The fact that so many naturally formed arches exist in such a concentrated area is pretty amazing. Arches form in a similar process to the spires of Bryce Canyon, except that the gradual shifting of an underground salt bed caused the uplifting here. Salt under pressure is unstable and it began to liquefy and reposition itself, thrusting the ground above into domes. Whole sections dropped into the cavities. The creation of the Moab Fault (a 2500 foot displacement that can be seen from the top of the road from the visitor centre) also contributed by producing vertical cracks in the rock that later eroded into fins. Many of the fins eventually collapsed but some remained and chunks were gradually eroded away near
Park Avenue
Park Avenue. This is bigger than it looks; I'm on a platform about 15 feet in the air. There is a trail that runs right through the centre and out the back.
Park Avenue
The left hand side of Park Avenue.
the base, creating alcoves. More and more chunks fell from the rooves of the alcoves until they made their way through the fin, creating an arch. New arches are being created all the time and old ones enlarging until they collapse. In 1991 a 60-foot-long slab fell from the underside of Landscape Arch's 360-foot span. Fins are in evidence all around the
Cliffs & Colorado River on SH-128
Cliffs next to the Colorado River after Arches NP.
park - one area is surrounded by these tall, seemingly too thin monoliths and has been named Park Avenue.

I could have quite easily spent all day looking around the park, and I didn't even get to go any where near Canyonlands National Park to the south, but mindful of the time and the fact that I had to drive to Denver - over 320 miles away - I reluctantly left and made my way back to the exit. Having exited the park I headed east on US-191 until turning off onto state highway 128 a few miles later. The 128 hugs the eastern border of the park for over 15 miles before turning east. All along the border is the Colorado River within a deep gorge that has almost totally vertical walls of red rock and a talus of rubble about half way up. It's like driving between the ramparts of castle walls on hills as they twist and turn with the curves of the river, snaking their way along a desert. At each turn you are faced with yet another seemingly impassable wall until the river takes a sharp bend and runs along side it. As it turned out, part of the area is called Castle Valley (and I thought of the simile before knowing this - so I do have the occasional original thought). The
Cliffs & Colorado River on SH-128
More cliffs with the Colorado River at the bottom. You can see where the name Castle Valley comes from.
floor of the canyon gradually became wider and wider, and hillier and hillier (at one point it was like driving along a series of large humpback bridges) until eventually the cliffs fell away into the distance and the road left the Colorado and headed north through a vast area of desert. I passed through a town called Cisco, which consisted a few small wooden shacks, all falling down, and met up with I-70, which I joined eastbound. I-70 entered Colorado after a while so I stopped at a visitor centre for maps. The staff were incredibly
Cliffs & Colorado River on SH-128
A nice little sandy beach next to the Colorado River.
friendly and the guy behind the desk even recognised my Twickenham postcode when I wrote it in the visitors book. As it turns out, his parents-in-law live in Whitton and he knows the area very well - consequently I was loaded up with about as much information and maps as I could handle. I got back onto the interstate and continued east as the mountains gradually rose around me until I was deep in the Rockies, the road following a valley at the bottom of which was, surprise, surprise, the Colorado River. Ski resorts popped up all over the place and the entire area was covered with trees going all the way up the mountains. I stopped at a rest area with the interesting tag of No Name just before the turning for Aspen, which I was sorely tempted to visit but realised there would be very little point what with the lack of snow. After a while and about 150 miles of deep valleys and high
Desert on SH-128 South of Cisco
Desert between Arches NP and Cisco.
mountains I hit a huge traffic jam behind a load of road-works and remained practically stationary for around an hour as the road climbed up into the mountains and the sky gradually darkened. By the time I emerged it was night and all that could be seen were the cars and the road ahead of me. Although I knew vast mounds of rock surrounded me, there was no
Desert on SH-128 South of Cisco
Route 128 from Arches NP.
sense of it at all and it could have been desert. After a while the road came to a summit and began its descent into Denver (the city being a little way from the foothills of the Rockies), the lights of which I could see in the distance. On the way down there were amusing signs on gantries surrounded by yellow lights for truckers. The first said, "Truckers: 3 miles of steep downgrades and sharp turns, use low gears." Then as the ground started to level out slightly, "Truckers: don't be fooled - still 2 miles of steep downgrades and sharp curves." And finally, "Truckers: you're not there yet! Still 1 mile to go." I guess anything to stop them falling asleep at the wheel and ploughing into cars is a good idea. Having made it into Denver I made my way towards the airport, where the car had to be delivered tomorrow, and booked into a motel just down the road.
Today is a down day as far as travelling and sightseeing goes. I booked another car with Hertz (Dollar won't do one-way trips from Denver) and dropped off the old one at Dollar. The old car was a little worse for wear - bits of plastic hanging from the underside, the front completely encrusted with dead flies and various other bugs, the sides and back encrusted with red and grey dust and gravel, and bits of twig and other foliage stuck into pretty much any crevice available. Still, they didn't seem to mind. Got a shuttle to Hertz and picked up the new car - much, much nicer than the Dodge Neon, it was a Nissan Altima. Very comfortable, much better engine, much bigger and more electronic things to play with. Went back to the motel and sorted out laundry.

Miles when I took the car back - 5323.
Southeast on 17th Street
Looking southeast along 17th Street in Denver.
View Southeast from 17th Street
The view southeast from the corner of Tremont Place and 17th Street. Shiny!
South on Broadway
Looking south along Broadway.
I checked out of the motel (I must stop writing that - just assume from now on that I've checked out) and drove into downtown Denver to look for a place to stay. The area around Denver, east of the Rockies, is completely flat and reminds me of Oklahoma and Kansas - wide, long fields populated with cattle. I found yet another hugely expensive hotel, the Hyatt, and checked in. My room was up on the 20th floor and so provided good views of the city, what there is of it. It seems that the downtown area is pretty much the only place worth visiting since the surrounding areas are mainly industrialised and/or slightly run-down. I went for a walk around town and saw the Capitol building (this is becoming a hobby),
Denver Capitol Building
Denver Capitol Building.
Denver Civic Centre
Denver Civic Centre.
Downtown from Civic Centre
Downtown from near the Civic Centre.
which was a good one as far as Capitol buildings go - very large and with a gold dome on the roof. There were a number of art galleries and museums but being Sunday they were all closed (I must remember to keep track of the days - I thought it was Monday), so I wandered around the shopping centre, the 16th Street Mall, being accosted by tramps in search of money. The mall is huge, probably a mile long, and has all sorts of shops along it (as you'd expect) with a nice central line of trees and benches for all the cafés and bars dotted around. There's also a free bus service that travels all the
Southeast on 16th Street Mall
Southeast along the 16th Street Mall.
View Southeast from Hyatt
The view southeast from the Hyatt Hotel. More shiny stuff.
way along, which I thought was good, and the buses even run on gas and electricity - very green. I stopped off at a shop and bought a hat for those long, sunny hikes I'm constantly going on (nice hat - like a Stetson) and ended back at the hotel in time for dinner.
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