Flaming Gorge

On the Road Again Day 9 | More aspens and red rocks

A day on the road, heading for Wyoming. We stopped at Dinosaur National Park to see the new quarry bones exhibit, then stopped in town for gas and caffeine. My favorite antique shop wasn't there any longer, so we headed north. We've always gone 'round Flaming Gorge on the east side; this time we drove up the west side, and found a very cool side road through the Sheep Creek Canyon geological area.

The road looped through timber and aspen trees, ranchland, then dropped down into a steep canyon with a view to a spectacular rock cliff. I could only speculate that the main canyon must have looked like this, before it was flooded by the dam. The road out was down a narrow canyon that was wide enough only for the twisty road and a creek.

There was once a campground here, until a flash flood filled the canyon and killed the campers there. Today's a bright sunny day with no rain in sight: the narrow road we drove was washed with sand and gravel from a recent overflow, and I was glad when we escaped the mouth of the canyon and got back on the main road.

The Flaming Gorge reservoir is huge, and cold, and a mecca for fishermen (those with a boat, anyway). Because of the depth and the elevation, trout flourish here. Maybe one day we'll come back with the fly rods.



On the Road Again Day 8 | Snow on Grand Mesa

One last road trip before we leave Colorado. Which took us back to the Grand Valley wine country to sample a few more wines before climbing up up to the top of Grand Mesa. It blew and rained and the sun came out a few times, just like at home. You can see the effect of yesterday's storm in the color of the river.

Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, and by our estimation (actually, the altimeter on my GPS), we reached just over 11,100 feet before the road headed back down. Somewhere around the Powderhorn ski area the white flakes started to fall. We rarely turn back (even when sometimes we should). We kept on climbing, wondering if it would stop.

It had been snowing up here for a while; the trees were at that picture-perfect stage of green frosted with white, and the meadows were already white. We kept driving, until the views disappeared and the road got slick and we pushed on to the summit and started down. About then we slid toward the ditch for about the third time, and that was enough for us. We stopped and put on the chains. Each time a truck with Colorado plates came by, they stopped and asked if everything was OK. The state highway guy pulled over, got out to chat, and helped buckle the last piece of cable when Dave's hands got too cold. Nice people around these parts.


Aspens on Blue Mesa

On the road again Day 7 | Blue Mesa

We left Dee at home to watch football, and headed back up to Blue Mesa. The weather has turned damp and cold, and I'm so glad I packed my down jacket. Today we're going to retrace yesterday's route south to the reservoir, then take a scenic drive that goes along the north rim of the Black Canyon, with overlooks where we can walk out to the edge, hold our breath and look down... way, way down to the river.

We've seen a lot of aspen groves on our trip so far, like brush strokes of green and yellow, orange and red across a canvas of grey rock and evergreen. As the days go by, the colors change and intensify and grow more beautiful.

After leaving the canyon, the road goes for miles through remote ranch land and high meadows, heading north then west. We drove for miles without seeing another car. We came through a couple of small towns, Maher and Crawford and Hotchkiss. There weren't any antique shops or wineries open today. Bummer... we saw a couple of intriguing ones.


Colorado brook trout

On the Road Again Day 6 | Colorado Brook trout

We're heading south into the mountains this morning, to spend the day fly fishing in a private fishery for brook trout. I'm not sure when the owners dammed a stream and formed a series of five ponds, one below the other, with the stream linking them. The wild brookies love it there, and spawn reliably each fall. To keep the ponds from getting overcrowded, the owner invites friends to fish there with one stipulation: you keep what you catch.

It's a beautiful spot, isolated and wild, and we were pretty excited to be invited there. Dee tossed in worms on a hook, and tossed back the small fish he caught. Dave and I tossed flies, moving from pond to pond when the fish got shy. One of the ranch dogs, a young male McNab, kept us company all day long.

We shared our fish with Dee's neighbors, and tomorrow we'll have a fish feed with the family.


Ouray in the '55 Chevy

On the Road Again Day 5 | Into the mountains in the '55 Chevy

We took a little road trip in the middle of our road trip today, piloting the restored '55 Chevy to the old mining town of Ouray. We had lunch at the Ouray Brewery, sitting in the rooftop bar for a couple of hours enjoying the afternoon. We each ordered a different burger; my Southwest burger was maybe the best burger I've ever had in my life. The beer, especially the brown and the red, were great choices on a sunny autumn day.

On the way home we parked the antique car outside a few antique shops, where it raised more than a few eyebrows, and a lot of thumbs up from passing motorists. Dee bought it used after he got out of the Army in Alaska, then gave it to Dave, who drove it through high school and college. He still had it when we got married. I drove it occasionally, along with his 1968 MGB, and we took the '55 to the Tri-Cities with us. A few years later, we gave it back to Dee, and it sat in his yard under a tarp for nearly 30 years before he decided to restore it. He did a great job with the restoration, and the car looks better than it has since it's been in the family. And I'm so glad it's still in the family.


Autumn on the Colorado River Road

On the Road Again Day 4 | Autumn on the Colorado

After the long drive across Utah yesterday, we found a room and dinner in Moab last night, and had breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe this morning. When we used to come down here for mountain biking, we always wanted to try this place, but it was always too crowded. Glad we finally got a table; the food was great.

Today we're driving one of our favorite sports car roads: from Moab along the Colorado River to I-70, where we turn east for Colorado. Twisty with plenty of roller coaster sections, the road travels the east side of Arches National Park, with the river sandwiched in between.

The fall colors in the canyon don't have the showy display of the high-country aspens and cottonwoods, but their subtle beauty is just as impressive. You just have to look more closely.


A limestone cavern in Nevada

On the Road Again Day 3 | Lehman Cave 

Lehman Cave is the main attraction of the Great Basin National Park, and our 90-minute tour was maybe the best ten bucks I've ever spent. The cave is best known for the very rare (and equally spectacular) shield formations; there are more than 300 examples in the cave.

The cave also has prime examples of one of the rarest of all cave formations: bulbous stalactites.

The cave is amazing, worth a detour if you're anywhere near, or a special trip just to see it.


The Great Basin

On the Road Again Day 2 | Great Basin National Park

When we planned the route for our road trip, this national park caught our eye. We didn't even know there was a national park in Nevada, let alone a huge limestone cave system. We'll detour hundreds of miles to visit a cave; that this one was on our route made it a definite "yes" on our adventure.

It took most of the day to get from south-central Oregon across most of northern Nevada to the nearest town to spend the night. Along the way we made a hotel reservation, and booked a cave tour for tomorrow morning.

The scenery is breath-taking. One flat valley after another, separated by a ridge of hills or mountains. It's a landscape that's nearly without company on the highway, with only a few small towns. We'd climb up one mountain range, down the other side, then cross a wide flat basin... always with the next mountain range in the distance. Stunning.


Road trip wine tasting...

Day One. The highlights were tasting wine at Rex Hill and dinner at Block 15 in Corvallis. Oh, and driving over the mountains to Klamath Falls after dark and during the height of deer and elk highway wanderings. Forty miles of darting eyes and white knuckles... oh, joy.

The tasting room at Rex Hill is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, with two barrel-vaulted rooms, and a wonderful centerpiece:  a wine barrel topped with a big glass top, lined with a ring of tasting glasses. Each glass had a different aromatic component you might find in wine, from tropical fruit to herbs to leather. The glass top was etched with the names of the flavor groups: herbal, floral, and so on. Each day they cut fresh fruits and herbs for the display.

It made a stunning centerpiece to the tasting room.

Geocaching. Drive, drive, drive. More geocaching (fun). Drive, drive, drive. Stopped for gas in Corvallis, then Trip Advisor sent us to Block 15 in downtown. We settled in for a break... Reuben sandwich and a turkey burger, and a couple of brews. Yum.


On the road again...

It's my favorite time of year, autumn. Especially this year, when we've been home all summer for house guests, a family camping trip at the ocean, two weddings, more out-of-town guests, and catching up on chores. Great fun, all of it...  but when we found a few weeks with no commitments, we grabbed the chance and hit the road.

To me, autumn is the season with the most change, which makes it the most interesting. It starts out as summer, with warm days. The days stay warm as the nights cool down, then the leaves begin to change color, making every vista new and different. The harvest wraps up, bringing another round of fruits and vegetables to the farm stands. The leaves begin to drop to the ground, and by the end of the season, if we're lucky, the first snows fall.

It's the perfect time to get out there, explore, travel the back roads. We're heading for the eastern border of Idaho, right up against the Grand Tetons, for some fly fishing on two of the best rivers in the country:  the South Fork of the Snake, and Henry's Fork.

But we're taking the long way there, so we can do some geocaching, explore Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, visit family and friends. Most of all, explore the rest of a state we've come to love as much as our own.

So let the adventure begin!


Flies or worms?

Fishing at the lake...  always a blast.

Uncle Dave fished with a fly rod. This wee trout went back in the water after his photo shoot, but some of his bigger relatives came to the fly. 

Bob and Ella fished with worms (which spent the weekend in my icebox when not needed).

Trout were caught by all, rainbow and cutthroat. They cooked up nice on the barbecue for dinner, and in cast iron for breakfast.



Cat on the deck

From the time she first adopted us, James has been a cabin cat, loving the travel in the truck, hiding at the end of the weekend so she doesn't have to leave. She curls up on our bed, sniffs at open windows, prowls at night, always inside. It never seemed fair that she couldn't enjoy being outside with us, but there have always been dogs around, not to mention families of raccoons, so wandering freely was never an option.

This weekend we decided to initiate her into the world of the cabin deck. We found an old cat harness from a previous cat, and to her great dismay, slid her into it and adjusted it to fit.

For security, we snapped on a retractable lead, and settled her down in Dave's lap. She fussed a bit, then settled down with a big sigh, and started to purr.

She checked out the deck, and we reeled her in when she got too close to the edge. But when we brought out her brown fleece "bucket," she climbed in and didn't move for hours. Even when the rest of the family arrived the next morning, with everyone coming and going, she slept quietly away in the middle of the chaos.


A wedding in the country...

Chelsey and Dan tied the knot in front of her grandmother's barn, surrounded by family and close friends.

The ceremony was the shortest in my matrimonial memory, followed by an open-air reception with food cooked by the groom, and pies cooked by the bride's mother and grandmother.

Afterwards, the wedding was dismantled, and stacked on the deck.

And then came the after-party, hours of laughter and reminiscing, story-telling and sharing memories... and pizza.

Tracey, younger sister and bridesmaid.

Chelsey and Tracey are the daughters of our oldest and dearest friends, who made us a part of their family and shared their daughters with us. It's been a very special journey, watching them grow from little girls into the beautiful young women they are today.

I can hardly wait to see what comes next!


The Ellensburg Red Horse...

If you love gas and oil memorabilia, you will love the Red Horse Diner in Ellensburg. It's stuffed to the rafters with colorful porcelain and neon signs, old gas pumps, pedal cars, road signs, automobile signs, gas station and tire signs. There were brands I would never have heard of, if it wasn't for American Pickers on the History Channel.

And the food's great, too.