Close Encounters Above and Below

Dateline Roswell,NM-July 1947

Imagine being a sheep rancher on rounds and discovering a debris field of a flying craft made of material you have never seen before. You pick up some of the items and take them to the sheriff who then calls in soldiers from the local airbase. You then find yourself  held for five days and interrogated without being able to contact anyone. Well that is exactly what happened in July 1947 in Roswell, NM, as the boys and I discovered at the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

This center has replicas of UFO’s and materials found at the site, newspapers, gov’t and local accounts of the “crash”.  The story is that a UFO crashed and a cover-up then ensued to keep the public from knowing what happened.  Supposedly there were alien bodies and one survivor. We do not know what happened because we were not present but we all decided that with the material and circumstantial evidence something occurred that the government did not want the public to know about. Was it a UFO? Was it a weather balloon as the government claimed? Or was it something else? We don’t know but we do believe in Roswell 1947!

Our next adventure was under the ground in the Carlsbad Caverns.  These caverns were developed 250-280 million years ago by an inland sea and carved out by sulfuric acid. We decided to do the natural walk entrance to the cavern versus taking the elevator down to the bottom. The “walk” into the cave is 1.25 miles down a steep path, it is the equivalent to dropping 75 stories to the bottom or “big room”.  This cavern also is home to 300,000-1,000,000 bats who fly out in search of food at dusk.  As we entered the cave, Angie, who does not have a passion for bats, was very distressed at the site and sound of bats and of Beck pointing out guano glowing on the rocks. But she put her “big girl pants” on and powered on through for the good of the team.

As we descended we saw all types of formations and when we reached the bottom,we walked a one mile trail around the “big room” looking at the bottomless pit, the giants, mirror lake and other out of this world formations. When we finished we did ride the elevator back up the 750 feet to the top. This was a cool experience (literally-56 degrees)  to go from the desert above to the bowels of the earth. As Beck said it is amazing that  they say the wonders of the worlds are man-made when the “real” wonders are God’s earth.

Grand Views and Cliff Dwellings

It is hard to imagine the sheer size and magnitude of the Grand Canyon unless you are standing on the rim and looking as far as your eye can see from right to left and seeing a canyon over 270 miles long and over a mile wide. No pictures can do it justice, I know that phrase is overused but it is true. The evening we arrived we had reservations to eat at the famous El Tolvar Lodge Restaurant. As we arrived we walked over to the rim for our first vista view and WOW is it BIG. We had a nice dinner at the Lodge and called it a day.

The following day,  Beck got us to hike down into canyon on the Bright Angel Trail for about a quarter of a mile to get an idea of how it feels to be inside the canyon. This is the trail that the mule train takes to the bottom of the canyon as well as many hikers who walk down to the Colorado River, which carved this wonder of nature over millions of years.  This trail was originally used by Native Americans and is only about nine miles long but it takes about eight to ten hours to hike out from the river. Needless to say, we will save that for another family visit or Griffin and Beck have said they want to come back and do a brother hike down to the river and ride the rapids.

Afterwards, we hiked for about two miles around the rim trail to get a great view of the canyon from a number of viewing points. The best was from Hopi Point which allows you to get an incredible East-West view for miles and miles. Along the way we saw a Condor, lizards and other birds flying around the canyon.

The next day we headed a few miles down the road to the Desert View area and the Indian Watchtower, which was designed by Mary Colter to look like other watchtowers she had seen in the Southwest. She even had Hopi native paint murals inside for an authentic look. After this adventure we said goodbye to the Grand Canyon and got ready for our next adventure to Mesa Verde National Park.



On Friday we loaded up and headed to Mesa Verde, the trip entailed a route through Navajo lands and to the Four Corners area, the only place in America where you can stand in four states at once-Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.  We barely got going before we saw a roadside market and stopped to take a look. The Navajos we met there were very open about their culture and told us the correct way to say hozho and what it means to them. Angie spoke with some of the women about their lives and their children. It seemed every few miles there were roadside stands selling arts and crafts, it is a bit sad to see these people having to depend on tourists for their livelihood but the reality is that there is hardly any industry in the area.

The landscape is like something from a space movie, one can see how some people think the moon landing was faked and filmed out in the desert.  We arrived at the Four Corners in the afternoon and discovered how we could stand in four states at once. This area which is actually on Navajo land is in a desolate area and has a marketplace as well were native peoples sell their wares.



After this stop we headed to Mesa Verde N.P., we arrived at the Far View Lodge and boy is that name correct. The Lodge is at approximately 8200 feet elevation and you can literally see to the Rocky Mountains from here.  As we got to our room we were surprised to see three large Mule deer grazing at our doorstep.

On Saturday we had two reservations for Ranger guided tours of some of the cliff dwellings that Mesa Verde is famous for. The first was called Long House and it is one of the largest dwellings in the Southwest, it is thought that between 60-80 people may have lived at this site. After a steep trail down to the site we were granted the view of this 800 year old ruin were ancient Puebloans lived and breathed. They grew beans, corn and squash on the Mesas, hunted, raised turkeys and generally lived a good life before abandoning these sites and moving south to follow the resources. Around 1240 A.D. these sites began to abandoned and by 1300 were empty. We saw petroglyphs-rock drawings, kivas-ceremonial living rooms, family houses and seep springs (areas at the base of rocks were water seeps out) were these people got their water in this harsh, dry land.

Our next tour was of Balcony House, a  tour that involved climbing a 32 foot ladder, squeezing into a 12 foot 18″ tunnel and climbing up a 60 foot open rock face. Needless to say all the boys loved it and Mom tolerated it for our sake. It was amazing to see where and how these societies lived using local resources to build homes and live off the land. As Griffin said ” They were so smart in being able to use what nature gave them to live.”




We had a full day of visiting Mesa Verde, ate dinner at the Lodge and got ready to head to Taos, NM on Sunday.


Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia Parks

As we left San Fran for Yosemite we drove over the Bay Bridge connecting San Fran to Oakland and points East and said goodbye to the City on the Bay. We drove through the San Joaquin Valley and moved from grasslands and agriculture to woodlands. We landed in Oakhurst, CA , a few miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite. On our way into Oakhurst we passed Griffin Drive and were obliged to get a picture.                                      


The next morning we got up early for a date with bikes in Yosemite. It is a one and half hour drive from Oakhurst to the Yosemite Valley due to the speed limits and the twisting, turning two lane roads.  As we arrived in the valley we saw huge granite cliffs, waterfalls and massive stones rising from the ground. We rented bikes and prepared for a day of exploring. We rode all around the valley enjoying the sites and sounds, we hiked and the waded in the COLD waters. About four p.m. as our backsides were aching we turned in our bikes and bid a farewell to Yosemite.

The following day we headed to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We drove past orange groves, fruit trees and other agriculture. Rising from the valley we climbed to a height of around 7000 feet, into the land of the giants. We visited the famous giant Sequoia trees, General Sherman, the largest living organism by volume, and General Grant, one of the five largest trees in the world. California redwoods can be taller but the Sequoia is much wider, like a basketball player versus a Sumo wrestler. Other trees in the groves included the Tennessee tree, the fallen Monarch and the Twin Sisters. These trees are all well over 1ooo years old and are just massive and amazing, it is an awe inspiring sight.  Most of the giants have some type of fire damage to their trunks, but this is part of their natural cycle. The fire reduces underbrush and prepares the soil and the fire is required for the trees to release their seeds from the cones, which are about the size of an egg. The bark can be up to two feet thick and the inside wood does not burn very well so they just keep growing after the fire. It is difficult through pictures to convey the size of these trees!


One of our favorite areas was Beetle Rock, a large granite outcropping at 6500 feet were you can almost see to San Francisco- unfortunately this valley has the second worst ozone pollution in the country.  That evening we stayed in the John Muir Lodge and prepared for our trip to Needles, CA as a stopover to Sedona, AZ.

South on 101 and 1-The Dramamine Highway

As we left Portland we traveled south on I-5 toward Eugene where we would exit and travel to the coast. As we exited the highway and made our way to Bandon we were traveling on a two lane road through forests and fields. We picked up the famous Highway 101 and were treated to ocean views and coastal towns until we arrived at the Bandon Beach Motel and the views did not disappoint. The motel is on a point overlooking the beautiful Oregon coast.


The next day we explored the beach in our fleece jackets and toboggans, the air temps were in the sixties and the water temps in the forties as the boys and I found out-ouch, our feet were numb. This was the first time for Scott, Griffin & Beck to put their feet in the Pacific Ocean! The boys found some dunes and rocks to play upon as well as some interesting sea life in the tidal pools. One day far in the future when Beck lives in a beach town somewhere  we will always smile as we remember the light in his eyes when he said, “I feel so free here on the dunes and the beach. If it wasn’t so cold here all the time I would want to live here!”





For lunch we went to “Old Town” and found Tony’s Crab Shack, a small counter order shop with outside seating. This is some of the best food we have had, the smoked salmon sandwich and crab cakes rocked. It was all locally sourced and prepared right there on the dock. The next day we headed to Arcata, CA, a small bohemian town on the northern coast.  As we traveled we encountered Tsunami Hazard Zones, Elk, Redwoods, Paul Bunyan and Babe, a sick whale in the Klamath river and huge rock formations stuck out in the ocean like a child’s play toy left in a bathtub.



We stayed in a very nice apartment overlooking the town plaza, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants. It was a time to do laundry and rest up as we had nothing pressing. The people watching  in the plaza was very interesting, there were “travelers” who hung out all day and most of the night. As Beck said “the sixties came and never left”, but the best show was the naked skateboarder that we caught one afternoon walking to dinner and we caught him coming and going, the moon and the stars-whoa.

On Wednesday we moved further down the coast to Ft.Bragg, CA, a small harbor town, near Mendocino.  We drove on Highway 1, which travels along the coast for some breathtaking views, including a drive-thru tree, Bigfoot crossings and gift shop. At a gas stop we met a group that is biking from the Bay to Brooklyn in honor of the fallen firefighters from 9-11 and the guy who is driving their lead car is living with one kidney as well, his  doctors said it was a birth defect but was not found until he was in his thirties, so you never know.  In Ft. Bragg we went to a local beach called “glass beach” due to the fact that the locals once used it for a dump and sea glass washes up, however, over the years most of the big pieces have been taken although the kids found some small pieces. We stayed at the Shoreline Cottages, a nice little cabin type complex, good for a stopover.

Thursday we headed to the big city of San Francisco, the largest city we will visit.  As part of the title says Highway 1 is called the Dramamine Highway and for good reason, the stretch from Ft. Bragg to San Fran is full of beautiful vistas but also has so many switchbacks, curves and ups and downs that if you are prone to car sickness do not attempt. All of us got a bit queasy. You can see for miles out to sea and down the coast from the sides of the cliffs you are driving inches from.  Angie loved seeing a group of cows on the beach down by the water, catching up on their tans. As we got closer to San Fran we moved from the coast to dairy and wine country.

The Grand Adventure Begins…

The Grand Adventure begins in a few short  weeks and much like Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Rabbit when they went looking for Christopher Robin, I do not know exactly what will happen but am excited nonetheless for the experience. Thanks to our family and friends for your support along the way. Please visit this site often to see what is happening and remember “all who wander are not lost.” Let the Grand Adventure begin…