Part 1: San Diego, CA to Blanding, UT


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The Experience

We arranged for our neighbor to look after our place and we headed out to points east and north.  Our first stop was Tucson to see family and friends for a day.  Our meeting with the U500 group was in two days, so our schedule did not allow for extended visits.  On the 21st, we headed north from Tucson through the mountains through Globe, AZ and over the Mogollon Rim.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our route took us along the San Pedro River through the small town of Mammoth, AZ.  The winds were blowing strong and produced a set of lenticular clouds over the mountains to the north.

Springtime in the Sonoran Desert means the sahauros are in bloom.  The local bat and insect population provides the cross pollination for these large cactus.

Most of the sahauros had blooms.

Along the San Pedro River there were large stands of sahauros in bloom.

Further north we crossed over the Gila River.  While wimpy by eastern standards, the Gila has carved large canyons and provides the water supply for many hundreds of thousands of people.

Further north we hit the Salt River which is the primary water and power source for the area.  Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River produces Apache Lake.  Note the white band along the surface of the lake.  The lake level is low and has been for some years.  The drought in the west has been unrelenting.

Part of a recent refurbishment of the highway was this awesome bridge.

Note the arch in the center of the bridge.

The "bathtub ring" in the lake is pronounced in the photo above.

The lake provides a source of aquatic sports in an otherwise dry terrain.

Note the barren hills in the background.  This is typical for this region of Arizona.

En-route, we decided to change our destination for the evening and decided to head to the meteor crater outside of Winslow, AZ.

The park was near I-40 and in addition to passing traffic, we could see the 12,000+ foot San Francisco peaks in the distance.  The peaks still have a touch of snow remaining.

Also visible on the western horizon was a large smoke plume.   In the photo above, the plume is just above the horizon line.  We discovered later that the plume was being generated by a large fire in the Sedona area and was out of control.

We had a pleasant night and decided that we would head out early to see the crater and then head toward La Posada Hotel for breakfast.  From the top of the crater, we could easily see the San Francisco peaks.  Note the smoke plume; while not as pronounced as the previous day because the winds were calmer, the fire was significant and over 60 miles away.

The crater was large enough that I was not able to capture it with a 24mm lens.

The walls of the crater expose the underlying geologic strata and the warping hints at the massive amount of energy dissipated as a result of the impact.

In the center of the crater was a mine shaft where the early owners of the land attempted to dig to the core of the meteor.  They failed mostly because they were digging in the wrong place.

We finished at the meteor crater and traveled east to Winslow, AZ for breakfast at La Posada Hotel.  La Posada is billed as one of the last great "railroad hotels".  In the golden age of rail travel, the major east-west lines had nice hotels along their route for the comfort of their passengers.  La Posada was built in 1930.

Now considered a historic site, the grounds were in good shape and the food at the restaurant was excellent.

Leaving Winslow, Kathleen became enamored with a "cute" piece of construction equipment that was demolishing a portion of the freeway bridge.

We traveled east on I-40 then north on US 191 onto the Navajo reservation.  Our path took us close to large structures similar to Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly.

As is typical of this area afternoon storms were building leaving tendrils of rain sweeping across the high mesas and pockets of bright sun illuminating the stark terrain.

Several of the formations visible from the highway were spectacular.

Some of the smaller Navajo villages were in the shadows of these massive cliffs.

From the reservation, we continued north on US 191 to Blanding, UT.  Just outside of Blanding, we spotted this large estate on a hill.  The King of Blanding, UT owns this place situated on the escarpment overlooking the canyon to the east.  This is a big house and I am sure it cost a ton to heat in the winter, but the view is awesome.

We arrived at the Devil's Canyon campground 8 miles north of Blanding to meet our group.  Brad and Oksana had arrived a few days before and reserved some sites for the group.  Above is Tony's brand new winch.  According to Tony, there was some blood shed during the installation process due to the addition of the required hydraulics.  "A plumbing nightmare" was the term he used.

Tony has a Global Expedition Vehicles (GVX) U500 based camper.  This is a very luxurious rig.

Mark and Gail arrived a bit later in their GVX U500 camper.  They drove from southern Illinois to join the trip.

Brad and Oksana also had a GXV camper, but this one has an elevating top that provides extra living space.

Later in the afternoon, the balance of our group arrived at the campground.  We gathered around Mark's campfire and told stories.

Tomorrow, we meet up with our training guide, Bill, and head into the Abajo Mountains.

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