Trans USA & Canada Week 4, 6/15-6/21

Day 23 (6/15): So today I planned on leaving the Denver and Thornton area. On my way out I decided to stop by an old friend’s/ex’s apartment to see if they were there. We did not end on the best terms. We never had. But I figured this be the last time I would get to see them. I stopped by at around 10am not know if they were home. I knew it was there day off from work. That was if nothing had changed in a few weeks. I was greeted with a sleep confused woman. Not expecting me and thinking I was maintenance it was slightly overwhelming. We ended up going out for lunch and decided to hang out and catch up for the rest of the day. It was a good day filled with emotions.

Day 24 (6/16): I woke up and said good bye to my friend/ex for the last time and continued on my trip. I can’t say it was not emotional. On my way through Colorado Springs. I met up with Dan Cole. The person that runs the 4×4 Podcast. Check them out at www.The4x4Podcast.com He was doing a brake job on his jeep while visiting his father. He was in the middle of his trip of moving up to Alaska! I might meet up with him and the family in Fairbanks too! After a short visit and a quick talk over teardrop camper. I headed out on the road. I got on the TAT about 30miles further down the trail then I got on. All day was just incredible views.

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The whole day it seemed like I was driving to towards snowcapped mountains. As soon as I would hit them I would drive around the and drive towards another set.

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I also saw a ton of deer all day by the road. And none of them were skittish.

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Another set of mountains as a destination.

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And looking back were I came from always seemed quit impressive

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Most of it was gravel roads going up and down these steep mountain passes. There was some switchbacks that would make anyone afraid of heights scared.

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The view after a set of switch backs.

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Moving on forward. I don’t think this will ever get old seeing stuff like this.
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I did hit about 5 miles of ruff terrain today. In all the excitement I forgot to take a photo. But here is one of my campsite for tonight. After the emotional morning this was well needed. Putting miles on the vehicle down gravel/dirt roads.

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Day 25 (6/17): Last night was brutal. I feel asleep nice and early to catch up. I woke up at 3am sick as a dog. That is all I will say about that. I ended up falling back asleep around 6am and hit road around noon. I headed off down this narrow twisty steep trail. I ended up taking it in 4lo in 2nd gear most of the way. The vehicle handled great. For most of the trail I had a 100-200’ decent the driver’s side and steep hill on the passenger side. I was lucky not to run into any other full size vehicles. I came across a few dirt bikes and ATVs. I asked one of the ATV drivers since he seemed to be leading the group if the trail was open all the way through. He gave me a warning not to turn off on a certain trail since it was still snow packed in and very difficult to turn around on. Luckily when it came time I was not supposed to take that trail. The views were always spectacular but difficult to get a good picture.

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Some left over snow at over 9k. I’ve been informed people are still skiing and snowmobiling in the northern parts of Colorado.

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After about 30 miles of slow rugged twisty terrain. I all of a sudden broke through to a nice gravel road. I passed this sign hmm, Maybe they should put it on the other end of the trail too.

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Then I noticed this sign. I was not even thinking I was going to cross the divide today. I have to say my GPS is really accurate. It was about 5’ off due to the mounting hight.

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Not to mention the view was one of the better ones I’ve seen and that is saying a lot.

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As I started to easily decend down the nice gravel road, I noticed these old wood planks and pilings along the side of the trail. Was this for a old train track? Or an old road?

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Looking forward.

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Due to all the rain and snow melt this year every creek and river was rushing and you could see the land erosion. The forest service was out in force monitoring it all.

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I then drove along a slopped platue between to ridge lines for about 30 miles. The stream flowing through it twisted and turned and was roaring. It was absolutely amazing. You could see all the old paths that it took and see where it was going to cut a new one.

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The terrain would switch from forests, to grass lands/shrubs, to rocks

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Looking forward and backwards

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After a short day of driving, and a long previous night. I came across this beautiful campsite.

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Day 26 (6/18): I awake this morning to 42 deg outside at 8am besides that. Today was absolutely amazing. It was more challenging, better views and downright hairy at times. I started off the day with about 50miles of easy trail to awaken too. I also got a little picture happy today 113 of them!

So to start off with, which one of them is not like the others?

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I had a wonderful views all day.

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I also had great drop offs on one side or the other for 80% of the day. This one was right around 800ft.

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Then I came across some flatter grass lands and this heard of deer.

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Rock cliffs where always somewhere to be seen.

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And all the streams where roaring with snowmelt and rain water.

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And the mountains where looking intimidating ahead.

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Came across this great lookout that explained the land slide to the side.

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It also told you all of the peaks in the distance.

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There were so many of them. Could you imagine coming across this in a covered wagon?

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This lake was the start of a whole new adventure. I will let pictures tell most of the story. But to summarize it I headed down and around this lake. And up and over those mountains in the distance.

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Sheer drops and switch backs where everywhere. I would rate this trail a blue with a trailer a black. Keep in mind this is a two way “road”.

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Came across this silver mind. The whole area was prospected for silver, gold, and a few other minerals. That is the reason all these trails where built.

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As the locals call them whistle pigs where everywhere. They were the only animal I saw at high elevations besides field mice.

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Where my future lies and where I’ve been.

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You can see the trail I was on and all switch backs. I almost stalled in 4 lo 1st gear!

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The snowy future.

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This water fall was close to the summit.

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Almost there.

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Made it to the top! Wow what a view. I found out It was cinnamon pass the highest opened pass in the area.

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The way down was way easier then up I have to say.

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At the bottom came across this old mining town. It had the highest printed newspaper in the US history.

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I had to take a different way out since my original plan was still snow covered and they were clearing it with a dozer. Some more mines.

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Snow bridge.

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And amazing views.

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My free camp site for the night.

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Day 27 (6/19): Today I headed to the Black Canon Nation Park. It was a great little trip. I recommend this nation park for a day trip. I don’t think more than one day is needed. I only visited the South Rim. There is a path on the north rim too. It is “off-road” so take that as they mean it.

On the way to the NP I came across this interesting little tunnel. There is a trail you can walk. But I could not find it. Hmm.

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Just a little view of where I was coming from.

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All the shear rock faces. Everyone was looking for goats.

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Well I made it to the Black Canyon NP. It is not a very large park but when you have been staring at mountains for a few days to a week. It is nice looking down into a canyon.

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They had quite a few different look out points on different fishers and there were little signs that told you how far the walk was so people could decide if they wanted to take the hike. This image is looking towards the start of the canyon.

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Looking toward the exit.

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You can see the sudden terrain change. All caused by a river and erosion.

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Can you see me?

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There I am!

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Saw this bird. No idea what it was but It sure was making a lot of noise. Pitch Black.

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Some of the cracks. The softer rock eroded away. While the tougher rock stays. My geology teacher and ex coworkers would be proud of that description.

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The river way down there.

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It made a Island of shorts. Makes me want to build a bridge to it.

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You can see how the lava traveled through the rocks by the different colors.

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Just a view of where I was this morning.

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The river starting to leave the canyon and head into the foothills.

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Here you can clearly see the end of the canyon

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On my way back I stopped to look at this seasonal water fall.

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Now the whole thing together.

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I decided to stay at the same camp site as before. As I was exploring around I saw a few moose tracks that were not there the night before and a small bear print.

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As I was enjoying my campfire, these little guys came and visited me. The wildlife here is sure not afraid of humans.

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Day 28 (6/20): So today I decided to move on and head further down the trail and go see the Mesa Verde National Park. But to get there I had two choices I could head down the highway or go over Ophir Pass. I choice the later, the trail up was not to remember able. The trail down was much more fun.

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Now the trail down, which is a two way trail is a single lane for a few miles. Good thing you can see ahead. The traffic going up has the right away. So you have to make sure you con’t see any oncoming traffic and hope that no one coming up is stupid enough to start while your half way down. Not to mention there were a few signs about no trailers. Opps.

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After Ophir the next 40 or so miles was a nation forest.

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Then the terrain opened up to these burned out valleys.

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Before I knew it I was at the Mesa NP.  All the roads for Mesa NP are basically on top of a ridgeline. It looks back at the mountains and forward towards a large valley.

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Just the way the way the formation is shaped makes you wonder why anyone would settle here.

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So I went ahead and visited the far homes. Since the park guide told me the other area would be a full day. One thing I did not realize is that not all the homes are in the cliff face. There is actually an evolution of homes in the area over time. Some of the previous homes would be abandoned and then resettled and modified for newer and better building techniques. Also all the homes where abandoned for some time due to a drought.

The first homes where single floor. Slightly dug into the ground. They were more isolated and single family dwellings. With neighbors a farm area over

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For the next style of homes they were connected sharing a wall with multiple family’s these also shared a common space for meetings and such.

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As you might have seen different parts of the national park have burned at different times. I guess this is a very common occurrence in this part of the country. This area was one of the more recent burns. I believe it was 1990. From looking at the map the whole park has been burned at one point of time or another in about 5-6 major fire.

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The next evolution of homes was a double layer wall with fill of stones and dirt between the layers. This made for a much stronger wall. This meant that more than one story could be built. Along with this they would build towers and tunnels from the towers to a dwelling.

The base of a tower.

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Stronger foundations.

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Here you can see the tunnel.

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Can you tell what era this home was created?

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On my way back to the campground. I saw these wild horses. I’ve noticed that the wildlife in Colorado does not care or mind human activity.

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I saw these two dwellings on my way back to the camp ground too. Can you spot both of them?

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There is supposed to be a watch tower in this photo. I thought I saw it while taking the photo now I can see it.

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I could not imagine hiking up and down to my house and field each day.

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Just some cool pictures.

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Day 29 (6/21): So today I visited the other half of the park. This park is huge. There are not a lot of walking trails since the park is an active archeology site. It is about a 30 min drive between the two major areas of the park and the campground. Now let me get to some of the interesting facts and pictures of the ruins.

The first stop was a Pithouse very similar to the one’s I stopped by yesterday. There is a room attached to these houses that they are unsure the purose for. It could have been for storage or religious purpose.

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Then a look out site of the canyon. Just keep in mind these people hiked up or down these walls daily. The farm lands tended to be on top of the Mesa. While the water source tended to be at the bottom.

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After that came my first cliff dwelling site.  This tower is the highest building known to exist to this day.

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This village survived through 3 different evolutions of homes. If you look closely you can see the different type of walls.

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The Sun Point pueblo village though small shows how tightly these houses were constructed together.

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In the last 100 years of living in the area the pueblo’s started actually building their homes in the cliffs. It is hard to estimate the size of these buildings. Along with the height of the clifs. The cliffs are around 600’ tall. Or the trees around 30-40’ tall.

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The Oak Tree House is one of the medium size cliff dweling.

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The Fire Temple was used for ritual purposes. They could tell it was not a dwelling as there were no cooking areas and the large fire chambers where layered with ash as in a ceremonial purpose. There are two temples one newer and one older. They are connected by a toe and finger “pathway”.

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Here is another home. Sorry I forgot the name.

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This Sun temple was enormous. It was never completed but by all the layers and shear number of bricks. They figure it was a whole community effort.

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The cliff palace was just amazing to look at. It is amazing how they used every little space. It makes me wonder if the better off families where in front or rear of the cliff.

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View two of the cliff palace

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Here is the window house. This one was hard to spot. It seemed more isolated then the others. Maybe it is older.

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Some of the canyon views from the same look out spot as the Window House. Can you imagine living in these parts.

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Hemenway House.

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Here is the Split Tree House. This is the only Cliff dwelling you can go down and see up close for free. You can still see the smoke residue on the ceiling of the caves.

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This is a later age non cliff dwelling. It is almost like a modern day city the way it was designed. It also had 4 houses around it.

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Megalithic House, one of the houses around the above dwelling.

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