American Locations 48 – Taos

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Taos, New Mexico

After visiting with my wife’s sister for three days, we drove south from her ranch outside of Arboles, Colorado, around the western side of the Navajo Reservoir into New Mexico. These back roads were some of the roughest roads we traveled on the entire trip (except in Indiana – more about that later). We bumped up and down and around mountains as we went around the west side of the reservoir. Here is a good shot of the reservoir, with the snow-capped Rockies in the background.

1919_Navajo Lake

We crossed the Navajo Dam at the southern end.

1926_Navajo Dam

We continued south to Turley, where we turned east onto Hwy. 64. Another interesting drive. At first we passed through desert. Then we climbed high into the mountains. We passed an open gate. Which meant this highway was closed at times due to significant snowfall. In Colorado, even the interstates are gated. So we knew we would be gaining quite a bit of altitude, as we were starting our ascent from the desert floor. We wound back and forth up the mountains to such a high elevation we reach snow.

1931_Taos mountains

1933_Taos mountains

We descended in the same fashion, and were soon back in ninety degree heat on the desert floor. Fascinating. We continued east on 64 to the outskirts of Taos, where we came upon a collection of artsy houses built mostly with recycled materials. It looked like a Dr. Seuss wonderland.

1936_Taos house

1937_Taos house

1938_Taos house

1940_Taos house

1944_Taos house

1945_Taos house

1946_Taos house

Continuing east, we crossed the Rio Grande River, which at this point went through a deep gorge.

1954_Rio Grande Gorge

I parked at the end of the bridge, then walked back out to the middle to take pictures. On both sides there were phones. They were connected to a suicide hotline. So this bridge must be a popular place for people to jump from and kill themselves. The height and the rocks below would definitely do it. Those phones wouldn’t be there unless there was a need. Our next stop was Taos Pueblo.

1956_Taos Pueblo

1962_Taos Pueblo

This is a World Heritage site.

1958_Taos Pueblo

1959_Taos Pueblo

1961_Taos Pueblo

It is the larges adobe structure still being lived in. Although updated for modern convenience, such as a kitchen where this woman could prepare fry bread, which was delicious. As you can see she posed, which means I asked her permission. I always ask before taking someone’s picture.

1964_Taos Pueblo

She did this in the modern way rather than the old-fashioned way.

1957_Taos Pueblo

The integrity of the structures has been maintained.

1968_Taos Pueblo

1974_Taos Pueblo

1975_Taos Pueblo

Once we finished there, we drove quickly through to actual town of Taos. Not much to see there you couldn’t see in any number of touristy hot spots. We followed Hwy. 64 east into the mountains. Another beautiful drive, twisting and turning through the trees. We stopped at the eastern edge of  the mountains at Eagle’s Nest campground. Another beautiful place to park our motor home.

1976_Eagle's Nest

After relaxing a short while, I hiked over to see a nearby lake. Note the bank of snow on the right. We were back in higher elevations.

1977_Eagle's nest

1979_Eagle's Nest

I didn’t see any eagles, but there were quite a few large birds.


Next Location – Dodge City, Kansas



American Locations 47 – Mesa Verde

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The next morning we drove from the Navajo campground to Hwy 163, then turned north. We drove northeast out of Arizona into Utah. More astounding desert landscape on the way to Mexican Hat. There we crossed the San Juan River.

1904_Mexican Hat

1906_Mexican Hat

We drove past the rock formation which gave the town its name.

1908_Mexican Hat

At the town of Bluff, we turned southeast onto Rte. 162. Crossing over into Colorado, we came within sight of the Rockies.

1910_Utah Mountains

The road became Rte. 41, which we continued southeast on until we hit Hwy. 160. We drove east to merge with Hwy 491, which we took north into Cortez. We drove east on 160 to the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. First stop was the visitor center.

423_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

Which gave a good view out over the desert.

429_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

But we weren’t here for the view. We drove the loop roads to see the ruins.

431_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

432_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

436_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

443_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

We hiked all through the ruins on guided tours.

441_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

446_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

451_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

478_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

Parts of the treks were difficult.

453_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

454_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

Some of the ruins had been constructed in such inaccessible places we could only view them from afar.

455_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

459_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

463_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

464_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

476_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

Some dwelling weren’t as impressive, but were well worth walking to see.

461_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

462_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

467_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

472_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

Leaving Mesa Verde late that afternoon, we drove east on Hwy 160 to Durango. East of Durango, we drove southeast on first Rte. 172, then Rte. 151 to the small town of Arboles. My wife’s sister and her husband owned a cattle ranch outside of town. It was dark by the time we reached the area, and we wandered some narrow gravel roads until we finally located it. They have a beautiful place. Here is the view from her front porch the next morning.

1916a_Lois' Ranch

But that night I went out later to unload the car and made the mistake of looking up. The night sky was spectacular. I had never seen such a brilliant night sky, with the Milky Way so finely detailed. I stretched out on my back and gazed for a good long while.

Next Location – Taos, New Mexico

American Locations 46 – Monument Valley

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Monument Valley, Arizona

We drove out of Zion NP the same way we came in, which meant we had to be escorted through the two tunnels again. We drove east out of the park on Rte. 9 back to Mt. Carmel Junction, then turned south on Hwy 89. In Kanab, rather than continue south on 89A, the way we had come, we instead turned east on 89. This took us into the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Which meant another incredible drive. Hwy 89 turned southeast, and we drove out of Utah into Arizona. Our first stop of the day was to see the Glen Canyon Dam on Lake Powell.

1821_Glenn Canyon Dam


1824_Glenn Canyon Dam

1826_Glenn Canyon Dam

We drove across the Colorado River.

1823_Glenn Canyon Dam

1828_Glenn Canyon Dam

And drove south on Hwy 89 into Page, where we turned east on Rte. 98. We continued to Hwy. 160, where we turned northeast. At the small town of Kenyata we turned north on Rte. 163. All the while we passed striking scenery.

1836_Monument Valley

1841_Monument Valley

1844_Monument Valley

We followed it to the cut-off for Monument Valley. At the end of a gravel road we came to a motel which, seen in the lower left of the photo, was dwarfed by the rock formations towering above.

1877_Mo9nument Valley

There were also simple cabins.

1860_Monument Valley

The campground was little more than a parking lot.

1859_Monument Valley

1876_Monument Valley

But what a view!

1853_Monument Valley



1867_Monument Valley

1868_Monument Valley

1866_Monument Valley

For miles around these unique rock formations rose up out of the flat desert floor.

1874_Monument Valley

1857_Monument Valley

We ate dinner at the restaurant in the motel, and I had a delicious Navajo dish. We picked up some more souvenirs in their gift shop, then had a quiet night out here in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful sunset.

1886_Monument Valley


Next Location is Mesa Verde, Colorado


American Locations 45 – Zion 3

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Zion National Park, Utah

The gloomy overcast days made photographing the park difficult. The normally-brilliant colors of the rocks were muted.



This was an interesting trail.


That led up to Weeping Rock, a good place to shelter from the rain.



The sun did shine occasionally.




And people came out without rain gear on.


The last day we were there the weather broke and I went for a long hike. I crossed the river and quickly ascended above the campground.


Then I kept climbing.




This is looking down on the visitor center.


I got a good view far up the valley from this height.


I reached a plateau, as high as the trail went.




The trek down can be as fun as the hike up since you get to see everything from a different angle.






We left the next morning. Hopefully I’ll get back to Zion in better weather and get to see more of the park.

Next Location – Monument Valley, Arizona

American Locations 44 – Zion 2

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Zion National Park, Utah

The rainy season arrived while we were in Zion. It rained so hard the Narrows Trail was closed, and people were advised not to hike up to Angels Landing. But there is a free shuttle service throughout the valley, taking riders to parts where cars are prohibited. So we used this extensively to get to points of interest without getting soaked. But at least it wasn’t snowing, as it was several thousand feet higher up in the mountains. We counted our blessings. Although it was cold and damp, we ventured out to see as much as we could stand.




There were brief moments when it didn’t rain.


Here is the creek running down out of the mountains past the campground. With all the rain, and the snow melt, it ran pretty strong.



The clouds were often hanging low in the mountains.



Between rainstorms, we hiked to this waterfall.


And along the Virgin River.



To the beginning of the Narrows, which was closed.



Then back out along the Virgin River.


We stayed four days, hoping for the rain to break. But you can’t help the weather. We got out when we could and saw as much of the park as the weather would allow. Another major trail, I forget which, was closed due to storm damage. So we saw what we could.


Next Location – Zion National Park 3

American Locations 43 – Zion

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Zion National Park, Utah

We drove north on 89A down out of the mountains into the little town of Freedonia. They displayed the first letter of their name on a mountainside. We had seen the same thing at Jerome.


We drove north out of Arizona into Utah to the town of Kanab. They did the same thing with the letter K, but I didn’t get a picture of it. In Kanab, 89A merged with 89, which we continued north on to Mt. Carmel Junction, where we turned west onto Rte. 9. We soon drove into the exotic rock formations of Zion.








When we arrived at the first tunnel we learned we were just inches too big to go through on our own. Our motor home is so small I had thought we could, but the park rangers have the final say, of course, and they said we were a hair too big. So we were escorted.


After the second tunnel, we drove deeper through the mountains.




There was one site left at the campground, so we were in. A beautiful campground at the foot of towering mountains with a mountain spring rushing past amid trees.



But it wasn’t a very good site, in the middle of the campground on a bad slant. When another camper saw us having trouble setting up, he told us he was leaving and we could have his site. After we okayed this with the park rangers, we moved. This site was much better, on level ground at the edge of the campground.


We relaxed the rest of the day at our beautiful camp site.

Next Location – Zion National Park 2, Utah


American Locations 42 – Vermilion Cliffs

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona

After our third night at the campground in Tusayan we drove north back into the park to the visitor center, then turned east. On the way out of the park we stopped at an archaeological site.

1594_GC South Rim

From this location we had a good view of Humphrey’s Peak that dominates Flagstaff, which was 87 miles to the south.

1595_GC South Rim

We also stopped several times for final looks at places we had rushed past the day we arrived when we were concerned about securing a camp site.

1598_GC South Rim

1600_GC South Rim

1604_GC South Rim

1608_GC South Rim

We drove east on Rte. 64 out of the park and through Kaibab National Forest. Once we were on the Navajo Reservation we stopped at several roadside stands to shop for some Native American merchandise. Then we continued east on 64 to Cameron, where we turned north on Hwy 89. At the little town of Bitter Springs 89 split, and we continued north on 89A. The desert we drove through was barren.

1615_Vermillion cliffs


1614_Vermillion Cliffs

Until we came to the Navajo Bridge, which spans the Colorado River at a place just before it flows into the Grand Canyon.

1616_Navajo Bridge


1618_Navajo Bridge

Once across the bridge, 89A turned west. We drove along the foot of the Vermilion Cliffs. Another astounding drive.

1621_Vermillion cliffs

1622_Vermillion Cliffs

1627_Vermillion Cliffs

We continued east on 89A back into the Kaibab National Forest. At Jacob Lake, which is located at the turn-off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which at the time wasn’t open, we turned north. We quickly gained elevation as we climbed into the mountains. While still in the national forest and high up in the mountains, we pulled into the trees to do our first dry camping on public lands.

1629_Kaibab Forest

1631_Kaibab Forest

It went well. We set up within sight of the road, yet it was a quiet secluded place and no one bothered us. The next morning I went for a hike in the woods. There were a lot of logging roads back into the trees, and the forest had been thinned considerably.

1633_Kaibab Forest

Later that morning we continued north through Arizona.

Next Location – Zion National Park, Utah