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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Mini conquers Mt. Rainier
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are happy to report that they have not driven over a cliff on some mountain road in Washington. He has not been able to post a web entry for the past ten days or so because they have been on a cruise to Alaska on the Holland-American super liner, the Oosterdam.
       It was a lovely cruise but Uncle Jack found the charges for using the internet ($50 per hour) a bit usurious. Now that he is back in a Best Western in Missoula, Montana where high speed internet is free he is going to start to try to get caught up a bit.
       A week ago Thursday (the 20th) they spent visiting Mt. Rainier National Park about 40 miles south of Seattle. The mountain is about 10,000 feet high and it looms over Seattle like a ghost because the top is always snow-covered.
       The twisting, turning road up to the tree line is a thrill a minute but the Mini handled it with aplomb. Herewith a few pics.


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First glimpse of Mt. Rainier from 30 miles away.

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From the parking lot at the rustic old Lodge. The owner of the 1967 Chrysler Newport convertible parked next to Mini offered to put him in his trunk and take him down the mountain.

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This bike with an Austrian license plate was also in the parking lot.

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A close up indicates that this guy really gets around.

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Mt. Rainier gets a thousand inches or so of snow every winter hence the steep roofs to let it slide off.

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A big chunk of Rainier blew out in an eruption a long time ago and this section of bare rock still tells the tale.

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A reminder that it could happen again any time. Mt. St. Helens is only a few miles away.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:33 PM

Comments [9]



Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Mini reaches Washington state.
       About a month ago Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. visited Fort Mandan at Washburn, N.D. where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent their first winter in 1804-05. Today (Wednesday the 20th) they paid a visit to Fort Clatsop near Astoria, Oregon where they spent their second winter in 1805-06. It was a miserable time for them with incessant rain and cold and inadequate food. Most of the men were sick the whole time with colds, flu and other ailments.
       The "fort" they built has been lovingly restored and is staffed with Park Service interpreters who do a great job of answering stupid questions posed by tourists.
       After Clatsop they motored on to Astoria and crossed the five-mile-long bridge across the mouth of the Columbia, a true engineering marvel that gave
Uncle Jack a severe case of acrophobia.
       They followed a scenic route along the north shore of the Columbia to the city of Longview where they are spending the night prior to descending on Seattle tomorrow afternoon. Between here and there they will visit Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. A full day in store, the worst of which will be the Seattle traffic no doubt.


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One last view of the glorious Oregon coastline.

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A bench in front of a store in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

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The bench next to it.

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Entrance to Fort Clatsop.

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Interior of one of the privates' bunkrooms, of which there were three.

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An interpreter holds forth in the room shared by Lewis and Clark where they rewrote their journals and prepared maps during the long, wet winter.

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They smokeroom where they made dried meat for the return trip to St. Louis. They made a big hole in the local elk population during this wretched winter.

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A replica of one of their canoes made from a single log. The local Indians scoffed at them because their own boats were so far superior.

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Looking across the wide mouth of the Columbia toward Astoria, Oregon. This is one big mother of a river.

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Looking upstream from the Visitors' Center on the Washington side. After a short time Lewis and Clark moved from here across to Oregon where there were more elk.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:46 PM

Comments [4]



Tuesday, July 19, 2005
More of the spectacular Oregon coast.
       We spent Monday night in a charming Oregon town called Bandon which, like Eureka, has preserved and renewed its old downtown section and waterfront to a fare-thee-well. An absolutely delightful place to spend a vacation. On Tuesday morning we continued up the coast, stopping often to gaze in awe at the spectacular scenery that kept presenting itself around every bend (of which there are many) in the road. Again, photographs are miserably inadequate to represent the real beauty of the area but what can one do.


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Public boat docks in Bandon which is at the mouth of the Coquille River. It was once a prosperous but messy lumbering town but today tourism is the cash cow and it's neat as a pin. Not likely to be mistaken for Wanchese.

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This young man offered to give us this "keeper" dungeness crab but we politely declined, having just finished dining on wild salmon and mussels at a nearby bistro. (Mansfield is a coastal town just a few miles from Bandon).

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A large Japanese ship was loading woodchips in Lincoln City. After taking this one picture Uncle Jack was ordered to cease and desist because of "homeland security issues". He should be thankful they didn't smash his camera.

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For about 65 miles between Lincoln City and Florence the Oregon coastline is made up largely of sand dunes. The area resembles the Outer Banks to some degree but the dune system is much wider and is interspersed with woods and ponds.

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This is a beach driver's paradise as 4-wheeling of all kinds including ATV's is permitted almost everywhere in the dunes.

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The waterside area of Florence, Oregon was a pleasant place to eat lunch purchased from a nearby deli. Florence is another old logging town that has metamorphosed into an attractive tourist haunt. It was 65 degrees F.

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Another in the endless sequence of magnificent photo ops along the coast.

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This Tanger Outlet Mall beckoned but we somehow managed to resist.

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Mini surveys the scene at Cape Lookout. (Yes, they have one, too). This beach was about 10 miles long and nearly deserted.

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Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge, so declared by Teddy Roosevelt after idiots nearly wiped out the entire population of puffins and other rare birds by shooting them for fun. This could never happen to the piping plover thanks to the NPS.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:26 PM

Comments [3]



Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Mini drives through a redwood tree.
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent Sunday the 17th driving through the redwood forests of northern California from Mendocino to Eureka. The highlight of the the trip was driving the Mini through a tree which is something one does not often get to do on the Outer Banks (although many have tried).
       Eureka, while different, was almost as charming as Mendocino. The old downtown on the waterfront has been restored and is full of interesting shops and restaurants. The one we dined in had earlier been a saloon and brothel just like something out of Gunsmoke.
       After Eureka we continued up the Coast Highway into Oregon which turns out to be just as scenic as California if not more so.


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Uncle Jack saw a picture of this tree the first time about 65 years ago. Little did he think he would ever see it in person---much less drive a car through it.

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Do not try this in your SUV!

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Tourist poses by felled redwood. This tree was a sapling when the Magna Carta was signed.

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Tourist (probably not immortal) poses by tree that has been around a long time and suffered a lot, including being struck by lightning and posing for generations of tourists.

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It's impossible to photograph a whole redwood and convey any sense of its enormity but here's a try. You may have to turn your computer on end.

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Once there were 2 million acres of redwoods. Now there are fewer than 100,000 acres. Too many of these magnificent trees met this fate---conversion into dreck by chainsaw "artists".

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Many miles of the Pacific Coast Highway look just like this. It has to be the most scenic long highway in the country. This was taken in a grove of redwoods in the Humboldt National Redwood Forest which goes on for about 65 miles in southern Oregon.

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Lunch by the side of the road. This pond was once the site of a lumbermill back in the 19th century but it has been reclaimed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation folks. A sign warned about bears but we didn't see any.

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The Mini admires one of the picturesque seaside parks that abound in coastal Oregon. There really does seem to be a public recreation area of some kind every couple of miles and none are crowded.

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Playing in the Pacific Ocean is not without its dangers. All we have to worry about on the Outer Banks is the occasional riptide, but not here.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:39 PM

Comments [0]



Monday, July 18, 2005
Mini makes Mendocino. Whew!
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. left Emily's house in Concord on Saturday morning in their well-rested Mini. After a humongous traffic jam on the freeway and a wrong turn in Petaluma they reached Highway 1, the Pacific Coast highway, around 1 p.m. and drove up the twisting, turning, cliff-hugging road for the next five hours to Mendocino.
       They knew next to nothing about Mendocino until they arrived but they left at noon Sunday convinced that it is absolutely the most delightful and charming village on the planet. If you ever get a chance to visit jump on it.
       Many readers may have already visited Mendocino without realizing it by watching episodes of the long-running TV show "Murder She Wrote", starring Angela Lansbury. "Cabot Cove" was supposed to be in Maine but the location shots were done in Mendocino at the Hill House Inn where we had Sunday brunch this morning.
       The pictures can't do justice to either the Pacific Coast highway or Mendocino but here they are for what they're worth.


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Our first view of the Pacific. Lots of fog which fortunately burned off as the afternoon progressed. The beach looks like it has just been renourished.

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The Point Arena lighthouse, one of the most picturesque of all the Pacific Coast lights, south of Mendocino about 50 miles. Hatteras it is not, obviously.

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Fantastic topiary work of fanciful dinosaurs in front of a fire station along Highway 1. Obviously the firemen have a lot of time on their hands.

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Hatteras is not the only place where plovers are objects of concern as this sign proves.

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The village of Mendocino (population 1100) from the waterfront park (saved from development by preservationists 30 years ago). The tent houses an annual music festival in progress.

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Garden path leading to a restaurant on the main street in Mendocino. Nearly all the buildings in the town were built in the 19th century and have been lovingly restored.

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One whole wall of this inn is devoted to pictures of the cast and special guest stars of "Murder She Wrote" who stayed there. At least a dozen other feature films have been filmed in Mendocino.

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The Mendocino Hotel, built in 1878, where they stayed Saturday night.

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The Masonic Lodge (now a bank) built in 1858 and immaculately restored.

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A carving from a single piece of redwood of Masonic symbols which adorns the belfry of the Masonic Lodge.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:11 AM

Comments [1]



Friday, July 15, 2005
California Living
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are spending a couple of days at his daughter Emily's house in Concord, California, a lovely city a few miles north of Oakland. The house itself is delightful and perfectly suited to the California climate. With lots of glass and open spaces it creates the illusion of being outside even when you're inside.
       The outside spaces are filled with fruit trees and vegetable gardens planted by the previous owner of the house many years ago. Emily has at her fingertips tree-ripened peaches, plums, pears, several varieties of apples, oranges, kiwi fruit and bananas. Vegetables include two kinds of squash, two kinds of melons, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, blackberries, cucumbers and onions. The only non-home-grown item on the table at dinner last night was the chicken sausage.
       The house was built back in the 60's by a California developer and builder named Joe Eichler whose houses have achieved cult status. Emily's neighborhood is full of Eichler houses which gives it an unusually strong feeling of community. If you would like to learn more about the unique qualities of Eichler houses do not hesitate to Google.
       We are tempted to stay until Emily and her husband kick us out but Alaska calls so tomorrow morning we will point the Mini toward highway 101 and head up the coast to our next stop in Mendocino.
Stay tuned for a report on what the Pacific Ocean looks like at this time of year.


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Mini finds a shady spot in the carport. The temperature hovered around 100 during our stay and will continue to do so for quite some time. No rain is expected until September.

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The front door opens into this patio, making a pleasant transition from outdoors to indoors.

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Looking toward the dining area from the living room. Sitting inside is very much like sitting outside.

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View of the back yard from the book-lined livingroom. The fireplace provides most of the heat needed in the winter but the floors also contain radiant heat pipes.

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Lots of glass in the kitchen, too.

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Veggie garden in the side yard.

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That's a tree full of peaches ripening behind the zucchini vine.

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The lemon and plum trees are in the back yard.

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The other side yard is full of flowers including sunflowers and birds of paradise.

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We went to the Thursday night farmer's market in the town square last night. This was a typical booth in an extremely eclectic assortment of vendors

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:34 PM

Comments [3]



Thursday, July 14, 2005
Crossing the Nevada desert, July 12.
              The Mini performed magnificently on Tuesday the 12th, whisking us effortlessly across the Nevada desert in a mere 7 hours at 80 mph on the straightaways, some of which were 25 miles long. (The temperature varied between 95 and 102 depending on altitude). There wasn't much in the way of scenic photo ops in Nevada but there were a few amusing moments as shown in the pictures below, along with a few shots of our first glimpse of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. Wednesday we will spend in Yosemite followed by a few days of R & R at Uncle Jack's daughter Emily's house in Concord, California near Berkeley. Mini could use a rest, too.


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Most of the roads in Utah were straight and flat, often stretching out before us to the horizon like this one which was called the "Extra-Terrestrial Highway" for some reason.

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While we didn't see any visitors from outer space while crossing Nevada we did have to slow down to let two cows cross the road at one point.

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As you can see they made it safely to the other side. Why they bothered is anybody's guess.

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Having consumed a gallon of water apiece in the first 100 miles of desert we were happy to come upon this elegant tree-shaded rest stop along the Extra-Terrestrial Highway.

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The facilities were unpretentious but adequate to our needs. Most of the flies in Nevada seemed to be holding a convention at this location while we were there so our stay was brief.

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This is typical of the many dry salt lakes or salt beds that line the roads all across the state. If you like things dry Nevada is the place for you.

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Our first glimpse of the faraway California mountains---the Sierra Nevada range.

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A view of Mono Lake, California near the town of Lee Vining at the eastern entrance to Yosemite. Mono is very salty and has no fish but there is a fishery for "brine shrimp" which are used as fish food. Beautiful lake free of all commercial development s

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The Mini surveying another lake just outside the entrance to Yosemite. This was at the beginning of a long climb to the highest point in the park at 10,000 feet.

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Still a lot of snow remaining from last winter. We learned that 82 inches of snow fell on Tioga Pass in the park in about two weeks in Dec. and Jan.

posted by Uncle Jack at 3:44 PM

Comments [4]



Thursday, July 14, 2005
Zion National Park
       We have had to revise our recently formed opinion that Capitol Reef was the most stunningly beautiful of all the National Parks because we have now been to Zion. All the rest have their own claim to fame (like the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon and Old Faithful in Yellowstone) but in terms of sheer in-your-face magnificence there is nothing quite like Zion. It is so popular that the most scenic drive is now closed to all vehicular traffic except the free shuttle buses which operate from the visitors' center every six minutes from dawn til dark. It was nice to be able to look while both hands were free to operate the camera but again there is no way the pictures can convey the splendor of Zion.


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On the road approaching Zion from the east while we could still drive the Mini.

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One of the towering peaks in Zion photographed through the roof window of the shuttle bus. Zion has the tallest as well as the most massive stone formations of all the parks.

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Another massive chunk of granite in Zion.

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A view from our motel room on the edge of Zion.

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Ditto.

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A view on the way out of Zion at the western exit.

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Ditto

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Sunrise reflecting off the cliffs west of Zion, Tuesday July 12 as we head for the Nevada desert en route to Yosemite.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:45 PM

Comments [1]



Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park
       Utah Highway 24 from Capitol Reef National Park south to near Bryce Canyon N.P. has been designated a "National Scenic Byway", a rare honor, and it is not hard to see why once you have driven its length.
It is one incredible view after another as it twists and turns and rises and falls for nearly 75 miles.
       Bryce Canyon was not the most magnificent of all the parks they have visited in the past couple of weeks but it has its unique charms. Chief among these are the rock formations called "Hoodoos" which look like sand drippings and take many almost human forms. The whole park looks like a prehistoric Maurice Sendak visited here a few hundred million years ago and created a bunch of his "Wild Things". Also the views from the overlooks reach to mountains a hundred miles away on a clear day which today pretty much was.
       Once again words fail when attempting to convey the wild beauty of southern Utah so the pictures will have to speak for themselves.


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A man-made arch on Utah Route 24. (One of several).

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A natural arch in Bryce Canyon N.P.

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Mother and child strolling down the side of the road on Scenic Route 24. Much of National Park land is open range for cattle and constant vigilance is required on the part of cows and drivers alike.

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A view of the Escalante region from an overlook on Highway 24. This area has "National Monument" status but it could just as well be a National Park, too.

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Another vista along Route 24. Just one of hundreds.

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A group of "Hoodoos" in Bryce Canyon N.P. Indians who once lived in this area gave them special significance.

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A one-hundred mile view from an overlook in Bryce Canyon with more "Hoodoos" in the foreground.

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Another view from an overlook in Bryce Canyon with smoke from a forest fire visible in the distance.

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Another view in Bryce Canyon.

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And farewell to Bryce Canyon. On to Zion National Park, the most incredible of them all.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:31 PM

Comments [3]



Monday, July 11, 2005
Moab to Capitol Reef National Park
       On Sunday the Mini took us from Moab, Utah to Capitol Reef National Park by way of Natural Bridges National Monument. They thought they had seen everything Mother Nature had to offer when they toured Arches and Canyonlands National Parks on Saturday but they were wrong. Capitol Reef surpasses anything they have seen so far and now they don't know what to expect when they visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks tomorrow because others have said that they are the Crown Jewels of the National Park system.
       They are sorry they couldn't get down to Monument Valley which is on the Arizona border but they will save that for another time. The temptation is strong after visiting four of Utah's national parks and the glorious scenery in between them to sell the house, buy an RV and spend the rest of their lives just driving aimlessly around in the west.
       Once again words fail and so does the camera when attempting to describe what they have seen today. You have to see it in person to believe it but perhaps these pictures will suffice to start at least a few folks thinking about a trip to southern Utah sometime before the Grim Reaper comes calling.


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Nearly all the roads in Utah have been cut through solid rock. State Highways 95 and 24 are designated "Scenic Byways" and they really live up to the title.

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One of the three bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument. A little stream of water made it but it took a couple of million years.

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Thousands of acres of sage brush are in bloom everywhere in southern Utah. A lovely sight.

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Jacob's Chair they call it.

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This one is called the Cheesebox. It's gigantic.

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The Colorado River flowing south and gathering strength to create the Grand Canyon a few hundred miles downstream. Taken from an overlook en route to Capitol Reef N.P.

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The formation which gives Capitol Reef N.P. its name because of its similarity to the Capitol dome in D.C. Uncle Jack still doesn't understand where "Reef" came from.

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The schoolhouse in an abandoned Mormon community called Fruita now preserved as a historical site within Capitol Reef (orchards, barns, houses and all).

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An ancient tree in Fruita, fully four feet in diameter but only about 15 feet tall. Weird.

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Mini with one of the hundreds of spectacular geological features of the "Best Kept Secret in Utah"---Capitol Reef National Park.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:16 PM

Comments [8]



Saturday, July 9, 2005
Salt Lake City to Moab, Utah
       Salt Lake City is beautiful and we had a truly superb dinner in a place called Baci near Temple Square but it is still a city with all its attendant woes and we were happy to get out of there Friday morning.
       The drive to Moab by way of the Price Canyon took about seven hours and was one of the highlights of the trip so far. The terrain continually changes from virtual desert to buttes to strip mines to multi-colored layers of rock carved into strange formations by millions of years of erosion by wind and water. Coal has been mined in the Price area for a century and the abandoned pits are weirdly beautiful in their own right when mixed in with all the spectacular natural scenery.
       It was 100 degrees in the shade when they arrived in Moab but fortunately the State wine store was only a block from their swimming-pool equipped Best Western and there is a micro-brewery right across the street so all their basic needs are cared for without a lot of walking. Moab looks like a really neat town and they would like to come back sometime when it's cooler.
       On Saturday they visited Arches National Park in the morning and part of Canyonlands N.P. in the afternoon----a day they will never forget. They thought they had experienced the best the west had to offer in scenery in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons but they were wrong. These two places are enough to make a tourist throw away his camera in despair. The pictures below can only suggest what it is like to experience them in person.


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Entering Moab, population 8500. It's an old mining town which enjoyed a new boom in the 1950's when uranium was discovered nearby. Now thrives on tourism generated by nearby National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands.

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Balancing rock in Arches National Park.

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Ditto.

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Sandstone formation in Arches. There are thousands of them, each more amazing than the last.

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One of the natural arches from which the park gets its name. We found many of the other formations to be more astounding than the arches.

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Another striking formation. Taken one at a time these natural rock carvings are incredible. To see the whole vast panorama at one time is mindblowing.

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A distant massive butte viewed from the "Island in the Sky", a 6000 foot high mesa in Canyonlands N.P. Dozens of these strange formations in all shapes and sizes can be seen from the mesa.

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A view of the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers which join somewhere near this point and then flow south to form the Grand Canyon. This picture was also taken from the Island in the Sky.

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A view in the other direction from the Island in the Sky. No matter which way one looks from this vantage point the view is breathtaking. Unfortunately the air is polluted by electricity-generating plants in the Four Corners area nearby.

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The Mini has performed magnificently while negotiating the many twists and turns of the incredible roads that wind through our fantastic National Parks. It has logged over 4000 miles since leaving Nags Head on June 15. The mountains are 100 miles away.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:34 PM

Comments [8]



Thursday, July 7, 2005
Yellowstone to Salt Lake City
       The Grand Tetons National Park is contiguous to Yellowstone on the south and Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent Tuesday the 5th driving through it. It is another feast for the eyes which defies description so once again he is going to post a few pictures which can't possibly do justice to the real thing but they're the best his little Canon Elph can do.
       They spent the night in Montpelier, Wyoming which is an old way station on the Oregon Trail before proceeding through magnificent Logan Canyon to Logan, Utah and thence down about 30 miles of horrendous Interstate 15 to Salt Lake City where they will spend a couple of nights before heading south to the Moab area. Their hotel is across the street from the Mormon Tabernacle and Temple which they will check out tomorrow.
       Unfortunately Salt Lake City is mired in smog and the temperature reached 96 today so it isn't very conducive to sightseeing. They may have to change the name of the state to Pollutah if this gets any worse.


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First view of the Grand Tetons. Mrs. Stonebreaker, U.J.'s fourth grade teacher, told his class about them but she never translated from the French. Now he knows why they got their name. Today they would probably be named the Grand Partons.

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Lunch stop in the Tetons. Peanut butter crackers and celery never tasted better. The air out here is amazingly clear and dry.

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Elkhorn arch in a town just south of Yellowstone. There are dozens of these horny decorations all over Wyoming and Utah.

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Rafter on the Snake River south of Yellowstone. The Snake River canyon is one of the most spectacular they have seen. Several rafts went by in the ten minutes they spent ogling the river at one of the many overlooks. It's big business out here.

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A view from the mountains over Bear Lake south of Montpelier, Wyoming. This is a huge lake with turquoise colored water which is a major vacation destination for Salt Lake City people.

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A major ski resort in the heart of Jackson, Wyoming--- waiting for snow that will come all too soon.

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This statue of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, stands in the Jos. Smith Center, formerly the most magnificent hotel in all the West. Now it's a palatial office building.

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Brigham Young, Smith's disciple, stands in Temple Square across the street from Uncle Jack's hotel.

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The magnificent Mormon Temple as seen from the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith building. Only members of the faith in good standing are admitted to the Temple.

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The famed Tabernacle, wrapped in the style of Christo while it undergoes renovations which include strengthening of the foundations to resist earthquakes.

posted by Uncle Jack at 4:29 PM

Comments [11]



Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Yellowstone Park--Day Two
       Old Faithful did not disappoint. The Old Faithful Inn is purported to be the largest log structure in the world and Uncle Jack is prepared to believe it. What he finds hard to believe is that it was constructed in one year by 50 men over 100 years ago. It is now undergoing a major renovation.


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Elk posing for pictures in a stream near Old Faithful. What a ham. Hillside in the background is part of the over one million acres of Yellowstone burned in forest fires since 1988. They are recovering slowly.

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A small part of the magnificent Old Faithful Inn. Not surprisingly it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Guests can watch Old Faithful do its thing from the huge porch where all the furniture faces one way.

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Part of the throng who gather every 90 minutes all day every day on these benches.

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And this, of course, is what they came to see. Even jaded old Uncle Jack has to confess, it is awesome.

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Old Faithful was not the only amusement. When they looked out their hotel room window there was a buffalo foraging right below. He hung around for hours while visitors took thousands of pictures of him. He then defecated hugely on the sidewalk and left

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The sky never quits in Wyoming.

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And neither does Old Faithful which put on an even better show at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

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And then the neighborhood buffalo returned to scratch himself on a fencepost. He makes a mockery of the park warnings to stay at least 50 yards away from bison. They would have to shut the hotel if the rule was enforced.

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Pot of boiling mud. Stinks to high heaven. How this got to be a tourist attraction Uncle Jack will never understand.

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Another of the fire-ravaged hillsides. Authorities estimate that 40% of the park's forests burned in the great fire of 1988 and subsequent smaller fires. A herd of mule deer in the foreground apparently like blackened grass.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:06 PM

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Yellowstone Park
       Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have been incommunicado for the past three days while visiting Yellowstone. They spent July 3 in the Yellowstone Lake Hotel and July 4 in the Old Faithful Inn, both of which are more than a century old and neither of which has TV or internet connections. These failings did not seem to keep potential guests away because both were full up.
       This was their first visit to Yellowstone and needless to say they were overwhelmed. Anyone who has been there will know there is no way to describe the beauty in words so he will just post a few pictures and let it go at that.
      


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Approaching the east entrance to Yellowstone on July 3. They had to wait for the two cars ahead of them but couldn't complain after hearing about a 10-mile back-up from the Wright Brothers bridge the same day.

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Lake Yellowstone with Mini.

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The Lake String Quartet entertain guests in the Sun Parlor at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel. Two of the players had studied at Carnegie Mellon U. where Uncle Jack taught for 20 years and as you would expect they were very good.

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Tourist seeks safety in small car as large buffalo charges.

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Fortunately he was diverted at the last moment by a patch of green grass at the side of the parking lot.

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A group of slow-moving pedestrians cause a traffic jam on the road to Mammoth Hot Springs. Most of the traffic slow-ups in Yellowstone are caused by human drivers stopping their cars in the middle of the road to take pictures.

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The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River with Japanese tourists in the foreground. Uncle Jack does not exaggerate when he estimates that fully a third of the people visiting the Park on the 4th were from Japan.

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A small part of Yellowstone Canyon. This goes on for 23 miles.

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They were admiring weird rock formations at Mammoth Hot Springs when a grizzly bear came lumbering out of the woods about 25 yards away. They followed the rules and left the neighborhood toot sweet.

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Why does a bear cross the road? Anybody?

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:48 PM

Comments [9]



Sunday, July 3, 2005
Cody, Wyoming
              The Mini is getting a well deserved rest for a couple of days while Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. explore Cody, Wyoming, a tough-as-nails frontier town that has gracefully metamorphosed into one of the West's premier tourist meccas. It probably wouldn't be right to describe it as genteel but it does have some of the trappings of a highly civilized community, foremost of which is the renowned Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
              A visitor could spend weeks or months in this magnificent museum without exhausting its capacity to surprise, edify and delight. It is sometimes called the "Smithsonian of the West" and not without reason. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have never enjoyed a museum more with the possible of exception of the Victoria and Albert in London which has enjoyed the financial support of the Royal Family and the British government since its inception. The Buffalo Bill museum is a private, non-profit enterprise that has thrived without government support. It is a superstar among institutions of its kind in the U.S.
       At the other end of the cultural spectrum the Cody Rodeo is top-ranked among devotees of that arcane "sport". They attended one session of the annual four day extravaganza known as the Cody Jamboree which is to rodeo what the Masters Tournament or the U.S. Open is to golf. Suffice it to say Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have never seen anything quite like it, and probably never will again.
              They stayed in Buffalo Bill's hotel, the Irma, named for his youngest daughter, which has been lovingly preserved for over a century and is still the most popular hostelry in town even though it lacks such amenities as a swimming pool, high speed (or low speed for that matter) internet connectibility, or even hairdryers in the rooms. It does have by far the best saloon in town and a restaurant that serves perhaps the best prime rib on the planet.
       They had so much fun in Cody that they almost hate to leave for Yellowstone in the morning. Have a great Fourth.


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Buffalo Bill Historical Center. One of the country's finest museums. You have to visit it to believe it.

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Dramatic recreation in bronze of a "Buffalo Jump" wherein buffalos are led to their deaths by clever Indians.

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Heroic bronze statue of a cowboy by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who was a major benefactor of the magnificent Whitney Gallery of Western Art in the B.B. Historical Center.

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Full-sized recreation of Frederic Remington's studio. The B.B. has the largest and finest collection of Remington's, paintings, drawings and bronzes in captivity.

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The Irma Hotel as it looked a century ago.

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Troupe of Western thespians who stage a hilarious mock gunfight in front of the Irma every evening.

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Magnificent cherrywood bar presented to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria after his Wild West show wowed audiences in London back at the turn of the twentieth century. It was transported the last fifty miles or so by oxcart.

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Opening ceremonies at the Cody Rodeo. A combination religious and patriotic extravaganza. President Bush would have loved every minute of it.

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Cowboy at work trying to keep from being thrown violently to earth and trampled by his horse. What a way to make a living.

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And when you get bored with the rodeo you can always enjoy looking at the sky.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:11 AM

Comments [0]



Friday, July 1, 2005
Through the Bighorns
              The hundred-mile drive through the Bighorn Mountains from Sheridan to Cody, Wyoming is a feast for the eyes from one end to the other. Uncle Jack's little camera could not possibly convey the magnificence of the scenery but he has posted a few pictures for what they are worth. The Mini was put to the test in the process of climbing to Grant Pass which is 9000 feet above sea level but it came through with flying colors. They did not envy the folks driving huge RV's pulling ORV's behind them as they crawled upward.


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Typical road sign in the Bighorns. There is one of these about every half mile. Mini country.

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Lunch at an overlook. Usual fare is peanut butter on Wheatsworth crackers and celery.

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Another incredible view. Makes the Skyline Drive look puny by comparison. And the air is crystal clear.

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Even at 5000 feet diligence is required. This steer wanted to be on the other side of the road for some reason.

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Geological features of the mountains are on display everywhere.

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These will have to do until they get to the Grand Tetons next week.

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Falls on Shell Creek which courses down the mountain for many miles. Over the past million years or so it has cut a deep canyon through solid granite. Beautiful.

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A tiny part of Shell Creek Canyon.

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A strange formation on the west side of the mountains.

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And always, the incredible sky. With not a billboard in sight.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:17 PM

Comments [6]



Friday, July 1, 2005
Sheridan, Wyoming
              Sheridan, Wyoming was supposed to be just a stopover on the way to Cody but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The residents have made a concerted effort to preserve the old buildings in the downtown area, including a marvelous old hotel once owned by Buffalo Bill Cody. "Trail End", the magnificent mansion of John Kendrick, a poor boy who made millions in the cow trade, coal, and real estate businesses, is preserved just as it was in the early 1900's with all the original furnishings including the first whole-house central vacuum cleaning system west of the Mississippi.      


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The Kendrick mansion in Sheridan---Trail End. One of the finest homes U.J. and Mrs. U.J. have ever visited. He rarely lived here because he served as both Governor of Wyoming and Senator from Wyoming in his senior years.

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Kendrick's office. In the left corner is a state-of-the-art music box, one of the modern entertainment features of the house.

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The laundry, equipped with many of the same appliances that Uncle Jack's mother used when he was a kid.

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A magnificent new junior high school under construction in Sheridan. Uncle Jack didn't realize it was a school at first because it has windows in it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:47 PM

Comments [1]




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Except for short hiatus in Baltimore Uncle Jack has lived in Nags Head for over 45 years. He was a columnist for the Outer Banks Current and its successor, the Outer Banks Sentinel, for 20 years. A collection of his columns is available from Amazon Kindle under the title Uncle Jack's Outer Banks. He and Mrs. Uncle Jack, aka Sue, live in South Nags Head whence he observes and sometimes comments on the passing parade.
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