national parks

wolfe ranch in arches national park

by jani on March 27, 2013

Each year there are an estimated 1.7 to 1.9 million visitors to Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. They visit the park to to see the incredible formations (we did that and you can see our images here)… to hike and sometimes to just sit, ponder and take in some of nature’s most magnificent vistas.

I wonder how many stop to visit Wolfe Ranch. It is, after all, off the main road which takes you to Delicate Arch and everyone wants a photo of this iconic arch! I would, however, suggest to those of you who may visit Arches, to take the left fork and drive the short distance to see this historic building. Then ask yourself, how on earth did Wolfe and his family survive in the middle of nowhere?

At first HB had no interest in walking to see this sad- looking edifice. But on closer inspection… and I mean peering into the windows, we were both taken back by the tiny living space – and immediately wanted to learn all we could about this family and why they would choose this desolate spot to live.

wolfe ranch 4This is apparently the remains of the corral that Wolfe used for his livestock. How did he find water? We saw no nearby water sources when we were there. How far did they have to travel for basic needs? It’s all quite mystifying to me!

wolfe ranch 1There’s no chimney or stove that we could see. How did they cook? How did they keep warm in the cold winter months? The difficulty of this lifestyle has had me pondering ever since we visited this place.

Here’s what we’ve learned from Wikipedia:

“John Wesley Wolfe settled in the location in 1888 with his oldest son Fred. A nagging leg injury from the Civil War prompted Wolfe to move west from Ohio, looking for a drier climate. He chose this tract of more than 100 acres (0.40 km2) along Salt Wash for its water and grassland – enough for a few cattle. The Wolfes built a one-room cabin, a corral, and a small dam across Salt Wash. For more than a decade they lived alone on the remote ranch. In 1906, Wolfe’s daughter Flora Stanley, her husband, and their children moved to the ranch.[2] Shocked at the primitive conditions, Stanley convinced her father to build a new cabin with a wood floor.”

wolfe ranch 2The root cellar-

wolfe ranch 3One thing I realized after our visit to Arches National Park and especially the Wolfe Ranch – just how easy our lives are. We are surrounded by luxuries and yet  find so many things to complain about. We need to take a moment and realize all that we are blessed with on a daily basis.

Have you ever visited Arches National Park? While there, did you stop to see this historic building? Granted it isn’t much, but there’s such a story behind it. If you do go… maybe – just maybe – you’ll look at the water bottle you’re holding in your hand and realize that there was no chore in getting it! As always I welcome your comments.


arches national park

by jani on February 27, 2013

Just about this time each year, we start planning another trip to Moab, Utah. We have fallen in love with the quirky town and the gorgeous parks that are its main draw! One of our favorite destinations is Arches National Park. We have the Lifetime Senior Pass, which costs $10  and allows free entrance into any national park or forest for seniors 62 and older. We highly recommend purchasing this.

Note: There are those (possibly me included) who mistakenly refer to each arch in the park with a plural usage… that’s incorrect. This is Delicate Arch – you may have seen this on Utah license plates.

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This is a map that (I think?) we picked up at the ranger’s station. I added a few titles to show just how close everything is – and yet you can spend endless hours exploring this awe-inspiring scenery!

arches 0

If you look at the above map, the Three Gossips formation is in the same location as the Courthouse Towers. They just have such a striking difference in their appearance!

arches 1A perfect view of Courthouse Towers.

arches 2

It’s difficult to even comprehend how this rock is being balanced. It has the right name:  Balanced Rock!

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HB and I enjoying this gorgeous day at Park Avenue… I should have brought my shopping bag!

arches wall street

Since, it’s almost impossible to fit all your activities into one day, might we suggest adding a couple of extra days to your stay in Moab. It is be well worth your time. These extraordinary rock formations are mesmerizing!

Have you traveled to Arches? I’d really encourage you to check out the wonders of this great place…. and again it’s practically in our backyard!


roller coaster in the sky

by jani on June 13, 2012

There have been moments in my life where I should have been frightened, but I have not. I’ve jumped off a 40-foot bridge into the Snake River without a bungee cord. I have never held onto a roller coaster (more thrills, right?). I’m not afraid of much of anything  – well, maybe a coiled rattler or copperhead! Point is, I’m pretty gutsy. That all changed yesterday upon entering Mesa Verde National Park. I became a possessed human being, having an almost out of body experience. Wuss is not even a close description. HB was driving, and he’s a good driver. About one mile into our ascent to the top of Mesa Verde (“green table” in Spanish), I began having an unrelenting anxiety attack, certain that our car was going over the cliff! It’s only a 15 mile drive to the top… but possibly the longest hour- plus I’ve ever spent! Did I want to ask HB to turn around? Absolutely! Am I more than glad we didn’t? Another huge ABSOLUTELY! This is an experience that should be added to everyone’s bucket list!

We never counted the cautionary curve signs… we’re guessing there may have been 25-30. Not having read up on this national park, I had imagined a nice sweet little drive into a flat park and and passively looking up at these beautiful, ancient cliff dwellings. That, is not the case! Once we reached the top of the Chapin Mesa, about 7,000 feet in elevation, I finally began to unwind and relax.

The first ancient village we came to was Far View. It is not a cliff dwelling, but a part of a collection of villages (50 have been found within a half mile radius) that thrived between A.D. 900 to about 1300. It was a farming community; corn or maize, which was seeded one foot deep into the soil, was the staple with squash and beans supplementing their diets. We felt privileged to watch the park’s archeologists working to preserve these ancient communities. Here are a few at work at Far View:

This circular area below is often referred to as a kiva, defined as a sacred place where ceremonial activity took place. But the park ranger at Far View informed me that with more excavation and understanding of these Ancestral Puebloans. There is a consensus opinion among experts, that the entire dwelling is a kiva, as ceremonial items have been found in all parts of these structures.

Note: Ancestral Puebloans is the term used today, as opposed to Anasazi, a Navajo title. The reason for this new name, as conceived by archeologists, refers to their connection with all current Pueblo Native American tribes of the Southwest; experts believe these ancient cliff dwellers are part of modern  Puebloan heritage.

Very near the Far View dwelling lies the Pipe Shrine House, named for the dozen decorated clay pipes found by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution in the summer of 1916.

Another view of Pipe Shrine House located on Chapin Mesa

Mesa Verde was established as a national park by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. The park logo font reminds me of the Betty Boop era. I’m sure that it’s quite intentional.

These sandals are at least 800 years old. I love the fashionable t-strap style! The Ancestral Puebloans traveled everywhere on foot and there are constant reminders of the prolific trading that went on during this period, involving communities from coastal regions to all areas of the Southwest.

What girl doesn’t love a beautiful piece of jewelry? Did I want to break the glass and try on this black necklace? Yep… oh, and there are over 5,000 beads in this beauty! Restraint, Jani!… restraint!

I promise there will be some cliff dwellers photos coming up. But as I traveled through the Chapin Mesa Museum ( a must, by the way), I couldn’t help but notice how much these ancient people contributed to our current society. Why, one or more of my posts on fashion trends today, revolves around “tribal” or “aztec” prints. I just need to use the fairly new term of Ancestral Puebloans when describing some of the geometric and chevron prints that are so prevalent today. The following examples of stunning tribal prints found on their pottery made over 1000 years ago, could be great motifs used in our clothing today!

Ancient canteen

I so love the design on this bowl!

Coffee or hot chocolate, anyone?

I promised the cliff dwellings, didn’t I? The below community, called Spruce Tree House,  is just below the Chapin Mesa Museum and there is a paved walking path directly down to this dwelling. The photos were taken from above.

The sun hit the cliff wall and cast this glow on the close-up of the Spruce Tree House

Here’s a Where’s Waldo for you! Can you find the House of Windows on the following cliff? Come on, don’t cheat by looking at the close-up of this cliff dwelling!

Did you find it? Pretty cool, isn’t it?!

There are several dwellings that a ranger-supervised tour will accommodate. If you want to go, you have to pick up the tickets either early in the morning or the night before. This is the grand Cliff Palace, taken at the vantage point where you meet the ranger and climb down to the actual cliff. WARNING: This is not a tour for anyone with health issues and always…. again, always carry enough water for you and your children. This is very high elevation!

Again the sun’s cast almost makes this close-up look like the dwelling is balancing on air!

This is from a lookout point just above Balcony House. The cliffs and canyons are magnificent!

Always watch for the mule deer and other animals that may walk in front of your vehicle. This young buck was just crossing the road to meet up with the doe on the other side.

And the purpose of his infatuation, this sweet female mule deer. They seem quite used to tourists!

We brought in Subway sandwiches and stopped at one of the picnic areas. It was serene and the quiet, peaceful sound of the wind and birds was incredibly relaxing. Make certain that you put all trash in the appropriate receptacles in the park.

Are you planning to go to any of our nations national or state parks this year? I’d love to hear about your adventures!


Canyonlands National Park rivals the Grand Canyon in its awe inspiring and breathtaking views. You can spend days in Moab and miss the majority of Canyonlands, as it covers so many square miles. Situated on top of a mesa, the district we visited is sometimes referred to as “Island In The Sky”, a pretty accurate description. To get to both Island In The Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park drive nine miles north of Moab on US 191. Turn west onto SR313 toward Island In The Sky Visitor Center, which is located 32 miles from Moab. A few miles before you enter Canyonlands National Park, there is a road to your left which takes you to Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s well worth the 22-mile travel to the visitors center and hiking trails. Be patient, for the towering 2,00o feet above the Colorado River is not something you want to miss. The serenity is ever present, looking over this vast panorama! Truly, this is one magnificent view of the canyon country of southeastern Utah! This is one of my favorite shots overlooking the valley below and the meandering Colorado River.

canyonlands-deadhorse 3

Dogs are allowed on leashes in the state parks of Utah but not in the national parks. Emmy loved walking the trails with us. An easy way to always have a doggy bag available, is to tie it to your belt loop; a habit that has proved quite convenient and opportune!

deadhorse state park 1

I really wasn’t going to jump, but how thrilling to be standing on this overhanging ledge, just a short hike from SR 313. It’s only a 2,000 foot drop to the Green River… I wouldn’t call it a drop-in-the-bucket!

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 Thelma and Louise took this photo…  seriously! They were two friends actually named Thelma and Louise, from Australia. We just happened upon this point and they were nice enough to offer to take our photo. As we approached, I mentioned to HB that if I accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake, we’d be doing a “Thelma and Louise”… and how crazy was it to get our picture taken by these two funny ladies who just decided to take a trip around the Southwest!

thelma and louiseCan you say, “GORGEOUS”?

canyonlands-on one side 1

The photo above was taken toward the east of SR 313 on the mesa driving away from Island in the Sky and the photo below was taken from the west. Of course the sun wasn’t in my favor for a great shot, but hopefully you can see how incredible it was to be on top of the world… or so it seemed!

on top of canyonlands- other side of the road

If you’re looking for unsurpassed beauty, then check out Dead Horse Point State and Canyonlands National Parks. There are a myriad of activities just waiting for you. Whether you are traveling in your car sightseeing or want to be part of the action hiking, jeeping or cycling the many miles of trails, southeastern Utah definitely needs to make your bucket list!