Southwest National Parks

Sunday–Friday, September 10–22, 2017
Leader: Sharon Cutsforth

On September 10th we set off on an amazing adventure aboard our luxury MTR motor coach, with Augie Bergman as driver and Char Bergman our tour planner. Our riders included twenty one Obsidians and eleven guests; many began the trip as strangers to one another and returned home as friends. The plan was to visit nine National Parks, three National Monuments, four state parks and more. Several adjustments to the schedule were made as we traveled, but we did see all the planned National Parks and included some unplanned stops. The trip leaders greatly appreciated the flexibility of all participants. We were blessed with perfect weather most of the way, ranging from 100 degree temps in Death Valley to 40+ degrees at higher elevations. We traveled over 4,000 miles in thirteen days, elevations ranged from below sea level to 11,000 feet above. It would be impossible to include all the details of this special trip, so here are the highlights: Touring Lehman Cave at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, the mineral formations are incredibly beautiful. A park ranger led a very informative easy tour through many different “rooms” in the cave; Star gazing and seeing the Milky Way at the Border Inn, Baker, NV; Driving Highway 70 across Utah, through the San Rafael Swell area where we began to see the unusual and colorful rock formations. A side trip took us to Goblin Valley State Park where many went down and walked among the Goblins. Imaginations went wild and spotted many humans and other creatures in the thousands of red rock formations; Arches and Canyonlands National Parks allowed for some short hikes out among the beautiful and unusual red rocks with several natural arches; Hovenweep National Monument gave us our first view of ancient Puebloan communities, with Square Tower being one of the park’s most iconic structures; Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado gave many of our riders the experience of a life time as they toured the Cliff Palace and Balcony House cliff dwellings. These tours included climbing several 10 – 12 foot ladders and crawling through a narrow twelve foot tunnel. To add even more excitement a thunder and lightning rain storm moved in at Balcony House leaving them quite wet – that got the adrenalin pumping. We were late arriving at our motel in Durango so we ordered salads and pizza delivered to the motel where we shared the lobby with a group of retired and active firefighters traveling by motorcycle to Fort Collins to take part in an annual memorial ceremony honoring fallen comrades. This group had traveled all the way from New England states; The Durango & Silverton narrow gauge steam engine train ride from Durango to Silverton along the Animas River canyon was a new experience for most. With solid rock walls on left side of the train and a shear drop into the river canyon on the right, it was a thrilling and beautiful ride. Our group was large enough so we mostly had an open air car to ourselves so everyone could move around to get great views; our delicious buffet lunch at the historic Grand Hotel in Silverton with its beautiful crystal chandeliers was special too. Traveling back down to Cortez through the San Juan Mountains was a spectacular drive; by this time we were getting a bit overwhelmed by the spectacular and unusual beauty of the southwest, but there was much more to come! Next came the Petrified Forest National Park where we were awed by the petrified logs and pieces of ancient forests; Grand Canyon National Park is amazing in the summer sun and its vastness. Several folks hiked a good stretch of the rim trail where others used the excellent shuttle system to move from one viewpoint to another. A special treat was a stop at Desert View Watchtower providing panoramic views for over 100 miles. The Watchtower is an original structure designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is often referred to as the architect of the southwest; then it was back into Utah for spectacular visits to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. These two parks are very different and both are beautiful. Bryce is a huge canyon filled with amazing red and white rock formations, while Zion is a narrow canyon between towering rock walls. Both allowed riders the opportunity for some hiking; with our eyes and minds filled with amazing sights it was time to begin the long ride home. A drive through Death Valley National Park provided a totally different type of landscape. We made a short stop at Bad Water Basin where it was 100 degrees, the salt flats here are an unusual sight; an unplanned drive to China Ranch date farm was an unexpected treat. Near Tecopa, CA in a desert oasis this family owned and operated date farm gave us a warm welcome and a chance to enjoy date milkshakes, purchase fresh baked date breads and cookies. The gift shop included many unusual items and a variety of beautiful rocks for sale. Needless to say, the bus took on some extra weight at this stop; two more special stops in California were the ghost town of Bodie, best described as a town frozen in time in a “state of arrested decay”. At 8,000 foot elevation it is a popular tourist destination in summer, but only two rangers live up there in winter; our final stop was McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, the 129-foot Burney Falls is not the highest or largest waterfall in the state, but possibly the most beautiful. It is said that Teddy Roosevelt once described Burney Falls as the “eighth wonder of the world”. We arrived back in Eugene in time to see a glorious sunset as we crossed over the Willamette River, a great welcome home. This was the longest and most ambitious bus trip the committee has planned in over twenty years. We were a tired, but happy group as we reached home, many commenting on seeing sights and having adventures they had never experienced before. We had a few speed bumps along the way; two falls that required emergency medical transport, a temporarily displaced hiker and a water hose leak that brought us to a truck stop for emergency repairs. About three days into the trip the leader lost her voice and assistant leader Jim Northrop stepped in and did an excellent job as leader. All in all it was a fantastic trip and we had the assistance of some truly wonderful people just when we needed it.

Members: Sharon Cutsforth, Barbara Beard, Paul Beard, Thomas Berkey, Bea Fontana, Judy Garwood, Yuan Hopkins, Janet Jacobsen, John Jacobsen, Verna Kocken, Holger Krentz, Darlene Mancuso, Craig Molitor, Jim Northrop, Don Payne, Judy Phelps, Barbara Schomaker, Debra Schwartz, Velma Shirk, Mary Ellen West, Vern Marsonette. Nonmembers: Swee Berkey, Alice Krentz, Judi Shirk, Lee Altschuler, Marcia Claypool, Janet Enright, Sheila Marsonette, John Mellott, Theresa Mellott, Sharon Pounds, Wayne Pounds.

Temple Mount—photo by Holger Krentz
click here for more photos from this trip

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