Green River Neighborhood

May 15-19, 2021

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

May 15, From Boulder to Green River

Boulder MtnWe left Boulder on Saturday, continuing our path east on Utah Scenic Byway12. The road continued to earn the name "scenic" although on this day the air was hazy with a light layer of ground fog. We passed over 9,000 feet elevation on Boulder Mountain, stopped to see what we could, and moved on. Actually, the haze prevented more rock pictures, so it was a good thing.

Less than an hour after leaving the Boulder Mountain Inn, we stopped in the town of Torrey to check out an art venue: Torrey Gallery. Outside, it was a perfect, old farmhouse and on the inside a beautifully restored old-yet-modern display space. We oohed and awed at both the building details and the art pieces by local artists. The wood carvings of country clothing were particularly impressive.


From Torrey we continued a few miles to the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, anticipating yet more rock scenes. However, the first encounter inside the park was the display of what remains of the community of Fruita, a mostly-Mormon community of apple, peach, and apricot farmers from the 1870's up until the park was established. During much of that time, the community was largely isolated except for the one or two rough horseback and wagon trails. Building highways 12 and 24 changed that life and opened up the Capitol Reef to tourists as well. Orchards, the Gifford House, a barn (not shown), and the one-room schoolhouse are preserved for display.

school inside

The park road continues past Fruita into yet more rock country. We traveled the 5 or 6 miles, taking pictures as required. When the road turned to gravel, we stopped and ate the snacks we had brought from the Burr Trail Outpost, 60-some miles down the gravel road. On the way back we discovered that the sky had brightened and puffy white clouds had appeared, making even rock pictures better.

rocks lunch
red w clouds wall and clouds

Just outside the park entrance is a wall with Fremont Culture petroglyph dating from 600 to 1300 C.E. They are far enough up on the rock wall that they remain essentially intact, except from divots from inconsiderate gun toters. Reportedly, other hills around here also have such native markings, but none are quite so accessible as these.

left glyphs allright

The rest of the day's drive was mostly across flat, dry desert, with monument rock formations on the horizon keeping the way interesting. About 15 miles before Green River, we went onto eastbound Interstate 70, our first freeway since St. George tens days earlier.sign

Green River welcomed us with a colorful sign and not much else, besides huge gas and diesel stations and chain hotels on the edges and falling down motels and gas stations in the center.sign

Our hotel, the River Rock Inn, was in the center of town, but it was a gem set among the roughness. Greg and Tracy Winn had opened the place just the month before, converting a vintage Main Street motel into a charming ten-room B&B. The couple had been part of the hospitality business for decades, most recently in hotels that serviced Florida cruise ship customers. Overnight, that business had collapsed and a retirement project thousands of miles away seemed right. And, from what we have experienced in just a few hours, it is right for travelers as well

RRI entercourtyardroom

dinnerAfter checking in, we left to feed Carla at the town's Tesla Supercharger (near the world's largest watermelon) and get our own meal at Tamarisk, a river-front restaurant with a broad menu and a pleasant view from our window booth. I think this was one of our first meals eaten inside at a restaurant since the pandemic began 14 months ago. We think this is within the most recent CDC guidelines for the "fully inoculated", but it is a departure from our eat-outdoors requirement of just days ago.

mapAlthough we had been in the car for many hours already, we decided to drive around Green River to get a feel for the place. The feel we got was one of a town struggling to survive servicing Interstate traffic and visitors to the nearby National Parks. The decay and tumble-down neighbors made the Red Rock Inn an even more exceptional end to our long drive.

Sunday, May 16, A Slow start to More National Parks

Our National Park destinations are very busy because of pandemic escapism and because this has always been a good season to visit here, not cold and not too hot. Greg, the owner-manager of our hotel, had suggested we go in the afternoon rather than the morning or mid-day and that made sense. This left plenty of time for morning chores, including Tesla charging, and a little sunrise photography in Green River.

superchrger full
sunrise creek

breakfastBreakfast at the Red Rock Inn is a nice part of the hotel hospitality. After fruit and coffee, Greg prepares a choice of eggs, pancakes, or French toast. We chose to eat outside in the parking-lot-turned-patio and enjoyed the food and the pleasant temperatures. We took our time. This process of starting slowly starting a travel day is the way we prefer, even if it means we see less per day than other

wash carChores included a bit of watercolor art for Marianne and diary-writing for me. She has not had as much creative time as she wants, so this was a nice break. After my writing, we were able to give the car a much-needed washing, while Marianne and Greg handled some clothes washing too. Clean clothes and a clean car are a real treat on a road trip.

line in It is about an hour's drive from Green River south to Arches or Canyonlands and we planned one day for each, starting with the more famous Arches. Even though we had delayed our park entrance to about 5pm, the entrance still had two long lines of cars waiting to get in. Reportedly, the park even stops entry in busier parts of the day.

Once we were in, however, the crowds seemed manageable. There are over 20 miles of paved roads in Arches with parking, viewing, and hiking spots all along. Unlike in Zion or Bryce where buses are needed, everything in Arches was car- or car-plus-hike accessible. For the more hardy visitors, there are also a few camping areas. No lodges.

In this region, it's all about the rock formations. Red and brown sandstone overlay a weak salt base and that combination, along with seismic action, has caused parts of the ground to drop or rise hundreds of feet, creating dramatic monuments and cliffs. Added weathering split raised areas into deep, narrow canyons, the rock walls referred to as "fins". In some places, those fins continued to erode in a way that created stone arches.

Here are our pictures. I know we have taken and shown far more rock pictures than anyone needs, but each park has had a different feel and we want to remember those specific impressions when we look back. Hence, too many pictures of rocks.

large arch windows double
sign sand balance rock
broken arch fins
edges symbols ladies

Yep, too many pictures of red rocks. But which ones should have joined the hundreds I already discarded? Too hard, it's just too hard.

Monday, May 17, Canyonlands

After a tour of the town of Moab, we moved on to Canyonlands, our seventh National Park or Monument on the BWRT.

Morning was Green River standard: top up Carla's battery, fill up on Greg's breakfast cooking, write a little, read or scroll a little. By about mid-morning, we were ready to start being tourists.

Green River has one museum: the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, so we had to start there. The museum tells the story of the Green River and the "river runners" who have explored and developed the network of the Green and Colorado Rivers. There were explanations of how the river system starts high in the mountains and gradually steps through a series of dams down to Lake Powell and beyond. While dams have "controlled" portions of the system, some sections remain free-flowing. Those sections are the basis of a large sports and tourism industry including the companies we had seen loading large rafts down at Lee's Ferry a couple of days ago. The museum had examples of some of the first boats to travel down the rivers, even before any sections had been dammed. Interesting story, well told.

museum G river elevation
statue boats

t-shirtscraftsOur next goal was the town of Moab, the Utah town closest to the National Parks we were touring, but one where hotels were both crowded and very expensive. Hence the extra driving from Green River. Moab struck us as a tourist town, kind of like Springdale outside of Zion. There were plenty of t-shirt shops, one of which Marianne helped support with assorted gifts for the folks back home. There were also a couple of galleries for local artists and craftsmen, one with uninspiring paintings and another with a decent selection of household crafts with a local flavor.

After lunch at a restaurant that billed itself as South African but served only American breakfasts and lunch, we headed back north a bit to Canyonlands National Park. This is a relatively new NP, having been dedicated in 1964 by Lyndon B Johnson. By that time, it had been subject to decades of largely unsuccessful mining exploration work, mostly for uranium. By the sixties, there were competing interests to either build yet another large dam in the valley or make a large national monument or park. Fortunately, the park lobby, won.

By now, we had seen a half-dozen desert parks, each with their own rocks, but we discovered one more that had its own feel. I thought it was like a Not-so-Grand Canyon, still spectacular, but somehow more manageable than it's bigger cousin down in Arizona. Like the Grand Canyon, the easiest views were from the canyon rim, with canyon floor experience only for hardier hikers and river runners.

Two parts of Canyonlands are paved-road accessible: The Island in the Sky and The Needles. We opted for The Island, a large mesa with views from several sides. We did most of our exploration from the car and parking lots, with a single mile-long loop hike at the end.

sign iron clads Island sign
canyon view
panorama Udall Bucks
group van lifecar map
canyon green river

The one hike, up to an extinct volcano of sorts.
start rock sign dome 1
explainercenterfar sidetrail 2

An hour and ten minutes after we left the end of the Island road, we were home in Green River. I think we have just a single desert park left!

Wednesday, May 18, Goblins and Packingmap

This was a catch-up, packing, and one-more-bunch-of-rocks day. Even though we've been here just a few days, we have a pattern. First, I get up early to fill the car with electricity so we can go wherever we want. I have determined that a key to "range anxiety" is to start each day with a full or almost-full battery. In Boulder, we did that via overnight charging on a slow charger, but here in Green River a half-hour at the Supercharger does the trick.

monumentsThe goal today was more rocks, this time at Utah State Park called Goblin Valley south and west of Green River. I think a 45 minute to an hour drive has also become part of our Green River pattern because that's where the rocks are. Along the way, there are reminders that this is a land of spectacular vistas, even when all we are doing is going from home to a park.

Goblin Valley's attraction are rocks, but rocks with a difference. The valley is filled with little rock piles, pillars, and mushroom-like structures. The state park allows visitors to just wander in amongst them all, so it's a different visiting experience as well. I'm not sure how long all these goblins will withstand the assault of strangers, but the brochure said the rangers are studying the wear in high traffic areas versus low. We hope it will be preserved, because it is certainly unique.

many scale
lineup pillars

yurtlayersThe park has a treeless campground and two windowless yurts for visitors. I'm not sure either situation looked like something we would try, but the yurt set against the cliff looked straight out of Star Wars, the original one.

Speaking of cliffs, the one not far from the yurts gave an excellent display of the layering that was part of the geology. Interesting. How many are there?

80 mphwelcome backThe drive home to the Red Rock Inn was quick. I think we are getting used to the straight roads and the Interstate's 80 mph speed limit.

I will miss the openness of the Green River Valley and the surrounding desert.

Wednesday, May 19, Leave Desert for Mountainstracy greg

We packed up, said good-bye to Greg and Tracy, our most hospitable innkeepers, and headed east.

On our fifth stop of the Big Western Road Trip, we had a limited agenda in a community with limited options. We were OK with that.

John and Marianne