We are off the road for several days to explore Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our first stop (well second actually – fika at Iconik Roasters – we spent the afternoon basking in the brillance of the 300 or so works on display at the eponymous museum dedicated to her life and work.
Maria has long been an avid fan of her painting. Stephen on the other hand had not given her work serious attention – thinking her a painter of pastel colored flowers.
O’Keffee produced about 3000 works in her 60 year career. The museum owns 1100 of her works – phenomenally all but two were donated to the museum. The 300 paintings on display are grouped across eight galleries that relate to various phases of her life and creative focus.
O’Keffee split her time between New York and New Mexico for about thirty years. After her husband passed away she moved to New Mexico permanently although she traveled to South America and Japan several times.
O’Keffee was initally critized by the male dominated artistic community for her use of bright colors. She loved color and refused to adopt the darker tones that the prominent artists of the time considered appropriate. Her strength as a woman and commitment to what and how she wanted to paint what she saw is evident through out the exhibits and the narrative of her life.
We have included a small sample of photographs of we took at the museum. The paintings featured below cover the period 1917-1958 and represent work from New Mexico and New York.
The Georgia O’Keffee is a must when you visit Santa Fe.
As we mentioned in closing our last post we were planning on traveling south to spend two days exploring and camping at Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Nageezi, NM. Chaco Canyon was occupied as early as 900 B.C. and as an archaeological site is on par with the fantastic Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Unfortunately, the storm that passed through northern New Mexico rendered the 25 mile dirt road into the park impassable.
Not to worry! Northern New Mexico is rich with significant archaelogical sites. In fact, there are 19 ancestral locations which can be accessed in the Four Corners Region. So after a brief stopover in the badlands surrounding Angel Peak we set our sights on Bandelier National Monument.
The Angel Peak Recreation Area is managed by the BLM. It is a beautiful area of desolate badlands, occasionally marred by oil or fracking sites scattered through out the 10,000 acres. Angel Peak is still worth a visit.
We joined Route 96 to make the drive to Bandelier NP. Route 96 runs north then east skirting the northern boundary of the Santa Fe National Forest and parallels the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. This area is sparsely settled with only five settlements along the 60 miles -between Cuba and Abiquiu. The total population of all of the settlements is apx. 500 people.
Abiquiu is where artist Georgia O’Keefe did much of her painting while in New Mexico. We plan on visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum when we visit Santa Fe.
Bandelier National Monument is a relatively small (33,000 acres) monument but protects an area of mesas and canyons where humans lived as long as 11,000 years ago. This area features both cliff dwellings and multi-room dwellings on the canyon floor. Much of the material here is tuff (compacted volcanic ash) which allowed the Puebloans to carve into the cliffs.
There are a number of dwellings where you can climb up into cliff dwellings using ladders modeled after the ladders the Puebloans used. The Alcove House pictured below provides the opportunity to climb up a series of ladders and provide the view of the canyon that the Ancesteral Puebloans had so long ago. Additionally, there are many petroglyphs on the cliff walls.
BNP was closed to the public during World War 2 as the buildings and lodging were appropriated for the Manhattan Project which was based in nearby Los Alamos. The Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos depicts the history of the Manhattan Project which produced the first atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan in an attempt to hasten the end of the war with Japan. Replicas of the “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” atomic bombs pictured below.
BNP is within easy driving distance of Santa Fe. The park offers primitive camping and there are hotels in nearby White Rock. We would recommend visiting in the off season as parking is limited and the crowds make for lines if you want to climb up into the dwellings (according to the park rangers). We recommend one to two days here in order to hike the Frey Trail, visit the Long House, the Alcove House and the Falls Trail.
Be seeing you!
P.S. The Revolt Coffee truck is parked on Route 4 in White Rock so you can grab a great coffee to go on your way into or out of the monument.
From Mesa Verde National Park we traveled south into New Mexico spending our first night in Farmington (fika @ Studio Bake Shoppe). From Farmington we journeyed due south on NM371 through the Navajo Nation to access the Bisti Badlands. As wilderness areas by defintion allow no motorized traffic the only access from the parking area is by foot. There are no trails or markers of any sort. So bring your compass and utilize your gps. Line of sight navigation is impossible as once you enter into the outcroppings you are in a maze of strange sandstone, shale, coal, mudstone and silt formations. There are a plethora of hoodoos and just strange looking features that evolve based on the ongoing wind and water erosion that takes place with these soft materials.
The closest lodging is in Farmington which is apx. 40 miles north. There is no developed camping within the vicinty of the access area. However, exploring here is an easy day trip from Farmington. We boondocked in the wilderness area.
Our next segment will be at the Chaco NHP to visit more ancesteral sites assuming the road is passable in the aftermath of the major storm the occurred overnight.
This trip will take us through New Mexico and deep into (the heart of) Texas before turning east along the Gulf Coast and eventually driving back to Connecticut. As usual we began our trip in Salt Lake City where we have been storing the Beast between trips.
After a day of travel to SLC and a day of preparing the Beast for this journey we departed for Moab, UT. We spent an overnight in Moab, UT (Moab Coffee Roasters) before traveling to southwestern Colorado to view some of the finest examples of Peubloan cliff and mesa communities in existence today.
Mesa Verde National Park was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for the explicit purpose of preserving the remarkable Ancesteral Peublo architecture. Mesa Verde was occupied by the Pueblo people for about 750 years beginning in 550 A.D.
MVNP is definitely a bit off the beaten path but we think more than worth the drive. The park is laid out with a loop drive that allows you to see many of the cliff villages from excellent view points. There are a number of kivas that have been excavated which are easily accessible by foot.
In the summer months you can also tour several of the cliff dwellings on ranger guided tours. The Far View Lodge offers acommodations with outstanding views of the mesa and canyons below. There is also a small musueum located in the park about twenty miles from the entrance.
There are a number of indigenous sites in the Four Corners area which could easily be combined with a visit to MVNP for an extended tour; Canyons of the Ancients and Chaco Culture National Historic Park are two major sites.
Our third CT Road Trip of this home stay found Maria and me traveling to eastern Connecticut to visit the William Benton Museum of Art. The Benton is located on the Storrs campus of UCONN. We followed Route 66 from Middletown to Willimantic which took us through a part of Connecticut that still retains a very rural feel with small towns and many historic homes, buildings and farms.
We made Willimantic our first stop to check out Grounded Coffee Co. http://groundedcoffeecompany.org/ and search out street murals in the otherwise depressed downtown area. Grounded Coffee sits right on Main Street in a historic structure built in 1831. The cafe occupies the ground floor. The owners did a nice job working around the central four-sided fireplace in creating a comfortable and pleasing space. In addition to a full menu of coffee and tea drinks GC offers a light food menu. GC is definitely the best choice for coffee in the Willimantic area in our opinion.
Willimantic has been very active over the last several years in sponsoring and promoting street murals. We found many interesting murals, a number of which are historical murals depicting the history of “Thread City” as a textile hub during the first half of the 20th century.
The Benton Museum https://benton.uconn.edu/# is a very small museum located in the heart of the Storrs UCONN campus. There is no admission charge and unfortunately very limited parking (four spaces) adjacent to the museum. We were fortunate to arrive to find one of the spaces available (get a pass at the front desk for your car window to avoid being ticketed or towed).
The museum has a permanent collection in the main gallery – From Old Masters to Revolutionaries: Five Centuries of the Benton’s Best and an additional two galleries featuring current exhibits. We were able to tour the entire museum in under two hours. We found two of the three current exhibitions to be worthwhile – Halt the Hun: Atrocity Propaganda in World War 1 and DEMOKRACJA GRAFIKA.
“Halt the Hun” featured posters created by artists to rally Americans to support the war effort by buying Liberty Bonds while “DEMOKRACJA” provides insight into life in Poland during the Cold War. UCONN has had an exchange program with the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow since the 1980s which is where the majority of the prints on display were produced.
We recommend the museum with the caveat that you check out the current exhibitions before visiting as the permanent collection is small (but good).
For our next trip in January we are planning to cross state lines and venture north for more fika, street murals and fine art.
We are glad to be back in Connecticut for the next several months but our desire to explore remains undiminshed so we are planning a series of day trips in Connecticut. Our first venture since returning took us to the Mystic Seaport Museum to view the J.M.W. Turner exhibition. The exhibit features 97 works by Turner (1775-1851) on loan from Tate London. This exhibit will not appear anywhere else in the United States and will be at Mystic until 23 February. All of the works are watercolors with the exception of two oil paintings. The exhibit is organized chronologically and includes early paintings from England, Wales and later works from his travels to Switzerland, France and Italy. The watercolors are almost exclusively done on paper. We have included photographs of 13 of the paintings below to provide a sense of his artistry.
We think the Turner exhibit alone is worth the trip but since the entrance fee is a general admission to the entire seaport we would also recommend the Voyaging in the Wake of theWhalers exhibit which chronicles the whaling industry through artifacts and interactive displays.
Post exhibit lunch brought delight with our discovery of Grass & Bone. G&B describes themselves as butcher shop to table. We split a delicious roastisserie chicken and of course purchased some house smoked bacon and house made sausage. https://grassandbonect.com/
Be seeing you!
P.S. There is an excellent biographical movie released in 2014 which portrays the last 25 years of Turner’s life entitled Mr. Turner.
After departing Yosemite we traveled through northern Nevada to return to Oregon and spend the last week of OTR 3.0 in the high desert of eastern Oregon. We had originally planned to spend time here after leaving Boise but the temperatures in the Alvord Desert persuaded us to defer visiting until later in the trip.
The area around the Steens is known as the Oregon “Outback” with good reason. Steens sits within Harney Countywhich is the ninth largest county in the United States, spanning more than 10,000 square miles. The population is a mere 7600 people of which4400 live in two adjacent towns. Because the population is so sparse Harney County operates a public boarding high school in Crane, Oregon. It is one of a handful of public boarding high schools remaining in the United States.
Economically this area is predominately supported by cattle ranching and farming. There are 14 head of cattle for every person living in the county. The cattle and farming economy has been in conflict with the federal government on a number of occasions. Federal agencies (BLM, USFWS, USDA) manage about 75% of the land in the county. Some of the ranchers believe that they should have access to the public land without having to pay for grazing rights.
The conflict came to a head in 2016 the Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters was occupied by Amon Bundy and a group of armed anti-government activists. The occupation lasted for 40 days and culminated with the death of one protestor and the arrest of many of the activists.
Geologically the Steens formed as a result of glacial and volcanicactivity which has created a fascinating landscape of impressive glacial gorges and volcanic cones and craters. The BLM has created a number of auto tour routes through the craters and up onto Steens Mountain. The road to the summit is the highest road in Oregon at just over 9700 feet. We drove both the Diamond Craters and Steens Mountain loops.
There are also numerous hikes throughout the area which provide views of the gorges from the rims and access into the gorges.
From the Steens we drove north and then circled back south to spend time on the eastern slope of the Steens and the Alvord Desert. The Alvord is a small (84 sq. miles) desert that is suitable for driving during the dry season. It is not uncommon to see small planes land on the playa. The area shows up as Princeton, Oregon on a map but there is no town or station – just cattle ranches and BLM administered land including the desert playa. Opportunities for solitude abound. An evening by the campfire brings a miraculous night sky and the howls and yips of coyotes in the distance.
During the day the view of the already snow covered Steens rising from the desert floor from the eastern side was quite impressive. There are several excellent hikes from the desert side up through creeks into the Steens.The Alvord Desert sits in a rain shadow created by the north-south running Steens Mountain. We watched rain and snow fall on the mountain and dissipate before reaching the playa.
We definitely recommend driving out on to the playa. You can access the playa at Alvord Hot Springs for a five dollar fee or if you have a high clearance vehicle for free about two miles south of the hot springs. Driving on the playa is exhilarating – you can drive as fast as you like or as fast as your vehicle will go or as fast as you are comfortable going – your call – there are no rules!!! By the way, the hot springs are terrific! Sort of a ramshackle affair but the 130 degree water is very enjoyable and therapeutic. Nude bathing is allowed if you are so inclined – thankfully we did not encounter any nudists during our soak!
It takes some time to get to the Orgeon Outback of Harney County but we found the experience more than worth the effort it takes to get there. One thing to keep in mind is that many of the roads are not paved in this area – the roads are very rutted and rough on the Steen and Diamond Craters Loops – and you and your vehicle will be absolutely covered withdust!
Heading across northern Nevada to Salt Lake City and our flight home.
With repairs to the Beast completed we set out to Yosemite National Park for our first ever visit. We had perfect weather during our three day visit to the park. We did have to contend with smoke from the Briceburg Fire settling in the Yosemite Valley on our first day.
Yosemite is located in the Western Sierra Nevada and features a number of dramatic, well known granite formations. Many of these formations are in Yosemite Valley and should be seen or experienced in some fashion – hiking, climbing or driving. We particularly enjoyed the hikes accessed from Glacier Point Road which provide many spectacular views.
We also recommend visiting other areas of the park outside of the valley. The park is almost 1200 squaremiles in size – there are many opportunites to see and experience the park outside of Yosemite Valley, without the traffic and crowds.
Yosemite NP is a must see if you are a national park fan. We camped outside the park in the Stanislaus NF. If you want to to stay in one of the park campgrounds or lodges you will need to reserve many months in advance. Regardless of where you stay, driving will be required to access the various areas of the park. Also, go early as trailhead parking is very limited.
Working our way through northern Nevada to get to the Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain Wilderness in Oregon.
We continued down the coast to the town of Arcata after leaving the Redwoods National and State Parks. Arcata is home to Humbolt State University and very much has the look and feel of a small college town, albeit sitting on the Pacific coast. The weather favored us with a couple more delightful beach days of which we took full advantage.
From Arcata we stopped in Eureka to visit Bandit Savory and Sweet for coffee and tea before setting out for the town of Ferndale. Ferndale is a picturesque town with a quaint main street and beautiful Victorian homes. The town has been used in many television shows and movies. Lots of boutique stores for those so inclined.
After a walk through town we decided to tackle the “Wildcat”. The “Wildcat” is a narrow, twisty, sometimes paved road that starts in Ferndale and winds up and over the northern King Mountain Range and then drops down to the ocean at Cape Mendocino. This area is the only coastal wilderness in all of California. There are no major roads and literally no development. Many automobile commercials are filmed on this road in order to take advantage of the spectacular scenery.
We followed the road to Mattole Beach where we were able to camp on the beach. It is incredibly beautiful but completely primitive – no facilities. The combination of the sound of the surf and the night sky is mesmerizing!
From the beach we followed Mattole Road to Humbolt Redwoods State Park. We were awed by our experience at Redwoods National and State Park. The Redwood Sequoias at Humbolt are even more impressive than what we had seen previously. The trees in Humbolt are protected from the wind by the King Mountain Range and receive far more sun than the coastal redwoods further north. As a result they are even taller than the coastal trees. If you only have time to visit one park we recommend Humbolt.
This area is all part of Humbolt County. While the area is wild and scenic it is economically depressed. We observed many “travelers” in the small towns. There is an edginess with so many travelers about in such small towns (many are transient pickers).
Humbolt County has been home to a significant number of small marijuana farmers since the 1970s. As this industry was vital to the local economy the police in the county did not generally enforce laws regarding the growing and selling of marijuana.
The legalization of marijuana has changed all of that dramatically. Officials are now obligated to regulate the industry. The long time illegal growers that operated on a completely cash basis must now get licensed, follow environmental regulations, pay taxes and put their transient pickers on the payroll.
While a number of farmers have quit the business we still saw many marijuana operations as we drove through the remote Lost Coast area.
We highly recommend touring the Lost Coast. It is some of the most beautiful and undeveloped coastline that remains anywhere in the states.