Today we woke up around 7:30am and had breakfast downstairs before making our way back to Las Vegas, where we will be spending the next two days. The drive back to Las Vegas took about 3.25 hours.
Our first stop once we arrived in Las Vegas was the Baby Birds Cafe, where we both had smoked salmon toast, and I had a Masala Chai, and my dad has a banana smoothie.
After lunch we drove to Area 15, a unique entertainment complex featuring sculptures, displays, bars, etc. Inside Area 15 was two areas that we visited; Meow Wolf Omega Mart and Wink World.
Meow Wolf has an interactive art installation in Las Vegas called Omega Mart, which is located in Area15, a new art and entertainment complex that was opened in September 2020. Omega Mart is a 52000 square foot (4800 square metre) grocery store that allows guests to explore American consumerism and corporate responsibility through an interactive environment. The exhibit features over 325 writers, painters, sculptors, actors, lighting designs, musicians, and support staff.
Wink World is a visual / audio exhibit created by Chris Wink, who is well known as one of the three co-founders of Blue Man Group. It was okay, but nothing to cry home about. I don’t have any photos of it, but I have some video of it, which I’ll post to my YouTube channel later.
Today was the big day of our hike to The Wave in the Coyote Buttes North area of Utah. The Wave hike is 10.8km and has 376 metres of elevation gain, however most of it is at the end. This is one of the most stunning hikes I’ve ever been on, and I was extremely happy to be able to do it with my father. You must obtain a Coyote Buttes North permit before hiking, and that is done by a random lottery. Only 64 people a day are allowed in the area, with 48 lottery permits issued four months in advance, and 16 daily lottery permits issued two days before. Permitting started in 1984 with only 8 daily permits issued. The area became more popular after Windows 7 was launched on July 22nd 2009, and social media became more prevalent. The number of permits allowed has slowly been increased over the years.
We took a tour with Dreamland Tours with Robert. The drive to The Wave takes about 45 minutes, however 20 minutes are on an extremely rough road that was somewhat washed out, although they had graded it by the time we were on the way back. We took our time on the hike, learning about the different types of geological formations, including Moqui Marbles, which are brownish-black balls composed of iron oxide that surrounds sandstone that formed underground when iron minerals that precipitated from flowing groundwater.
At The Wave we took a bunch of photos, including the signature “desktop background” photo, before settling in for some delicious sandwiches, which were provided for lunch. After lunch we walked to the Second Wave, before looping back to the Wave, and then to the Mini Wave. We started heading back after exploring the area and taking all the photos that we wanted to. The total time on the tour was 8 hours including the 45 minute drive each way, and the stop for lunch.
After hiking we relaxed at our hotel for a bit, booked our Las Vegas Hotel, and went to Rocking V Cafe for dinner. I had a burger and a salad, and my dad had lasagna.
Today we woke up around 6:00am so that we could make it in time for our orientation in Kanab. We had breakfast at our hotel, packed up, and hit the road towards Kanab. The drive took 1.5 hours. The orientation for The Wave was pretty straight forward, and was more so a cover their butt kind of thing.
After the orientation we drove North towards a small hike called The Belly of the Dragon, which is a cave-like tunnel that was created as a water culvert under Highway 89. The hike took about 20 minutes, and wasn’t difficult, with exception to a 6-7 foot drop at the beginning of the hike which takes some navigating skills.
After that we drove to Orderville for another hike that didn’t work out due to the gate being closed off, however we made lemonade out of the situation by stopping in at the Rock Shop for some coffee and donuts. We enjoyed them outside on some seats while we chatted.
Afterwards we drove about 30 minutes Southwest towards the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The dunes are formed from the erosion of pink-coloured Navajo Sandstone surrounding the park. High winds passing through the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains pick up loose sand particles and drop them onto the dunes due to the venturi effect. The dunes are roughly 15000 years old. We walked around the dunes for a bit before packing up and heading to Kanab for lunch.
In Kanab we stopped at Wild Thyme Cafe for some delicious salads before continuing our adventure Eastbound towards The Nautilus, about an hour’s drive away. The Nautilus, also known as the White Wave, resembles a big oyster shell from a distance and has a large notch in the middle, which is caused by erosion due to water. The hike is quite easy, and only takes about 20 minutes.
The last stop of the day was the Toadstool Hoodoos Trail, which we had visited back in 2017 if I recall correctly. The hike took about 40 minutes to complete and was fairly easy. At the end of the hike you’re presented with some toadstool formations, which look pretty neat.
We then drove back to Kanab and checked into our hotel; La Quinta Inn & Suites. The hotel is brand new, and the beds feel quite comfortable. After checking into our hotel we researched where the best place is to have dinner. We settled on Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen, which features delicious and elegant vegan dishes. We both had pizza there. I ended up having a pizza called the Hot Mess, which featured marinara, vegan Italian sausage, sweet drop, shishito and serrano peppers, chèvre, smoked gouda, drizzled with a bourbon reduction. Dad had Peekaboo Pear, which featured fresh sage, fresh pear, mozzarella and topped with fresh arugula, gorgonzola, pumpkin seeds and drizzled with champagne vinaigrette.
After dinner we picked up some snacks for tomorrow’s hike, and relaxed in the hotel for the remainder of the evening.
Today we explored the three ghost towns of Old Irontown, Silver Reef, and Grafton. We woke up around 7:00am and had a complimentary breakfast at our hotel. I had some fruit, bacon, and an omelette. After breakfast we drove about 75 minutes to Old Irontown.
Old Irontown, originally known as Iron City, was originally founded in 1868 when there was a second attempt at mining iron from the nearby Iron Mountain. The first attempt from Cedar City was not successful. The city didn’t last long, only until 1876, when the Edmunds-Tucker Act (religious crisis) and the Panic of 1873 (economic crisis) led to the closure of the mine, which eventually led to the demise of the city. At its peak, the settlement included a school, blacksmith, charcoal furnaces, and a foundry. The ghost town is now a protected historic site since 1971.
After visiting Old Irontown we tried to visit a nearby historic aviation arrow, however the road was impassable, so we continued onto the second ghost town of Silver Reef, which was about 40 minutes away.
Silver Reef is a ghost town Northeast of St. George, Utah. It was established in 1875 when a silver vein was discovered in a sandstone formation by a prospector named John Kemple. Geologists were baffled by this, as silver is not usually found in sandstone. Originally established as the settlement called Rockpile, the town was eventually renamed Silver Reef. By 1879 over 2000 people were living in Silver Reef. Mines were starting to closed by 1884 as the worldwide price of silver dropped, and by 1901 most of the buildings had either been demolished or moved to Leeds.
In 1916, mining operations in Silver Reef resumed under the direction of a man named Alex Colbath, who started the Silver Reef Consolidated Mining Company to exploit the remaining mines in the area. These mines were eventually purchased by American Smelting and Refining Company in 1928, however due to the Great Depression, not much work was completed. In 1948 the mines were purchased by The Western Gold & Uranium Corporation, and in 1951 began mining uranium in the area. The mines were eventually sold again, in 1979 to the 5M Corporation. Today, the Wells Fargo office, the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, and the Rice Building are the prominent remaining structures of the ghost town.
It was time to get some lunch so we drove about 20 minutes to Hurricane and ate at Main Street Cafe. We both had a cranberry turkey sandwich, which was delicious. I chose a side of salad with blue cheese dressing.
After lunch we drove towards Silver Reef; the last ghost town of the day. Along the way we stopped at Matt’s Offroad Recovery, which is an off-road recovery operation outisde of hurricane. Matt has a YouTube channel which I have been watching on a regular basis for the last 2.5 years, so it was neat to see his crew and the Morrvair in person. They were fairly busy, so were not actively taking tours of the site. I did see Lizzy and Matt’s wife Jamie though. After a brief stop we continued towards Grafton.
Grafton is a ghost town just south of Zion National Park in Utah. It is likely the most photographed ghost town in the Western states, and has been used as a filming location for several movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The town was settled in 1859 as a cotton-growing project ordered by Brigham Young, an American leader and politician at the time. The town grew quickly in the first couple of years, featuring 28 families by 1864. Each family farmed an acre of land. Continuous flooding and large amounts of silt in the land quickly lead to the abandonment of the town, and only four families remained by 1890. The last residents left Grafton in 1944. In June 1997 the Grafton Heritage Partnership was organized to protect, preserve, and restore the remaining townsite.
It was around 4:00pm at this time, and we had accomplished everything that we wanted to see today so we drove back towards St. George. My dad had found another aviation navigation arrow that we could stop at, which was right in St. George. These large 50 foot “Chrome Yellow” concrete arrows were built between 1926 and 1932 to help to guide pilots of early airmail flights across the United States. All arrows pointed East on West-East airways, and North on South-North airways. In the middle of the arrow was a 50 foot tall steel tower that had a rotating beacon to help aid in navigation, especially at night. During World War 2 the steel towers were dismantled to supply metal for the way effort. Towards the end of the war aircraft navigation systems were starting to be utilized, so the arrows became bleached and started to crumble. The arrow that we visited today is painted pink, but its originally colour would have been that vibrant yellow.
After that we drove back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going out for dinner. We decided to go back to the same place as last night. This time I had a lamb burger and a salad, and Dad had a pulled pork sandwich. After dinner we went back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going to bed, as we have a fairly early day tomorrow because we need to go for our hiking orientation in Kanab for our hike on Thursday.
Today my father and I embarked on one of our near-annual adventures together. This time we will be visiting some of our favourite states of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The day started off with a mid-afternoon flight from Calgary to Las Vegas on a WestJet Boeing 737-700. Dad upgraded us to business class, which was nice. The flight was an hour delayed, but it didn’t affect anything that we had planned. On the flight I had the chicken dish, since my Dad had the last ravioli dish. It was pretty good, however I thought the cold asparagus and feta cheese that was served with it was rather weird.
After arriving in Las Vegas we took an Uber in a Tesla 3 to Dollar Car Rental to pickup our car. The Uber ride was about $15 USD, which seemed fair. After signing the paperwork we hopped into the Ford Edge that we were given and drove two hours towards St. George, Utah, where we would be staying for the night.
When we were close to St. George we both noticed the beautiful snow covered mountains overlooking St. George below so we turned off the highway to take a picture. This is where we accidentally stumbled upon a trail called Aspiration Trail with beautiful painted rocks along the entire length of it. The painted rocks are a range of inspirational quotes, funny quotes, and beautiful artwork, however there were some advertisements strewn about it. The trail was a project that was created by Kevin and Anne Hanson. Their inspiration came from their desire to help parents find activities to do with their children and bring families closer together. At the summit of the hike is a wooden sign surrounded by hundreds of painted rocks that reads “”Congratulations! You have reached the summit. Please leave a rock on our monument signifying your achievement”. The project was started on March 20th 2021.
After exploring the beautifully painted rocks we drove the remaining ten minutes towards our hotel; The Hamptons Inn in St. George. After checking into our hotel and getting settled in we drove to Georges Corner Restaurant to have dinner. I had a Reuben, and my father had a grilled cheese sandwich. After dinner we ended up hanging out at the hotel for the remainder of the evening.
Recently we completed a very short trip to Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs is a desert resort city that was founded in 1938, and currently has a population of about 45000 people. It is a popular destination for retired people, Canadian snowbirds, the LBGTQ+ community, and more! It is also one of the best preserved mid-century modern capitals of the world. I captured some photos of my favorite buildings while I was here, and I also visited the Living Desert Zoo, and Joshua Tree National Park
Palm Springs Living Desert Zoo
The Palm Springs Living Desert Zoo is a non-profit zoo and desert botanical garden located in Palm Desert, California. The zoo is home to over 500 animals representing over 150 species. The zoo receives over 500000 visitors annually, and despite its small size, is one of my favorite zoos. The zoo is home to gazelles, giraffes, ostriches, wallabies, kangaroos, rhinos, cheetahs, turtles, bobcats, and more!
Joshua Tree National Park
An hour’s drive from Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park. It is named after the Joshua Trees, also known as Yucca Brevifolia, which are native to the area. The park was declared a national monument in 1936, and redesignated a national park in 1994. It spans a huge area of 3200 square kilometres (1240 square miles). The park features rugged rock formations, the famous Joshua Tree, Chuckwalla Cholla Cactus, the Cailfornia Fan Palm, and more!
Today is we slept in until about 8:00am. We got ready and checked out of our hotel. We had a bit of time to kill before our trip on the Georgetown Railway Loop at 10:00am, so we decided to grab some coffee at the Happy Cooker Restaurant. The lovely lady there named Michaela gave us the coffee for free. We walked around town for a bit sipping our coffees to kill some more time.
10:00am was fast approaching and it was time to drive the short distance to the Georgetown Railway Station, about a mile away. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was originally completed in 1884, and was considered quite the engineering marvel at its time. It linked Georgetown and Silver Plume. While these towns were only 3.2 kilometres (2 miles) apart, they have 183 metres (600 feet) in elevation differential between them. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining the elevation required. The route includes horseshoe shaped curves, 4% grades, and four bridges; the most famous being Devil’s Gate High Bridge. The Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railroad was former in 1881 under the Union Pacific Railroad. It was utilized to haul gold during the Gold Rush, and later on Silver Ore from the mines at Silver Plume, until 1893 when Colorado and Southern Railway took over the line and used it for passenger and freight use until 1938. The line was dismantled in 1939, and was later restored in the 1980’s to be used as a tourist railroad.
The train ride up to Silver Plume took about 30 minutes. What a breathtaking journey! It was so neat riding on the old train. Our locomotive, Number 111, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania in 1926. It spent most of its working life in Central America before returning to America in 1973 to Sundown & Southern RR in Hudson, Colorado. Despite that, it was never run and was auctioned off in 2002 to the town of Breckenridge, Colorado for display at the Highline Railroad Park. It remained there until 2008, when it was acquired and restored between 2013-2016. This was the first time it was used in over 50 years!
On the way down from Silver Plume we were dropped off at the Lebanon Mine. The mine consists of six levels and was used from 1878 To 1893, when it was closed due to silver prices plummeting. The mine produced a profit of over $250 million (which is $5.2 billion in today’s money). After the mine tour we re-boarded the train and took it back down to the Georgetown Terminal.
It was time to eat some lunch, so we went back to the Happy Cooker Restaurant to have grilled cheese sandwiches. It turns out a staff member had quit that morning, so they were very short staffed, hence the free coffee. They didn’t even have time to ring in the coffee.
Following lunch we drove to Denver and visited the Forney Museum of Transport, which was established in 1961. The museum has over 500 exhibits on display. What an incredible museum! It was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.
It was time to checkin to our hotel, the Hampton In. & Suites Denver Tech Center. After checking into our hotel we went to Holidaily Brewery for a flight of beer. The majority of the beers there are gluten free since one of the owners is celiac.
After having dinner we went to Darcy’s Bistro Pub for dinner, which was next to our hotel. I had two mini brisket sliders, and dad had some Irish Nachos.
Today was a day of exploring old ghost towns. We woke up around 8:00am, got ready, and had breakfast at our hotel. Breakfast was French toast, sausages, and scrambled eggs. I ended up skipping the French toast.
First stop was Ashcroft Ghost Town. Ashcroft was a silver mining town that was founded in 1880. At the height of Ashcroft’s boom, over 2000 people lived there. High transportation costs, poor shallow silver deposits, competition from nearby Aspen, and the 1893 silver market crash ultimately lead to the demise of the town. By 1895 the population of the town decreased to less than 100 people. In 1912 the U.S. Postal Service stopped mail delivery, which ended up being the final blow to the town.
Most of the homes in Ashcroft were insulated with burlap or newspapers. This was necessary because the town, nestled around 10000 feet above sea level, received over 18 feet of snow annually and was quite cold. The homes were built in an East / West orientation to receive as much warmth as possible from the sunlight.
At its peak, Ashcroft had 20 saloons. Nearly 75% of the population were single males. Saloons, bars, and men’s clubs offered the lonely miners a distraction from their hard work. The average employee spent about 10-15% of his $142 yearly income on liquor.
After visiting Ashcroft we drove North to Glenwood Springs, and then headed East towards Georgetown. On our way to Georgetown we stopped in Eagle to have some delicious sandwiches at Pickeld Kitchen & Pantry. I had an Italian sandwich, and I can honestly say it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.
After having lunch we continue driving towards Georgetown, with a slight detour towards Eagle Mine, and the historic Town of Redcliff.
Eagle Mine is an abandoned mine near Gilman. Mining at Eagle Mine began in the 1880’s, initially for gold and silver, but eventually zinc in its later years. The mine was operational until 1984. After the closure of the mine in 1984, a 235 acre area, which included 8 million tons of mine waste, was designated as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site. EPA Superfund sites are designed to investigate and cleanup sides contaminated with hazardous substances. 70% of the time the responsibly parties pay for the cleanup, with 30% of the time the cleanup is unable to be funded by the responsible parties. According to the EPA, the mining operations at Eagle Mine left a huge amount of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in the soil and were leaching into the Eagle River, which threatened the dinking water supply in nearby Minturn. By the early 2000’s it was concluded that the remediation efforts of the EPA had significantly reduced the public health risks and improved the water quality in the Eagle River.
After looking at the mine from afar, since it was all blocked off, we drove to Redcliff. Redcliff was incorporated in 1879 and currently has a population of 282 people. It is a former mining camp situated in the canyon of the upper Eagle River. The town site is concealed below Highway 24, which passes over the Red Cliff Truss Bridge.
The Red Cliff Truss Bridge spans 471 feet (144 metres) over the Eagle River, and was built in 1940 for a cost of $372000. The bridge went more than 60 years before needed remediation work. In 2004 the bridge deck was replaced with a widened deck, and the steel was repainted, for a total cost of $3.6 million.
After our little side adventure we continued on our drive to Georgetown. We checked into our hotel, the Georgetown Lodge. It was a no-frills motel with two queen sized beds for about $100/night. After checking into our hotel we walked around town exploring the 1870-1890’s property’s before going for dinner at the Silverbrick Tavern, which is joined to Guanella Pass Brewing Company. We enjoyed a beer and had a meat lovers pizza to share. It was Chicago Deep Dish pizza style, and absolutely delicious.
It’s been a few years since my Dad and I went on a father-son trip somewhere. This year we decided to go to MColorado. Dad and I had been talking about doing some hiking in Maroon Bells, Colorado for quite a few years.
We flew on a direct United Airlines flight into Denver on an Airbus A319. After landing in the mid-morning we picked up our rental vehicle, a Ford Explorer, and started off on our journey.
First stop was Bass Pro Shop to pickup some bear spray, followed by a quick lunch at Good Times Burger & Frozen Custard. Dad and I both just had a burger, and a diet Pepsi.
After lunch we drove to our first major stop of the day; the Argo Gold Mine and Mill. The Argo Gold Mine and Mill is a former gold mining and milling property located in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The mill at the entrance of the tunnel was in excellent condition, and remains intact over 100 years later. The Argo Tunnel was built between 1893 and 1910. Over $100 million of gold, and $200 million of other high value ores were mined prior to the tunnel closing in 1943 due to a major flooding accident when they tried to blast the Kansas Boroughs area. The flooding spilled thousands of gallons a minute of acidic water (pH 3) all over the area. A federal moratorium was also placed on gold mining during World War II, which didn’t help. In 1976 the mine was purchased by a local investment group led by James Maxwell, who wanted to showcase a prime example of the Colorado gold rush mines. It was renovated and reopened as a tourist attraction. In 1978 the mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Working conditions at the mine were brutal, with the average worker only living 3-5 years after starting work there. In 1996 a waste water treatment facility was built to treat the acidic water, which was still flowing at a fairly high rate of a few thousand gallons per minute, because the acidic water was killing the fish. In 2015 a 5 foot thick concrete wall, and a dedicated pipe and valve was built to contain the water and control the flow rate to a more manageable 700 gallons per minute. Overall the mine and mill tour absolutely impressed me.
After visiting the gold mine and mill we drove to our next stop; Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a man made dam that provides drinker water to Blue River and Breckenridge.
It was then time to head to our hotel, Mountain Chalet in Aspen. The drive went over the Independence Pass Continental Divide. Standing at just over 12000 feet above sea level, this beautiful drive offered stunning views of the valleys below. It was pretty chilly up top; only 6 degrees Celsius or so.
Just after passing the top of the pass we found a historic mill site called Farwell Mill #2, which was part of Independence Ghost Town. It was a 20 stamp mill that crushed gold ore. The mill was originally opened in 1879 as a 10 stamp mill, however it was quickly realized that an expansion was required, and Farwell Mill #2 was opened in 1881 with an additional 20 stamps, along with the Brown Tunnel to deliver a greater load of ore. By the end of 1883 the major veins of the mine were fully extracted, and the mine was quietly closed. The mine re-opened in the 1920’s with a new gold rush, however it only produced small amounts, and was later abandoned again.
The total drive from Denver took about 8 hours with all of our stops. I suspect you can get there in 4.5-5 hours without stops. After checking into our hotel we walked to a restaurant called Brunelleschi’s, which was recommended to us by our hotel concierge. I had a pizza, and dad had some asparagus and mushroom risotto.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store to pickup food for tomorrow. I ended up writing my blog, and chatting on the phone for a bit with Julie, before heading to bed.