A Day at Arches National Park, Utah

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 24.3mm, f/9, 1/1250 sec, ISO640
“Delicate Arch” Utah, 2021

Today was (for me) the highlight of the road trip: a day at Arches National Park, Utah. I had fond memories from my first visit here 30 years ago, so I was looking forward to seeing how Mariko’s first visit would be.

We arrived at the park at 7:45 am and there was already a short line at the entrance. Not too bad! We bought our annual pass a few days ago at Mesa Verde National Park, so we showed that, grabbed our maps and were on our way to our first stop, which was The Windows section of the park.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/1900 sec, ISO640
“Balanced Rock” Utah, 2021

Along the way, we saw some incredible rock formations including The Courthouse Towers and Balanced Rock. Even before seeing any arches, Mariko said she was already blown away! 😀

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18.8mm, f/9, 1/800 sec, ISO640
“Distant Arches” Utah, 2021

We arrived at The Windows parking lot to be greeting by plenty of cars and buses. Luckily, there was parking just below at the Double-Arch parking lot. I was actually a little worried about the crowds, but it turned out we had good timing.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 37.4mm, f/11, 1/950 sec, ISO640
“Double Arch” Utah, 2021

Our first arch to visit was Double Arch. It’s huge and amazing! The hike there is really easy and only takes about 10 minutes or so. Perfect for the tour buses full of older folks. Or for a couple shooting their wedding photos, as we saw. (Photo above)

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/750 sec, ISO640
“Double Arch” Utah, 2021

Next, we walked up to The Windows trailhead and hiked to Turret Arch. What’s kind of cool about this arch is that you can hike through it, then look back and see the South Window arch.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/11, 1/240 sec, ISO640
“Turret Arch” Utah, 2021

After that we hiked to the South and North Window Arches, then hiked the loop around them and back to the parking lot. There were plenty of cool view along the way.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/10, 1/500 sec, ISO640
“The Windows” Utah, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 34.3mm, f/9, 1/1100 sec, ISO640
“Cairn” Utah, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 42.5mm, f/9, 1/1400 sec, ISO640
“Arches NP” Utah, 2021

Next up was a short drive over to the trailhead for the Delicate Arch trail at Wolfe Ranch. This trail is rated “Difficult” on the map, but it wasn’t really too hard, especially in the cooler months. However it’s mostly uphill on the way to the arch so make sure to take your time and rest often (and keep hydrated!).

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 23.3mm, f/9, 1/1100 sec, ISO640
“Delicate Arch Trail” Utah, 2021

The effort will be worth it though as you suddenly come upon the iconic view of Delicate Arch. When we got there, there were not too many people, but enough to form a little line for taking photos under the arch. This was good because everyone handed off their cameras to the other people waiting and everyone traded taking each other’s photos.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/1900 sec, ISO640
“Delicate Arch” Utah, 2021

When we arrived back at the car, Mariko was pretty worn out from the hike so we just drove around the rest of the park and caught the views from the car, with a quick hike around Balanced Rock. By then it was about 4 pm so we headed back to Moab for a dinner at, you guessed it, the local brewery. Tacos, onion rings, and cold beer at The Moab Brewery were perfect after a long day at Arches!

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/40 sec, ISO400
“Tacos, Rings, and Beer” Moab, 2021

D&SNG Railroad Steam Train, Colorado

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/480 sec, ISO640
“View Ahead” Colorado, 2021

The activity we came to Durango for was the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad round-trip journey through the San Juan National Forest in the Colorado high country (recommended by my friend). There are a couple of different trains, but we opted for the steam train which has been in continuous operation since 1882. What a long history!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/3.6, 1/950 sec, ISO640
“D&SNG” Durango, 2021

There are different cars you can choose from, including outdoor “Gondola” cars, dining cars, and 21+ cars. We opted for the Deluxe San Juan Coach which is an indoor car with bathroom. It was barebones, but the seats were comfortable and the views were great.

I did wander up to the concession car to grab a beverage, and checked out the open-air cars. It looked really fun, and ideal for a photographer. It was a bit chilly when we went (and rain was forecast) so I was glad we chose an inside car. But, everyone in the open-air car seemed to be having a great time!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18.8mm, f/7.1, 1/680 sec, ISO640
“Animas River” Colorado, 2021

The 6-hour roundtrip journey winds through the San Juan Mountains, following the Animas River. There were plenty of gorgeous views and we watched the landscape become more colorful as we gained in elevation. It was spectacular!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/6.4, 1/450 sec, ISO640
“Colorful Landscape” Colorado, 2021

Our seats were on the left-side of the train, and when we booked there were only two single seats available, one in front of the other. That worked out perfectly because both of us had window seats! If you were wondering, the train turns around for the return trip, so everyone gets to see both sides of the track.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/6.4, 1/1500 sec, ISO640
“Animas River” Colorado, 2021

At the town of Silverton, the train stopped for a 2 hour layover. Mariko and I wandered into the town (along with the rest of the passengers) and immediately spotted the Golden Block Brewery and decided to have lunch there. We ordered a pizza, salad, and two local beers and dug in. The pizza was mediocre, but cold beer elevates any meal. 😀

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/60 sec, ISO250
“Cold Ones” Silverton, 2021

After that we went a couple shops over to the Rocky Mountain Funnel Cake Factory and indulged in a Black Cherry Fudge funnel cake. It was yummy!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 30.2mm, f/9, 1/60 sec, ISO3200
“Black Cherry Funnel Cake” Silverton, 2021

Soon it was time to head back onto the train for the ride back to Durango.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27.7mm, f/9, 1/105 sec, ISO640
“D&SNG” Silverton, 2021

The rain started but it didn’t last too long before we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow. It was awesome!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/1250 sec, ISO640
“Rainbow” Colorado, 2021

At around 6:15 pm we arrived back at train station in Durango. It was a wonderful day, and we’re so happy to have ridden the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. I highly recommend it!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/9, 1/450 sec, ISO640
“Last Light” Colorado, 2021

Afternoon at Mesa Verde National Park

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 19.6mm, f/9, 1/100 sec, ISO800
“Spruce Tree House” Mesa Verde N.P., 2021

We arrived at Mesa Verde National Park in the late afternoon, with just enough sunlight to do the motor-tour to the Spruce Tree House and the Mesa Top Loop. There was also a storm threatening so the skies were dark, but we were still able to enjoy the history of the people who inhabited the area from about AD 550 until about AD 1200.

The cliff dwellings were amazing (we were only able to view them from a distance) and we also enjoyed seeing the pit houses and kiva up close. I wish we had more time to do some hiking, but I’m glad we were able to see what we did.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/7.1, 1/100 sec, ISO800
“Cliff Palace” Mesa Verde N.P., 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/10, 1/950 sec, ISO640
“Storms to the North” Mesa Verde N.P., 2021

After sunset, we hit the road again for the relatively short ride to Durango where we immediately went to the Steamworks Brewing Company for some burgers and beer. What a great way to end the day. 😀🍺🍔

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/30 sec, ISO800
“Cold One” Durango, 2021

Morning in Santa Fe

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 35mm, f/2, 1/105 sec, ISO1250
“Christmas-Style” Santa Fe, 2021

One of the things we were looking forward to was to eat some New Mexican food in Santa Fe. Last’s night’s meal was yummy, but this morning’s breakfast was off-the-charts! Cafe Pasqual’s is in the historic part of town, so you really get that Santa Fe vibe. The interior of the restaurant is cool and fun and the menu is filled with delicious-sounding treats.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 35mm, f/2, 1/105 sec, ISO800
“New Mexico Decorations” Santa Fe, 2021

I ordered the Trout Hash with poached eggs. It was excellent. Mariko ordered the tofu-chorizon breakfast burrito, Christmas-style (both red and green sauces) and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. It was so good! The burrito was massive but we really cleaned up and ate everything on the plate. Definitely recommended!

After stuffing ourselves, we walked around the area and did a little shopping before hitting the road. Another long drive was in store for us as we traveled into Colorado for an afternoon visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Here are a few more photos from Santa Fe:

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/5.6, 1/1100 sec, ISO640
“Cafe Pasqual’s” Santa Fe, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/3.6, 1/160 sec, ISO640
“Window Shopping” Santa Fe, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 28.9mm, f/5, 1/210 sec, ISO640
“Street Art” Santa Fe, 2021

Start of Vacation – Texas to New Mexico

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/6.4, 1/1500 sec, ISO200
“New Mexico Sign” Texico, 2021

Today was the start of our road-trip vacation to New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. The first leg of the journey took us through north Texas (not quite up to the panhandle). We saw plenty of cotton fields and had to stop and take a few photos. The cotton was so clean and soft. Amazing!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO200
“Cotton” Roscoe, 2021

After a short lunch (sushi!) in the town of Snyder, Texas, we made our way across the border and into New Mexico at the town of Texico. Of course we had to take a photo of the sign, which was not so pretty, as well as the water tower which was much more photogenic (first photo).

After that it was a long push towards Santa Fe, where we checked into our hotel and then headed to Café Castro for a yummy meal of New Mexican Steak and Carne Adovada. It was served with a side of sopapillas and honey. I asked the waiter how to eat them, and he said you can put honey on (or in) it and have as a dessert, or just eat as you would a tortilla with the meal. The sopapilla was really good and it was the first time that I had it not as a dessert. I highly recommend Café Castro. We left very satisfied.

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/40 sec, ISO400
“Dinner in New Mexico” Santa Fe, 2021

One of the cool things about the drive was that the sky was full of cloud activity, which is heaven for a cloud enthusiast like myself. 😀

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/5, 1/420 sec, ISO200
“Clouds” New Mexico, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/5.6, 1/600 sec, ISO200
“Clouds” New Mexico, 2021

I even set up the GoPro to get a Timewarp “drive-lapse” video. Enjoy!