Mesa Verde and Southwest Colorado

 

Closed due to COVID–19, Molly and Ted Dey couldn’t get an up-close visit to southwest Colorado’s Puebloan Cliff Dwellings or the Four Corners Monument where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet. However, they were able to drive through Mesa Verde National Park before trekking through the mountains of Southwest Colorado, transiting the Million Dollar Highway and the seasonal Kebler Pass for the final week of their America the Beautiful tour in the Crested Butte area

A lunch stop in Ridgway (epicenter for the filming of John Wayne’s academy-award winning True Grit) at the True Grit Café was a must for Ted – a longtime John Wayne fan.

“Once in Mesa Verde Park we found a good vantage point where even from a distance we could see the Puebloan people’s impressive ingenuity in building the cliff dwellings more than 800 years ago,” said Molly Dey, President of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. “The 52,485-acre refuge park was established in 1906 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting 5,000 Puebloan archeological locations and the largest such preserve in America. It would have been great to get a tour of the dwellings, but exploring Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in and around Crested Butte provided more than we imagined.”

10,007-foot Kebler Pass is on a 30-mile gravel mountain road that runs between the town of Crested Butte and Paonia State Park, and a popular short-cut to Aspen in non-winter months. The stretch is part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway and offers a marvelous panorama of alpine vistas, streams, lakes, meadows and wildlife, including moose sightings. It also is home to one of best fall foliage displays in America courtesy thousands of Aspen trees.

This area of Southwest Colorado is home to one of the largest aspen clones in the country. “The aspens were at full peak during our stay, and it was like seeing rolling waves of Yellow Brick Road,” Ted said. “Above the trees were endless mountain canopies and striking terrain. We could see the two 14,000-foot plus peaks of the iconic Maroon Bells in the far distance”, Molly adds.

The couple four-wheeled, biked and hiked throughout the region, including stops at Ruby Anthracite Trail, Pearl Pass, and Gothic Mountain. The Deys found an idyllic spot at Kebler Corner Campground, the western terminus of Kebler Pass, where the Anthracite Creek and Gunnison River converge. “With 25 RV spaces, several cabins, outdoor event space, and world-class fly-fishing it is the perfect spot for a family reunion,” says Ted.

 

One of the literal climaxes of the tour was driving the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most scenic and spectacular roads in America, albeit dangerous. Part of the San Juan Skyway, the stunning stretch runs between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado where the mountains rise more than 11,000 feet with hairpin turns, few guardrails and steep drops. “It was a challenge to drive and not look at the mesmerizing scenery,” said Ted, “but we made it.”

Thank you to all who have followed their journey, and soon we’ll release a video homage to America the Beautiful, for it truly is an amazing place to live!

Moab, UT and Arches and Canyonland National Parks

 

In many locations a 150 million year trip back in time, Moab, Utah on the Colorado Plateau is a gateway city to several national and state parks that date to the Jurassic Period. The region includes Arches National Park and its 2,000 primordial and surreal sandstone red rock formations, the largest density on earth. Adjacent is Canyonlands National Park and its remote rugged canyons, towering red cliffs and mesas forged by the Colorado and Green rivers. Dinosaur tracks can still be found in the parks and bones of the giants are on exhibit at the Moab Museum.

Moab and its surrounding parks were the fourth leg of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.’s America the Beautiful tour and blog. Founder and President Ted and Molly Dey went on an endurance run hiking, biking,  and four wheeling through the ancient and spectacular terrain.

“Arches is an enchanted outcropping of nature’s other worldly art, vibrant towers that bloom from the desert,” said Molly Dey, President of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. “Canyonlands has a prehistoric look and feel. We often felt like we were on an archeological expedition.  Flowing deep below us was the mighty Colorado River, which carved this masterpiece just as it had the Grand Canyon.”

Arches National Monument was established in 1875, made a national park in 1971 and enlarged in 1998 to 76,519 acres. More than 1.5 people visit annually to marvel at the incredible formations and enjoy hiking, biking, rock climbing, camping and more. Highlights include Courthouse Towers, Devil’s Garden, Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Colorado River and the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains to the east.

Canyonlands was established in 1964 and enlarged to 337,958 acres in 1971. Nearly 800,000 visitors come each year for hiking, biking, four wheeling, white water rafting and horseback riding along trails through its four districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the Rivers, which offers views of lush growth and water wildlife that contrast from the desert landscape. The Maze is the most remote and challenging destination in the park, a dry labyrinth of canyons, high cliffs and sandstone terrain with very difficult roads and trails.

“It is hard to fathom the difficulties faced by European settlers in this forbidding, magically sculpted terrain.  At the same time, it is amazing to consider how ancient natives lived so harmoniously in the canyons and crevasses – as evidenced by petroglyphs throughout the parks.  Rock formations are so monumental and foreboding, it feels like riding through the land of Pharaohs, and that Khartoum could be just around the bend,” said Armed Forces Reunion, Inc.’s Founder Ted Dey.

The next stop on the Dey’s America the Beautiful tour is Mesa Verde and Kebler Pass, Colorado so stay tuned.

Photo credits: Ted Dey

Grand Teton National Park

Trekking into alpine country, the Dey’s America the Beautiful tour during the third week of September was Wyoming’s spectacular Grand Teton National park, where the Teton Range towers to nearly 14,000 feet. Small glaciers still remain in the peaks and under the massive canopy are 310,000 acres of incredible vistas, nearly pristine wilderness and ecosystems. Lakes, meadows, rivers, valleys and myriad of wildlife and plant species cover the expanse. The beauty and resources have attracted humans since the end of the Ice Age. Rocks in the park have been dated at 2.7 billion years, the oldest found in any U.S. National Park.

“Grand Teton National Park is just amazing” said Molly Dey, as it is reported to be some of the most spectacular scenery in the nation.

The entire park and region is rich in history, from the early Paleo Indian inhabitants to Lewis and Clark expedition explorer John Colter, who left the group and visited the Tetons in 1807. Fur trappers flocked to the beaver-rich waters, followed by the late arrival of homesteaders and ranchers in the 1880s because of the region’s challenging terrain, harsh weather and difficult access. Starting in the 1920s wealthy Americans traded their urban garb for chaps and boots to enjoy the burgeoning dude ranch tourism. The allure of an authentic American West experience replete with horseback trail riding, cattle drives, fly fishing, hunting, camping and much more thrives to this day.

“The town of Jackson is a western style Aspen, less glitz and more mountain culture in people’s dress and casual attitudes” said Ted Dey, Founder of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.

The establishment of the park to protect the range and habitat from development took years before it was made official by Congress in 1929. The refuge was expanded in 1943, including the erection of Jackson Hole Monument.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr., conservationists and other parties helped spearhead the park to its current size and scope in 1950.

The next stop on the Dey’s America the Beautiful tour is Moab, Utah and its Arches National Park, nearby Canyonlands and much more, so stay tuned.

 

Photo credits:  Ted Dey

Yellowstone National Park

America the Beautiful Tour and Blog

Yellowstone National Park

The second leg of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.’s America the Beautiful tour put Ted and Molly Dey atop the massive, dormant volcano that is Yellowstone National Park. Founded in 1872, the 3,500-square-mile expanse is the oldest National Park in the United States and most probably the world. The caldera accounts for Old Faithful and its plethora of geysers and hot springs, the most anywhere on earth. The beautiful landscape is also home to extraordinary natural wonders, a labyrinth of craggy canyons, rushing rivers and countless species of animals.

Located mostly in Wyoming, but also in Montana and Idaho, the destination has more than 4 million visitors a year, second only to Yosemite National Park. Despite and because of COVID 19, people are flocking outdoors and the park has seen solid visitation through the pandemic, but is mindful of the threat.

Geology and biology combine in Yellowstone to create some of the most surreal and otherworldly landscapes imaginable.  Descendants of the first life forms on earth live in the extremely hot habitat of Yellowstone’s volcanic environment, creating visual wonders such as the Grand Prismatic Spring. Thermophiles, heat-loving microorganisms, create these vividly colored communities.

“Yellowstone is packed with people and we know first-hand why,” said Molly Dey, President of Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. “It is beyond words, like going back through millennia, almost to another planet in places. The Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the U.S. and its stunning colors make it the most beautiful site I’ve ever seen – truly amazing the earth can make something so incredible. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is simply stunning with its vertical cliff faces, river deep beneath, and the raging waterfalls. There are geysers and vent fields as far as you can see, spewing puffs of steam across the golden plain.”

Yellowstone is so astounding that when explorers first reported it, newspapers purportedly refused to publish the accounts because they didn’t believe them. The park’s establishment began the U.S. government’s designation of a nationwide network of public refuges for citizens to enjoy the country’s natural beauty. As American novelist Wallace Stegner wrote: “National Parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

Molly says Old Faithful is particularly reflective of the American spirit: “Like the faithfulness and dependability of our men and women in uniform and today’s first responders, Old Faithful is a perpetual beacon that keeps on keeping on.”  Just like our military, you can count on Old Faithful to stand the tests of time.

 

Bison and elk wander freely, oblivious to the never-ending string of cars and RVs.  Big bison proclaim themselves kings of their domain, purposefully stopping in the road to halt traffic for as long as they deem, relishing in the worshipful attention of the clicking throngs of humanity.  Ted says “Along the Yellowstone River we crossed a Grizzly Bear proudly lording over his fresh kill of a splendidly racked elk. A visitor filmed the kill earlier that day, and posted the video to YouTube.”  Click the following to see it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzo2Ie7B7CI

The next stop on the Dey’s America the Beautiful tour is Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, where the tallest mountain peak approaches 14,000 feet: So stay tuned!

Photo credits – Ted Dey

Mt. Rushmore and America’s Presidents

Towering high within the Black Hills of South Dakota, the massive monument to some of our nation’s great Presidents is a mesmerizing vision.  We’ve all seen pictures of Mt. Rushmore, but not until you are standing in front of it do you realize just how magnificent it is and what a monumental task it was to create.  And to imagine it was constructed almost 100 years ago, long before our current modern building technology.  Taking the Presidential Trail takes you even closer to the monument, and you can see in the scattered stones at the base the blasting holes that were bored into the stone to create the faces.  Ted and Molly especially enjoyed the entrance area to the park, where the flags of all 50 states hang proudly.

The Black Hills area is rich in history, and also has a deep love for our country.   Ted and Molly were based in Custer, SD, a quaint town that embraces their local famous livestock (the buffalo) and their patriotism.  On each corner in downtown Custer there is a buffalo statue, and each one is decorated differently.  Our two most favorite are pictured here.

From Custer, SD to Custer’s Last Stand, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana is a tribute to the men of the 7th Cavalry and the Indians of the Northern Plains.  Also located at this site is the Custer National Cemetery, containing the graves of known and unknown veterans of our nations wars, including women and children from isolated frontier posts – the original home-front warriors.

This has been the perfect kick-off location for the America The Beautiful tour, embracing the visionaries who helped build the foundation for our wonderful country!  Our next stop is Yellowstone National Park, so stay tuned!