Daytripping Destinations

Archives: April 2021

Guess What Day It Is: Week 29

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Dear Daytrippers,

My mother loved the dogwoods best of all and passed that pleasure on to me. Each year when the dogwoods begin to bloom I think of visiting Dogwood Canyon Nature Park to see them in all their glory but each year there are other places I need to be. This year, time on my hands, an RV to take me where I want to go and news that a rare white American bison calf was welcomed to the herd at Dogwood Canyon combine to give me the perfect excuse to make this the year. The entrance sign says, “Welcome to Paradise” and so do the dogwoods – they are heart-stopping.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a work of art located deep in the Missouri Ozarks sprawling across the Arkansas Missouri border with stunning views of the Ozark Mountains. The 10,000-acre expanse of unspoiled Ozarks landscape, owned by renowned conservationist Johnny Morris, Founder/CEO of Bass Pro Shops and operated by the not-for-profit Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Foundation serves as a thriving habitat for native flora and fauna. Aside from a few amenities to make the Dogwood Canyon more accessible to guests, the rugged land has been left untouched and, with just a little imagination, you travel back to a time when European settlers first entered the area or, even further, to explore the mark that Native Americans left on the Missouri hills and hollows.

When Daytripping visited Dogwood Canyon we took the tram around the park. Today, I decide to hike through the buds and blossoms, experience springtime in the canyon at my own pace. There are more than six miles of hiking pathways that weave throughout the park, winding past waterfalls, by streams and over quaint hand-made bridges – including an authentic covered bridge, gorgeously crafted by the Amish folk who live nearby. I linger by the tranquil turquoise Six Stump Spring, looking closely to see where the water comes out of the ground. The trail passes by Glory Hole, the breathtaking home to giant rainbow trout – the reflection of light and depth of the water create a perfect blue-green color – here you can see a cave in the mountain behind the waterfall – the 10 year old in me wishes I could climb up there and explore. Again at Fire Pit Cave, a sign warning me against climbing the rocks for a closer investigation – it is tempting. When discovered this cave contained rare stone beads and well-preserved charcoal samples dating back 3,000 years. Heading back, I stop to explore the Hope Wilderness Chapel – modeled after historic churches from the 1800’s the chapel was hand-crafted from local materials including native short-leaf pine logs, rough-sawn oak flooring with a red cedar ceiling – postcard-perfection.

Over the years the quality and quantity of the wildlife population at the park has increased dramatically – bison, longhorns, elk, whitetail deer. But the star of the show this spring is a new baby – a white bison called Takota, a Sioux word that means “friend for all”. According to traditional Native American teaching spanning thousands of years, the white bison is a sacred animal. Once an exceptionally rare occurrence, the birth of a white bison promotes prayerful communication between Indigenous people and the Great Spirit, and was also a sign of peace and good fortune.

Two centuries ago more than 30 million American bison roamed the plains but were hunted to near extinction. Experts estimate that by 1900, only a few hundred bison remained. Thanks to intentional efforts led by conservationists – such as Ted Turner, where thousands of the iconic beasts thrive on his 100,000 thousand acre Flying D Ranch in Montana – the enormous shaggy animals are making a comeback and now there are about 350,000 living in the United States including this new little guy at Dogwood.

It is late afternoon now and I am starving so I head to the Mill and Canyon Grill – this rustic elegant space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a creek and cascading waterfall with it’s Ozark inspired menu is the perfect ending to a day on the trails and I wish for a minute that I could dine inside but find a nice spot outside and am content. I do hope that Takota never wanders up to the Grill – the menu here prominently features bison burger – I feel a little twinge of guilt – but I order the bison burger anyway – with bacon, crunchy onions and pepper jack cheese – oh-so-delicious – followed by blueberry cobbler – best meal ever.

I am leaving Dogwood Canyon Nature Park feeling full and happy, whether from the great meal, the hope that the good omen of the rare white bison will bear out, or the chance to commune with my Mother’s memory and enjoy the blessings of Nature. Back on the road again, headed out to find more signs of better days ahead.

Hope to see you soon!
John

Guess What Day It Is: Week 28

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Dear Daytrippers,

Greetings from Moab, UT – last November the famous Canadian Rocky Mountaineer launched a new train journey in the Southwest United States –Rockies to Red Rock – the route for this will bring a new luxury train tour to explore the historic rail route between Denver and Moab. My immediate thought is that this would be a great addition to our ‘Trains Around Colorado’ tour. After poking around Glenwood Springs, I decide to follow the train route to Moab and check out the scenery along the way to determine if the addition is worth the expense. I know the Denver – Glenwood Springs leg of the journey passing the Gross Reservoir Dam and the famous Moffatt Tunnel, the six mile tunnel built in 1928, which cuts through the Continental divide, will be jaw-dropping but am not so sure about the line to Moab.

Tucked in a valley at the foot of the red-hued cliffs and the La Sal Mountains, overlooking the Colorado River, Moab was a refuge for Butch Cassidy and other outlaw gangs. Author Zane Grey made it the scene of many of his stories and it is often the location for movies. Today, it maintains that wild west atmosphere. Moab in the Spring is new to me – the temperature is pleasant enough to hike and explore the whole day and the Colorado River is filled with snowmelt. On past visits, I have found that as a city Moab can be crowded and underwhelming so have favored staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge and only venturing to town for lunch and shopping. But the times they are a changin’ – I never miss a chance to slip in Bob Dylan and the Band. New hotels are springing up at almost every turn with the very cool, very upscale Hoodoo Moab, just off the main drag, enticing me to change my mind – maybe two nights at Red Cliffs and one in town for future trips. Don’t misunderstand, Moab still has the small-town vibe but is evolving – so quickly it could be time-lapse photography.

Last Spring when the shut-down happened, I started hiking and discovered that I am really into it. So on this visit to Moab I wanted to hike up to Mesa Arch for the iconic sunrise photograph. After much discussion about the virtues of sunrise vs sunset – I was convinced Laurie was just saying sunset was better because she is not an early riser – I decided on sunrise. Since it is such a famous spot for photographers to catch amazing shots of the sun peaking over the canyons with beams streaming through the arch, I expected a crowd but nothing like what we saw when we arrived. The short hike was one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever experienced in Moab. And to say it is magical does not do it justice. The sun rises from behind Mesa Arch and, as it reaches the level of the arch, the reflections of the sun beams create a sunburst effect under the arch. It is like nothing I have ever witnessed.

Arches National Park is a treasure with 2,000 – or so I am told – natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch. The parks colors, textures and landforms highlight the extraordinary balanced rocks, fins and pinnacles. Canyonlands National Park provides a wealth of stunning landscape filled with countless canyons, mesas and buttes, carved by the Green and Colorado rivers which can be thoroughly enjoyed from a scenic drive – Island in the Sky – that follows the rim of the mesa.

You can’t enjoy the beauty of Moab on an empty stomach so I checked out the most promising restaurants for our next visit. Beginning with the towns newest dining experience, Josie Wyatts Grille at the Hoodoo Moab, a steakhouse with southwest flair. They are open for indoor dining and have a great patio as well, but I only take a quick look around to see if it is suited to group dining and check out the menu which is limited but I think you would approve. The Sunset Grill – steeped in local history – once the grand home of a millionaire and located atop a mountain with sweeping views of Moab – is exactly as I remember – the Daytripping group (always particular about restaurants) raved about the food but I can’t seem to remember anything except the views – still unlike any else in the world. The beloved Desert Bistro I learn requires appropriate attire – more appropriate than what I am wearing – and requires a reservation – which I don’t have – so this is a nose-pressed-against-the-window review – great setting and atmosphere – and they promote nightly game specials and fresh seafood flown in from the coast daily – making it a real contender. By now, I am ‘moose-goose burger, 16 pickles and purple plumb’ hungry and stumble on Moab Food Truck Park – picnic tables, outdoors and music – perfect. But, so many choices – I couldn’t decide and ended up with Mexican and Chinese – I am now thinking I have discovered a fusion food sensation – Chinexican Cusine – couldn’t moo-shu pork be a relative of the burrito – I may be on to something – Kung Pao Quesadillas, Juan Ton Tacos… okay, okay, when you have been on the road this long it’s the silly and ridiculous that keep you going.

Having said all this – we will return to Moab on a future trip and we will be doing the ‘Trains Around Colorado’ tour in 2022 but we won’t be adding the new Rocky Mountaineer to Moab train ride. At $1,250 a person for two days it seems too costly, especially when the best scenery is from Glenwood Springs to Denver – so that is what we will do – on Amtrak. I hope you will join me.

Missing you all,
John

Guess What Day It Is: Week 27

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Dear Daytrippers,

I have long wanted to add Glenwood Springs, CO and the beautiful Hotel Denver to our ‘Trains Around Colorado’ tour, and today I had the opportunity to get to know this historic resort town. Before Glenwood Springs was a hot springs hot spot, it was a Wild West frontier town called Defiance. The raucous and ramshackle town was home to gamblers, gunslingers and entrepreneurs and was the last stop for Doc Holliday, the famed gunslinger, who rests in the Linwood Cemetery. His marker is strewn with playing cards and coins. The Hotel Denver was a favorite hangout of Chicago gangster Diamond Jack Alterie, who shot two men in the lobby of the hotel in 1932. The 1904 train depot across the street welcomed President William Taft in1909 and was a whistle-stop platform for President Harry S. Truman in 1948. Durand’s Opera House hosted John Phillip Sousa in the 1920’s. The years have mellowed the rough-and-tumble beginnings but a stroll through the centuries’ old streets of downtown transport you back to wilder times.
How did Defiance give way to the pleasing name of Glenwood Springs? The wife of Town Founder Isaac Cooper (Sarah) was having a hard time adjusting to the frontier life and, in an attempt to make her environment somewhat more comfortable, persuaded the founders to change the name to Glenwood Springs, after her beloved hometown of Glenwood, Iowa.

Glenwood Springs was one of the first places in the United States to have electric lights. The original lighting was installed in 1897 inside of the Fairy Caves in Iron Mountain. Later, a dam was built in Glenwood Canyon, providing water for the Shoshone power plant. The plant began producing power on May 16, 1909, and retains the largest and oldest water rights to the Colorado River, the “Shoshone Call”, now far more valuable for the protection of Colorado River water rather than the minimal electricity produced.

Steeped in history, the Hotel Colorado was designed in the style of the Villa de Medici in Italy by the same architects who created the Immigration Station at Ellis Island. The “Grand Dame” has been the center of attention since it was built in 1893 and played host to such historical figures as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, William Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. According to legend, the teddy bear was born at the Hotel Colorado – to cheer Roosevelt after an unsuccessful hunting day, hotel maids presented him with a stuffed bear pieced together with scraps of old fabric. Later, his daughter Alyce admired it saying, “I will call it Teddy.”

I am running out of words and I haven’t yet mentioned the big attraction – the geothermal hot springs which have drawn people here for centuries, from the Ute Indians to miners and explorers. In 1888, two European settlers saw the potential for wealthy spa-goers and opened the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort – today the world’s largest hot springs pool. And, I have taken for granted the stunning setting of this town in the rugged Rocky Mountains, surrounded by the vast White River National Forest. Perhaps the most majestic scenery is through Glenwood Canyon – home to Hanging Lake with its turquoise waters and waterfalls.

Another time, I will tell you about my newest discovery tucked among the red rocks and cliffs in the Crystal River Valley. Redstone, CO – once a coal town, now a hamlet of Victorian homes and shops with an actual Tudor style castle – some places are magical. If we’re going to see them all, we’ve got to keep rolling on down the road.

See you next Wednesday!
John