Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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We put in a toilet, visit a historic “comfort station” and hike Otto’s Trail

Sunday August 23 and Monday August 24, 2014
Saddlehorn Campground
Colorado National Monument
Fruita, Colorado






Today is toilet day. Out with the old and in with the new.  Doesn’t take David very long to hook the new toilet up.  We’ll have to see how it works with no spray hose.  I thought every RV toilet had a spray hose.  Does yours?   It does hold water and looks great. 

Well as great as a toilet can look.  The only problem I can see with it right away is that they have apparently raised the height of by nearly 2” so now only my toes will touch the floor.  About this I am not very happy.   Who wants to be uncomfortable sitting on the throne?

Thanks to Paul Dahl for the petroleum jelly suggestion.  We had already replaced both seals so it wasn’t them I don’t think.  Although I would have tried that if David hadn’t gone on and bought the too tall toilet without a hose.   LOL!



After the install, we ride the bikes over to see Window Rock.



The trail head is off the back of camping loop C.  My one disappointment in the monument is that one section of it overlooks Fruita and the other Grand Junction,  Colorado.  If you like to see city lights at night then this is your place.

That’s Fruita in the valley beyond the monument.



There are other directions which show no human habitation and they are even more beautiful.




Because the Monument is a stop on the Starry Starry Nights Tour, I was expecting it to be pitch dark here but it isn’t.  Not only are the cities glowing down below, but like most parks there are no motion sensing lights on their bathrooms or on other “fear of lawsuit buildings”. 


We get to Window Rock and find that it’s almost impossible to see the “window from the overlook provided at the end of the trail and it is impossible to get a picture of it with the shadows on it.  So you’ll have to use your imagination or come see for yourself.  I wonder where you’d have to be to actually see this “window”?

But it is interesting  to see the uplift in the formations from here.   They look like they are running downhill but actually the upper part has been uplifted by underground activity thousands of years ago.  Notice the little white spot in the bottom of the canyon.




I’d sure like to go down and see what walking in the bottom is like.  Might be shady with all those pinion pines and junipers.




From here we bike through “Historic Loop C”.  We can’t figure out exactly what is so historic about it unless it is the bathroom which actually has a National Register of Historic Places plaque on it.  Think about the words “comfort station” in relationship to a bathroom.  When was the last time you heard that term?  Or did you ever?   So funny our euphemisms.








It is actually a lovely stone building and given the date of 1937 we are assuming it was built by the CCC.  It looks like their excellent work.  It also looks like it was renovated perhaps to gain the plaque.

It has the original doors and hardware.   I guess today is bathroom day for us.  This is two in one day.





If you are surprised to learn that “Comfort Stations” can be on the National Register, you aren’t alone.





We then bike by the Book Cliffs View where we were last night in order to see it and the view in the daytime.  It is a great little structure. 


It too is on the National Register and it was only built in 1963.  Apparently you only have to be 50 years old to get on the Register. That means a lot of us would qualify.

Here too we see that the view off to the left is of the town of Fruita and off to the right is of the beautiful formations of the Colorado National Monument.









We then ride back by the Saddlehorn formation and get some close ups in the daylight.   There are some pretty eerie looking faces in these rocks.  Thank goodness this isn’t the side looking right down on Winnona.






Next stop is the visitor center where before we go in we see this on the right side near the restrooms.  David is amazed that they have a pay telephone. Maybe they haven’t gone the way of the dinosaur in the west.  Both our cell service and internet work fine in the campground and I suspect that is because of the proximity of the cities.




Inside the VC, we view the short film and I read every word of all the exhibits on the geology and the history of the park.  The geology is so interesting but I have a very hard time remembering what I’ve learned.   Lots of layers of rock names and historic geologic periods.


As in most National parks,  they have an outstanding relief map.  The map lights up various features that you choose including the Rim Rock Drive on which we entered the park.   The drive was built between 1933 and 1950, started by the CCC. 

Although it is 23 miles long, the road connects two points, Fruita and Grand Junction, that are only 8 miles apart.  Note:  Be careful how you enter the park with a motor home.  The campground is 4 miles from the Fruita entrance and 19 miles from the Grand Junction entrance on this winding scenic road.




I appreciated being reminded that Colorado national Monument is situated in the region known as the Colorado Plateau.The plateau features many National Parks and Monuments.  It is a vast land of relatively horizontal rock layers centered in the four corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  Forces within the Earth uplifted the plateau over a span of a million years.  The Colorado River and its tributaries have deeply etched the landscape , carving large and small canyons across the plateau.




Also interesting was that the area’s natural beauty was unknown to most people in 1911 when President Taft designated it as a National  Monument.  That’s because the monument, rising nearly 2000 feet  above the Grand Valley, was only accessible to hardy souls on foot or horseback.  That didn’t change for over 20 years.


I am always happy to see the park service is sensitive to the Native American people from whom these lands were taken.  In this case it is the Ute People who lived throughout the mountains of Colorado, Utah, southern Wyoming and northern New Mexico.


The traditional Ute Homeland spread over a variety of landscapes:  mountains, canyons, along rivers and creeks, and high desert plateaus.  Extended family groups (bands) moved through known hunting and gathering grounds taking advantage of available plants and animals and leaving very little trace of themselves upon the land.    Until the late 1500’s they traveled only by foot.  Their culture was forever changed when they acquired horses from the Spanish.  This new way of life expanded buffalo hunts and allowed Ute families to gather into larger, central camps for security, trade and celebration. 

Their current lands in NE Utah and SW Colorado are barely a spot on the map of their former ones.  This seems sad to me.



The information on the Ute history and culture is excellent and includes a video of their Bear Dance.  Its importance and significance to the tribe is explained by an Elder.


Back at home, we have dinner out on the picnic table with placemats rather than a table cloth.  Weather in the evening is great.  It was a little bit warmer here in mid afternoon than it was in Rocky Mountain National park.   But it is August and we have been quite spoiled with nice temperatures this summer nearly everywhere we have been.

We have several visitors during dinner but they aren’t inclined to join us.










Today we are hiking Otto’s Trail.   We find this interesting RV parked at the trail head. I’m assuming it is “home made” and I’m wondering what sort of leak protection is between the cab and the house?





The trail is named for John Otto, known as the founder of Colorado National Monument.  As you can see, the trail is not far from the campground or the visitor’s center.  It is one of the many trails Otto built within the park.  The information tells us it is part of the trail he created for his first ascent of the formation he named Independence Monument.


John Otto was what some might call a drifter until he found what become this national monument.  He came to Grand Junction in 1906 and helped construct a waterline between Pinion Mesa and Fruita.  He fell in love with the topography and in 1907 wrote “I came here last year and found these canyons and they seemed like the heart of the world to me…”  He is largely responsible for promoting the area and having it designated a national monument in 1911.  He is considered the park’s founder.


He was the park’s first custodian and earned a dollar a month until leaving the post in 1929.  He was described as being a marvelous guide  who knew every inch of the monument and tended it like it was his own kingdom.  He lived alone in the canyons and used a pick and shovel to carve out trails including this one to his favorite, Independence Monument.  He set up footholds and iron pegs inserted into hand drilled holes to climb to the top of the formation and hoist and American Flag when the monument was official.  Apparently this custom is repeated here every 4th of July. 






john-otto-weddingHe was a bit of an eccentric and recluse and apparently was seldom seen without his two burros carrying camping equipment and supplies.  Given this, I was pretty surprised to find out that he married Boston artist Beatrice  Farnham on June 11, 1911 at the base of Independence Monument.  I think Beatrice must have had a real romantic vision of this founder of the park because she only stayed a few weeks before she left and went home.  She is quoted as saying “I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin is an encumbrance”.   Guess she didn’t want to be a hermit’s wife and compete with two burros for his affection.  Too funny.  Wish I knew how she even met him. 


The trail is a short one on top of the mesa that leads to a view of Independence Monument.  After walking it I’m wondering how John got down in the canyon from here if this is actually the trail he used.  I’m a bit skeptical.


When we first arrive, the skies are blue and the clouds puffy white.   As time passes the clouds band together and the blue disappears.






But the views are spectacular.  Not only of Independence Monument but of all the formations in “wedding canyon”.







The trail ends at this protected overlook.  All along the way the sides of the canyon have been totally open and unprotected for those who want to wander all over like some people I know.  But this spot I guess enables you to lean over and look down without fear of tumbling off.  Notice that our puffy white clouds are being pushed down into the distant Book Cliffs.







Because of the heat during the day we have been doing early morning and evening hikes.  This one is an evening hike and we see the sun shining at an angle against the rocks as it sets.






We stay until after the sun has set and the colors have begun to light up the sky above the now dark canyon.   This is most assuredly a beautiful place.   If a tour bus can drive from one end to the other down the scenic drive which means through THREE tunnels, your RV will definitely fit through these tunnels.

It does look like a lovely place for a wedding doesn’t it?   But I don’t think you can get a permit for it these days.  Although it would be fun to ask.







  1. I so love all the different rock formations. There is just so much variation that it makes the trip around the next corner truly delightful. My favorites are when I can find faces or animals in the rock formations so I didn't find it spooky at all. It so reminds me of my childhood days while laying on the grass looking at cloud formations.

  2. There are low profile and high profile RV toilets. You probably had a low profile before which is why this one is taller. Love that monument! We travelled there a few years back. Do you know Watsonswander is in the same area right now?

    1. Hi Nina, We had a 15" high before and now the choices were 13", I guess for those with a step up box thing, and the 17" we bought. I'm so far behind in my blog that we aren't actually there. As the date says, It was August 23 and 24. Wish we could have run into them. They did a nice post on it today.

  3. Those are some scary faces in the Saddlehorn! They would be worse at night or even worse in the haze of Colorado reefer ;)

  4. If you had a hip replacement, you would appreciate a taller commode. ;) What a hoot! An historic 'dumping' ground. Ha Ha!

  5. I have a friend whose name is John Otto. I can't wait to tell him what I learned from your blog.

  6. Dear Sherry, Have you ever considered Elevator or platform shoes(or slippers) ?
    Always ready to help when I can.

  7. Come on Sherry, surely you know that every princess has a foot stool when she sits on her throne.

  8. ha ha. . .I was thinking the same as Nan. . .that you might need a step stool. . .too funny!

    You are even further behind on your blog than I am. . .hopefully with internet service you will be able to catch up. . .good luck with that.

    You put so much more information in yours than I do. . .I imagine it takes you hours to put it all together. . .have fun wherever you are.

  9. Ok, I have to confess. We do not have a hose on our toilet...and if we did, I wouldn't know what to do with it! Why do you need one???

  10. How wonderful that your in house handy man got the new toilet installed. Just goes to show that all's well that ends well...even if your end is now 2 inches higher... :cD

  11. The views of that canyon are stunning! Wow!

  12. We didn't have a hose on ours either, but George insisted on putting one on, and I'm glad he did. It's handy for spraying around and down 'things' that stay behind ;) Interesting about John Otto!

  13. I was so interested in the story of John Otto, that I started googling and came up with some links that you might find quite fascinating...I did!

    Link 1

    Link 2

    Link 3

    Link 4

    Hope you enjoy learning a little more about Flora Beatrice Farnham!


  14. I constantly marvel at the beautiful rock formations in the west and southwest.

    I once saw a "comfort station" where the toilet was really old and the tank was hung close to the ceiling and had a pull chain. I'm not sure but I think it may have been in Old Sacramento, and wherever it is, it should be on the National Register.

    I realized when I lived in Ireland how silly some of our euphamisms sound - American tourists asking where is the "little girls room" always made me cringe.

  15. Again what beautiful pictures! I wish we didn't have to work in the summer so that we could explore this area.

    Our toilet does not have a sprayer. I have read where everyone should have a stool by the toilet to place their feet on. It is suppose to be better for your bowels to have your knees at a higher angle when using the toilet for a #2. Apparently this is why many Asian countries use squat toilets, I actually saw my first one at the airport in Johannesburg at the beginning of this year.


  16. Beautiful pics once again. maybe you need a squatty potty :)

  17. Amazing Canyon, saving this post for future travels. Thanks.

    Kathy feels the same way about high seats, I guess it is a girl thing.

  18. Nice looking toilet,although you'll need a step stool :) A bathroom on the register...how funny. Wonder if the payphone still works. Wonderful colors and rock formations. Interestimg story of John Otto-seems like a number of parks have a particular individual who cares a lot about the place & dedicates their life to exploring. That's one way to go down in history.

  19. I now so regret that we didn't stop by Colorado National Monument on our trip from Durango to Estes Park. We had the time and could've easily spent a couple of days there, but just passed it by. We still have the northwest corner of Colorado to explore and much of Utah so we'll catch it then!!

  20. To be known forever more as "Winona of the Too Tall Toilet". I imagine David has a completely different opinion of the sitting comfort (he did pick it out after all). With the exception of the city lights and the visitor buildings I imagine much of the monument still looks like it did when Otto fell in love with it, and it is easy to see why. I love the photo of David on the trail with the cloudy sky. The canyons are spectacular. The faces of their protective spirits certainly get your attention!

  21. As a person of short stature, I am not sure that tall toilet would work for me :) I also love the sprayer on ours, it's especially helpful when cleaning. Not sure I could adjust to living without it now.

    I totally agree with your sentiments about the city views from the monument. We commented a couple times how strange it was to gaze out at this gorgeous canyon and see a whole city in the background. Not something we have come across before. I guess that's the price of progress.

  22. This is a place we have not visited. We are really looking forward to see it one day soon. Your photos are wonderful even with the clouds:)

    Love the story of John Otto's wife leaving him:) Can't say I blame her! But I, too, would like to know how she met him and what she thought would happen.

  23. Spray hose sounds like a luxury. Mine needs a new seal but I don't want to mess with it. Tall toilet doesn't sound like 'comfort station.' Yup, 50 years is considered historic for the Feds. Dang, wonder if I can get a plaque. Those really are some ghoulish rock faces. Unfortunately, all the Native American/USgov stories are sad. The landscape is spectacular. Another place to add to my list.

  24. Your photos of the rock formations are absolutely amazing!!! The changing colors and light intensity really makes them look like oil paintings:o))

    With the new toilet, I guess you could say that you are "movin' on up" ;o))

  25. great pictures!


  26. Love that story about John Otto and his wife. That's just the kind of quirky personal history that I find fascinating! The rock formations are just beautiful in the monument. We definitely need to get ourselves there!

  27. How interesting John Otto and his wife are! Again never been here so I am learning and keeping this on our never ending list. I would probably be scared too if those weird faces the rock formation seem to impart looking down at us. Great pictures and great story telling.
    My feet for sure will be dangling from that throne and no I don't think all toilets come with a hose, for Steve installed one on Betsy.


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