"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Mancos, CO
Mancos State Park

We couldn't wait to see Mesa Verde as it's a National Park we have not seen yet in that area. Last time we tried to go was years ago with the kids but they had a devastating fire and the park was closed.
You drive over an hour to get up from the bottom of the park on a very narrow, windy road. The elevations in the park range from 6,900 feet to 8,572 feet.  We made it a long day and saw most everything including some hiking.  You could split it into 2 days if needed.  They have a nice visitor center at the bottom.

Great view from the top.

If visiting during peak summer days and you want to do one of the guided tours, I'd suggest making reservations early as they do book up.

Spruce Tree House

These canyons are huge.  We were surprised at how many cliff dwellings there are here and how large they are.

Square Tower House.  Built 1200 - 1300 AD.




Some are double decker.

You can take tours into 3 of the dwellings.

Balcony House was the more challenging and we couldn't take one of the others as it wasn't open to the public yet. 

 To do Balcony House you have to climb up some very steep ladders, some cables and a couple tunnels.  One which is 12 feet long and 18 inches wide.  They have duplicates in the visitor center so you can see if you are comfortable doing it. 

Once you commit to the hike, no turning back!

Many different sized Kiva's.

The tour was great.  You got to walk through quite a bit of the dwellings and view into many rooms.

Steve coming through the tunnel.  A little snug.

The ladders were a bit scary to me as it's a long way down if you fell!  I can't believe I saw people who really shouldn't have been on this tour.  Some even had very young, multiple children!

Some of the cables.  Straight up.

It was a long day but very glad we were able to visit this time.
Driving back and forth to Cortez and Mesa Verde from our campsite in Mancos, we passed by this interesting site many times. Seems there was a fuel spill while old gasoline tanks were being removed from an old gas station.  There is still quite a bit of mitigation going on.  It sure gets your attention as you drive by.  I googled it to get more info.
The owner hung up all these signs to bring more attention.  It reads "This toxic mess brought to you by state of Colorado".

Another, "Massive petroleum spill, toxic site".

Lots of skull and crossbones too.

"Got cancer yet?"
On a lighter note.  Just down the street is this funky outside art on display and for purchase.

Listed on Roadside America are some giant arrows.  This is a fun website to find cool, quirky things.

Mancos is a very pretty, agriculture town and we really are enjoying our time here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Colorado, Here we come!

Gallup, NM
Fire Rock Navajo Casino

Mancos, CO
Mancos State Park

After leaving Arizona where the temperatures were in the 90s and 100s, it was a welcome relief to get into the cooler temperatures of Colorado.  We decided to stop over in Gallup, NM for the night at the Fire Rock Casino.  Nothing special.  Just your average casino parking lot.  But it was convenient, clean and free.  Plus they gave us each $10 free gambling money.  Steve is usually the lucky one, but this time I won around $100.  So free camping, free dinner and free entertainment.  Ya can't beat that!

There were interesting rock formations along the way.

We'll be in Colorado until Sept/Oct.  Whenever the snow starts to fall.

One thing we were a little unprepared for was how long the snow sticks around in the lower southwest section of Colorado.  Initially we were going to head over in the beginning of April, but a blogger friend, Ingrid, told me that there is still quite a bit of snow in Cortez in April.  We stuck around Arizona until the end of April when we couldn't take the heat anymore.

Steve working outside with much cooler temps.

We are staying at Mancos State Park in Mancos, CO where we will be visiting Canyons of the Ancients, Hovenweep and Mesa Verde.  It's a small, pretty campground in the pines next to a lake with great views of the snowcapped mountains.   $18 a night, no hookups.  A central water and dump station is available.

It took a while to get used to the drastically different views from Arizona where we spent the last 4 months.  We enjoy the changing scenery though.

The town of Mancos is between Cortez and Durango.  About a half hours drive to each.  A nice place to stay if visiting both.  It's a small cowboy/AG town.  A couple gas stations, restaurants, one grocery, a fantastic bakery/cafĂ©, PO and library.  If you need a more services like a Walmart, you can go to Cortez.  They also have a micro brewery.  Steve is looking forward to trying Colorado's beer.

The best bakery and coffee.

Lots of cute sculptures in town.

Off we went to Canyons of the Ancients.  It is an under visited park.   

We visited the Lowry Pueblo.

We learned all about kivas and how life was back then.  Most of this area has not been excavated because there is just too much there.  If they excavate, they then have the obligation to keep it up and take care of it.  It simply takes too much time, money and resources.  So instead, most of it is left as is and you are to be careful not to disturb or move any artifacts you may come upon.  You are free to hike just about anywhere.  There are roads all over.  It is a good idea to go to the Visitor Center first to watch a couple films and get maps and ideas of what to see from the staff.

And don't call them ruins.  You will be corrected.  They are ancient dwellings.

These are very sacred to the ancient peoples and they still come to visit and worship.

There is a lot of farming that goes on on this huge mesa.

This is called the Pained Hand.  The maps are important as this area is huge with lots of 4x4 dirt roads.  You can get to most of the dwellings with a car, but there are some that having a 4 wheel drive is a good idea.  Especially with the sudden storms that come up quickly.


Looks like a dog's head.


Keeping a eye on this storm.

This was an area we did some hiking to get to.

They tended to build in circular shapes here.


Me standing 1/2 in Colorado and 1/2 in Utah.

This beetle was huge.

We turned this day in to one large loop drive.  On the way out we saw some interesting things and the scenery and colors changed quickly.

A lonely windmill.
Wild horses graze everywhere in these open plains.
You will see an occasional oil rig.

Some buffalo.
And a mailbox.
Yes, in the middle of nowhere, there it was!
Next up, Mesa Verde.