2010.07.12 Mesa Verde National Park

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We were on our way to the Mesa Verde National Park by 8:15 this morning.  By Day 11, packing your clothes and loading the car does not take nearly as long as earlier in the trip.

The turnoff from the highway for Mesa Verde is only about 15 miles from Cortez, which is where we spent the night.  But once you get off the highway, you must drive over 20 miles to get to the main points of interest within the Park.  And to add insult to injury, in 3 different parts of the road, traffic was down to one lane, as they are working on the road.  Stimulus money at work!

Mesa Verde is an area of Southwestern Colorado that contains over 600 Cliff Dwellings.  These dwellings go back over 500 years.  Everything seemed to be working out well for the Native Americans until they left quite suddenly.  It is believed it may have been the result of a prolonged drought in the area.

 

This is one of the 600 Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde.

 

We took a self-guided walking tour of one of the dwellings.  It was a short walk from the museum, and there were three Park Rangers at the site to answer questions and tell you about different aspects of the site.  They were all very friendly, good with the kids, and one of them even took our picture.

Looking good at the Cliff Dwellings with a Park Ranger.

 

Park Ranger showing Mallory and Marissa how to use the mano and metate.

 

The dwelling we visited was okay, but then again, we did not have the time to take one of the Ranger-guided tours of one of the larger dwellings.  That would have been a good move, if we could have done that.

Somehow, during our walk through the site, Stephanie got into a conversation with another tourist.  Don’t ask me why, but the lady started talking bad about the Air Force.  Bad move!  Then, the lady wanted to start talking politics.  Ouch!  Stephanie finally had to climb down the ladder into a kiva just to get away from her!

 

Marissa and Mallory inside an underground Kiva.

 

After the walking tour, we took a scenic drive which took us past another dozen or so of the Cliff Dwellings.  It is really quite amazing how elaborate those dwellings were designed.

 

Many of the Cliff Dwellings were located within this canyon.

 

Another Cliff Dwelling. Note the people walking in front of it.

 

Once the girls earned their Junior Ranger, we hit the road.  Once again, we ran into more road construction.  By the time we got to the highway, we had left the motel 5 hours earlier, and we felt we sure didn’t get much bang for our buck at Mesa Verde, considering how long we had invested.

Our next stop on the trail was in Durango, Colorado.  This town is probably best known for its proximity to snow skiing and its narrow gauge railroad.  All we did was have lunch and do some shopping.

 

Enjoying the horse statues in historic Durango, Colorado.

 

We found an upstairs eatery called the Balcony Restaurant.  We were able to snag 7 barstools along the ledge, which allowed us to look out over the Main Avenue.  But Mr. Sun had another idea.  He started shining bright, and 4 of our group bailed for a table with an umbrella on it.

 

We had a great rooftop view of Main Avenue at lunch.

 

We have discovered that one of the disadvantages of traveling with a group of 7 to 9 people is that we will occasionally eat somewhere that sticks us with an automatic gratuity.  Today, our waitress was the beneficiary of an 18% automatic tip, which was a little on the generous side.

After lunch, we wanted to take a quick stroll down the street to see what was happening.  A number of restaurants, t-shirt shops, outdoors stores, etc. lined the street.  Most had their doors propped open.  I love a setting like that.  Mallory is the only one who made a purchase.  She scored a bottle of fingernail polish that changes color when it is in the sun.

 

Showing off our pink t-shirts on Main Avenue in Durango.

 

We pulled out of Durango at 5:00 and still had quite a drive ahead of us.  We had originally intended to check out Pagosa Springs, but honestly there was nothing in the town that caught our attention enough to stop.  We kept on trucking.

On our way up the mountains, and approaching Wolf Creek Pass, we pulled over at a scenic overlook.  I wonder just how many of these we have pulled into during the past 11 days?  It provided a great view of the valley and the green mountains.  I will admit that I like all the green.  Maybe my case of Rock Fever is starting to subside?

 

Driving near Wolf Creek Pass.

 

At Wolf Creek Pass, is the Continental Divide.  There was a place to pull over and a large informational display about the Pass, the Continental Divide, and a trail system that exists from border to border which follows the Divide.  There is a brass plate in the ground which represents the Continental Divide.  The perfect place for travelers to take pictures!

 

PK and KK with the kids at the Continental Divide.

 

Later, as we were driving through Colorado, Miles began entertaining Marissa by making up songs.  One in particular had all of us laughing in the car.  It is called “Saturday Nights with Tigger”.

Tigger has lots of stripes.

He likes to go out on Saturday nights.

Party!  All night long!

You might even see him wear his favorite thong.

Our destination for the evening is Walsenburg, Colorado.  This is a small little town in Eastern Colorado, which happens to sit on an Interstate route as well.  We pulled into town at 9:30 and got checked into our motel.

Tomorrow will be our longest driving day of the trip, but it is the day which gets us back home.  Not only will we drive over 600 miles, but we lose an hour in the process as we get into the Central Time Zone.  The good news is that we will have plenty of time to listen to new verses of “Saturday Nights with Tigger”.

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