Tuesday, June 5th
Total Mileage: ~200
A semi-off-topic digression...
There are times when I think about my family's history, and plug some of those events into a mental timeline, my perspective on the passing of time and the age of our country can shift. A case in point. As I have mentioned, I grew up in Kansas. Until she finally passed (at the age of something like 103), most every year on her birthday we would pack up the station wagon and drive down to Neodesha; a tiny little town in southeastern Kansas that contained the nursing home where my great grandmother lived. Among the few stories that I remember about her was the one that stated she came to Kansas in a covered wagon as a little girl. Doing the math, that had to be sometime around the range of the 1860 or 1870s ...right after the Civil War. So not only does the "covered wagon" claim seem credible, the time between the Civil War and now seems to somehow have been cut dramatically.
Around that same time period, a rancher in southwest Colorado, while looking for lost stock, stumbled upon Mesa Verde. It took several decades, after most of the sites had been damaged by treasure / relic hunters, before the area become protected as a part of the National Park System http://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm
Fast forward about 40 years. My grandparents, who traveled the country in a small pull-behind camper every year on vacation, visited Mesa Verde and purchased a "View-master" along with the discs of Mesa Verde. Apparently, view-masters, before they ultimately became children's toys, were widely used by adults to view, among other things, travel related topics. In time (mid 60s), the view-master and discs were given to my brother and sisters and I. Not only were the 3-D pictures fascinating, the topic (Mesa Verde) seemed like something from outer-space. I just seemed too strange to be real. And from then on, before the term "bucket list" was coined, Mesa Verde was on my list of places I had to see.
Today was the day.
Our hotel was about 45 minutes away, so there was a good bit of desert to drive through to get there.
The "Support Vehicle" was running low on gas, but the GPS promised that we were about there, and I was too jazzed to stop, so my wife's requests to stop for gas fell on deaf ears.
A decision that later became a minor annoyance.
We turned off the highway at this familiar landmark
and then entered the park
Soon after entering the park, we saw a new, cool looking, building on our left. As it turns out, a new Visitor's Center is being finished up. It wasn't open yet, so we went to the old one - which was something like 25 (maybe 15 - I forget) miles away from the entrance. So from that point on, we played the "how many miles can we go before we run out of gas" calculation game. As a spoiler: we didn't run out of gas - it just added some minor tension to the visit.
..which was my fault
Anyway, we drove to the old Visitor's Center
...got our passport stamped, and bought tickets for a tour of "Cliff Palace".
While waiting for our tour time, we went on a self-guided tour of one of the other ruins.
There was nicely paved trail leading to it.
Little miss, SAT Smartypants
We had a quick bite to eat from the cooler, then waited for the guided tour at this overlook
Another view while we were waiting
The tour started by descending these stairs...
And then these
We then rounded a corner and waited for the crabby ranger to bitch at a kid for some minor transgression - before entering Cliff Palace
The overlook where the tour started
I was intrigued at how well constructed these things were. This "kiva" would have had a roof on it, and you entered via a ladder through the roof / smoke hole. They had a fresh-air vent at the ground level and had used flat rocks, planted on end (see below) to diffuse the incoming air.
..and finally, some "bricks" for iDave
Mesa Verde, while it was HOT, did not disappoint. We about drained the camelbak (which was new to us and we grew to absolutely LOVE).
After filling up with gas, while we were physically tired, we weren't ready to call it a day. So we decided to travel to the 4-Corners Monument.
There were a few sights along the way...
We wondered what the story was with this horse. A happy/secure horse wants company. This horse (who was staring at us until moments before the shutter clicked) didn't have a friend within MILES.
One thing we noticed that took us a while to figure out what it was we were seeing: 20 kazillion beer and liqueur bottles lining the road. I'm serious. There were absolutely millions of them! I don't know where they came from and don't intend for the observation to be any sort of editorial comment... we just found it bizarre.
Other than that, the drive was mostly featureless desert.
The monument is on tribal land, and we had to pay to get in.
There are stalls surrounding the monument where the locals were selling souvenirs
The youngest member of the Support Team - in 4 states at once.
The side-trip to the monument served it's purpose (to kill a little time), but having been there once I wouldn't plan a vacation around it.
So we left Arizona,
and headed back into New Mexico and passed "Shiprock" on the way.
Thanks for traveling along. ...the trip has a long way to go.