Durango, Colorado

11 Oct, 2017; Durango, Co

First snow of the season!!

Well, it was pretty wimpy for snow - just like frozen mist.  As I drove into Durango and while I was setting up, there was a blowing snow.  I had to dig out the duffel with all my winter clothes (I know I have gloves somewhere!).  

My view on the Animas River

The propane furnace ran almost all night - I was a bit worried about running out as I had an empty tank.  

Yes, those are RR tracks - but these are special!

The famous Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge RR

Originally opened in 1882 to transport gold and silver ore through the San Juan Mountains, this 50 mile section is now used to transport tourists through the beautiful mountains.

After the cold snap, the sun comes out again

Temps in the 60's and the sun bring out the fall colors in the campground.

Touring historic downtown Durango

Well, it's mostly restaurants, art galleries, and gift shops - but you can still see some of the old architecture.

Barkley Park

I was going to take a break on one of the sidewalk benches, but this one was already taken!

Public Transit provides door-to-door convenience.

I wasn't looking forward to parking downtown - so I was happy to hear that there is a well-developed system of trolleys I could use.  The driver was very friendly and remembered where I wanted off and let me know when we were there.

One the ride back, we passed my favorite BBQ joint!!  And Durango has TWO (it's a small SW chain).  They have really good meat, and novel sauces (Cherry Chipotle, Pineapple Jalapeno, etc) - I saw them when I drove in and have been eating BBQ almost every day.

A surprise neighbor when I got back home!

My next door neighbors have completely tricked out a 2003 Palomino TT in a Lucille Ball theme!  Carrie is a Lucille Ball impersonator (and husband plays along).  Way cool down to the smallest detail.


Mesa Verde, its not just archaelogy

4-9 Oct, 2017; Mesa Verde NP, AZ

Look closely and I can see how early people made a living here

At first, the environment looks kind of barren.  Early people grew squash, corn and beans and supplemented their diet from the local plants and animals.  I hadn't realized that wild turkey were here - but early people built stockades and kept turkey. 

I've seen wild turkey in Mesa Verde, the Needles and the Manti-La Sal mountains

Mountain sheep, deer, rabbits, birds and other small game.  Now, a wild horse herd also calls the mesa lands their home (I didn't see any - but plenty of horse poop!).  Regular poop and 'stallion piles' were all over Weatherill Mesa.

On one short hike (1 mile - knife edge trail), a booklet identified over 30 native plants used by native people. 

Yucca pods - edible and sweet (judging by the bees)


Mule deer came into the campground to browse several mornings while I was there.

The Navajo have a prayer about "Walking in beauty" - I can see why

The fall colours have been spectacular!  

Since the records began in 1902, over 70% of the Mesa Verde National Park has been affected by natural fires that occur.  Dry Lightening in the summer heat ignites dry vegetation and is devastating.  Grasses, cactus, shrubs, and Gambel Oak come back fast - the junipers, firs, and pinyons can take a 100 years to come back.

Mesa Verde National Park

4-9 Oct, 2017; Mesa Verde NP

Earliest dwellings - Pit houses 

Over 4,000 ruins have been identified in Mesa Verde.  At its height, the ancient Pueblo culture supported over 30,000 people - more than are in the SW Colo area now.  

The pit houses were the first and oldest dwellings.  They are impressive when you consider that they were dug with sticks by hand.  While they were dug into the ground, supports would have raised the ceiling over ground-level.  Entry was commonly thru the smoke hole in the center of the roof.  

All the pit houses and villages are protected from the elements by housing.  The Cliff Houses are also being conserved in various ways.  Some were closed while I was there due to rock falls and ongoing conservation attempts (reinforcing cliff faces and overhangs).

pit houses evolved into above ground villages with masonry walls.

Evolving Architecture and re-use and building over old sites leads to some confusion.

The oldest pit houses date to about 550 ad.  Above ground villages date from 750 - 1100 ad.  The Cliff dwellings date from about 1150 - 1250 ad.  The cliff dwellings were all abandoned by 1300 ad.

Village above ground houses often formed a semi circle around a Kiva.  Towers, like the one below, came in later and sometimes had a tunnel to the Kiva.

Masonry foundations for village rooms.

The Kivas were very deep and had sophisticated ventilation systems.

The Cliff dwellings were incredible.

Long House contains about 150 rooms and 21 Kivas; it housed 150-175 people!  On one canyon wall over a dozen separate dwellings have been found - some very small, perhaps only created for storage, others for small family groups and then the big ones like Long House and Cliff Palace.

Cliff Palace

My favorite color is October!

3 Oct, 2017; Mesa Verde NP, Cortez, Colorado

Driving through the Manti-LaSal National Forest is Glorious

Leaving the desert area around Needles, I passed by Newspaper Rock,  a Utah State Historical monument.  The Navajo call it "Tse' Hone" which means 'Rock that tells a story'.  The earliest carvings were created 2,000 years ago.  There are over 650 documented petro-glyphs and were carved by Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, and Puebloan people.  

Its a very accessible spot - just a short walk from a large parking lot.

The fall colors were a blaze of color as I drove through the mountains.  Not many pull-overs; but I only saw a half-dozen cars in over 100 miles, so stopping briefly on the road wasn't a problem.

Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez Colorado

I arrived pretty early in the day hoping to get a campsite within the park - in Utah, all the parks were at capacity most of the time.  To my surprise, Mesa Verde has a huge infrastructure - lodges, cafes, gas, laundry, and a very big campground with about 400 sites.  

statue outside the Visitor Center, showing native climbing the rock face to a cliff dwelling.

The hills around the campground are blazing yellow thru orange to deep reds

a touch of white amid all the bright fall colors