Friday, June 30, 2017

Mesa Verde

Starting at a Walmart in the morning has it's advantages. First we got our shopping for the next few day done, second we got to our next stop before our site was ready.

The campground suggested we go right across the street to Mesa Verde NP and get some info.

 It was a good idea actually because we managed to get tickets for 3 different Cliff Dwelling tours which fill up fast. Because we acted early we got times and days that wouldn't have been available if we hesitated.
The tours are a lot of fun, some do require some walking and steep stairs or ladders.

The dwellings are very impressive. Although they have been massively re-constructed and repaired since they were first discovered.

 Also part of the park is a very twisty park road that winds around the various mesas.
 Some parts of the road are a little scary if you aren't happy with heights. That is me BTW.
 The scenery is really amazing.
The people who lived in the cliff houses originally live and farmed on the top of the mesas before some of them moved into the cliffs.
 Awesome flower.
Our campground is right on the other side of the highway from the National Park.

So we have a pretty sweet view.
 On one of our tours that included a hike I learned something new.

Yucca plants can fruit! They don't seem to do it every year but they do fruit and you can eat them.  However they don't ripen until the winter when they turn sweet.

The ranger says you could find yucca fries if you look around local menus.  We never saw them or I would have tasted them.

To finish this cliff tour you had to crawl through a little tunnel before scaling up the cliff with some metal rungs and wires back to the top.
Will's invention for dinner! Corn on the cob with Mexican Crema sprinkled with both chili and a tiny bit of chipotle powder!

It is awesome, we have been eating it at least once a week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On to Durango, CO

Sadly after one of those sand hikes we noticed we had a complete flat on the truck.

We pumped up the tire and left it overnight till the morning and it was still looking like it lost some air so we drove down to a parking lot and changed it.

We got on the road a little late but it didn't matter. Here we are stopped on a pass on the continental divide in Colorado. We had lunch here and gave Tucker (and us) a little walk.

On the way to Durango CO we detoured a bit to the Chimney Rock National Monument.  It is another site built by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples.

We got really lucky as they had parking for the trailer and a shaded kennel for Tucker. And we managed to get a nice ranger to drive us to the top of the mesa as the trailer couldn't make the drive. Much better than un-hitching.
In second bit of luck we had perfect timing and the ranger who drove us got us hooked up with a tour that was already in progress.  Without a tour we wouldn't have been able to see some of the best parts of the site at the very top of the mesa.

The drive up was most of the altitude gain but then we hiked up to the tip top the same way the people who built would have. Including carrying the materials as they had no beasts of burden. Or nice rangers to drive them around!
 Much of the timbers and materials came from off in the distance of this pictures, so it was a big undertaking.

Although no one is sure what this place on the top of mesa was used for.
Those are the actual Chimneys for which the park was named. Driving up you can see them for 50 to 100 miles away.
We made it to Durango with no problems and pulled directly into the first Ford Dealer to ask about the tire. They said they could do it in the morning (It was about 4:15pm). I did buy a few new tire bolts as they have this plastic cover and a few of them cracked when I tried to get the tire off.

We then checked out the Walmart where we planned to stay and I called a tire place on the other side of the shopping center and he said bring it right over! So the tire was fixed by 5 pm! There was a big arrowhead shaped rock causing the leak.  But all hitched up it was no time to be swapping a tire so we headed to a local brewery for beer and dinner instead! Followed by a peaceful Walmart night and some grocery shopping in the morning.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Great Sand Dunes National Park

 Time to hit our first official National Park of this trip.

I am pretty sure this was the first anyway. All the others were monuments or forests etc.
 Yup it is a giant sand dune alright, the largest in the USA.
 We arrived there relatively early in the day as the camping there is First Come First Serve.  (There were reservable spaces but this is the high season for the park so they were full).

Thankfully it was early enough as spots were still available. Although it turned out of the several we really only could squeak into one. And it took a little effort.
 At this time of year water is still flowing through the park. It will dry up soon. But for the folks around here this is the closest thing to a beach so it is packed with kids playing in the sand.

Because of the dynamics of the sand the water does this weird surge kind of thing. You can kind of see some of the surges in the picture... they will disappear in a second and then it will surge someplace else.
 Besides the dunes there are some other trails up the mountains. We took Tucker on a pretty nice 4 mile loop as the sand isn't recommended for dogs because it gets too hot.

There was a log hiker to a pass but the description really made it sound like a waste of time.

 One morning we did get Tucker out early to the walk through the sand and the water.  But it did get really hot by about 11 am.
 Shoe-horned into our site. It was cozy with a great view of the dunes. No services here so we had the generator out for the first time.

The deer came through every evening driving Tucker insane. Some of them even fell asleep next to trees in people camp sites. Wild!

Speaking of wild a gang of children hung out literally in the tree next to our site. They loved Tucker and he totally put up with being pet by half dozen kids.
 We were a bit lazy and only bothered to climb to the top of one of the dunes. You can go farther to the highest dune but to me you've seen one dune you've seen them all.

And it was hard taking 2 steps up sliding back 1.5 steps. The wind was crazy at the tops so it was like being sandblasted.
 People also like to climb up and go sliding down on either plastic disks or snowboard like contraptions.

We watched a few and it looked slow and very little payoff for how difficult a climb it was.

A view from the top of our dune, although you can't really get a good impression of how high we went. According to my phone and fitbit we went up about 600 feet.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A hike down the Gorge

Today we took a drive up to the Rio Grande Del Norte BLM area.

There are a few campgrounds here and some trails, today we are just hiking.

We are starting on the rim of the canyon and will be doing a fairly long loop down along the river back up and back to this spot.
 The Canyon is almost 900 feet down and the descent was pretty much straight down.

Tucker is on this hike as the website and a book said it was cool but the signage actually said nope. Although that may have just been the first little bit of the trail where there were interpretive signs.
 Once down in the canyon we just basically followed the river.

It was pretty nice out as we started on the early side.
 Later it got a bit warmer but not too bad.

Down in the canyon they have a few campgrounds setup for backpacking through.  I am sure at night in the canyon is very peaceful.
 Some parts of the river were swift and others were more placid. We eventually hiked to where another river joined up with the Rio Grande.

We had lunch at a picnic table at one of the campsites at the meeting of the rivers.

 Here you can see the second river coming in from the left joining up with the big river.
 Sadly after lunch we were met with a up hill portion of the hike. So strange to have this near the end of a hike.

Much like the down hill portion it was straight up. With a mixture of switchbacks and stairs.
By the time we did this climb it was 12:30 or so and much hotter than when we started.

It was a hard and very sweaty trudge.
And after all that we still had about 2 or 3 miles of flat walking to get back to the car.  Some of which ended up being right along the road and not very picturesque.

Overall though it was a good hike and a good workout.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Taos Pueblo

Today were heading out to visit Taos Pueblo.

It is the oldest continually inhabited pueblo.

This is their sacred mountain which towers over the Pueblo like a gaurdian.
 After hitting a little snag of a decent sized detour for a bridge that washed out we made it.
Although traditionally Pueblos has no doors or windows with the only access being from ladders to the roof the modern people all seem to have adopted doors and windows.
 People still live here and only some of the peoples home are open to visit. Many of them are setup as sharps selling traditional artists goods or snacks.

Like pies baked in these outdoor ovens.  I want an oven like this in my backyard for making pizza.

The dog was pretty cool too.
 So was this this guy. All the pups were trying to keep out of the sun and the heat.

 So many dogs!
Super chill dog!

We did of course buy some cherry pies and iced coffees as a little snack before leaving the pueblo.