Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta had been on my bucket list since I heard about it several years ago.  I finally made it and I’m so happy I did. 

After Mike flew home, Sandy and I went to the Balloon Fiesta and parked with the Escapee’s Boomers group in the RV parking area along with 50 other rigs.  Jesse and Cheryl, and John and Darius, friends from Sacramento, also  parked with the Boomers. The Boomers have attended the Fiesta for many years and they provide crew for the balloon pilots.  I signed up to crew despite the fact it required getting up at 4:30 am for the morning flights.

My first chance to crew was for Albuquerque Aloft.  This is an event the balloon pilots conduct for the elementary schools in Albuquerque.  The pilots take their balloons to the school grounds and the children go up in the inflated, tethered to the ground, balloons.  I have never seen so much joy in one place as I did that morning.  The students also learn about the physics of ballooning.  After the students all went up, the pilot asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes!  After all, the balloon was tethered to the ground and I felt safe.  It was a surprise to me that you don’t feel like you’re rising and you don’t feel any wind because you are moving with the wind. You don’t feel anything!   It was pretty exciting. I was told that if you crew with a pilot, you do well and they like you, they often invite you to go up at some point. 

School Sunrise
Catching Sunrise at Albuquerque
School Up and Away
Fun up in the balloon
School packing up
Packing 10 lbs of crap in a five lb bag!

I also crewed for Miss Bell, a special shape balloon.  It was a GIANT Liberty Bell!  The weather did not cooperate so Miss Bell never flew and I didn’t get a chance to fly either. 

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Miss Bell, too big to fly in weather conditions

One morning I didn’t crew and slept in a little only to be awakened loud sounds right over my rig.  I recognized the sound of the giant propane burners, which meant there was a balloon right over my rig.  I threw on some clothes and ran outside.  The wind direction blew the balloons over the RV parking area and they were landing amongst the parked RVs! It was quite a site!

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Balloons landing in the RV park
Baloon in RV park
What goes up, must come down…no matter where!

The Balloon Fiesta is a visual feast for the eyes.  So many balloons and colors!  Balloon pilots come from around the world to participate in the Fiesta.  My favorites were the  “glows” and the special shapes.  A normal shaped balloon is like flying a eight story building.  The special shapes are even bigger! Here’s a few photos to give you an idea of what I saw at the Fiesta.

Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink – Top of a balloon
Beautiful colors
Up, Up and Away!
Special Shapes
Special Shapes
Sunrise
Catching Sunrise
Pig
Inflation…Thanks C Snow for the great photo!
Yoda Glow
Yoda Glowing
Night glow
Night Glow
Van Gough getting inflated
Van Gogh getting inflated
Van Gough Final
Some people thought Van Gogh was Walter White from Breaking Bad.  LOL!

The motto for the Boomers is, “Boomers just wanna have fun!”, and that’s exactly what we all did!  I loved spending 12 days with old friends, new friends and the awesome experience the balloons provided. Getting up at o-dark-hundred every morning was totally worth it!  If I ever find myself near Albuquerque in October, I will definitely attend again.

Boomers Group
Boomers just want to have fun…and they do!
Sandy and Me
We had a great time at the Fiesta.  Photo taken at the Balloon Museum

After the Fiesta I moved the rig to the Albuquerque Elks Lodge.  I wanted to see more of the city and be near an airport so I could conveniently fly to Oregon to visit friends and then to Norfolk, VA to be with family for Thanksgiving.  The Lodge is only a couple miles from Sunport (ABQ).  This made it very convenient to fly to Oregon and Virginia.

I flew to Medford, Oregon  and visited Ralph, Malia and Mary Jo and Mike.  It was beautiful Fall weather and the trees were bursting with color.  Ralph relocated from Sacrament to Cave Junction, Oregon last year.  He bought a house on a private lot in a very small town. Ralph had a nice surprise for me when I arrived.  He prepared my favorite childhood meal of chicken, peas and mashed potatoes.  It was great!   Malia and I took in the Fall colors in Lithia Park in Ashland.  Ashland is a favorite of mine.  It is known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It has a beautiful outdoor theatre in which to see Shakespeare plays.  It also has a few other theatres that have a variety of non-Shakespeare plays.   Ralph’s good friends Bill and Chris live in Eagle Point, just outside of Medford and came over for dinner.  And of course there was a drive to the ocean on a beautiful, sunny day.  I had a great visit!

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Favorite childhood meal…chicken, peas and mashed potatoes
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Friends Bill and Chris on the deck for dinner
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Fall in Lithia Park in Ashland
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My favorite tree hugger, Malia Lane
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This is as far as you’ll see me go into a cave!  Cave Junction, Oregon
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Ralph contemplating rock hopping
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A magnificent day on the Oregon Coast

After my return from Oregon I had a couple weeks before flying to Norfolk, VA for Thanksgiving with family.  My nephew Kevin and his family moved from Yuma, AZ back to Yorktown, VA.  I will surely miss them when I get back to the Southern Arizona desert.

Then it was time to fly to Norfolk for Thanksgiving.  I flew in and most of the Florida contingent drove 12 hours from Port St. Lucie.  We rented an AirBnB condo.  My first AirBnB and is wasn’t a great experience. But it did let us spend quality time together over the holiday.  It was all fun and games until I got the creeping crud from the kids.  We all had a great time and I’m glad I went.  Over the years I haven’t been able to spend many holidays with my family.  Now that I’m semi-retired and have flexibility I can spend more time with the family.  

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The gang out for dinner
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The “kids” at the park
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Grandma Theresa and Ashtyn.  I don’t think Ashtyn liked the cold!
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You looking at me???
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Mama boots, baby boots

During the time between fly out trips I took in the sites around Albuquerque.  I visited Old Town, the Bio Park, Nob Hill, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the Dragon Lights Festival.

Old Town Albuquerque is reminiscent of town plazas in Mexico…duhh…oh yeah…it was Mexico.  I picked up a new cowgirl hat and had a delicious lunch.

Me at Bio Park
Like my new hat?

The Elks Lodge is on the border of the Nob Hill neighborhood and is the location of the University of New Mexico campus.  Great restaurants, bars and shops with which to weil away the hours!

The Bio Park is located along the Rio Grande River near downtown Albuquerque.  It consists of a Zoo, a Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Tingley Beach. I visited the Botanic Garden and the Aquarium.

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Didn’t know this…did you?
Tile Flower Wall
Tile wall at Botanic Gardens
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Fall at the Botanic Garden

New Mexico is home to 19 Indian Pueblos.  The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center was founded in 1976 by the 19 Pueblos  to preserve the Pueblo cultures and educate visitors about the Pueblo way of life.  Puebloans believe that from the beginning they were given knowledge that would guide their existence.  This knowledge centered on core values of love, respect, faith, understanding, spirituality, balance, peace, and empathy. They believe they are given gifts from Mother Earth and Father Sky and they are the designated caretakers of these gifts. I absolutely love this!  The Center if full of history, art, artifacts and painted murals.  I was surprised to see contemporary  art too. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

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Once I returned to Albuquerque I attended the Dragon Lights Festival produced by a company from San Francisco. It is a display of large- than-life lantern displays.  Each lantern is handcrafted by a team of artisans from Zigong, China.  The lanterns are silk covered wire sculptures lit from within.  They were beautiful!    

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Dragon Lights
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Dragon Lights
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Dragon Lights

In early December it was getting much too cold for me.  One morning there was actually snow on the ground!  Albuquerque is the same elevation as Denver.  In fact, the lowest altitude in New Mexico is 2800 feet, with most of the state much higher.  Therefore, it’s not the best place to be in the winter if you’re chasing 70 degrees like I’m supposed to be! I enjoyed my time in Albuquerque very much and it was time to go.   So I packed up the wagon and headed south on I25! 

And I now know how to spell Albuquerque!

Next stop Socorro, New Mexico.

 

Raton, Las Vegas and Santa Fe, New Mexico

Raton

Raton was my first stop in New Mexico located at the top of Raton Pass on the border with Colorado.  I stayed at the funky Summerlan RV Park for a few days over Labor Day week.  My only outing was to the Capulin Volcano National Monument and it was well worth the 35 miles drive to get there. This area is where the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains meet.

Capulin Volcano National Monument is a well-preserved, relatively young (58,000 to 62,000 years old), symmetrical cinder cone. It rises steeply from the surrounding grassland plains to an elevation of 8,182 feet above sea level. The irregular rim of the crater is about a mile in circumference and the crater about 400 feet deep.

Capulin Volcano

Capulin Volcano is one of the outstanding landmarks located in the northeast corner of New Mexico, where the rolling grasslands meet the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the southern part of the Rocky Mountains). Capulin Volcano’s highest point provides unobstructed, panoramic views of the volcanic field, distant snow-capped mountains, and portions of five states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado).

You can hike down into the center of the cinder cone and you can hike along the upper ridge.

Well worth visiting.

Inside the cone
Inside the Cone
Great Plains
Where the Southern Rockies end and the Great Plains begin

Las Vegas

Moving south on I-25, my next stop was Las Vegas (the original). Las Vegas is in an ecotone, an intersection the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. The history is unique and diverse. There are over 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other municipality in the USA. It is also a place for film!  It is the original film center of the west.  It started in 1913 with Romaine Fielding’s The Golden God and most recently the TV series Longmire. Others you may recognize are House of Cards, True Grit, Wild Hogs, No Country for Old Men, The Longest Yard, All the Pretty Horses and Easy Rider.

The film industry likes the area because Las Vegas offers the complete package of unique settings that cannot be found together anywhere else in the state. To the west are breathtaking mountains and to the east, grassy plains; two lakes within minutes of town; a castle sits in the hills; a historic drive-in theatre; and architecture that ranges from Queen Anne to Pueblo Revival.

Las Vegas Historical and Rough Rider Museum is a small museum downtown  and is worth a visit to learn more about the area. 

It’s been almost 40 years since I sat and watched a thunder and lightning show.  I’ve had the opportunity to do it several times in Colorado and now New Mexico. Summer is monsoon season.  Who knew?  NOT ME! Everything is green and the wild flowers are still blooming.  What a show these storms put on! And afterward one storm there was a  full double-rainbow.  

There are many interesting sites to visit from Las Vegas.  I was able to fit in Fort Union, Pecos National Historical Park, and Victory Ranch Alpacas.

Fort Union

When the Mexican-American War ended, the US acquired the New Mexico Territory.  Fort Union was established to guard American interests in the Southwest.  Positioned where the Santa Fe Trail’s two main branches met, Fort Union protected the trail and its travelers, supplied the US Army, and aided in subduing American Indians who fought the Anglos for invading THEIR homeland. 

Fort Union was the biggest fort west of the Mississippi River. The fort was also used to defend the US during the Civil War.  The Confederates came west with the mission to acquire gold in Colorado and California.  In 1861 the Confederates marched into the New Mexico Territory and claimed all land south of the 34th parallel for the Confederacy.  Then they claimed Albuquerque.  The Union forces defeated the Confederate troops at the battle of Glorieta Pass near Santa Fe, ending the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. I toured the ruins of Fort Union, sat quietly to take in the past, and try to understand what life was like when the fort was in full swing.

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Fort Union Ruins
Fort Union Remains
Fort Union Ruins
Fort Union Wall
Fort Union Ruins

While driving along the road to Fort Union, you can see tracks and ruts from the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th century transportation route through central North American that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was a vital commercial “highway” until the introduction of the Railroad to Santa Fe in 1880.  Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the trade route from Mexico City. It followed the original Indian trading routes.  The road route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. The trail runs the entire length of Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Santa Fe Trail Ruts
Ruts from Old Santa Fe Trail
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Old Santa Fe Trail

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park was originally a state monument established in 1935, then it was made Pecos National Monument in 1965, and greatly enlarged and renamed in 1990. The park encompasses thousands of acres of landscape with historical elements from prehistoric archaeological ruins to 19th-century ranches, to a battlefield of the American Civil War. Its largest single feature is Pecos Pueblo, a Native American community abandoned in historic times. There is an easy trail that winds through the pueblo.  Nice short walk and interesting history.

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Pecos Pueblo Ruins
Pecos Pueblo
Pecos Pueblo Ruins

Victory Ranch Alpacas

Victory Ranch Alpacas and Store is nestled on 1,000 acres in the lush Mora Valley not far from Las Vegas. The Weisner family, from Chicago, started the ranch in 1991 and were pioneers in the alpaca world, traveling the country and winning numerous awards for fleece, conformation, and performance. They offer tours and you can feed the alpacas.  The animals are a little intimidating to me due to their size.  They were looking me straight in the eyes!  This was the second time I’d been around alpacas and I got spit on both times!  It’s startling, but doesn’t cause much damage.  You just have to brush yourself off after it dries.   They had many beautiful and expense alpaca wool items for sale.  I have little need for cold weather clothing so I didn’t purchase anything.

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Victory Ranch Alpacas
Alpaca and me
Me feeding an Alpaca
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A conversation with the tour guy

Santa Fe

My next stop was Santa Fe and the Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV park. This RV park is located on the south side of Santa Fe and is close to everything!  I’ve been to Santa Fe a couple of times, but just for the day.  I call these “drive-bys”.  You cannot get a real feel for a place until you spend some time there.  I was in Santa Fe for nearly three weeks and this time soaked up this wonderful place.

Santa Fe is all about art, culture and food.  There is the Railyards Art District, Canyon Road and hundreds of art galleries and public art.  If you look on Trip Advisor, under Things to Do in Santa Fe, it is overwhelming.  I started there and made a long list of things I wanted to do in the three weeks.  Needless to say, it was a very busy three weeks.  My Michigan/Florida friends Mike and Sandy joined me the last week in Santa Fe and Sandy joined me at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Outdoor Art
Public Art

There is a wonderful Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings located in the Railyard District. I availed myself of many items, including mustard, fresh quiche and bread, and fresh roasted green chilies. The Boxcar Restaurant is in the area and has great food and my all-time favorite, a frozen Jack Daniel and Coke.

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Roasting Chilis

Santa Fe has the Margarita Trail and I hopped right on board with that one.  It wasn’t  the usual trail I find myself enjoying.  This trail takes you to many restaurants and bars where you sample margaritas, all freshly make and unique.  I’ve never been a fan of the typical margarita.  I have to say, this trail has changed my mind.  It was a good way to visit several great restaurants and bars around town.  I sampled the delicious margaritas at the Cowgirl BBQ, the Ortiz bar at the historic Hilton Hotel, the Santa Fe Bar and Grill, the Shed and the La Fonda hotel.  Five margaritas and you get a t-shirt!  I claimed mine at the Visitor Information Center.

Margarita Trail
One stop on the Margarita Trail

The Santa Fe Plaza is the center of the downtown area with many stores and galleries.  Very near the plaza is the San Miguel Chapel, the Loreto Chapel and St Francis of Assisi Church, all very beautiful, old churches built when the Spanish “invaded” the area.

The Museums

I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum first.  The museum opened in 1997.    The collection is the largest permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world. Subjects range from the artist’s innovative abstractions to her iconic large-format flower, skull, and landscape paintings to paintings of architectural forms and rocks, shells, and trees. Georgia was known as the mother of American Modernism. She spent her golden years in Abiquiú, about 53 miles north of Santa Fe. Georgia was a woman ahead of her time and her story is interesting and too long for this blog post.  If you want to learn more about Georgia, click here.

Georgia
Georgia O’Keeffe

The New Mexico Museum of Art is located on the Plaza and is worth a visit.  I attended a talk on Native American Textiles and learned their textiles are produced as the weavers are praying and offering gratitude for the bounties the earth provides them.  Many of their prayers are for water. They also talked about the “politics” of native textiles.  Very educational.

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New Mexico Museum of Art Courtyard
Textile Talk
Native Textile Talk

Museum Hill is an area where several museums and the Botanical Garden is located. I visited the Museum of International Folk Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

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Museum of International Folk Art
Bead art
Museum of International Folk Art
Folk Art
Museum of International Folk Art
Botanical Gargen
Botanical Garden
Sikoras
Sandy, Mike and me
Wheelwright Art
Wheelwright Museum of American Indian

Bandelier National Monument

My friends, Mike and Sandy, from Michigan/Florida flew to join me in Santa Fe for a week. We enjoyed a few museums, restaurants, and just hanging out at the campground. We also drove up to Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier is located near Los Alamos, New Mexico. The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of a later era in the Southwest. Most of the pueblo structures date to two eras, dating between 1150 and 1600 AD.  Bandelier is unique in that you can actually walk in the ruin and even climb into some of the caves. Mike and I walked the trail and on the way back, Mike accidently fell and drove a small stick into the palm of his hand.  We ended up in the Emergency Clinic to have the stick was removed.  He was so lucky there was no nerve or muscle damage.  Mike flew back to Michigan and Sandy stayed to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with me.  

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Bandelier National Monument
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Bandelier National Monument
Mike
Mike at Bandelier

The Round House

Santa Fe is the state capital of New Mexico and is called the “Roundhouse”, because it is indeed a round building.  I have visited many state capitals and none have looked like the Roundhouse.  It is a fairly modern capital building and an art museum.  There is no charge to enter and you can wander around the building freely.  I squeezed in a visit the last day I was in Santa Fe and I’m happy I did.  Here’s a small sample.

The Round House
Capital Roundhouse
Inside the Round House
Capital Roundhouse
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Fabric Art at the Capital
Capital Fiber Art
Fabric Art at the Capital

 

Dale Ball Trail System

I was able to get a little hiking in before heading to Albuquerque.  The Dale Ball Trail system is a 22 mile network of trails in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Located a short distance from downtown Santa Fe, it is the quickest way to get from the city into the mountains. It offers great opportunities for beginners and advanced hikers alike, along with great views of both the surrounding wilderness and back towards the city. The trail features a unique numbered sign system at each trail junction to provide easy navigation, as well as connecting to other local trails. It was a great trail system where you couldn’t get lost even if you tried!

Me on Trail
Dale Ball Trail
Dale Ball Train View
View of Santa Fe from the Dale Ball Trail

I absolutely loved Santa Fe and it is another place where I found myself saying, “I could live here!”

Santa Fe Sunset
Santa Fe Sunset

Next stop Albuquerque for a bucket list item – the International Balloon Fiesta!

 

 

 

Summer in Colorado Part II: Boulder, Colorado Springs and Walsenburg

Boulder

There aren’t many places I’ve visited where I’ve said, “I could live here!”  Boulder is one.  However, Boulder real estate is offered at California prices.  Boulder was the perfect place to park and hang out with my niece, Theresa, from Florida. 

I parked at the Elks Lodge in north Boulder (known as NoBo).  It’s in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by open space and the Lodge had a pool! 

Boulder is a college town, so therefore it has all the wonderful things a college town has to offer…good entertainment, shops, museums, and great restaurants.  I ended up staying in Boulder for five weeks, but during that time I flew to Florida to visit my family.

Theresa and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was a rainy and foggy day.  I was so disappointed because that the only day Theresa had to visit the park.  She never did get to use her new hiking boots.  I did go back to visit the park after I returned from Florida and the weather was perfect.

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RMNP Rain and Fog for Theresa and I

Theresa is a huge Broncos fan and took a tour of the Stadium in Denver. We stopped by the LODO area downtown to have lunch and walk around.

Theresa and I drove up to Boulder Falls and just a short walk took us to the base of the falls.

We also went to Red Rock Amphitheater to see Killer Queen. As you might think…they play Queen songs and the lead singer looked exactly like Freddy Mercury and they sounded great.  Unfortunately, it rained throughout most of the concert. It was still a really good time. Red Rock Amphitheater was deemed the best music venue in the United States and it was really beautiful!

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Killer Queen Concert at Red Rock Amphitheater

Theresa and I flew to Florida together and I visited family for a couple weeks.  There are two new family members.  Theresa is a grandmother!  Her daughter, Arianna had a baby girl, Ashtyn, and my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren had a baby girl, Eloise.  It was Eloise’s first birthday. It was a wonderful visit and I honestly had a hard time leaving.

 

After returning to Boulder, I had a few more things to check off my list before heading south.

Of course, I had to visit the famous Pearl Street.  It’s a very popular area for shops, galleries and great restaurants.

I spent a day in Denver to visit the Museum of Nature and Science.  What a wonderful museum.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were the visiting exhibit. In addition, the Imax theatre was showing a documentary on Bethlehem.  I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land, not because I’m religious, but because of the amazing history of the region.  I’d like to visit Egypt too. I wish I had done it years ago before the turmoil we have now. It was a wonderful and educational day. I ended the day with dinner at Fish and Beer in the artsy, fartsy section of Denver called RiNo (River North Art District).  The food was delish!

I did make another trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and this time the weather cooperated.  I had visited the park when I was 19 years old.  I remember it being beautiful, but I hadn’t seen places like Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.  In comparison, RMNP is not that spectacular, but beautiful nonetheless.  The one thing that was unique was hiking on the tundra at over 11,400 feet. It was slow going, but I made it! The main road through the park is Trail Ridge Road and is the highest highway in the US.

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RMNP Hiking the tundra
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RMNP – The Top of the World!
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RMNP – Tundra at 11,400 feet

The Rocky Mountains form one of the world’s longest ranges, stretching almost unbroken from Alaska to south of the border.  RMNP preserves a small but important section of the Rockies. The altitude is so high the growing season is only six weeks long. I have loved spending time in the Rockies this summer.

Colorado Springs

My next stop was Colorado Springs.  Ralph and I visited the Springs a few years ago.  I decided to stop halfway to the Great Sand Dunes and see a few of the sites I missed the first time around.

I was parked at the Elk’s Lodge and it was only a couple miles from the Garden of the Gods so I decided to revisit.  It is a beautiful red rock area and a good place to hike.

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Garden of the Gods
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Garden of the Gods – Kissing Camels

I drove the 30 miles to see the Calhan Paint Mines. According to Wikipedia, the Calhan Paint Mines is “a unique blending of geological, archaeological, historical and ecological resources”. What makes it unique is the grassland and geological formations of hoodoos, colored clay and sandstone-capped spires. Archaeological evidence, such as arrow heads and stone dart tips, has found that there was prehistoric and historic occupation by Native American peoples as early as about 9,000 years ago. The clay was used in prehistoric and historic times to create and paint pottery and as paint for ceremonial purposes.

Paint Mines

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The small town of Manitou Springs is just a few miles west of the Springs.  While I visited Manitou I toured the Miramont Castle.  The castle was built in 1915 as a personal residence for Father Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother. The castle changed hands eleven times before the Manitou Springs Historical Society purchased the building in 1976 and saved it from condemnation. It is a beautiful building to tour and acts as a museum on this history of Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is also where you can get the cog train up to the top of Pike’s Peak.

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Miramont Castle

Walsenburg

I have a love affair with sand dunes.  Therefore, I could not pass up the Great Sand Dunes National Park about 60 miles west of Walsenburg.  I parked at       Lathrup Lake State Park just off I25.  It was a really nice state park with electric and water hookups.  The sites have a lot of privacy. It was only the camp host and me for most of my stay.  Nice and quiet.

It was a beautiful drive to the Great Sand Dunes and the weather was nearly perfect.  I understand it can be very windy through the area.  The Dunes are nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and are North America’s tallest dunes.  The dunes formed by eroded mountains, then shattered by freezing and thawing, and tumbled by streams and winds. I did not hike to the top of the dunes.  It takes a couple hours to hike to the highest dune and I didn’t arrive until 4:00 pm.  I wanted to get there when the light was right to photograph the dunes. I’m so happy I took the time to visit.  I will also visit the White Sand Dunes Park in New Mexico.

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Highway of Legends and San Luis Valley

In the late 1800s, while much of the state mined gold and silver, the southeast region mined coal. Linked with this region are many legends and folklore. Such as the lost gold vein with nuggets so big, one nugget could provide enough wealth to live for a year. There is also the story of George Simpson who saved Trinidad from an attack from the Ute Indians by distracting them with taunts. You can explore these legends by traveling the Highway of Legends byway. Beginning in Trinidad, you can follow the Cucharas River, traveling through Cokedale, Cuchara, La Veta, and end in Walsenburg.  The byway is usually open all year and is 82 miles long. From the byway, you can see views of the Spanish Peaks as you travel through the San Isabel National Forest. The Sandstone walls of Stonewall also decorate the area, giving a Spanish appearance. The dikes of the Spanish Peaks protrude from the sandstone walls. Here, the ancient legend of the Devil’s Stairs was born. Long ago, the Devil came out from hell to survey the world, choosing the Cuchara Velley as his entrance. He would climb the steps and sit on the twin mountains (Spanish Peaks), plotting how to make it his. God learned of this, and noticing the beauty of the mountains and valley, took it as his own. He forbade the Devil to ever enter the area again, but the Devil’s steps still stand. It was a beautiful drive and I kept thinking what a great motorcycle ride it would be.

 

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Stonewall

Ludlow Massacre Monument

Being the Union supporter that I am, when I heard about the Ludlow Massacre I was very interested.  The massacre  emanated out of a labor conflict. According to  Wikipedia, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 hapless striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. About two dozen people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 people, although accounts vary. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The miners striked because of the dangerous, deplorable, working conditions.  They were paid In “company money” and could only spend it at company stores.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. An estimated total of 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. It was described it as the “deadliest strike in the history of the United States”, and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history”. Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour workday.

Ludlow Massacre Monument
Ludlow Massacre Monument
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Historic Photo After the Burn

My time in Walsenburg was short but packed full of great activities.

My summer in Colorado came to an end.  I have to say I think Colorado is my favorite state thus far.  I love the Rocky Mountains and the way Colorado appreciates and preserves their history.  And, people in Colorado really love the outdoors.  I hope to come back some day in the future.

Now it’s time to move south to New Mexico and a bucket list item for me; the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I’ve been trying to get there for three years and I’m going to make it this year!

Till the next time…

Summer in Colorado – Part I

Gunnison, and Buena Vista

 Western Colorado is a great place to spend the summer.  The western slope of the Rocky Mountains has elevation and slightly cooler weather than the flatlands and of course, stunning beauty!  The western slope has an abundance of small, quaint, small towns, usually with their history in mining. 

It was only a 65 mile drive from Montrose to Gunnison over Monarch Pass. Gunnison’s altitude is 7,703 and is located at the bottom of several valleys.  Due to its location, cold air settles in the valley at night.  In the summer, the nights are nice and cool, but in the winter, it is one of the coldest places in the U.S. with an average temperature of -8 degrees in January.  The record low is -60 degrees!

I stayed at the Tall Texan RV Park and was lucky to get a site facing a pond.  I took advantage of some of the delicious restaurants.  For a small town in the mountains, the selection of good restaurants was surprising.  I also visited the Pioneer Museum.  It is one of the best small town museums I’ve been to thus far. It consists of a dozen buildings full of exhibits containing everything from toys to railroad cars. It left me feeling old!  I recognized several items that I grew up with and had used at one time or another.

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I remember doing laundry with this washer.
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A real poodle skirt!
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Telecommunications charm bracelet
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How would you like to get a permanent using this???

While in Gunnison, I visited Crested Butte several times.  Crested Butte is my favorite town in Colorado.  It is at 8,885 feet with a population of 1,500 and an outdoor person’s paradise.  It is known for skiing, mountain biking, hiking, watersports and is designated the Wildflower Capital of the Colorado. Crested Butte is famous for both its history and architectural character.  In 1974 the entire town was designated a National Historic District. The town has its roots in mining and has preserved its historical buildings and feel.  Before the miners arrived in the 1870s, Ute Indians used the area, and the surrounding Elk Mountains, as summer hunting grounds. Of course, the miners pushed them out. As I learn more about our history and what our white ancestors did to the Native Americans, it literally makes me sick and tearful.  That’s the curse of being an Empath. It was all about money and greed and still is!  It’s a disgrace!

As luck would have it, I was there for the Wildflower Festival.  I took the Historic Garden Tour and an Art Journal class from Judith Kassel-Mamet.  I never heard of art journaling, but it was art and I like to journal, so….I signed up. It was a four-hour class with eight students.  The four hours just flew by!  Art journaling combines mixed media art and writing in one small journal.  This is perfect for traveling!

Just a few miles north of Crested Butte is the very small town of Gothic, home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL).  RMBL is a high-altitude biological field station founded in 1928 on the site of an abandoned mining town. Research areas include ecology of the region, climate change, pollination biology and study of the yellow-bellied marmot. Over 1500 scientific publications are based on the work from the laboratory.

While in Crested Butte I also drove up to Irwin Lake where the wild flowers were in peak bloom.  I took the hike around the lake and it was a perfect day! There are 67 types of wildflowers in the area!

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Irwin Lake
running horses
Crested Butte View
More yellow flowers
Crested Butte yellow wild flowers

I also took a ride up to Taylor Reservoir and continued up a dirt road to the small mining town of Tincup.  Tincup is a big ATV destination.

I fell in love with Crested Butte and hated to leave.  Next time I visit the area I will stay in Crested Butte and spend a lot more time there.

Buena Vista

Next stop was Buena Vista (83 miles) where I stayed at the KOA. Buena Vista (BV) is the gateway to the Arkansas River Recreation Area and white water rafting. I chose Buena Vista because it was half way between Salida and Leadville, two towns I wanted to explore.

Buena Vista is Spanish for beautiful view. It’s located on U.S. Route 24 that runs from Clarkston, Michigan to its intersection with Interstate 70 in Colorado and continues to Buena Vista.  Many of the existing buildings date back to the 1880s.

First thing I did was visit the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy.  It was fun and delicious!  There was a brand new kid, only one day old.  The goat cheese they produce was mild and delicious.

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Time to eat!
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A guard Llama to keep the goats safe
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One day old kid
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Time for kid to eat

I explored the Chalk Cliffs and St Elmo, an old mining town about 20 miles west of BV.  St Elmo is an abandoned mining town with many buildings still standing and under restoration.  Colorado does a great job of preserving their history. There are a few people living in St. Elmo and it has a gift and antique store.

Old doors of St. Elmo

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Do you know what these are?

The Chalk Cliffs are located near Mt Princeton (one of the 14,000 ft mountains in the area). The cliffs are not actually made of chalk.  They are kaolinite, a soft rock produced by hot springs percolating through cracks in the mountain.  However, it sure looks like white chalk. 

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Chalk Cliffs

I checked out a few boondocking sites for future reference.  It was too hot for me to boondock because I needed electricity to run the air conditioning.  While searching out the spots I ran Tunnel drive.  It was pretty cool, but I don’t know if my RV would fit through the tunnels.

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Tunnel Road
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A cool moose

Salida

Salida is a very cute small town south of BV. Salida’s collection of more than 100 buildings in the downtown historic district results in the city being listed in the National Register of Historic.  It is also home to one of the first Creative Districts in Colorado and attracts artists and creatives of all kinds with natural scenery, summer and winter activities and a large tourist trade. In Salida’s Creative District, there are around 50 galleries. I walked around town, had lunch and took a walk in Riverside Park.

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A cute house in Salida.  I’ll take it!

Leadville

About 35 miles north of Buena Vista is the small, mining town of Leadville. Leadville was once known as the wickedest city in the United States.  In the early days, it was known for saloons, bawdy houses, theaters, and just about every kind of entertainment and depravity that a prosperous mining camp could offer.  Nowadays, it is a tourist town at an elevation of 10,152 feet with a population of about 3,000. In the 19 century, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado, after Denver.  It is the highest incorporated city in the United States.

Leadville lies near the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The Arkansas River is 1,469 miles long and flows through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Leadville was settled in 1859 when placer gold was discovered during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. But, soon placer gold ran out.  The early miners had noted that mining for placer gold was hampered by heavy black sand and it was soon discovered that black sand was the lead mineral cerussite, which has a high silver content.

Leadville has done an excellent job on restoring and preserving the buildings.  There is a great walking tour on Harrison Avenue, which is the main street through town. There are 38 historical buildings on the walking tour.  I took a private tour of the Healy House and Dexter Cabin. 

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Healy House
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A traveling food cabinet

I also went to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  The museum has over 1,000 minerals, crystals and gems from around the world.  California was well represented with gold exhibits. 

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Michigan Cooper
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Minerals under black light

Both were well worth the time and money.

I only had one day in Leadville and left wishing I had more.  Next visit to the area, I will stay in Leadville and spend a lot more time soaking it in.

Stay tuned for part II of my summer in Colorado.

Telluride and Montrose, Colorado

Telluride

I’ve always been curious about Telluride.  Over the years I’ve read about the great skiing and the many celebrities that have homes in the area.  Now I understand why. 

Telluride Pano

Telluride is a year-round paradise for outdoor activities.  It has a National Historic Landmark District with gourmet restaurants, boutiques and fine-art galleries.  Telluride, like many small cities on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, has its history in mining.  There is a wealth of colorful, Victorian houses and a charming main street lined with buildings with clapboard and brick facades.  Telluride’s history is equal parts refinement (translate to expensive) and Wild West.  Butch Cassidy robbed his first back in Telluride. 

A little known fact about Telluride is that in 1891 the world’s successful, long-distance transmission of alternating current electricity (AC) occurred at Ames, Colorado and Telluride became the world’s first city to be electrically lit.

Telluride is surrounded by towering mountains with the highest concentration of 13,000 to 14,000 foot peaks in North America.  The Telluride area is the best the San Juan Mountains have to offer.

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Hike above Telluride
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Overlooking Telluride

I camped at Matterhorn, a forest service campground.  It was a beautiful, wooded campground located 10 miles south of Telluride.  I had a dry camping spot next to a creek for three days and then I was able to move to a full hook up site for the next four days.  This park has a seven-day limit.  I would have stayed longer, but for the limit.

I was only able to take one hike while in Telluride.  The altitude was kicking my butt! I hiked the trail to Cornet Falls and a portion of the Jud Wiebe trail that follows a ridge overlooking Telluride.

I took advantage of several of the wonderful restaurants and visited the Historical Museum that is located in the old military hospital. 

 

Telluride Historical Museum
Telluride Historical Museum

 

 

 

900 year old indian blanket
900 year-old Indian Blanket

 

Dinosour signDinosour bones

There are several mining towns in the area: some occupied and some abandoned. I drove to Ophir, a tiny mining town still occupied. The current residents (about 200) are often isolated in the winter due to avalanches for weeks at a time.  A rough dirt road passes over the Ophir Pass to Silverton.  Most of Ophir’s residents work in Telluride.

I visited Trout Lake and took the dirt road up to Alta Lakes, which passed through another tiny mining town, this time abandoned except for a small tribe of marmots. There is camping at Alta Lakes, but just for vans and tents.  The road up was rough and I had to put my CRV in first gear at times, but I made it with only scraping the bottom once!  I can see why many RVers like to travel with a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. I’ve heard there are more dirt roads in Colorado than paved roads.  And, I have to believe there are more Jeeps in Colorado than all the other vehicles put together.

Trout Lake
Trout Lake
My cabin
Should I buy it?
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Marmot Family
Ghost building
Ghost Mining Town
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Ghost Mining Town
Ghost building 2
Ghost Mining Town
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Alta Lakes
Alta 2
Alta Lakes
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Alta Lakes

While driving into Telluride I noticed something on the west side of the highway, down in a canyon.  I finally decided to stop and check it out.  I was surprised to see a semi and trailer upside down in the canyon.  Then I noticed the guardrail was missing.  Some poor trucker went over the side!  Someone placed a cross, so I knew the driver perished.  I inquired in town and was told this happens frequently in the area.  The trailer was full of sawdust and the first attempt to pull it up failed.  The day I was leaving the area, they were going to close the highway and try vehicle recovery once again with larger equipment.  I would love to have seen that!  To say I was overly cautious when driving the RV through the mountains to my new destination in Montrose is an understatement.

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Overturned Semi
Trailer
Overturned Trailer

My last stop before leaving Telluride was the Elks Lodge.  The original lodge building is located on Main Street.  However, the building was sold and the rent raised so high that the lodge had to move to a new location.  It’s in a small building on a side street and is the cutest lodge I’ve seen to date.  I went in to have a drink and talked with the female bartender.  Shortly after I arrived, three of her girlfriends came in and I had a great time talking with the local women.  The most fun time I’ve had at an Elk’s Lodge yet!

Telluride Elks
Telluride Elks Lodge
Elk girls
Elk Women

I hated to leave Telluride…it is my kinda place! Nonetheless, it was time to move on down the road to Montrose.

Montrose

My next stop was about 80 miles down a beautiful mountain road to Montrose and access to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  My friend Debbie Hayward told me about the park that she had visited on her six-month trip around the country several years back.  I was not aware of this national park before that. I stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge for ten days.

“No other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon”, Geologist Wallace R. Hansen. The Gunnison River drops an average of 95 feet per mile and carves the steep canyon.  The walls are an average of 2,000 feet deep.  The rock walls are only 40 feet apart at “the narrows”.

Black Canyon 1
Black Canyon
Black Canyon River
Gunnison River which carved the Black Canyon
Black Canyon view
Black Canyon

I took the South Rim Road and stopped at each of the seven overlooks. The road ends at Warner Point and then I took the two mile round trip hike out to the point for a spectacular view of the canyon.

Another day I returned to the park to take the drive to East Portal and access to the Gunnison River. It’s a five mile drive with a 16% grade down to the river. The river moves so swiftly through the canyon that it is unsafe to swim at East Portal.  The Crystal Dam controls the flow of the river.

The Gunnison Tunnel is a Civil Engineering Landmark along with the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Durango and Silverton Railroad. It is an irrigation tunnel constructed between 1905 and 1909.  The tunnel is 5.8 miles long and diverts water from the Gunnison River to the arid Uncompahgre Valley and Montrose.  Pretty amazing! river.

Gunnison Tunnel SignGunnison Tunnel

Gunnison Tunnel 2
Gunnison Tunnel
Gunnison River
Drive to East Portal
Gunnison River Bottom
Gunnison River
Car at bottom of canyon
Perspective

Due to the fire north of Durango, I was not able to take the Million Doller Highway from Silverton to Ouray and Ridgway. I was able to drive to Ouray from the north.  Ouray is another picturesque, small mining town nestled in the rugged and towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains.  It’s located in the valley at 7,800 feet surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks.  Colorado is full of these cute mountain towns!  Ouray is also known for it’s sulfur-free hot springs.

 

Ouray Silverton Road
Thank goodness they’ve improved this road!

 

Ouray has a colorful history of mining, ranching, railroad and Native American history. It is a well-preserved historic town. Two-thirds of Ouray’s original Victorian structures are still occupied. The Ouray Historical Museum documents the history in 29 rooms in the old hospital.  The movie True Grit was filmed in nearby Ridgway and at the Courthouse in Ouray.

Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Building
Ouray Victorian Building

I visited the Box Canyon Falls, which was formed when the rushing waters of the Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow box canyon through fault-weakened limestone.  There is an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge that leads straight into the belly of the falls.  The sound of the force of thousands of gallons of water a minute rushing eighty feet to the canyon’s bottom is deafening.

Box Canyon Falls
Walkway to Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon
Box Canyon Falls

The box canyon is an important bird watching area.  It supports one of the state’s largest populations of Black Swifts (a protected bird), which nest in the canyon walls and overhanging rocks near the waterfalls.  These small birds fly from Brazil to nest in the box canyon in the summer.

Black Swift

 

I enjoyed my day in Ouray very much!

Then it was time to move on down the road to Gunnison. 

Until next time…

 

 

Durango and Cortez, Colorado

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Durango

I caravanned with Malia to Durango so that Malia could complete tests, get a diagnosis and decide on next steps.  I’ve always heard good things about Durango and was anxious to check it out.  I found out the good things were all true!

We stayed in a funky RV park about ten miles south of Durango on Hwy 550 for the monthly rate of $500.  Other parks in the area charged $1,200 a month.  We had premium sites overlooking a canyon and it was a good place to stay for the month.

Durango is a quaint, small historic western town with lots of shops, good restaurants and many outdoor activities. As with most small towns in western Colorado, Durango has its roots in the mining industry.  It is a delightful, small western town and we enjoyed wandering around checking everything out.

I stopped at the Durango Museum one afternoon and learned about the small town. The museum is housed in an old schoolhouse that reminded me very much of the grade school I attended in Detroit, Beard School.  Beard is on the register of historic buildings too.  I remember sitting at a desk just like the ones in this photo…and yes, we started reading with Dick and Jane!  My gosh, I’m getting old! 

For my teacher friends and family…take a look at these rules for teachers.  And the punishment recommendations!

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My friends, Mick and Deb were in the area too.  I’m always so happy when our paths cross.  They camped at Haviland Lake and Malia and I went to visit them for a hike and dinner. Malia and I had checked out the campground on our way back from Silverton and said, “We should stay here!” We hiked around the lake and it turned out to be more challenging than we expected, but we all made it!  We had a great dinner and then headed back to camp.  Mick and Deb stayed for a few more days and left the day before the campground was evacuated due to the 416 fire, just north of Durango, in the San Juan Forest.

 

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Mick and Deb on hike around Haviland Lake
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Haviland Lake

 

 

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416 Fire – I did not take this photo

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We visited Malia’s friend, Polly and her husband and had one heck of a good time and a delicious dinner. They have a gorgeous home in the mountains above Durango.  They are always concerned about fire breaking out in their area.

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Malia and I drove the 35 miles to Farmington, New Mexico for the Riverfest and stopped at Aztec Ruins National Monument on the way.  The national monument preserves ancestral Puebloan architectural and engineering achievements found in the northwest corner of New Mexico.  It is a World Heritage site and is part of the Chaco Culture World Heritage site. It is on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. There is quite a bit left of the structures and there is a reconstructed great kiva.  The ruins were built as a public ceremonial, economic, and political center around 1100 AD and remained occupied by the ancestral Pueblo people until 1300 AD.  No one really knows why the people left this location and many other locations in the Four Corners area, with Mesa Verde being the most popular.  I think this is one of the best examples of ancestral Puebloan ruins I’ve experienced.  You can walk through the ruins and go inside the kiva.  Don’t miss this great site if you’re in the area.

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Malia
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Riverfest
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Aztec Ruins National Monument

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The Kiva

We made the 60 mile drive to Pagosa Springs for a day of soaking in the hot springs. It was a wonderful, relaxing day.

 

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Soaking with cocktails at Pagosa Springs

 

Malia’s great grandtwins came for a visit and we went rafting on the Animas River.  What fun! Last time I went whitewater rafting was on the American River many years ago.  The Animas River had a few Class III rapids, but nothing like the American.  Nonetheless, it was a blast!  Everyone had a great time and then it was Mexican food afterwards.  I have to say, I was exhausted by the time we got home.  This old, grey blond mare, she ain’t what she used to be! 

 

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That’s me in the light green hat

 

 When I’m parked for some time I like to hang my hummingbird feeder next to a window so I can get up close and personal with the hummingbirds.  This was a great place to do that.  I had 6-8 hummingbirds feeding almost all the time and I had to refill the feeder twice a day.  I recently purchased a new camera (Canon SX60 HS) with a 65X zoom.  I was practicing with the zoom and got a few great photos of the hummingbirds.  I especially like the one bird with the beautiful purple throat.  I think it’s the black-chinned hummingbird.

hummingbird purple neckHumming bird green

By the time the month was up, I was ready to hit the road.  Next stop was Cortez, a whopping 57 miles.  I stayed at the Ancient Cedars RV park directly across the highway from Mesa Verde National Park.

Cortez

First thing Malia and I did was drive up to the small town of Dolores to visit the Anasazi Culture Center.  The center provides information about the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which preserves the largest concentration or archaeological sites in the United States, primarily ancestral Puebloan ruins and includes Hovenweep National Monument. Canyons of the Ancients is 176,056 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The Culture Center is a beautiful building with excellent exhibits and a great overview of the area. Definitely worth a visit.

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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Artifacts found in the area
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Artifacts found in the area
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Uppity women are not a new thing

The next day I drove to the Four Corners area and to Hovenweep National Monument.

The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.  It is the only point in the US shared by four states.  It also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments: the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Tribe.  I understand that the four corners monument is the legal point, but not the true geographical point.  Nonetheless, it was worth seeing for five minutes! 

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Hovenweep National Monument is  just a short drive from Four Corners. The towers of Hovenweep were built by Pueblo Indian tribes and were grouped at canyon heads.  Many dwellings stood right on the canyon rim, and some structures were built atop isolated or irregular boulders, not great for safety and access.  They have been vacant for 700 years.  Again, no one knows why the people vacated the area. Most likely drought and depleted resources. In the late 1200s the people settled in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico and the Hopi mesas in Arizona. There is a two mile hike from the visitor center that circles the small canyon where the towers are located. Definitely worth the drive to see this fascinating area.

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And last, but certainly not least, I visited Mesa Verde National Park.  When Ralph and I did our Southwest tour a few years ago we visited Mesa Verde and did the Cliff Palace tour.  Cliff Palace is probably the most popular tour and it’s the cliff dwelling you see in all the photos of Mesa Verde.  However, there are several other cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde: Balcony House, Step House, Long House and Spruce Tree House (which was closed due to falling rocks).  I chose to visit the Wetherill Mesa (the quiet side of the park)  this time and did the self-guided tour of Step House.  Mesa Verde incudes over 4,500 archeological sites and over 600 are cliff dwellings.  It is truly a remarkable national park.

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Cliff Palace
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Pit House

A  Family Note

My great nieces, (Theresa’s daughters) both had significant milestones.  Arianna graduated from college and Chyann graduated from high school in May.  Arianna graduated from high school with an Associate’s Degree from college. So, it was only two years for her to get her Bachelor’s Degree.  At 20 years old she is married, has a new baby and graduated from college!  I guess she’s on the fast track through life!  Chyann earned a scholarship to the local college for the dance program. She is a beautiful, talented dancer.  We are so proud of these two wonderful young women.  I thank my dear brother all the time for having children.  They are true treasures of my life.

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Arianna and Ashtyn
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Chyann

 

This flower pot art was at the entrance to the RV park near Mesa Verde.  Made me smile everytime I pulled into the park.

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Next stop for me is Telluride.  I will be traveling sans Malia.  She is headed straight to Oregon.  I will miss her terribly.  Traveling with a girlfriend in her own rig has been an unexpected delight.  Who will I laugh with until we pee our pants a little???

 

 

 

Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

I seem to be drawn to Arizona.  Yet again this year I stayed longer than I planned.  I was in Tucson until April 30 when I headed to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley with an overnight stay in Rock  Springs, Arizona. I’m caravanning with my friend, Malia (Malia’s Miles blog).

Our first stop was the Rock Springs Café.  We found a great boondocking spot in their event parking lot north of the restaurant.  Rock Springs Café is known for their delicious pies.  It was Malia’s birthday and she got a free piece of pie and free beer!  It was a small oasis in the desert and  a great place to spend the night. Rock Springs was half way to the Grand Canyon.

 

Rock Springs Cafe
Rock Springs Garden Area – Malia’s Birthday

 

The next morning we left for the Grand Canyon and found a beautiful boondocking spot on forest road 688 just 10 minutes south of the south entrance to the Grand Canyon. We settled in for the evening and were very excited to visit the Grand Canyon (south rim) the next day.

I woke up the next morning about 5:30 and looked out the window and much to my shock and excitement there was four inches of snow covering everything! You know I’ve been gone from Michigan a long time when I get excited about snow. The snow stuck to everything except the road.  It was a very foggy day, which helped keep the snow around for a while and it was completely gone within 12 hours.

 

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That’s me on the left

 

Even though it was pretty cold (45 degrees) we decided to head to the Grand Canyon wondering if we’d see a layer of snow in the canyon.  We were very surprised to see the canyon totally covered by fog.  Both of us had seen the canyon before and knew what to expect.  When we couldn’t see anything we both burst out laughing.  I felt sorry for those there just for the day. We knew we were returning the next day so weren’t upset at all. So plan B…we went to the IMAX theatre and watched the Grand Canyon movie.  It had been a very interesting day with a couple surprises.  I do like days like that!

 

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That’s the Grand Canyon behind us!
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The tower
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Airplane crash over the Grand Canyon

 

The next day was perfect weather and we hiked the Bright Angel trail for a couple miles.  We stopped into the lodge for a cocktail and snack before heading back to camp.

Bright Angel Sign

Ro on Bright Angel
Bright Angel Trail
Ro at Tunnel
The first tunnel on the Bright Angel trail

 

 

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Malia on Bright Angel
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Just a big hole in the ground!  Ha!
Fireplace
Fireplace made with the same layers of rock as the canyon
Bright Angel Trail
Looking down on the Bright Angel trail
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Sharing the trail
Cork LIfe Jacket
Life vest made from cork

 

 

Storm
And then the rain blew in

 

Then it was off to Monument Valley, a bucket list item for me.  I was not disappointed!  We stayed at Goulding’s RV Resort nestled among the red rocks. Goulding’s Resort started years ago to support the movie industry in the area. They have a small movie museum that is worth a visit. 

 

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Goulding’s RV Park (that’s me on the left)
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Trail from the RV park
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Trail leads to a red rock arch

The Monument Valley in part of the Navajo Reservation.  You can take guided tours of the area, but we chose to take our own car and drive the Valley Road. That let us get down and among the mesas, buttes and spires.  The weather was perfect.  There are stops along the road with Navajo vendors for art, rugs and jewelry. Of course, we had to stimulate the economy and purchased a few beautiful items.

MV Pano
Monument Valley
MV Sky
Monument Valley
MV fixed
Monument Valley
MV 2 fixed
Monument Valley
Malia and Me MV
Us on the Forrest Gump road
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I made it to Monument Valley !

 

Visitor Center Wall Painting
Wall painting in the visitor center

 

Our time in Monument Valley was short and very impressive.  I’m so happy that I finally made it there.

Our next stop is Durango, Colorado where I will spend a month exploring the area.

 

Rig on Road MV
And off I go!

 

Till next time…