Part 4: Durango, CO and Mesa Verde National Park


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The Trip

We were headed to Durango, CO to visit our friends Brad and Laura in Hermosa (north of Durango).  Since they work, we had to time our arrival to match their schedules.  So, the day before we stayed near Mesa Verde National Park to put us within an easy day's travel of our destination.

The photos below are what we saw.

We left the RV park in the morning and headed toward Mesa Verde to see about getting a tour to the ruins.  We discovered that since we were very early in the season, most of the ruin tours were closed.  So, we checked out the visitor's center instead where we spotted this 1950's vintage GMC pickup.  Thor can be seen in the background.

While we were in a pretty remote area, we did have cell service and noticed that Barbara Bush had died, thus explaining the flag at half mast.  Note the size of the mesa in the background.

Thwarted by the lack of tours at the ruins, we headed east toward Durango.  Just north of Durango on our way to Hermosa, we spotted a huge landslide on the eastern lip of the Animas Canyon.

We had a great night with our friends and in the morning we heard the whistle of the Durango and Silverton steam train on its way up the Animas Canyon.  I sprinted outside to try and get in front of the train but was too slow and had to get this photo on the shadow side of the train.

This portion of Hermosa has some really nice homes.

Brad and Laura have a great place with an awesome view of red rock cliffs near their house.

I attempted to get a Milky Way photo but the moon was way too bright.  But, I did get a happenstance shot of a meteor at the upper right of the photo above.

The following morning Brad drove us up Missionary Ridge near Hermosa.  The road was closed since it was still early in the season, but from the closure point we got a great view of the San Juan Mountains to the north.  The large peak in the photo above is Engineer Peak.

From the access gate, we could see large burned areas that resulted from the Missionary Ridge fire a few years past.

To the west we could see a portion of the La Plata range, still covered in snow.

Heading back to the house we passed over the Animas River which was a funky color of green.  The Animas, it seems, is a technicolor river as it turns various colors as mining wastes get washed downriver.  Several years ago, the EPA caused a huge spill when they, for whatever reason, unplugged a mine tunnel allowing millions of gallons of toxic wastes to flow into the Animas watershed.  The river was orange for weeks, much to the dismay of the citizens of the Animas valley.

We left Durango after a great 3-day weekend and headed back to Mesa Verde.  The road is steep as it winds its way up huge mesas.  From a pull-out I spotted this dead tree framing the Mancos valley.

The largest ruin at Mesa Verde is Cliff Palace.  There were no tours of this ruin, so we had to be content with views from the overlook point.  This is a big, big ruin.

The circular structures are kivas, pits used for religious ceremonies.

This was a very complex pueblo with many, many rooms.

Nearly every alcove had some kind of ruin.  The ruin above was in the wall of a canyon to our south.

To the east across a wide canyon, we spotted another ruin.  Note that this pueblo had a water source from a seep at the upper left of the alcove.

This ruin was not accessible.

This ruin, named Square Tower, was literally underneath the roadway, but to see it you had to hike to get to a viewpoint.

The upper dwellings in this ruin must have been difficult to access in the best of times.

The high rooms in this ruin would have been difficult to access as well.

Note the building panels on the left of the photo above.  This ruin is undergoing restoration.

Every alcove had some kind of dwelling.

Another large pueblo.  It was getting late and we wanted to visit Hovenweap, so we headed onward.

On the return trip back to the main highway, we got a nice view of the La Plata range.  Once we were back in the valley, we headed west through Cortez, CO to Hovenweap.

Durango is a very nice little city and well worth a visit if you are in the area.  Mesa Verde National Park is a World Heritage site and is one-of-a-kind and worthy of a trip.  If you choose to go, be aware that it is in a remote area of southwest Colorado, so logistical considerations abound.  If you are car camping, be sure to have your camping areas scoped-out in advance and reserved if possible.  Mesa Verde, being what it is, is very popular in the summer months so plan ahead.

Tomorrow, we head explore Hovenweap ruins.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2018, all rights reserved.
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