A new day and we have things to do! Since we changed our plans for a Sunday drive and tour of one of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde for a day in Durango, it was up and out of the campground and off to our “beer tour” of Durango. As we drove along the route, we decided it would be best not to connect across to Mesa Verde from Durango in the motorhome, since it looked much more mountainous a trip. There was a route that went west toward Farmington first, then up to Cortez that should be a bit easier approach. We shall see. Despite everything you see on a map or on the maps app, it is hard to get the true scope of elevation changes and switchbacks.
Durango turned out to be a delightful town along the Animas River. Like most towns in the west, it was an outpost of the railroad in hopes that it would grow into a hub of commerce. The historic downtown was reminiscent of Colorado Springs. Very easy parking, wide streets and lots of places to eat, shop and drink. Of course we started at Animas Brewery along the river for a nice flight of their beer – four pours for each of us. Nice flavor, good beer.
Further downtown Jackie found the Visitor’s Center and got a street map. We put our names in at Steamworks and looked around the shops until we got our table. Here Jackie ordered a kolsch and Doug had a “mojo ito” or something. It was a sour with lime and mint, and it was definitely a pucker sour. Lunch was a Southwestern salad for Jackie and a chimichanga for Doug. Each paired very well with our beers and were excellent meals. Doug tried loading some photos to wifi, but it didn’t upload. After lunch Doug tried the wifi in the visitor’s center while Jackie shopped and was able to upload and post from our Santa Fe segment. Jackie was also able to confirm a campsite across from the entrance to Mesa Verde for tomorrow night, so no worries, that worked out after all.
Third stop on the brew tour was Carver’s Brewery. At the bar with the front open to the street we enjoyed a flight of their selection. The bartender added a sample of their pilsner to our nut brown ale, red ale, raspberry wheat and black ale flight. All very good, but Jackie heard mention of a Brewmaster Reserve on tap that was a bourbon barrel aged special. One taste and she wanted a can to go. Yep, at $10 a can, that better be good. And it really is.
Time to make a quick stop at the grocery for some fresh veggies and juice and head back to camp. Altogether it was maybe an hour away. Back across the bumpy dirt road to camp and Kodi and Merlin happily greeted us. We had a chance to chat with some of the other campers, who were all great folks and had all sorts of tales to share. A big part of this campground is the trout fishing, and there were rainbow, brown and brook being caught all weekend. We all groaned about the 2 mile drive to the campground — the one that was hard packed sand and full of holes, lumps and washouts – that we all drove at about 5 miles per hour at best. Sure wouldn’t want to drive that after a rainstorm!
Next morning it would be off to Cortez and across to Mancos area of Colorado, the Ancient Cedars RV park. Hoping we can catch a little time in the afternoon to run into Mesa Verde and see some of the sites. Oh but before bed we had one big CLAP of thunder and the rain started. Sounds worse in the motorhome, but it wasn’t something any of us wanted.
So as we gingerly made our way out of the campground over the wet dirt road, it was better than expected. Maybe the rain softened the potholes a bit. Still, one shaky start. As we reached pavement and drove northwest toward Cortez, Colorado the landscape just amazed us. Over each hill or around each bend was something totally different. As we were about to descend one mesa we saw mountains to the left and one very odd, dark silhouette on the horizon to the right. It looked like a huge, fat skyscraper, which made no sense. Turns out it was Shiprock, a rock formation that is the remains of a volcano and which is sacred to the Navajo people. It was a spectacular site and I was surprised I had never heard of it.
There was rain on the horizon, some dark clouds and we were sprinkled over a few times, but it was mostly overcast and in the 50’s to low 60’s. Nice drive that brought us to Cortez and then just across the street from Mesa Verde National Park. Our elevation is now about 6,500 ft. We were able to set up in Ancient Cedars, hook up, eat lunch and pack some things for a trip into the national park.
Ok, I think I have said that the entrance into Arches National Park is one of the most spectacular, but it has been outdone by Mesa Verde. You enter by winding up this massive rock structure and look to the side to see huge mountains and mesas. Up and up you wind, on switchbacks and even through a tunnel. I think the elevation gain is 2,500 ft. Wow, and it is miles until you reach the southern part of the park where the cliff dwellings are. There are plenty of overlooks and pull-offs so you can take in the view. At one we found a tarantula walking along the walkway, at another spot we caught a coyote loping along the shoulder. There was a pull-off just ahead, so I stopped and waited for him to come our way – which he did – and made his way across the road and on down the canyon. Great looking animal. Spectacular Day! You can stop right now, it can’t get any better.
But the cliff dwellings did not disappoint. We got to see Spruce Tree House, even though the walkway into the dwellings was closed. Across the canyon we saw Cliff House, another spot closed for renovations. Several pit homes were also excavated and fascinating stories about the Pueblos who lived here barely 700 years AD. I will let the photos speak for themselves, but will add that as we were headed back, a very dramatic thunderstorm was crossing the valley and over the mesas. It made for some amazing photos, plus a rainy descent down from the mesa in the rain. Back in camp Kodi told us all about the thunderstorm, that also included hail.
Time for a nice meal: sausage and peppers, garden salad and a bottle of wine to celebrate a great day. Jackie did some laundry, I filled our water tanks, fixed supper and will try to update as much of the blog as I can. Jackie just got back from the laundry and was shouting “what a great day … a tarantula, a coyote nd two loads of laundry done!” In the morning we head to Moab and the highly anticipated Dead Horse Point State Park. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.