Saturday, June 12, 2010

Arches National Park

Saturday morning after we left our B & B near Mancos, CO., we drove to Moab Utah. We've driven through Moab many times but never taken the time to drive into Arches National Park. Since this was our hiking and exploration vacation, we were determined to do at least one hike in Arches. The red rock formations are so amazing. It's kind of a surreal world with strange and varied towers and formations. It's hard to imagine how there can be so much variation in one area. Smooth boulders, massive formations that look like enormous buildings, rocks balancing on top of other rocks. . . it's unlike anything you'll see anywhere else. It's definitely a National Park worth seeing.
Balanced Rock was just one of the many interesting formations. I don't know why this boulder hasn't just toppled off, and I suppose it will at some time . . . but I'm glad we got to see it.

The blue sky, red rocks, and petrified dunes made such a pretty contrast. Much of the rock formation looks like muscles stretched across the landscape. It's so awesome!
Southern Utah really has it's share of interesting geology. Everywhere you look there's something beautiful to see. I don't understand how all this was formed over the centuries, but I think it's some of The Creators finest!
All the hiking trails in the Park are rated easy, moderate or strenuous. We didn't have a lot of time to spend, so we decided that we'd take the Delicate Arch hike. By the time we arrived at the parking lot it was almost noon and 93 degrees! We knew it was a strenuous trail but we were determined to give it a try because it was something we really wanted to see. After we'd hiked about a half mile, we saw this rock formation in the distance. . . it looked like people were climbing it. It made us wonder if we might be taking on more than we wanted in the heat, but we kept going anyway . . . slow and steady. It really was a good hike. The brochure says this is a 3 mile hike, but it felt longer than that to us. We both walk a lot, but there were a couple of pretty steep climbs we had to make. We paused often to catch our breath, admire the scenery and then continued on.
We had heard that you don't see Delicate Arch at all until you come around a corner . . . then there it is! This was the corner.
Delicate Arch is so spectacular! It sits on top of a huge bowl and getting over to where you can stand under it was a little scary to me. But we did it!
That's us, those two little figures under the Arch. (I'm standing really still and trying not to look down).
Getting here on such a hot day had been a pretty good accomplishment for us, but it was so worth it. We'd seen photos of Delicate Arch lots of times, but now we were seeing it in person. It's hard to describe just how spectacular it is. We were so glad we'd made the effort.
This was the last hike on our little six day adventure into the Four Corners area. It had been a
wonderful few days! The weather had been beautiful, we'd tried some things we'd never done before, and seen a lot of beautiful country. Many of the things we did were a little outside my comfort zone, but I survived and I'm so glad I didn't give in to my fears! You have to get out an experience life and not just view it from the sidelines and that's what we did. We had a great time together and made lots of great memories . . . . again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mesa Verde National Park

Friday morning we drove into Mesa Verde National Park to spend the day. The drive into the Park was interesting. The entrance to the Park was just 10 miles from our B & B, but the drive up onto the mesa was another 25-30 miles of VERY windy roads as you climb from the valley floor up onto the Mesa. Here's some interesting facts about the Park: Mesa Verde consists of over 52,000 acres, protects nearly 5,000 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, with over 3 million artifacts in their research collection. So it's a big area . . . with lots of interesting things to see, but we only had the day so we picked just 3 cliff dwellings we wanted to see. We started the first of our guided tours at Cliff Palace. In the early 1900's a couple of cowboys looking for stray cattle came upon these ruins. Can you imagine their first impression? A few years later, President Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to "preserve the works of man," the first, and still only national park of its kind. There's some amazing things to see here. As you look down upon these dwellings you can see at least 8 kiva's and several 2-3 story structures.
Cliff Palace is Mesa Verde's largest cliff dwelling. The hour long tour involved descending uneven stone steps, and climbing five ladders for a 100 ft. vertical climb. The total walking distance was a 1/4 mile round trip so it was an easy hike to start with.

We took several pictures as we descended into Cliff Palace. It was an amazing place. It was so interesting to learn about the people and how they lived. It's estimated that Cliff Palace was built over a period of about 100 years. Can you imagine living here your whole life . . . as well as several generations after you? The people only lived about 30 years! It was almost unbelievable to see the sites we were seeing and to try to get a better understanding about the people who inhabited these dwellings. Life was not easy!
The stonework of these structures was amazing. The small openings that look like windows are really doorways. Remember the people were small, and a smaller opening meant less cold coming in in the winter, and less heat in the summer. Above the main structures, high in the small slits in the mountain, is where grains and seeds were stored. It's hard to imagine how you'd get to most of these areas . . . the people must have gotten really good at rock climbing!
Here's proof we really made the hike. We'd never done hiking like this before and it was so fun. Our tour group ranged from very young to old. . . so we figured if they could make it, so could we. It really was a nice hike and we were seeing some really neat stuff!
This is just one of many small slits we passed through on our hike into Cliff Palace. This is the rock slit we passed through as we climbed back on top.
And one last photo of where we'd been. We were having the time of our lives!
Our next guided tour was to Balcony House. As we met with the Ranger and he described the hike we were going on, I just about chicken out. This tour involved climbing a 32 ft. ladder (I don't like heights), crawling through a 12 ft. long tunnel on your hands and knees (I don't like tight places), climbing up a 60 ft. open cliff face (again, I DON'T like heights), and two 10 ft. ladders to exit the site.
Here's a view of part of the hike. You won't be surprised to know that I didn't take any of these photos, I was pretty much hugging the cliff walls and trying not to look down any more than absolutely necessary.
This is the 32 ft. ladder we had to climb to get out of Balcony House. The ladder itself doesn't look too bad until you have the whole perspective as to where it's located! It's a long ways up and a long ways down.
The ladder was made of sturdy poles and wide enough for two. The Ranger gave us all a little pep talk before starting up the ladder. He said, "Don't look up and don't look down", so that's how I was able to accomplish climbing at that height. I just looked at the rock in front of me and tried to climb as quickly as my shaky legs would carry me. Midway up the ladder I had to hesitate a moment waiting for others to go ahead, I was tempted to look around but I resisted because I knew I'd be sick if I did.
I know this probably doesn't look that scary to a lot of people, but for me, this was a big deal! You can't really appreciate how far down it was to the valley floor or how high it was to the top, but this really was a CLIFF DWELLING! I was so glad to be on solid ground when we got here. The Ranger was asking everyone to solve the mystery of how and why the people lived here and why they left. I said I knew why they left. The women got together and said, "We're not climbing up or down those ladders one more time! We've had it, we're moving down by a river!" I don't care what the archaeologists say, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
This ladder, and the hand and toe holes, starts the climb towards the tunnel . . . the next obstacle I was really looking forward to as we left the Balcony House.
This slit in the mountain is where we entered the tunnel. It wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated. I was carrying my binoculars and a water bottle so I just pushed them ahead of me as I crawled through the tunnel. I didn't spend any time looking around, but just hurried through looking ahead towards the light at the end. Randy got caught up a time or two because his binoculars and camera were on his belt, but we made it just fine. I was pretty relieved when we made it back on top of the mountain. It had been quite an adventure . . . . and we were so glad we'd done it.
Our last tour of the day was to Spruce Tree House. This was a self-quided tour to Mesa's Verde best-preserved and third largest dwelling.
It's estimated that Spruce Tree House was constructed between AD 1211 and AD 1278. The dwelling contains 130 rooms and 8 kivas. It is thought to have been the home to 60 to 80 people.
It was an easy half-mile hike down the 100 ft. descent into the dwelling. Here we were able to descend a ladder into one of the kivas. All the other kivas we'd seen earlier no longer had the roof on, but this one we were able to go down into.
Randy is standing in the bottom of the kiva. Large or small every kiva is built with a fire pit in the center of the room, a deflector wall and a ventilator shaft. Kiva's were gathering places and were also used for ceremonial purposed. Being inside a kiva was a cool place to be on a hot summer day. Every place we stood, we tried to imagine what life would have like hundreds of years ago.
Here I am coming up out of the kiva. Exploring these sites had been quite an adventure for us. We'd seen and experienced so many great things at Mesa Verde. We'd had a wonderful time seeing all these historical dwellings and seeing and doing things we'd never done before. We were having so much fun together. We've made another great memory of places we've traveled and good times we've had.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sundance Bear Lodge

Thursday afternoon after visiting the Lowry Pueblo Ruins, we drove to the Sundance Bear Lodge near Mancos, Colorado. This part of Colorado is so pretty . . . lots of rolling hills and cedar and pine trees.
We were greeted by this cute dancing bear as we drove up the hill to our B & B. We had reservations to stay here two nights.Sundance Bear Lodge sits on 86 acres and just 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. It's a great place to stay and close to a lot of interesting things in the Four Corners area. On site are 3 very nice facilities, the Main Lodge with two guestrooms with private baths. . . that's where we stayed. A two story log cabin just across the pond--that sleeps 4, and a three bedroom, 2 1/2 bath quest house hidden in amongst the cedars a short distance from the Main Lodge.

The Great Room in the Main Lodge was really a wonderful room. The Lodge was decorated with southwestern art, rugs and pottery, and had lots of windows gave you a great view of the property. Several comfortable sofas, lots of interesting books, TV, cards, and board games made this room a very nice place to spend a relaxing evening. The dining table in a corner of the Great Room was where we had a delicious breakfast each morning. It was a nice time to visit with our hostesses before heading out for our days adventures.
This a view of the pond near the Main Lodge. We spend some time one evening going for a walk around the property, spotting some deer and just enjoying our lovely B & B.

The front porch had lots of comfortable seating and a hot tub on a side deck. We spent a relaxing hour soaking in the hot tub and watching the stars one evening- - -it was nice way to end a day of sightseeing. This is such a pretty place!

I'm standing in front of a pretty little pond near the Lodge. The reflection of the trees, buildings and sky in the pond made this such an ideal spot. I spent one evening with my sketch pad outside enjoying the beautiful surroundings, listening to the birds and just enjoying a beautiful Colorado evening.

There's another view looking across the yard toward the Lodge. The Sundance Bear Lodge was a B & B we'd definitely go back to. The owners were very friendly, the food was delicious and the views were stunning.
I'm so fortunate to be able to travel with a husband who loves an adventure and likes to find new and interesting places. We've had such fun times and made some great memories in our travels together. There's a lot of beautiful and interesting country out there and we've sure loved seeing a little portion of it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Lowry Pueblo Ruins

We drove into Colorado Thursday and arrived in Cortez about noon. This area of Colorado is part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument which is on the Great Sage Plains. The Great Sage Plain consists of more that 1,500 square miles of high, dry, rolling plateaus, deeply scored by Canyons. This area contains the highest recorded density of prehistoric and historic sites in North America. So if you're interested in the Anasazi or Pueblo cultures, (and we are) this is the place to come.
These are the Lowry Pueblo Ruins. The Puebloan people constructed the Lowry Pueblo around AD 1060 and inhabited it for about 165 years. It began as a small village with a few rooms and a kiva, then several more rooms, and the Great Kiva was added AD 1085 - 1170. I'm standing in the Great Kiva, which is the largest Kiva in the area. This structure originally was covered with a log and mud roof and it was accessed by a ladder through a central opening in the roof or down a series of steps through the rooms to the north.
The kiva was a gathering place for the community. They came here from other communities on the Great Sage Plain to trade, exchange information and conduct religious ceremonies. This kiva is 47 feet in diameter.

It's estimated that about 40 people lived in this village. All the rooms of the village are small but that's because most of daily life took place outdoors. The people were small, the women only about 5' tall, the men a little taller - about 5'1''. Half of the children died before the age of 6, and the average life span was about 30 year. The people struggled to survive in this arid landscape. They farmed corn, beans and squash and hunted small game using tools made from stone and animal bones.

Bluff, Utah

Wednesday, after leaving Chinle, Arizona (where Canyon de Chelly was located) we drove back into Utah going through Monument Valley on our way to Bluff, Utah. We stayed the night at the Desert Rose Motel - - our only motel visit this trip and very nice. Thursday morning, we decided to spend a little time in Bluff before traveling on. Bluff is located at the base of a huge mountain range. It was settled by pioneers who had to travel over some very difficult terrain to get here, and once they arrived it still wasn't easy going. It was interesting to spend a little time looking around the town and learning some of it's history.
This old stone house was one of the early homes here and appeared to have been recently restored. I've always loved the character of old buildings. If their walls could talk, what an interesting story they would tell. It may have seen a better day, but I still loved this old truck. It stood in front of one of Bluff's cafes as you come into town.
We took the time to visit the Bluff Fort where there was a nice little visitor center. Within the walls of the fort are 8-10 small log cabins along with covered wagons and other old structures. The cabins were built by families of descendants of the original pioneers who settled this valley.
Each little cabin has the family name of the early pioneer who settled here in Bluff. Antiques, quilts and old photos furnish each cabin and no two cabins are alike. Several times a year, the old Bluff Fort hosts family reunions where the descendants of these pioneers come together in this historic setting.
Living in the heat of southern Utah wouldn't have been an easy thing, let alone in the mid 1800's. It really made me appreciate the struggles the pioneers had gone through. They must have been made of sturdy stock . . . I can't imagine anyone in this day and age working as hard as they did.
This hogan is similar to the ones you'll see all over the Southwest. Nearly every Navajo home has a hogan built next to it. This one is made of a framework of cedar poles with mud covering the poles. It's kind of a crude structure, but they are amazing cool inside and would be good protection on a hot summer day. Hogan's are for ceremonial use and have been made for centuries by their ancestors.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Canyon de Chelly

Our interest in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de shay) was peaked a few years ago after having read a book called "Blood and Thunder". It's a story about the southwest, the Indians who inhabited the area and the men - - namely Kit Carson, (his commanders and armies) whose job it was to clear the Indians out of the area. Much of the book was about some of the events that took place in Canyon de Chelly. It was a fascinating story and since that time we determined we wanted to visit the Canyon. In order to go into the Canyon, you have to hire a Navajo guide, so that's what we did. We hired a man named Tim Haulwood to be our guide for 3 hours to learn about the Canyon and it's people.

Randy is standing in awe of the massive canyon walls. Archaeologica excavations of Canyon de Chelly and its tributary canyons have revealed that the canyon has been occupied almost continuously for nearly TWENTY CENTURIES. Ancestors of the first inhabitants, and perhaps ALL of the Indians of the United States came from Asia crossing a land bridge during the Ice Age and migrated southward. This migration happened several times, but the first group was the Anasazi Indians. They occupied the plateau area of the Southwest--an area that includes the drainages of the San Juan, Little Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers, much of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado from the first century to A.D. 1300.

The ride into the Canyon was wet and wild. We were riding in an open Jeep and we crossed through the river many times as we drove further into the Canyon. The cliffs are massive, soaring 700 feet above the river. It's an impressive place.

Here are some of the Anasazi dwellings we came upon. The stonework is unbelievable. We reached these dwellings after driving several miles up into the Canyon. The people of long ago live much as the Navajo people live today. . . growing crops of squash, corn, beans and watermelon. Some hay is also grown and taken out of the Canyon to be sold.

This is such an impressive and beautiful place. The dark color on the rock is caused by the mineral in the soil that has washed over the canyon walls for centuries.

It's not just a Canyon of rock and water but also a very lush farmland. Our guide Tim is 5th generation Navajo to work and live in the Canyon, and he's been quiding for over 20 years.

The Navajo came into the Canyon after the Anasazi were gone, but they never lived in any of the dwellings left behind because they consider those dwellings sacred places. Their duty now is to protect the area and perserve it for others to enjoy.

This is our guide Tim. You can see how dirty the Jeep got going through all the water. We had been spashed with red sandy water and got a little dirty and hot, but we were so glad we'd had the opportunity to see this magnificent place. Pictures don't do it justice.

After we left the Canyon, we drove the South Rim of the Canyon so we could get a different perspective from what we'd experienced with our guide. You can see the vast green areas that are now being used to grow crops for those who still live there.

Canyon de Chelly is nearly 70 miles long. Our 3 hour tour took us only 8-10 miles, traveling into two different areas. It's not hard to imagine why the Navajo had the advantage when they were persued by Kit Carson and his men. One of the sad parts of the story is that because there was so many places for them to hide and never be found, the Army destroyed all the crops growing in the Canyon, including 5,000 peach trees. Only after everything was destroyed and the Navajo's were starving did they surrender to Kit Carson and his men. That's only one of the many sad accounts of how we dealt with the Indians in the 1800's.

Spider Rock stands where two Canyons meet - -Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. The smaller rocks at the base were used as lookouts by the Navajo.

We spent a memorable day here in the Canyon. It was so interesting to stand in places we'd read about and learn more about the people who lived there long ago, as well as the ones who inhabit it today. It's an experience unlike anything we'd ever done, and it will always be a special memory of awesome places and adventures we've had together.