Leaving Canyonlands, I stopped in Monticello in search for some breakfast. If you ever go there, it won’t be for the food. Before I headed out, I called Beste just to re-connect and that left me feeling happy and ready for the next adventure.
I was excited to ride into Colorado from Utah, in my mind I had this idea that I would immediately see the Rockies, some cool canyons, or some wild mustangs! I anxiously awaited the “Welcome to Colorado” sign. And then…I saw the welcome sign and in my mind, droopy trumpets played off key. It was the backdrop of an empty farmer’s field.
I was like….oh. But, it didn’t take long until I did see the mountains and pine trees, and started going up in elevation. Within just 75 miles, I was exiting off for Mesa Verde NP. I was happy to see they had showers, a camp store, and a laundromat.
I got a whiff of myself in the parking lot and wondered, is there a horse farm around here? Then realized it was me. So…the first order of business was a shower. I saw this sign in there. Seriously? Is this really an issue? C’mon!
Who does that???
After that, time to set up camp. There were plenty of spots to choose from and pretty roomy.
I waved hello to my neighbor and he came over to introduce himself. Turns out he is originally from my home state, Minnesota. Of course we became fast friends and soon enough I was invited over for a beer. I am not a beer drinker, but it was a nice gesture so I took him up on it.
I felt a bit more at ease here, having a friendly neighbor and a few more people around (not too many).
Bedtime came early though, it was a lot colder here and I was tired. Sleep was on and off though, as I swore next time I’d spend a bit more money on the comfier pad. But really, are any of them that good?
The next morning I was ready to explore Mesa Verde. I bought a ticket for the guided tour of Cliff Palace. I’m not a fan of guided tours, but it’s the only way you can get in to see it. Cliff Palace was the biggest of the three dwellings and they suspect it was a place where many of the Ancestral Pueblo people would gather for important events such as religious or community events. I think it has something like 36 rooms and held 100 people.
It is incredible how they built these “cities” under these massive cliff overhangs. They would use the mesa tops to farm on.
This particular dwelling had what was considered the grandest kivas of all the dwellings in the area. This is where they would hold sacred ceremonies or political/social meetings.
The wall in front of the fire pit was to protect it from the fresh air that would come through the hole just behind it.
I rode around both loops of the park and stopped at most of the sites. I was taking a break in the shade and met a brand new park ranger–Stanley. He told me what his first 3 months of being a park ranger was like. He was very polite but the more he opened up, the funnier the stories got. Oh…the general public.
After his lunch, he invited me over for a campfire at the ranger’s place they all shared. I was appreciative, but I knew I would likely be staying in camp as I had a big pile of wood to burn and some BS to shoot with Brian.
Next few stops were more dwellings, the Square Tower House seen from a distance:
My favorite was the Sun Temple. This building was constructed for worship and it was the largest of it’s kind. They think it served as a solar marker and that people from the surrounding cliff dwellings attended cermonies here. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the construction of it was pretty detailed.
Apparently, it’s a mystery why they put so much work into it, but it never got completed.
I also hiked a few miles to see some other dwellings from the canyon rim. You could only see them with binoclulars so no pics of those. Here is Balcony House from a distance. I didn’t tour this one because you have to crawl through an 18″ wide tunnel. I am way too claustrophobic for that. Honestly I don’t know how half of Americans fit their ass through that.
After about 6 hours of sightseeing, I rolled into camp around 5:30 pm and made some “beef stew” from one of my packets. A long day indeed.
Brian came over to my fire and we compared notes about what we each had seen for the day. I also learned a bit more about him. He said he was in his junior year at University of MN when he got drafted.
I asked him what he was going to school for and he laughed–he said “well, it was the 60’s….so….I think it was a major in South African literature and a minor in Venezuelan poetry”. That made me laugh. We said goodnight and I enjoyed the fire just a bit longer before bed.
This morning I am on to my new destination. Brian and I said our goodbyes, exchanged email addresses, and like any good Minnesotan would do–I waited for him to drive out and he waved and honked his horn.
Next destination, Ship Rock, NM and then back up to Colorado for some San Juan Mountains on the Million Dollar Highway, landing at my little cabin in Ouray (pronounced yoo-ray). More to come…