Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cortez and Mesa Verde National Park

October 18 - 21, 2014:

We leave our beautiful boondocking spot and head back down route 211 stopping at the "Newspaper Rock" area where there is a large rock panel of petroglyphs.  The route 211 area from route 191 to the Needles visitor center is all BLM land with many camping and hiking trails and it is beautiful.  This is a great area for Jeep roads also, there are roads all over, but you need to beef up your machine with larger wheels and tires, winch, better shocks, etc to get around trouble free.  We were a little concerned about the fuel on the Jeep as it was 50 miles to the nearest gas station, well there was one at a private campground nearby, but we passed on the $6.50 per gallon price and risked it.  We made it easily !
It was a easy drive on route 191 south to Montecello, a stop for gas, then onto route 491 south passing across the Colorado state line to Cortez, Colorado.

Indian Petroglyphs at newspaper rock

Do they tell a story or are they ancient graffiti  ?
Cortez, first impression, is very good !  It has a really nice downtown area, lots of restaurants, bars, stores, cafes, coffee shops and a beautiful cultural center.  The Sundance RV Park also is clean, well laid out, nice roomy campsites, working WiFi, cable TV and right in town.  We took a ride downtown, parked and walked a few block stopping at Mr. Happy's Bakery, Bar and Grill for lunch.  This is another spot where there is so much to do, however the major attraction is Mesa Verde National Park. 

Mural in Cotez are farm market site

Trophy Room in Coretz, not as interesting inside

Another Cortez mural

One of the more gaudy looking places in Cortez, but popular
and our lunch was fairly good

Great mural on the Cork n'Bottle liquor store

Beautiful Community Center and craft store in Cortez

The back of the Community Center where they have
Indian dancers perform during the summer

Great sign on the Cork n'Bottle liquor store

The Fiesta Theater in Cortez at night

I go downtown to Stonefish Sushi and More to listen to a blues band playing there.  A blues band playing in a sushi restaurant, that's just wrong !  The band is entertaining, all old dudes, mostly playing blues that you can dance to.  There are three young women at the bar getting trashed on this huge bottle of wine. It is a very nice restaurant, an good crowd, people wee having fun but something was missing, or I was missing it ?   

Sunday morning we are off to Mesa Verde National Park.  We buy tickets to a guided tour of the "Cliff Palace", the only way you can see it.  You drive about 25 miles into the park with many overlooks and trails to sights and ruins along the way. The guided tour was at 1 PM and it takes you down a narrow trail with many steps and a ladder to get about a hundred feet below to the Cliff Palace dwellings.  These Indians, previously called the Anazasi, now referred to as the "Ancestrial Pueblems" built and lived in these cliff dwellings from about 1100 to 1300 AD, then mysteriously left.  The number of cliff dwelling sites in Mesa Verde is hard to imagine, they number about 600 known sites.  Only a few of them are open to the public.

There also are many thousands of Mesa top sites built during earlier time periods, most are not even excavated, being saved for more intelligent humans who will be able to interpret these sites far better.

We also went to the "Spruce Tree House" which is a self guided tour monitored by a ranger on site.  I actually enjoyed the Spruce Tree House much more as you were free to wander around somewhat.  

A viewpoint on the park road, nice view !

The "Far View" area ruins are an extensive Mesa top dwelling complex built
at an earlier period than the Cliff Dwellings

View of the Cliff Palace from the overlook

A photo while waiting for this tour group to finish

On the trail to the ruins

The tour group milling around, weird group ?

Close up view of the ruins with an open Kiva in foreground

The Spruce Tree House ruins

Another angle of the Spruce Tree House

The Spruce Tree House from the adjacent Mesa top

Open Kiva used for ceremonial purposes

We then went to the Park museum, built by the CCC in the 1930's.  It is a beautiful building filled with great exhibits and artifacts and several very interesting dioramas constructed by CCC workers.  On the way out of the park it began to rain, the clouds had been forming all afternoon and it rained all the way back to Cortez.

How similar the ancients cup design was to todays ?

This corn (800 years old) was found in good condition
inside a food cache in one of the ruins

 Back at the campground, it was sunny on one side of the sky and raining in another culminating in a full 180 degree rainbow.

This rainbow lasted for about half an hour

Monday is a brief break from the ancestral Puebloans with a tour of the nearby towns of Mancos and Dolores.  Mancos turned out to be very cool, one of the oldest bars in Colorado (a E Clampus Vitus meeting spot), many old restored building turned into nice shops and a great bakery/cafe.  I walked into the "Absolute Bakery and Cafe" and knew I needed to have lunch there.  Old wood floors, beautiful tin ceiling, nice wooden tables, a bookshelf of used books for sale, great looking bakery items, fresh breads and the sounds of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell playing in the background.  My roasted Turkey (real) sandwich with swiss cheese and chilies with potato salad and slaw on the side was near perfect.  I even bought a used book !  Liked their tee shirts with "old hippies don't die, they bake".

Beautiful valley view outside Mancos

Old Mancos Livery Stage Coach

A great restored building in Mancos

Flying Pigs on Mancos store wall

Murals in Mancos

The Absolute Bakery and Cafe in Mancos, Yum !

A cloudy view outside of Mancos , I felt I could each up and touch one

Next was a ride to the town of Dolores, home of the "Galloping Goose" rail museum.  Dolores was a railroad town, the Rio Grande Southern with four tracks running through downtown, all gone now.  These are weird custom built vehicles (They called them "Motors") to keep the rail line operating on a limited budget after the depression era.  They used various early 1930's vehicle cabs and running gear with various bus components and bodies.  There were seven built from 1931 to 1936 and they operated for 20 years and amazingly all but one have survived.  No 5 at the museum was completely restored in 1998, is now fully operational and they run a couple of passenger excursion trips with it each year. It started as a 1928 Pierce Arrrow limousine body and running gear, which was upgraded in 1946/47 with a surplus GMC truck engine and a Wayne school bus body, an amazing combination of parts !!!  They have an excellent museum, are a great volunteer historical society with a good website, check it out.

Old Mercantile store in Dolores

Dolores River Brewery

Home of the Galloping Goose

Another view of the Goose

One strange vehicle !

View from the drivers seat

I then went back to the Ancestral Peobloan culture again with a visit to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument visitors center.  The Canyon of the Ancients is huge, 170,000 acres in south western Colorado managed by the BLM.  This area has the most Indian sites of any place in the country.  It is amazing how many people lived in this area and how advanced they were in living off the natural environment. 

Ancient bowls at museum

I liked this thought

Bowl classification examples

Uppity women do get things done, they were
instrumental in getting Mesa Verde protected as a
National Park

It is incredible how much stuff has been found

We really liked Cortez and barely scratched the surface of all there is to do there, including other areas further north in Colorado.  The weather has been warmer than normal here, but the freezing weather is close by, so we must continue south.  We are already thinking a return visit is mandatory.  I would love to have an RV in the future that is really good for cold weather and be able to tour in the winter, Colorado ski areas would be great !  Of course, I'll be solo on that one as Twinkles has said, No Way !  

Time to move on and into a new state, Next stop is Aztec, New Mexico.

Twinkles and Slick

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