One Night Stands Returning to Prescott Thursday, Aug 8 2019 

Angel Fire Vista

Angel Fire Vista

On Sunday we drove from Manitou Springs, Colorado to Angel Fire, New Mexico. We saw last year’s extensive forest fire damage west of Cimarron, New Mexico. Fortunately, the Cimarron Canyon State Park along Highway 64 was not burned. I took advantage of the hot tub at our RV resort.

Because the engine light continued to warn us of a problem, we left Angel Fire Monday morning headed to the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They discovered that the downstream and upstream sensors were faulty. We were lucky that they had the replacement parts in stock, they had a technician who could perform the work in a timely manner, and that these items were covered under warranty. After the repair work, we continued to a RV resort west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. We took advantage of their large, warm water swimming pool and hot tub. Their related buffet offered two-for-one, although it closed shortly after we entered.

On Tuesday we enjoyed a breakfast for 99 cents each plus tip. We joined the caravan of trucks on I40 to Holbrook, Arizona. We encountered heavy rain before leaving New Mexico. It took us longer than usual to set up camp. Because our first site did not have good power, we asked to be relocated. The second site was 50 amp only and marginally better, but we were told we went to the wrong site and would have to pay more. Not! Our third site’s power was better than the other two, but the water connection didn’t allow us to mount our filter. The quality of this park is less than our last two stops.

On Wednesday we made it home safely. Many interesting sites, but now I need to recover my strength.

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Manitou Springs, Colorado Adventures Saturday, Aug 3 2019 

Our RV navigation system directed us over Independence Pass, the highest paved state highway over the Continental Divide in Colorado at an elevation of 12,095 feet. Because our RV and tow vehicle may be over 35 feet, we decided to unhitch our tow vehicle rather than risk a $1500 fine. It was a slow, difficult drive that left us not fully appreciating the scenic drive, and the Via’s engine warning light got activated. Nevertheless, we arrived safely in Manitou Springs near Colorado Springs.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

We camped only one mile from the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. On Friday we hiked the Balanced Rock, the Cabin Canyon, and the Siamese Twins Trails before visiting the Visitor’s Center where we scrutinized the exhibits about the geology, flora and fauna, and history of the Pikes Peak region. Then, we toured the Rock Ledge Ranch, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is divided into the following sites: American Indian Area (1775-1835), Galloway Homestead (1867-1874), Chambers Farm and Rock Ledge House (1874-1900), Blacksmith Shop, and Orchard House (1907-1910). On Saturday we parked in the north main parking lot. Last year’s information kiosk is gone, and the bathrooms are closed during major renovation activity. We walked the paved Central Garden Trail and the Upper Loop Trail, admiring the highest rock formations in the park. A deer grazed in the shade under the South Gateway Rock. Rock climbers were active on North and South Gateway Rocks and Sentinel Spires. I especially liked seeing the Cathedral Spires from different vantage points. After our hike we visited the Trading Post and were impressed with their large inventory.

Pike's Peak through Siamese Twins

Pike’s Peak through Siamese Twins

We spent part of the afternoon exploring Manitou Springs. The naturally carbonated mineral springs of Manitou Springs inspired the town’s early development. It was sold at the 1883 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and through a national network of dealers. Currently, there are 8 springs open to the public, each with its own distinctive flavor and effervescence. During a walk around town we encountered three of the springs and tasted the water from two of them. The city caters to tourists with a free shuttle system, many restaurants and boutique stores. Perhaps we’ll get atop Pikes Peak on our next visit. We highly recommend visiting Manitou Springs!

Iron Mountain Adventures Thursday, Aug 1 2019 

Mt. Garfield

Mt. Garfield

The scenic drive from Fruita, Colorado to Silts, Colorado on I70 included passing the dramatic Mount Garfield near Palisade, Colorado. After setting up camp near Silt on the Colorado River and eating lunch, we headed to the Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs. We immersed in the 101-degree Jade Pool water while listening to relaxing music. What a relaxing afternoon!

 

 

King's Cave Fluorescence

King’s Cave Fluorescence

On Wednesday we returned to the West Glenwood area where we boarded the Glenwood Gondola. 44 cabins run continuously up Iron Mountain to an elevation of 7,100 feet with great views of the Roaring Fork Valley. Later, we learned that in April this new system replaced an old tram. We visited two caves. We were especially impressed with the King’s Row Cave. While the Fairy Cave was discovered in 1895, the King’s Row Cave wasn’t discovered until 1960 and didn’t open until 1999. Interestingly, the name King’s Row was named because formations were reminiscent of chess pieces. Seeing fluorescence in a formation was a new experience. We walked around the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park admiring the noteworthy rides on top of this mountain such as the Giant Canyon Swing, the Mine Wheel, and the Glenwood Canyon Flyer. Another great day in Colorado!

Colorado National Monument Monday, Jul 29 2019 

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex

On Sunday we departed Montrose, Colorado for a short seventy-mile drive to Fruita, Colorado. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we ventured to nearby Dinosaur Journey, one of three Museums of Western Colorado. We learned that this is a prime area for discovering dinosaur remains. The Uncompahgre Plateau is an uplifted region in western Colorado. Fossil-rich rocks from the Mesozoic Era, known as the “Age of Dinosaurs,” were exposed by this uplift. In 1901, Elmer S. Riggs of the Columbian Field Museum in Chicago was the first to scientifically explore what now is called Dinosaur Hill. He unearthed the 70-foot long Fruita Apatosaurus skeleton. This is an interesting museum to learn about dinosaurs.

Independence Monument

Independence Monument

We stopped at the Colorado National Monument Saddlehorn Visitor Center and watched two informative 12-minute films, “The Spirit of Colorado National Monument” and “Geologic History of Colorado National Monument.” We learned that John Otto’s advocacy resulted in establishing Colorado National Monument in 1911. He was named the park’s caretaker which he continued until 1927. We stopped for a picture of Balanced Rock, a 600-ton boulder perched on a pedestal, and were gifted with a sighting of six desert bighorn sheep. On Monday we returned to drive the park’s 23-mile scenic drive. We stopped to hike the quarter-mile Window Rock Trail through pinyon juniper woodland with views of Monument and Wedding canyons. The half-mile Canyon Rim Trail followed the cliff edge above colorful Wedding Canyon. Just beyond the Saddlehorn Visitor Center we encountered a herd of desert bighorn sheep. Two rams grazed near the edge of the road while we were parked in the middle of the road. The gently sloping half-mile Otto’s Trail offered a view of the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and various monoliths including Pipe Organ. We learned that on July 4, 1911 John Otto started a tradition that continues to today of climbing the 450-foot Independence Monument to fly the American flag. A park ranger was answering questions about the area’s geologic formation at Independence Monument View. We got our best pictures of Independence Monument from Grand View. The lower part of the Coke Ovens Trail was closed for repair, nevertheless we got a dramatic view of its monoliths. At Artists Point we learned that clay minerals produce brown, yellow, blue, and green rock colors that can be supplemented by colorful lichens. The Upper Ute Canyon Overlook and Cold Shivers Point were both worth stopping for. I left Devil’s Kitchen Trail and Serpents Trail for future visits. Colorado National Monument preserves towering masses of naturally sculpted rock within 32 square miles of rugged terrain.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Sunday, Jul 28 2019 

Cedar Point

Cedar Point

On Friday we departed from our RV resort near the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park and drove to Cortez, Colorado before heading north. The Delores River kept us company for many miles. Then, we drove through forests below the Rocky Mountains. After setting up camp in Montrose, Colorado, we made our way fifteen miles east to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The steep walls of the Canyon range from 1,750 to 2,700 feet. It received the name “black” because the bottom of the canyon receives only 33 minutes of daily sunlight. At the South Rim Visitor Center, we watched the 20-minute film about the history of this national park.  The river was named after explorer and engineer John Gunnison who in 1853 judged this area impenetrable as he sought railroad passage from St. Louis to the Pacific. In 1901, William Torrence along with Abraham Lincoln Fellows surveyed the Gunnison River. The six-mile Gunnison Diversion Tunnel was completed in 1909 and continues to provide water to lands around Montrose. Presbyterian minister John Warner was an advocate for the preservation of the canyon. It became a National Monument in 1933 and its 30,750acres were upgraded to a National Park in 1999. Tomichi Point is the first overlook after entering the South Rim entrance. It awes visitors with the steep walls of the park. Gunnison Point, another popular viewing spot, is located immediately below the South Rim Visitor Center. Pulpit Rock Overlook offers a view of the river looking east. Cross Fissures View has two separate viewpoints in opposite directions showing the dramatic rock formations. We didn’t walk out to Rock Point, but Devil’s Lookout shows a side canyon and steep rock walls. Chasm View shows the short distance between canyon sides. At 2,300 feet, Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado and, as the name implies, varied coloration. Cedar Point, with its informative nature walk, and Dragon Point both offer expansive views of the Gunnison River. Sunset View is also a good vantage point in the morning. Warner Point features a 1.5-mile hike with views of the Rocky Mountains.

Montgomery Ward Catalog Home

Montgomery Ward Catalog Home

On Saturday morning we continued our visit of the South Rim scenic drive as mentioned in the previous paragraph. We returned to our RV for lunch and waited for a ran downpour to end before venturing to the Museum of the Mountain West for a two-hour tour. We learned that Richard Fikes, whose professional career spanned 20 years as an archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Utah and ten years in Colorado, founded the museum in 1997 on six acres of land on the edge of Montrose. The museum features 25 historical buildings displaying more than 500,000 artifacts, including many found in outhouses. There is a post office, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, a drug store, saloon, and dry goods store. We especially enjoyed listening to the Seeberg Derby player piano. We were surprised to learn that heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey trained while in Montrose. We toured the 1913 German Lutheran Church, the 1882 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad section house, an 1890 school and teacherage. Montrose has two more museums plus we could explore the East Portal and North Side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on another visit.

Mesa Verde National Park Thursday, Jul 25 2019 

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

On Tuesday we drove from Blanding, Utah to Mancos, Colorado without incident. We set up camp only a half mile from the road to Mesa Verde National Park. After lunch and a swim, we stopped at the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor Center and purchased tickets for cliff dwelling tours on the next two days. We learned that “Local rancher Ricard Wetherill and his brother-in-law, Charlie Mason, spotted Cliff Palace on December 18, 1888. Although other explorers had been in the site earlier, it was the Wetherill family that publicized the cliff dwellings and solicited organizations such as the Smithsonian for archeological assistance.” This is interesting to us because our Prescott neighbor is related to the Wetherills. This national park, established in 1906 and covering 52,485 acres, has more than 200 bird species, 5 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 74 mammals, and 4 endemic wildflowers. In 1978, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural significance. There are 600 cliff dwellings and more than 4,500 archaeological sites.

Near the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, we viewed the Spruce Tree House alcove, the third largest cliff dwelling in the park. It was constructed between 1211 and 1278 with 130 rooms, 8 kivas, and housing between 60 to 80 people.

Long House

Long House

On Wednesday we drove the steep, winding Wetherill Mesa Road to the orientation starting point for the Long House cliff dwelling tour. Five years ago, we boarded a tram. Because the tram Is no longer running, one is required to walk one mile to the trailhead before descending to the Long House, the second largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park with 150 rooms and 21 kivas. The park ranger who gave the 10 a.m. tour did an excellent job of providing information and instilling reverence for the Ancestral Puebloans who lived here.

Square Tower House

Square Tower House

After lunch, we drove the 6-mile Mesa Top Loop Road which introduces twelve archaeological sites. Highlights included the Square Tower House with 8 kivas and at least 60 rooms, examples of pithouses and early pueblos, views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point View, and the Sun Temple.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

On Thursday we toured Cliff Palace, the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park. This architectural masterpiece is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. According to the Cliff Palace publication written by Rose Houk, the Cliff Palace alcove is 89 feet deep and 59 feet high and 288 feet long. Constructed continually from 1190-91 to 1260-1280, it has 150 rooms and 23 kivas that were inhabited by 100 to 120 people.

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