Sunday: Mesa Verde National Park
And we thought Canyon de Chelly was something! At Mesa Verde, you drive a winding, 20+ mile road to the top of the mesa, which takes almost an hour.
At this time of year, many of the sites were closed, but along the Mesa Top drive, there were many archaelogical sites (with enclosures built over them to protect them from the elements), one after another, illustrating the entire history of these people, from pithouses (all of which burned down)
to masonry structures that were built on the mesa top
to the amazingly complex cliff dwellings of the 13th century. Note the four-story tower in this one:
We actually got to clambor around one of the 4,000 ruins at Mesa Verde (Spruce Tree House), including climbing down into a kiva, which was phenomenal.
After spending hours hiking and exploring, we took our tired selves back to our in-town campground for a nice treat: the ability to walk to dinner. We went to a local favorite, Main Street Brewery, which not only brews its own ales but also raises its own grass-fed cattle herd. (And yes, their symbol is Kokopelli with a pint of ale, not his more typical flute....)
Thought this was going to be a foodie mecca, but when I asked what kind of cheese they had for the burgers, the waitress looked at me as if I had three heads and said quizzically, "American." So, it was OK and still a treat to be able to walk from the campground into town and have a grown-up dinner. (Lisa had the Rocky Mountain trout, since we won't be able to get such a thing down south soon.)
Monday: Durango and Dolores
Drove over to neighboring Durango to change our perspective from pre-Columbian times to at least the Victorian age. Previewed the architectural walking tours, but opted for walking Main Street and doing some serious window shopping. Very cute galleries and "shoppes." Ended up having lunch at what could have been a tourist trap, but ended up being a real delight: a saloon that's part of an historic hotel. The waitresses were all dolled up in wild western saloon garb. We took suggestions from the barkeep for what to have for lunch, and he was dead on: chicken pot pie (which nicely took the day's chill away) for me, and a homemade feta/spinach quiche with soup of the day (a pork and white bean stew) for Lisa. Delicious.
Then we took the dog and walked along the Animas River walking trail--probably the last day for the pretty leaves, given the coming storm.
On our way back, we fought the urge to do errands and take a nap and, instead, drove up to Dolores to the Anasazi Cultural Center since it had been so highly recommended. We thought we wouldn't stay very long, since we (mistakenly) thought we'd seen/read enough on the Ancestral Puebloans (aka Anasazi). Well, get rid of that arrogant attitude, girls! This place (pun intended) rocks. Very helpful volunteer and paid staff. Interactive and fascinating exhibits. We tried grinding corn (wow, is that hard), we observed fossils under microscopes, we learned how archaelogists have been finding all these sites (Canyon of the Ancients, for which this museum serves as visitor center, has 6,000 sites!), we saw tons and tons of artifacts from Indians up through the Old Spanish Trail pioneers. If you're ever in the area, don't miss this place. We also were able to take Nick on a mile walk up a very steep hill to see one more pueblo ruin, but also get a 360 panoramic view of the area. We tried to explain to Nick that this is what we've been seeing the past few days, while he was guarding the RV, but he wasn't impressed....
Tuesday: Heading south
We drove from Cortez, via Shiprock (beautiful) and then 550 to Albuquerque. Got into town for a late lunch at our first Roadfood.com stop of the trip, the Model Pharmacy. I've been wanting to go to this place all year. (We've passed through ABQ twice before this, but not had time/felt inclined to go 'sploring.) What a treat. Lisa opted for the recommended milkshake (Albuquerque's "best" for many years in a row) and a grilled cheese, while I got the salad sampler and a lime Rickey. The atmosphere was really what made the place, plus the amazing selection of toiletries in the pharmacy. French perfumes and hair accessories (I got a few for my growing locks), lovely handmade cards (bought one for a friend's mom who was just stricken with a rare cancer). Nice stop.
Here's the Roadfood.com review for elaboration and photos.
Then we proceeded to our campground, which is just great--grass and a dog run for Nick. Pavement (so no muddy paws), continental breakfast, and a hot tub for us. We rough it sometimes, but we make sure we live well during a storm ;-) And boy are we glad we left Colorado when we did. On Tuesday morning when we were leaving, we saw a ton of pickup trucks with snow plows affixed. Turns out they needed those.
Wednesday dawned, as expected, here in ABQ, stormy: rain, cold, fog. We'll probably head out to the mall for a little change of scenery this afternoon, but will be tucked back in before dark and snow is expected.