Monday, July 13, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 4 Mesa Verde

No, you didn't miss a posting, not much riding got done by me on Day 3 of this week long trip to southwest Colorado with my family. We went to Pagosa Spring's downtown area instead where we tried "tubing" down the river which runs through the town.

Long story short, I flipped over while going over a couple of small waterfalls and damn near drowned on the first run through. Second one was not much better either for myself or my two sons who were having problems as well. We called it quits at that point and survived to tell the tale. I have to say, I've felt safer on my motorcycle in heavy city traffic than when I was on that inner tube floating down that river.

So the only riding I did on day 3 was about 40 miles to and from Wolf Creek Pass near sunset to see what I could photograph, which turned out to be nothing.

Day 4 was a better day overall. We went as a family to Mesa Verde National Park. My family in the minivan and me riding along on Brigitta. On the way, the sun was hitting Chimney Rock which lies to the west of Pagosa Springs on US 160, nicely so I stopped for this shot:

Chimney Rock

Once past the city of Durango (Gateway to the San Juan Skyway), you come upon the small town of Mancos which lies just before Mesa Verde National Park. Not much to tell about the town itself, the only memorable thing is Hogan's Trading Post which is located to the west of the town. It's just another spot to buy souvenirs and knick-knacks; but what makes it memorable are the telephone sized arrows buried in the ground around the trading post.

Giant Arrows at the Hogan's Trading Post

The entrance to the Mesa Verde National Park, ancient home of the Anazasi indians, lies a few short miles from Hogan's Trading Post. The cost per motorcycle is $8 and $15 for a car. There is a large rock formation, which I believe gives the place its name, visible from outside the park. It looks much more imposing closer up:

The view shortly after one enters the park

It is, however, another 15 miles of twisting ascending roadway to the visitor center so be prepared for that! The views are nice but the layout of the roadway and vegetation along the road precluded a lot of scenic viewing.

Still, if you ride slow enough in spots and it's not too crowded with cars, you can get a view or two of some of the geological formations.

See below for a better view of the background vistas

Overlook into the Montezuma Valley

I left my family at the Chapin Museum area as I had a business call to make. Turns out you get no cellphone signal in the park (that I could find anyways). I went back to the visitor's center, get on Brigitta and then head back to the town of Mancos to get a signal and participate on the call. Afterwards, I filled Brigitta's tank and returned to the visitor's center to retrieve the minivan and further on, my family.

Together again, we rode the Mesa Top Loop driving route and saw far off views of the cliff dwellings. No one, including myself, wanted to do the actual hiking tours so this was just fine by all in terms of seeing the sights:

The Cliff Palace, note the tour group in the upper left to get a sense of scale, this was shot from the other side of the canyon, perhaps a 1/4 mile away.

A different view of the Cliff Palace, later that same afternoon

From earlier that same afternoon, with telephoto lens at full magnification

We departed as the sun was low in the sky, on the way out of the park I managed to get this shot of the Knife Edge rock formation near the Montezuma Valley Overlook:

In the parking lot of the Montezuma Valley Scenic Overlook, that's the Knife Edge rock formation directly behind Brigitta

The above is the fertile top of the large mesa you saw in the second picture of this posting. The ancient indians apparently farmed the tops of the mesas, climbing up and down to them each day from their cliff side dwellings.

For more information about the Mesa Verde National Park and its historical significance: NPS Site

We rode together, me trailing the minivan, and reached Durango in time for a late dinner. Afterwards we made a beeline back to Pagosa Springs; both of us carefully watching for deer that might decided to run across the damn road in front of us.

No deer, and we arrived back at the Chimney Rock formation in time for this badly lit shot of the rock formations:

Chimney Rock at Sunset

I was back in Pagosa Springs soon after the above shot, darkness falling fast and thankfully no deer sighted.

EOD Mileage 76,669 (transmission flushed at 76,327)


cpa3485 said...

Great pictures again. You are a true master of photographic talents!
I haven't been in that area of Colorado for many years. You make me want to go back!

bobskoot said...


You bring back memories of our trip to Mesa Verde not that long ago. We wanted to stay in Durango but it was November and and there was a heavy snow advisory but we went to Mesa Verde anyway. Some random flakes were falling but we took the tour to the cave, below the visitor's centre. I have a short video on my youtube channel (user = bobskoot). We then drove that rim road, probably the same one you were on. We then headed West to Monticello, UT for the evening and the next morning we were covered in snow. Hit 2 snow storms through the Escalante on the way to Bryce Canyon

There is sure a lot of scenic beauty in that area

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Charlie6 said...

cpa3485, thanks for the nice comments.

bobskoot, sounds like you had quite the adventure getting back out of the area....