In the Steps of Ancient Pueblans - Mesa Verde National Park and Boondocking in Colorado
After the heat of Moab we were very relieved to find that crossing the stateline to Colorado gave us some respite from 90 degree temperatures. Several people had recommended Mesa Verde National Park to us over the years so it seemed like a great place to rest our heads for a few days. The park has a great camping option, Morefield Campground, a few miles inside the park with various site sizes, fast WiFi (unheard of in any of the National Parks we have visited so far) and a decent laundry facility.
The park is fascinating and, as well as being protected by the National Park service, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The Ancestral Pueblo people made this area their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. In the final 100 years they moved into alcoves below the Mesa top and built elaborate cliff dwellings. There are over 600 cliff dwellings here and several of them are open to the public. After labor day part of the park closes down but we were still able to explore 3 of the major sites. Balcony House and Cliff Palace are both ranger-led tours. Each involves climbing up and down ladders and, in the case of Balcony House, scrambling through a tiny tunnel on hands and knees. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth it. Spruce Tree House is a self-tour and has a reconstructed Kiva, a round underground ceremonial room, that you can climb into to experience how the Pueblo settlers felt protected from the elements down there.
After a few days at the park we moved a few miles along the road as we wanted to check out the town of Durango. We decided to try out boondocking for the first time. Having solar panels installed has given us much more freedom as to where we can park, but so far we hadn't ventured truly off grid. Thanks to Watsons Wander, we didn't have to tread new ground and went to a location they had visited in the past. We loved being out in the middle of nowhere and only had cows for company. Those cows were truly fascinated by us and spent a lot of time staring as only cows can, as well as wiping their noses along our trailer. We had to remove slimy cow snot from both the Airstream and the truck after we left.
Durango is a very pretty town, just the kind of place we love to visit. Pretty houses with lots of character, and a cute, albeit touristy, downtown area. The main attraction here is a steam railway that runs between Durango and Silverton. Not being that into trains, we didn't partake but did visit the free museum. I am normally reluctant to visit museums as Iain likes to spend at least twice as long as me at each exhibit. Depending on how you look at it, either my limited attention span or his obsessive need to read everything inevitably leads to tension! Similar to visiting Best Buy!! The museum was cute and not too big, so marital relations were maintained!
We visited two breweries in Durango, Steamworks seems to be the popular choice in downtown, but we really loved Ska Brewing a little out of town. So many reasons to love this brewery. First it's Ska themed. Iain and I were both big Two Tone fans in our youth, so the presence of rude boy imagery and "Lip Up Fatty" references were right up our street. Second the facility is very cool and 100% wind-powered. Oh and finally they had good beer too.
A major storm was forecast for our planned last night in Durango, so we decided to head south a day early towards our next stop in Santa Fe to get clear of it. We pulled off an hour or two north of Santa Fe in a Corps of Engineers campground at Abiquiu Lake. It was a pretty lakeside spot, perfect for dinner and a sleep before heading into Santa Fe proper the next day.
We enjoy traveling with no fixed schedule but have a couple of "places to be" in the next month or so. In this case the Balloon Fiesta at Albuquerque is just a few days away so we didn't have any more time to spend in Colorado. We definitely want to get to know this beautiful state better and plan to be back next year to really get a feel for it.