Monday, February 28, 2005

05-11 part 1, SW Colorado, Mesa Verde

Southwestern Colorado
The Four Corners area
Week 11 of 52 part 1

Mancos, Co
Echo Basin Resort and Dude Ranch
Mesa Verde

A Good Book as a Friend. One of the things I have enjoyed over the years has been to read what I originally referred to as my summer books. These would be books that I’d enjoy reading during the summer when in Florida, especially while at the beach. A number of years back I began to take interest in reading books that took place in the basic locations I would vacation. Hence, I read many Adventure/mystery books by Florida authors. In Particular, Heinsen, Randy Wayne White among others. They wrote fiction, but always based on Florida history or events that occurred in real life in Florida. Heinsen often wrote that he could never come up with the stories for his books any better that the real things that he read in our Florida papers each day or events that have shaped Florida.

Now that I’m full timing, I’ve expanded my reading to what ever region I’m currently residing in. And being that I’m out west, what better author is there than Louis L’Amour. I’m reading “Education of a Wandering Man”. The authors own story of becoming an educated man through the travel and reading that he did as a young man. Louise did not finish high school, instead decided to get his education on his own. He was a voracious reader and traveled a good bit of the world before settling down to write over 100 books mainly about the west. Louis writes about how our schools should be teaching students how to think a problem through, not just facts and figures, math and English. How to teach them to find the answers themselves and enjoy the discovery of learning.

So as you can see, along with my Roving Reports about the areas that I’m exploring in person, I’m taking along a seasoned expert on the west. Hopefully I’ll have time to read a number of other books by Louis L’Amour along the way. If anything, I read through all the pamphlets and brochures that I get from each exciting place I tour. So my mind is enriched not only with the scenery, but also by information about the areas I’m visiting.

Telluride Colorado

Another thing I always do is stop by a state or towns visitors center. While taking an excursion to Telluride, I stopped at their visitors center as soon as I got into town. Having been stopped on the way into town and given a 2 hour pass to remain in the town due to a folk festival being held and limited parking, the visitors center was to be of help. After I inquired about the Festival, which had already been sold out, one of the gals at the visitors center gave me a new pass for 8 hours. She said there was no way she would let them make me leave after having traveled so far to get there. Along with an extended pass to stay in town, she gave me excellent tips on how to navigate the small town with so much traffic and people due to the festival, where to park, to take advantage of the “free” gondola car ride up to the top of the mountain and to visit the “Village” on top. Additional tips on viewing Bridal Veil Falls and hiking opportunities as well. She even made sure I had enough quarters for the parking meters. The visitors center even gave me a printed copy of an article about the house and power generator at the top of Bridal Falls, since I had shown interest in the structure. Having seen it on Tv a while back.

My day was spent taking stunning pictures of this small mining town turned ski resort for the rich. It’s a very remote area that has access via a new airport on top of a mesa. Helpful when the roads are closed in winter due to avalanches and heavy snowfall.

Telluride is surrounded by the snow capped San Juan Mountains, a half a dozen cascading water falls, including the famous Bridal Veil Falls and mountains covered with tall narrow Spruce and Aspen. I spent the afternoon having lunch on the other side of the mountain, via the Gondola, at the Village, and a walk back through Telluride, stopping to listen to a free folk concert in one of the towns parks, a bit of shopping, and later a stop at the outdoor Coffee Cowboys for a frozen mocha coffee.

It would be nice to experience this town on a slower pace, without the crowds, but after looking at the visitors guide, the town pretty much has every weekend filled with Bluegrass Festivals, writers guild, art fairs, Shakespeare and finally a Nothing Festival in July. At least it is a vibrant town. With many hiking trails and other outdoor activities to take in, one could perhaps get away from the crowds.

Driving back along hwy 145, I followed the San Miguel River, still running high from the winter run off. Not great for fishing, but a great view from the drivers seat. Passing through areas with signs saying, “open range” , “avalanche area”, and “falling rocks, do not stop”, on into small towns along the San Miguel River named Rico, Stoner, Dolores and Cortez.

Whew… that’s a full days activities.

Mesa Verde National Park and World Heritage Site

And then there is Mesa Verde National Park and World heritage site. And what a massive area it covers. The ride into the park to the visitors center is over 15 miles. And this is not for the faint of heart. Ekk! I had no idea I’d be traveling hairpin turns up the side of two mountain ridges with a tunnel in between to get to the top of the plateau. And the drive back down is on the outside. Double Ekk! Then, it’s another 6 to 12 miles from the visitors center to get to the cliff dwellings. Now this will tell you how big the place is, there are over 4,000 archeological sites, with over 600 of them being the cliff dwellings. Much of the top of the Mesa has been burned out. Fires in recent years have changed the landscape into an eerie scene. Yet wildflowers and mother nature come back.

I hit a snag along the way. Sometime within the past week I broke a toe. Darn. So, needless to say, my hiking has been limited. Not much I can do about a broken toe except wear my hiking boots instead of the tennis shoes for better support until it heals. I’ve broken it a number of times in the past, so I’m sure it will be fine. It’s actually starting to feel better since I began wearing the hiking boots regularly.

I feel badly that I’ve only seen about 8 of the cliff dwellings, Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace , Balcony House among a few that I was able to see. But, with the toe, I don’t want to over aggravate it too much. That and the wicked road leading to Mesa Verde are just too much for this Flat Lander from Florida. I keep thinking about my two friends named Jimmy who don’t do well with heights. They could never see these magnificent sites unless there were another way to get to them besides those edge of the mountain roads.

Mesa Verde National Park is getting ready to celebrate it’s 100 anniversary next year of this site that holds the history of the Ancient Ones as far back as 1,400 years ago. With no written history, much of it will remain a mystery.

A final note, Louis L’Amore was concerned about mans history as well. He felt that without a written record (on paper), our own civilization could be lost within a thousand years as well. Putting all our data on disk, Cd’s etc., how would generations from now be able to read them? Rome didn’t think it’s culture would disappear, or the Greeks, etc. Could our knowledge disappear in the future too?

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