Saturday, September 27, 2008

27-08 Payson To Cottonwood Arizona

27-08 Payson to Cottonwood.

Well you probably guessed it already, I moved back to Payson for a few more days. Although Roosevelt Lake was only 50 miles down the road, it was also a couple thousand feet lower and right in the heart of the dessert.
Can we say HOT. Ekk! It seems like I haven’t been in really hot weather in a couple of years now. It got up to 98 during the day and it didn’t cool off to about 75 at night and that was after midnight. Without A/C it just wasn’t my life style. I’ve been dry camping the past couple of weeks.

Payson is a comfortable mid 80’s and very cool at night. I was sitting out yesterday, just reading a book and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of being in a forest. Tonto Forest. This is really great country. Payson is a town of 15,000 folks at 5,000 ft elevation. The town has all the basics including the Super Wal-Mart, Home-Depot, Indian Casino, a fair amount of restaurants and a couple good grocery stores.

Anyone interested in the outdoors, this is the place. 5 or 6 fishing lakes up on top of the Mogollon Ridge, lots of interesting places to visit within an hours drive, plenty of hiking and other outdoor activity. Seems to be reasonably priced living wise as well. And it doesn’t feel crowded.

I had an oil/filter and fuel filter change done on the truck by a local garage and was shocked at the price. $230.00. That’ll teach me to inquire as to the price first. I’m pretty sure I could have gotten the work done at a Chevy dealer for less. I know I could have gotten the oil/filter changed at a Super Wal-Mart for much less, but they don’t change fuel filters on diesel engines. We live and learn don’t we.

The owner told me I should be putting in an additive to the diesel fuel each time I filler up. Told me that the new diesel fuel is causing lots of corrosion with the pistons if I understood him correctly. If anyone has any further information on this, please let me know. By the way, with the oil/filter change he automatically put in an additive to the oil, that cost about $25.00, without even asking if I wanted it.

So around mid week, I moved on down the road again, 70 miles, to Cottonwood.
I was hear a year or so ago and had truck repairs, so I didn’t get a chance to see much. This time, I decided since I have lots of time, why not check into a bit of work camping in the area. To my surprise, I lucked out and the State park has one opening for a month, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Now lets not all start writing me and telling me I’m back into the working world…. It’s only part time and I get my campsite free for a month.

The next day, I moved my camper over to the Camp host site I’d been assigned, listened in on my walkee talkee and hiked over to the weekend festival taking place in the park. I volunteered to help out at the kids jumpee blow-up toy thingee. When I was finally relieved of my duties, which I didn‘t do too well, as I let too many kids play on the blow up thingee, but I did get better at it, I toured the exhibits, listened to a really great trio sing some old songs, watched the re-enactment of the civil war and then to top it all off, I visited a Vintage Trailer exhibit and enjoyed an ice-cream social with the members. And on a hot day, the ice cream really made it.

I’m hoping I’ll have lots of stories to tell about this area, but don’t expect a report every week, while I stay in the area for the month. So until I have more to write, have a super great day and find your own adventure out there.
Your travelin buddy, Dougp

Saturday, September 20, 2008

28-08 Show-Low to Payson and Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Arizona High Country, outside of Show-Low AZ. Nice commercial campground. Full hook-ups with small additional charge for 40+ TV channels. Cost $22 I had a discount because I had joined up with an Arizona camping group.

Houston Mesa Campground (Tonto National Forest): $18 per night, dump station available. On the edge of Payson AZ. No TV reception, Verizon cell and air-card excellent.

Roosevelt Lake, Windy Hill Campground. $6 vehicle fee per day. Campgrounds have showers/toilets and water. Many campgrounds along the lake. Each site has a Ramada (shade) over the picnic tables.

Petrified Forest, AZ

Looking at my Road Master Road Atlas, I realized the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest were on my way to my next destination. So of course I took the minor detour off of hwy 40. The painted desert portion was not all that exciting, as the mountains and canyons throughout the west are so dramatic that the painted desert was just another colored landscape.

However, the Petrified Forest had a lot to offer as I drove along this most desolate looking landscape. Just off of hwy 40, along the Petrified Forest route is a wonderful historical marker for the old section of Route 66. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of it so you’ll just have to discover it when you make the journey yourself.

Further on down the road was the 100 room Puerco Pueblo which was inhabited through the 1300-1400‘s. When the Spanish began to explore this area in 1540, there were no Indians. Remember my mentioning the book 1491? In it, the author believes that many of the European diseases spread across the Americas quickly, way before the explorers reached the more remote interiors of America. After all, the Native American Indians had extensive trading routes throughout the Americas. As soon as the first Native Indians contracted the diseases from the Spanish, they quickly spread the diseases themselves throughout the lands. Whole sections of the Americas became “empty” of Indian habitation due to the deadly Spanish and European diseases.

Well enough of that, further on down the road were pull-offs where I was able to view more Petroglyphs. One interesting one where a large bird has a man caught in his large beak.
Finally, reaching the overlooks and Museum and short hiking trails winding through the tons of petrified forests was really neat. Interesting how they were formed. If your interested in learning more, check out their official web site: Just to know that the petrified logs are over 225 million years old, a time when this desert land was once a sub tropical wilderness with some of the earliest dinosaur fossils found along with the petrified forest.

Another site I didn’t stop at and could just kick myself for missing was the historical Painted Desert Inn. At least I saw the wonderful Adobe style architecture from the outside. It of course was on the original Route 66 and has some original murals painted by a local Native Indian.

Just a note: You can purchase petrified logs outside of the park. They have been
collect on lands outside of the protected park. Just don’t take any “samples”
from within the park. It’s tempting, even the smallest samples have the most
beautiful colors of stone that eventually replaced the individual wood cell
structures creating a permanent history of a living thing.
Payson AZ. This is one of those stops along the way where I have no idea what I’ll find. It’s off the main highways in the back country of AZ. It’s called the Rim Country because there is a long geological formation called the Mogollon Rim that runs east/west across the state into part of New Mexico. We’re talking about a 1,000 ft shift upward in land mass and it’s quiet visible. Coming down off of the rim, the temperature has risen about 10 degrees so I’m now in the mid 80’s to 90 degree range and an elevation of 5,000 ft.

The famous author Zane Grey lived in the area and when his cottage burned down of property that was being developed for a planned community, the locals in Payson decided they needed to build a replica of it. So after much wrangling around, they got the money and built the replica next to the Rim Country Museum in town. So if your interested in seeing a cottage that looked like the one Zane Grey lived in, drop on by. Sometimes it just not worth the effort if you know what I mean.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. An easy drive north and I finally made it to Tonto Natural Bridge. When I was out here a year or so ago, I drove from the other end, taking over an hour to get here only to find it was closed for the day, due to paving the main road leading into the place. I was up and early and got there shortly after they opened the gates. I was the only one there for about an hour. Did a bit of hiking along the canyon trails and down into the viewing area at the bottom of the canyon to see the natural bridge. Great views, a misty waterfall spraying over the bridge, big boulders and quiet pools of water along the creek bed. Well worth the hike down and back up into the canyon.

Here’s a little history. The Apache moved into the area after 1500, replacing the Mogollon, Hohokams and Pueblos who had already moved out of the area. Shortly after their arrival in the area, the Spanish and then the Union Soldiers began to interact with the Indians in the area. The Apache were considered hostile Indians and had to be removed so the settlers and miners could move in. Thousands were killed with only about 50 Apache remaining. They eventually moved back into the area after being herded to a reservation in southern AZ. They became known at Tonto Apache. Tonto meaning “foolish or crazy” for wanting to live so close to the American settlers. By 1972 they were finally given their own reservation (just outside of Payson AZ) of 85 acres for the now 100 Apache. In 1999 they acquired 272 additional acres from the Forest Dept. They have built the Mazatzal Casino and it now provides millions of dollars in revenue for the small Apache tribe and the local economy. One of the few success stories for the Native American Indian.

A couple miles down the road from my campsite, here in the Tonto National Forest, is the Shoofly Ruins. This ancient Pueblo structure, a mix of round houses, oval and rectangular is spread out over a gradual hill. Surrounded by Pinion pines and grasses. I drove over early in the morning and found the site overgrown and deserted. I had a feeling it would be this way. The site had been developed and excavated a number of years ago. Descriptive signs were put up. An asphalt parking lot, a few picnic tables and paths were put in. Then it was all left to go back to nature. I kind of liked it that way. It was almost as if I was discovering it again for the first time. Only low walls that surround the place and the base foundations were visible. I easily found small shards of pottery lying on the surface of the ground next to the stone walls and between the grasses overgrowing everything.

A pleasant way to spend a morning. Scavenging around a site, feeling what it must have been like to live surrounded by a forest, grass lands and the Mogollon ridge just to the north. A stillness occasionally interrupted by a lonely bird flying by. The sun already bright in the solid blue sky, promising another warm sunny day as fall gradually sneaks in the back door. A breeze coming by that says, yes this is what fresh air really is like.

I slowly walk around the site which has a large plaza that at one time was bordered by a low wall of stones. Over 800 rooms were lived in here. Anywhere else this would be considered a huge find. Out west where there are hundreds of ruins like this one, it’s just another example of the dwellings the Native Indians constructed.

I’ll be heading on down the road tomorrow to the Roosevelt and Apache Recreation Area. I’ve been told it’s a wonderful location with a dozen campgrounds around the lakes. Another place to explore.

Side note: I’ve been dry camping. No hookup at the campsites at all. The solar
panels continue to work extremely well out here with all the sunshine. I have plenty of power to run the TV, radio, computer, fans and lights in the camper. Occasionally the furnace comes on in the middle of the night. It hardly uses any power to run the furnace fan. By morning time, I’m still in the “good” range as far as power goes. I did have to purchase a couple water containers to fill up at the water spigot as there was no way to connect a hose to it to fill my holding tanks. Other than that inconvenience, it’s been very pleasant being off the grid.

I’ve arrived at Roosevelt Lake where I have had a number of campers say what a great site it is. Unfortunately, I think I got here a little early in the season, as it hotter than hates, 95 degrees. I’ve signed up for and paid for 7 days, but I may head back up to Payson which is about 5,000 feet higher elevation and about 10 degrees cooler. Roosevelt is situated in the desert, with cactus and bare mountain ranges opposite the huge lake/reservoir which I‘m told
the water level is very high. I spent the day just sitting out under the awning,
reading a book and trying to keep cool. Not an easy task.

I did head out, literally across the street to the Tonto National Monument. It is yet
another cliff dwelling. It was a half mile hike up the mountain to get to the lower Cliff dwelling, the much larger one would require a guide and is only open during the cooler winter months. The view along the hike up the steep
mountain path, covered in stately Saguaro cactus and Teddy bear cholla is just stunning. For a desert setting, it is remarkably lush in vegetation.

Later, I stopped off at the Boston Lake House Grill. There are only two places to catch a bite to eat and I think I picked the best. The owner is a Boston Red Socks fan, now how he got out here, east of Phoenix AZ is anyone guess. I didn’t ask, but enjoyed the sports style bar setting. Raised booths along one wall and bar opposite with it’s row of bar stools. A bit dark, huge TV screens around the room and lots of a/c to keep
a heated patron cool. The workers all worked in a haphazard unison that made sure
each diner was well taken care of.

Will I end up back in Payson… find out next week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

25-08 Bonus Report, Canyon de Chelly Arizona

Canyon de Chelly AZ campground:

Price: Free. Yes it’s right on the grounds of the National Monument and is surrounded by modest Navajo Indian homes. The campground does have water and a dump station and the Thunderbird Lodge which is next to the campground has a dining hall/buffet.
Chinle AZ

Canyon De Chelly National Monument.

Part of the huge Navajo Nation Reservation. This was to be my final big adventure for the season. I parked the camper in their free campground and headed out to one of the two loop trails along the top of the canyon, each is approx. 18 miles long. The next day I would take one of their jeep tours.

Canyon De Chelly has been occupied by people for nearly 5,000 years. Beginning with the Archaic, Basketmaker, Pueblo, Hopi and finally today the Navajo. The stone structures, cliff dwellings, were begun by the Pueblo people, also known as the Anasazi or Ancient Ones around 750-1300 AD. The town, of Chinle AZ sits directly outside of Canyon De Chelly and all of this is on the Navajo land.

I was fortunate to get on a jeep tour led by a Navajo who not only give tours in the canyon, but grew up during the summer in the canyon in his parents summer home with his 6 brothers and 6 sisters and his grandmother. Frank told us how as a kid growing up, the family would move down into the canyon where they would grow corn, beans and squash, raise their horses and sheep. They had no vehicle, so to get out of the canyons, which are many miles in length, the only transportation they had were their horses. He told of sliding down smooth rocks on the sides of the canyon. They would find a flat stone to sit on and then slide down the smooth sandstone slopes. For adventure, they would explore some of the Ancient Ones cliff dwellings, finding old pottery and arrow heads.

They could get water by digging about 2 feet down into the sandy clay mixture. Today, they would have to dig deeper, but since the Gov. has decided to destroy some of the cottonwood trees planted by the CCC’s in the 50’s the water has been poisoned by the chemical they’ve used to kills some of the undergrowth.

He explained that neither the Hopi before them nor the Navajo really claim the Anasazi as their relatives. To the point that many say that if they get really ill, that it’s the Ancient Ones who have brought on the illness and they (the Navajo) will ask for a healing dance to cure their ills.

A number of the dwellings were on the floor of the canyon, indicating that they were actually trading posts set up by the Navajo. Items such as Macaw feathers from Mexico and sea shells from the Pacific were found along with other items from distant lands.

The saddest stories occur when the you find that the Hopi were not pleased that the Navajo moved into their canyon and continued to have skirmishes with them. Later, as the Spanish came into the area searching for gold and silver (and that’s all they were interested in), ended up killing many of the Navajo Indians. Finally in 1863 Colonel Kit Carson under U.S. military command herded the Navajo into one end the canyon, killing them and sending the rest to trial. Along the way his troops destroyed their homes, farms and livestock.

Today, the Navajo live in peace on this huge reservation, which they simply call, their land. It’s a bit overwhelming to learn of the history and meet the people who are descendants of these ancient tribes. But they are gradually loosing their identity. Kids can, in many cases, understand the Navajo language, but can’t read, write or speak it. They play their Nintendo’s and don’t experience the nature that surrounds them. And they have long days. I noticed this evening a school bus dropping of kids who live on the edge of Canyon de Chelly at 6:30 in the evening.

They can build a house on any part of their land as long as they have the ok of two nearby families and themselves, making for a vote of 3. They never own the land they build on as it is owned by the tribe. But once they build it, it is then passed down generation to generation.

Frank told us his mother knows all the medicinal uses of the various plants, he’s learned a few. His mother kept saying one day she’d go out with the kids and teach them, but now she’s in a wheel chair and the knowledge will be lost. I asked if anyone was writing down this stuff and he said no. Frank described the songs they sing, the summer songs and winter songs that can only be sung in their time of the year. I asked were the words being written down and he said no. They’re sung in Navajo and need to be written out in English so as not to loose them. They’re gentle people, kind people, linked to the earth and the sun and the moon and to their ancestors and the past.

More photos at:

Ps I found diesel for as low as $3.99. This is all Navajo Nation land so the price of fuel is a great deal while your in the area.


Along with all these adventures, I’ve finish reading another great book called “1421: The Year China Discovered America”. The author Gavin Menzies is a retired British sailor who is fascinated with old world maps. His sleuthing, findings and discoveries are just on the edge of incredulity. A fascinating book for the person who loves history and a good detective story.

He gets a bit long winded on his descriptions of his findings, but if you can get past that and go along for the journey which literally takes you around the world, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It was completely different than the previous book I’ve mentioned, 1491, New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. Both books are true gems for the history buff.

Side note: The author believes some Indians may have Mongollian or Chinese DNA and they are doing testing right now.

25-08 Utah, Monument Valley and much more

Devils Canyon Campground, Manti La Sal National Forest:

North of Blanding UT, this forest campground is not far off the main highway 191. I was surprised to see that the road was paved all the way into the campsites and each campsite was paved and had a concrete pad for the picnic table. Each site also has a raised concrete fire pit. Very nice looking. No water this time of year, it’s after Sept. 1st. Sites are $10 a night, no hookups.

Newspaper Rock
Wilson Arch
Westwater Ruins (Cliff dwellings)
Butler Wash (Cliff dwellings)
Natural Bridges National Monument
3 miles Graded Switchback (ekk!)
Muley Point
Gooseneck State Park
Valley of the Gods
Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park
Monticello Utah
Blanding Utah
Bluff Utah
Mexican Hat Utah

Yes, in less than 3 days, I visited all of the above sites. I’m pooped! Actually it’s all been very exhilarating. I haven’t even had time to take an afternoon siesta. What’s up with that. I’m not going to try and describe each place as it would just wear you out reading about each site, so I’ll just touch on a few highlights and let you look at some of the pictures I’ll post on my Picasa site.

From Monticello Utah (south east corner of Utah), I headed across the Manti-LaSal National Forest and descended into the Needles district. Canyon views from down in the canyon itself with a stop off at Newspaper Rock. It’s in Indian Creek Canyon and the wall contains numerous Petroglyphs. The brief description stated that they had no way of dating the Petroglyphs, but if you look at them, you’ll notice that some depict a man riding a horse. Since horses weren’t introduced into North American until after Columbus discovered American (again) we can assume that some of the Petroglyphs were created after 1500.

I had to get a couple good pictures of some natural Arches and since I’d already been to Moab a couple of years ago, I decided to explore a couple others in the area. Wilson Arch (possibly named after my friend Ken Wilson) Not that he’s that old….. And I also visited Natural Bridges National Monument. They have a couple huge natural bridges. I learned that a natural bridge is created when water does much of the erosion and that an arch is created solely by wind and sand carving and the freezing of ice in the cracks then thawing and that’s what makes an arch.

More photos at:

After visiting a few out of the way cliff dwellings, they’re everywhere out here, I descended off of a huge pinion pine and cedar treed mesa descending 3 miles of switch backs. If you like to get your adrenalin going this would do the trick. It was built by miners and is pretty much like it was 100 years ago. A red clay and gravel road hugging the vertical cliff. As slow as I was going down the 10% grade, I felt my truck slipping and sliding a couple of times. The only buffer was a small pile of sand on the edge of the cliff, made by the grader. Barely enough room for one vehicle, so passing someone was done very gingerly.

Muley Point, off of 281 was one of those side tours that one has to decide to take or leave behind. I’m so glad I took the side trip. The views of Glen Canyon Rec. area below were just stunning. Looking back at my Chevy truck sitting near the edge of the cliff, it looked just like those TV commercials selling Chevy trucks. Looking miles down into the canyon below, I could see a deserted dirt road winding it’s way along the bottom. The view as spectacular in it’s own right and easily as beautiful as the Grand Canyon.

More photo’s at:

Gooseneck State park, just a hop on down the road and I was able to see one of the most stunning river “meander” ever created by nature. The San Juan River created gooseneck before it merges with the Colorado river a bit downstream. One of my last stops on this part of my journey brought me to Monument Valley which is on Navajo Tribal Land. This is where so many movies have taken place. I paid the entrance fee and drove my own vehicle down to the bottom of the canyon along a bumpy rock and red clay and sand road. I felt like I was driving a 4-wheeler over boulders and washouts at times.

No fast driving here. Taking my time and stopping dozens of times to get out and take pictures and just enjoy the stillness and scenery. Wow! It was just overwhelming. Well worth the effort and time. I can see why the Navaho Indians consider this to be a scared place. A few Indian dwellings are right in the canyon, numerous open air gift shops selling Native American jewelry, pottery and blankets. One small Indian dwelling had their clothes out on a line to dry. Wild horses meandered by, only slightly spooked by our vehicles driving by.

Oh and while driving over to Monument Valley on hwy 163, all traffic was stopped as a camera crew was filming for a commercial. Didn’t know what the commercial was for, but the station wagon was topped with tons of summer toys, kayaks, surfboards, inflatable rafts etc. Very colorful, check it out in the pictures….

What adventures! I'm loving it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

24-08 Simple Pleasures, Mesa Verde revisited Colorado

Simple Pleasures:

Being retired has it’s own unique simple pleasures. When I used to be in the work a day world, a good cup of coffee, being able to sleep in late on weekends, going out to dinner with friends would make life a little bit better. As a retiree, those simple pleasures come in the form of traveling down a road to a new destination and campsite. Seeing new vistas, mountain ranges, each looking different and new. Going from a commercial campground with all the hook-ups to a campsite in a forest, surrounded by nature. Now those are simple pleasures that refresh the mind and soul.

I traveled about 80 miles west along the southern boarder of Colorado, through Durango and up into the San Juan Mountain range. I found a small forest campground called Target campsite, perfectly laid out and close to the main road. I was even able to get a pull-thru site. Surprisingly I have a really strong Verizon signal for both cell phone and air card. The campsite are immaculate and well worth a stay if your going to be visiting the area.

Historically the campsite is adjacent to the Ute Indian migratory route. After setting up which only took a few minutes, I took a short hike back down the dirt road to the trail head that leads to a site where you can see evidence of Indians traveling through the area. A pine tree, stripped of it’s bark on one side of the tree provided sap for creating a sweet candy like desert. The trees also showed evidence that the Ute’s used to have target practice with their bow and arrows and guns. Small bits of history everywhere if one knows where to look.

Mesa Verde:

Link to more photos:

My trip back to Mesa Verde began with a bit of trepidation as the last time I was there, I was really freaked out by the steep road wrapping around the edge of the mesa. This time, four years later, the access road leading up to the top of the Mesa has been completely repaved and a sturdy guard rail now skirts the steep drop off along the roads edge providing some of us just the extra safety to be able to enjoy the ride up and down the access road.

I arrived a couple days after labor day, as I had checked the web site for the park and it indicated that I would be able to get a discount on the entrance fee after Sept. 1st. Darn, they decided to keep the regular prices in place. Ok, it was only $15 instead of the anticipated $10 entrance fee. Well worth either price.

I signed up for two tours, Cliff Palace and Long House, the two largest cliff dwelling both containing over 100 rooms and at opposite ends of the park, so I’d get a chance to see more of the park than the last time I was here.

I think the most frustrating thing about a tour like these, is that because the Native Indians had no written language, it is very difficult to truly know who these people were. But there are enough clues to wet the appetite that I want to find out more each time I come out west.

As we descended into the canyon heading towards Cliff Palace, along a path chiseled out along the steep side of the cliffs by the CCC’s, I really got a sense for the dramatic location these cliff dwelling are in. We passed signs of hand and foot holds chiseled into the sides of the cliffs by the Indians. Many almost a vertical climb up the cliff to enable the Native Indians to reach there cliff dwellings. Can you imagine carrying food, game, water and building materials up the sides of the cliff. Could they eventually have had 100 ft ladders constructed or rope ladders?

These cliff dwellings were constructed over 1400 years ago. The Mesa Verde site was occupied for over 700 years. Then well before America was discovered by the Europeans, the Indian tribes gradually began to leave around 1200 AD over a 200 year period. Only about 9 sites are available to either tour on your own or with a Park Ranger, the rest of the sites are only viewable from the scenic loop roads on top of the mesa.

I was intrigued to get up close and see some of the physical evidence of the Native Indians having lived here. Like the impression of small corn cobs left in the sand/clay mixture, preserving a moment in time when a human hand had touched this area. Seeing the original plaster on some of the cliff dwelling, easily over 800 years old. Now that’s a good plaster job!

Or being able to touch the rounded out holes in the sandstone floor and the channels connecting about a half dozen of them to catch the seep spring run-off in the back of the cave overhangs. The guide told us that the seep spring could produce about a gallon of water an hour and gourds or clay pottery scoops were found that perfectly matched the rounded out holes. One gallon of water an hour wasn’t much for a couple hundred people living in these dwellings. On the inside of a tall square tower, I looked up through a square door inside the tower. Above, in what would have been a second floor, (the floor no longer exists) the plaster walls on were painted red on the lower section and above it was a very clear pictograph of what looked like a rug with vertical and horizontal lines. There are very few pictographs at Mesa Verde but one was pointed out to us on the overhanging wall of the overhanging cliff. It was a hand print painted in red of a six fingered hand. Very unusual.

I must admit many times the experience one has visiting these historical sites really depends on the knowledge and enthusiasm of the park ranger or guide. The second tour I took to Long House was guided by a Park Ranger named Janet. She tried to convey what it would have like to live back in AD 550. Farming their crops of corn, squash and beans, hunting when game was available. Building additions onto the Cliff Pueblos as the space was needed. The Ranger really brought a sense of what it would have been like and made the site come alive for the time we spent gawking, taking pictures and sensing the people who lived here. Most of whom only lived to the age of 34 or 35.

What’s also neat is that the drive to the top of the mesa and drives around the loop roads and down again into the Wetherill Mesa really provided a sense of the scope of the park. It’s huge. There are hundreds of sites along the cliffs and I even was able to see Ship Rock which is New Mexico, many miles south of Mesa Verde. A ranger told us with one of the recent wild fires on the mesa, two more cliff dwelling have been revealed. How cool.

I’d still say that Chaco Cultural Park in New Mexico is the premier site off all of them combined, but Mesa Verde is definitely on the top of the list of historical sites to see.

I’ve moved up the road just a hop and a skip to Blanding CO (38 miles). I’m staying at the McPhee Reservoir. It’s run by the Forest dept. and they have a basic price of $14 a night plus $8 extra for electric. I think that’s a bit high for the electric, but for a couple of days it’s ok.

The reason I’ve stopped here is that I wanted to visit the Anasazi Heritage Center and I’m glad I did. They have one of the best run museums on the Indian culture. I really enjoyed a special exhibit of photo’s of Native American Indians from young children to their adulthood. Along with the picture montage was a story told in the persons own words of what it is to be a Navaho Indian. Compelling and enlightening. Their collection of artifacts were superb and well displayed.

I got up the next day ready for a day of hiking in Canyon of the Ancients. It includes the Hovenweep National Monument which I’ve already visited and you can do a search on the Blog for that story. Today was more of a behind the scenes tour. Places in Canyon of the Ancients that few people get too. I visited two sites. Lowry Pueblo and Painted Hand Pueblo.

Follow the link to see pictures:

Lowry was the easiest to get too, as the dirt road led to the parking lot which was mere feet from the site. Painted Hand on the other hand could be viewed from on top of the canyon rim, but I chose to hike down into the canyon to get a better look at the tower and of course make sure I had some good pictures to show you. The 1500 square miles contains the highest density of pre-historic and historic sites in North America which includes Mesa Verde and Hovenweep the two largest and best preserved sites. Only one other couple were at each of the two sites I visited, so it was pretty much like being on my own. At Lowry, I was impressed by the vistas looking out over the Great Sage Plain, much of it is now rich irrigated farm land with the mountain ranges poking up from the flat horizon beyond. Silence, complete silence. The only sound I heard was the gravel crunching as I took a few steps then stopped to listen. I broke of a piece of sage and broke it a couple of times to smell the punchant smell. A flock of blue jays swirled by. Their bright iridescent sky blue feathers catching my eye as if to say “look at me, aren’t I the brightest thing you’ve seen today?”.

On to Painted Hand Pueblo. A walk along the rim of the canyon then descending down over the edge of the rocks and boulders, finding foot holds and steps down through narrow crevasses. Hiking over sand stone slag and chipped rock to the tower site. The other couple was looking for the painted hands and we finally found them under a cliff that the tower was built on top of. Small hands, probably that of a child’s hands outlined on the back side of the overhang. Dim with age, they could be over 1,000 years old, still visible. How long do our accomplishments last today? What will history remember of us.

By the way, the more I travel out west, the more I realize I’d like to have a 4 wheel drive truck. Of course an ATV would be just as great as there are so many off road places that one can explore out here. I just know Kelly and Rusty would love it out here as well. It would really be fun to explore all those Forest and off road sites with them. Who knows, maybe one day.