Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 6 - The Cliff Dwellings

Today was definitely one for the memory book! After breakfast and a later start than usual, we headed out for Mesa Verde National Park to see the Pueblo cliff dwellings. We reached the guard shack about 9:50 and didn't reach the Visitor's Center about 10:15...a twenty mile drive up the mesa! We purchased our tickets to the Cliff Palace tour and it was truly amazing. We learned a lot about the "Ancestral Puebloans" (or Anasazi to you and me), about their establishment, civilization, and migration from Cliff Palace.

From Cliff Palace we decided to do a little bit of hiking, and by little bit, I mean approximately six miles worth of hiking up and down the canyon!!! Our first hiking trail was the Petroglyph Point Trail, it was a beautiful hike with some absolutely spectacular views. Being as cheap as possible we passed on purchasing the $0.50 trail guide and figured we could manage on our own. Well, we managed the trail like true mountain hikers, we just missed the petroglyphs completely!!! Oh well, it gives us something to look for on another trip.

From Petroglyph Point we hiked back to the trailhead and took the Spruce Tree House tour, a self-guided tour that actually allowed you inside some of the ancient structures (or at least reasonable facsimiles built in the actual cliff dwelling). Again, I can't say how cool it was to be standing where an entire community once stood 900 years ago.

From there we took the Spruce Tree Canyon Trail, which took us around the bottom of the canyon...gray skies threatened rain, but we managed to make our way out of the canyon before any rains came. That hike was truly was this entire trip!

The final stop on our southwest Colorado tour was the Four Corners Monument. I got to stand in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all at the same time. Four states at once and two hemispheres at once, I'm doing pretty good in the traveling department.

Tomorrow is Durango and Colorado Springs and then back to the real world!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

To Memories - Day 5

Today was a little different than previous days, because today was spent mostly in homage to Adam's grandmother, Ruth Slickman (aka "Big Mom"). When Adam was younger Big Mom would bring him out to Cortez to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, where she lived and worked for a number of years, and showed him how to explore southwest Colorado as well as taking him to a number of different national parks.

Our day started out at Crow Canyon, meeting with the VP of Programs, Mark Varien. He gave us a tour of the center, mostly because I had never been there, and then showed us the "Ruth Slickman Outdoor Classroom." It's an oasis in the middle of the desert-esque landscape, and as Mark said, the children are drawn to the area as soon as they step off the bus. Plans are in the works to get a plaque made to memorialize Ruth further and is to be placed on a large rock in the classroom.

It was neat to see how the people of Crow Canyon reacted to Adam, either from recognizing him directly, or when they found out he was Ruth's grandson. These people seem like the kind that would do anything for you anyway, but I have the distinct feeling that they would take a bullet for Adam because of who his grandmother was. Mark gave us directions to Big Point, one of several places (one of her favorites) where Big Mom's ashes were scattered.

It was a beautiful location, very befitting of who, I've come to learn, Big Mom was. It was a very special, if not somewhat somber, visit. After Big Point, we stopped at a working archaeological dig site to see what it is that actually goes on. It was interesting to learn what they do and what they don't do, to learn about the Native American tribes that inhabited the area, and to preserve the site for future digs.

From the dig site, we ventured to Hovenweep National Monument, a place Big Mom took Adam on one of his visits to the area. Hovenweep consists of several Indian ruins spread out across western Colorado and eastern Utah (yes, we ventured into Mormon country). To see some of the structures that the Pueblo Indians were able to build 800 to 1000 years ago was truly awesome to see. Things got a little scary towards the end when we were about to run out of gas, but we made it safely to a gas station (thank goodness for the GPS) and then back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a great day...and to the lady, the legend, I'm sorry I never got to meet you, Ruth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 4 - A Juxtaposition of Communities

What can I say about today, other than I am glad I am alive! But more of that later...(suspense should be building)

Today started off driving to Silverton, an old mining town south of Ouray. Adam has memories of the town that don't exactly mesh with what we saw today. Me personally, think it's his old age playing tricks on him...or it could be that his memories are different because he was but a wee lad and experienced it with his grandma for the first time. I really don't have much to say about Silverton, other than (in my opinion) it is a dirty little town with not a whole lot to offer...sorry, Silverton, but you're a s***hole.

Telluride and Telluride Mountain Village on the other hand are two amazingly pretty towns...a bit pretentious, but pretty nonetheless. To get to to these two lovelies, we took Ophir Trail (more to come...can you taste the anticipation of my story??? We parked at Mountain Village, because it's free and we're trying to do this trip on the cheap. From MV we took the free gondola ride to Telluride, now talk about some crazy views...and crazy homes. Some of the homes we saw dwarf many Mission Hills homes, both in cost and size! The second part of the ride was a descent into Telluride valley at a rate of 1000 feet/minute.

But, enough of the boring stuff...for what you all have been waiting brush with death and the white-knuckle ride that I may have breathed twice during!

Ophir (actually pronounced "O-fir" but that I have come to call it "O-FEAR") Trail/Ophir Pass.

Personally, I think pictures are quite enough to tell this story, but to let you in on my inner monologue and thought process, I will include some text.
Hey, this isn't bad. I can totally do this!
Ooh, pretty...uh...this is not what I was expecting.
Wow! This is amazing.
Oh, damn; oh, S**t; oh, F**K...what the hell did Adam get me in to, he better not f***king kill me.
And they call that Moderate??? Thank you, God...and Adam...I'm alive. Wow, that was freaking awesome!!! Let's never do that again.

After Telluride, we headed to Cortez for the last leg of our vacation. Once we got here and got settled in we headed out to do some more 4x4-ing...this time on flat land with no mountain edges to be seen. Adam had a really great time today, he was just giddy (I think from all the adrenaline) was nice to see him so excited. The forest 4x4 experience was more my speed, but I would be willing to consider something more ballsy again.

And the Adventure Continues - Day 3

I have to say, and I think Adam will agree with me, that it was nice to stay in a hotel for more than one night. Not that we unpacked our stuff, but it just felt like we were a little more stable for a few more hours. And I will also add that we are both impressed with the Best Westerns we've stayed in so far; neither has been the Ritz, but we have had no complaints. Breakfast here in Montrose includes biscuits and gravy, plus the always popular make-it-yourself Belgian waffle!!!

Day three (Tues.) started off with a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, to do a little bit of hiking and a little bit driving. Our visit to the canyon only included the south rim, as the north rim would have included a rather lengthy drive...and we were already on the south side. From the visitors center, we took the Oak Flat Loop, which is a complete oxymoron, as it was anything but flat. It was a two-mile loop and most of that was up and down. I really got a chance to experience the thin air from that hike! But the views were spectacular and we made friends with a squirrel that was hanging out on a giant rock. From that trail we took the Uplands Trail, and saw a couple of--what I am choosing to call--mountain deer.

After the hike, we drove the South Rim Road and visited the Painted Wall overlook, which is shown below. The pink rock is cooled magma that was pushed up from the mantle when volcanoes used to dot the landscape. One of my favorite things along the top of the mountain was the size of the oak "trees." I was much taller than most of them, but far be it from me to give anyone or anything a complex about I choose to call them "shrubbertrees!"

On our way out of the park, we drove down the East Portal Road, a very twisty and steep road to the bottom of the canyon; a 16% grade! At the end was a dam that we couldn't get to, but it was a fun drive and we got some really neat pictures, including Adam standing on a rock!

After the canyon, we headed down to Ouray; a quaint little mountain village. It has a really neat downtown, a throw back to the when the town was founded...I can't imagine that it has changed much in appearance, except for the comings and goings of businesses. To highlight how quaint this town is, the police station is in the same building as the town library and when we were there it was CLOSED!!

We also visited Box Canon Falls (imagine a tilde above the first "n" and pronouncing it "canyon") and Cascade Falls. Box Canon was interesting because you actually got to walk over the falls on a 109 year old grate walkway! I wish you could see more of the falls, but being at the bottom in the "canyon"/cavern was pretty neat.

I got my Spider-man on at Cascade Falls scaling the wall to investigate, what I though was a cave, but turned out to be only an alcove. It would be neat to see the falls in the spring with the snow melt-off, but we wouldn't have been able to stand, literally, underneath the falls themselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Colorado Trip - Day 2

I love beer! And free beer is even better!!! We started our day with a tour of the Coors factory in Golden, CO which was pretty neat. I didn't know that (Miller-)Coors made several of my favorite beers, including Killian's Irish Red and Blue Moon...who knew?! It was self-guided and I honestly think that some local "kids" ran through to the end to get their three free samples. I comment on this specifically because we were in the very first group and there were five or six youngsters in the lounge by the time we got there!!!

After the tour we started our trek to Montrose, stopping briefly outside a Starbucks to use their internet without having to pay for coffee. The original plans included stopping at winery near Salida, but it ended up feeling a little too much like "Deliverance" for us, so we opted to not squeal like pigs. After our brush with hillbillydom, we continued on our way to Montrose, enjoying the scenery.

To break up the car ride, we stopped at an access point to the Gunnison River and hopped out to stretch our legs. The river was amazing and the hike was very pleasant, not to mention beautiful. To look up the gorge and think about how long it took to get to where we were really makes you stop and think how little our time here really amounts to.

To pay attention to the altitudes we pass is crazy to think about. I think 11963 was the highest point we the pants off of what we have in the Midwest! Day 3 will include the Black Canyon at Gunnison and maybe Ouray...look for more pics. Wait til I make you sit through the slide show when we get back!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Colorado Trip - Day 1

Well, our trip to Colorado was pretty uneventful (fortunately) and we made it Boulder without any major hiccoughs. The highlight of the drive (for me) was the wind farm in central/western Kansas; I took a slightly ridiculous amount of pictures. I will only show a couple here, just because I'm sure nobody wants to look at about ten pictures of GIANT windmills. I have to say that I was awed by their size...and I wonder whose job it is to grease the beasts...Adam assured me everything was "ballbearings these days!"

We arrived in Boulder a little before we could check into our we decided to do our Monday morning excursion to kill some time. Boulder Falls would have been really cool if it hadn't been closed! I got some good pictures, though, so it wasn't a total we got to see an ambulance haul ass up the mountain.

I discovered that the mountains can be chilly, to say the least, so to kill the last hour before check in we went to the "nearest" Target to buy sweatshirts. God, love GPS, but I wanted nothing more than to throw it out the window...we searched for the nearest Target, which it told us was about six miles away--

And I am going to go off a quick tangent here...what is up with Denver-area traffic??? We are driving at one-o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, that's right SUNDAY, and it was like Monday morning rush hour traffic...good grief!

--Anyway, back to Target. So we drive to Target, get me a sweatshirt, go back to the hotel to check-in, and then head to a Harley-Davidson dealership to get a t-shirt for Adam's stepdad. On our way, less than a half mile from our hotel, what do I find off to my right? but a freaking Target store!!! I am choosing to believe that it was a new store and not that the Garmin was f***ing with us.

We went to dinner at a local microbrewery and ate some very good food and drank some very strong beer. The restaurant was in an area called Pearl Street and if Kansas City knows what is good for it, will definitely look into it...I imagine that the Power and Light can only hope to be what Pearl Street is. A combination of P&L and Zona Rosa, it was a really cool little area. After dinner we drove around a couple of neighborhoods and the houses we saw put Ward Parkway to shame...freaking huge/amazing/pricey!!!

I'll work on getting more pictures up here...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Almost ready!!!

Prep work is almost done, all I have left to do is make the meatloaf. Yay for not having to eat out! Fluids are full, gas tank is full, tires and brakes are barring any rock slides or freak boulders through the windshield, I should return safely.

Dog has his bath, and will get his flea and heartworm medicine soon...I think he knows something is up. But I also choose to believe that he is going to enjoy his vacation staying with his girls (human and canine alike). Of course, his like will continue to get turned, flipped upside down, with the addition of his little sister to the pack. What fun, let's hope he doesn't freak the f*** out and start peeing everywhere.

Well, I should get back to making sure everything is set for the trip...