Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cortez, CO: Rocky Mountain Highs (Days 1-2 of 42)

With the mercury hitting 115 degrees in Phoenix, it was time to hit the road for our annual 6-week RV adventure in the Lucky Charm:  2,911 miles round-trip throughout Colorado with a side trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota!  A trip we have chosen to name "Rocky Mountain Highs!"




Day 1 had us driving to Mesa Verde National Park just outside Cortez, CO, but to get there we had to pass Four Corners, the only point in the U.S. where four states touch each other (but not in an inappropriate way).  We just HAD to stop ... 


...but were a little taken aback by the sign at the entrance.  What prior "incident" caused them to prohibit us from bringing our spare cremated human remains along with us?


We figured we'd be in and out in 10 minutes!  But did NOT count on this line.  Whaaaat?


And, keep in mind it was still 110+ degrees.  The more enterprising Native Americans have set up booths selling jewelry and other crap, I mean heirlooms, all around the perimeter of the monument, but not selling water (or any other beverages) to sweltering humans!  Note to self, time to sponsor a "Recognizing Entepreneurship Opportunities" workshop at Indian Headquarters.  

The line also moved very slowly because every family seemed to have 8 children and each family member wanted a picture in each of the four state quadrants.  Do the math, and you can believe we weren't down for joining the sweaty masses for an hour or more.


We arrived at Mesa Verde and checked into a beautiful campground with full 
(water, electric and sewer) RV hookups -- unheard of in a national park!  
Kinda like winning the lottery!  It was gorgeous!


Mesa Verde National Park (15 miles from Cortez) was created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Peubloean people, and includes over 4,500 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings.  

We took a fascinating four-hour tour (highly recommended) which was led by David Whiteeagle, an extremely entertaining tour guide who is also an accomplished flute builder and player (and if you believe him, also tamed a wild coyote into a pet, and hangs drywall really straight).


The tour took us to many cool sites, starting with the earliest pit construction from approximately 600 A.D., but the "crown jewel" is the Cliff Palace, which is more of a young'un with a birthdate around 1120 A.D.  It was abandoned around 1300, most likely from a megadrought interrupting the food supply (HELLO, global warming!).  Here is a view across the canyon:


You can visit Cliff Palace with a ranger-led tour.  It is believed to have been 151 different rooms and more than 20 kivas, and was the "town square" for the tribe for a short 100 years.  Look at the scale with people in it below, and keep in mind that the majority of the walls and rooms are all collapsed down, so it was truly huge back in the day:


To get to it, you have to descend down uneven stone steps and climb four different ladders.  
Ole "new-hips" did great, just 9 weeks post-surgery!


We also visited the charming little farming town of Mancos, which boasts numerous little artsy shops and galleries, as well as a famous/popular/packed bakery and breakfast place, Absolute Bakery Cafe.


Another coffee place in town had ramshackle but adorable seating out front, 
and (creepy?) surprises coming from the original tin ceiling.


And last but not least, Mancos (like most other Colorado towns) has a brand-spanking new recreational marijuana store.  Although we are not users, curiosity got the best of us and we stepped inside, donning dark glasses and looking back over our shoulders the whole time, just in case.

The lobby was like being in somebody's beautifully-furnished living room. I snapped a picture of this really beautiful wood carving (it's massive, see the electrical outlet below?) before they told me pictures are not allowed inside the building.


Then, you are called individually into the back room, which (at least at this place) was clean, bright, shiny, cheerful.  Like shopping for cosmetics!  Your "budtender" (like bartender, get it) shows you all kinds of different products, all with ridiculous names like Strawberry Cough, Golden Goat, Trainwreck, Girl Scout Cookies, Barack O Bubba, on and on and on.  The two lady budtenders endured our endless idiotic questions with patient tolerance, of course they were high themselves FOR SURE, so what else would you expect? They've got smokables, edibles, vapes, tinctures, tonics, you name it, but what we ended up leaving with was just a really fun experience!

Colorado is beautiful, but so far we are still in the lower elevations, and we wanna wear at least one of the 22 heavy jackets we packed, by golly!  So up next, we head from 6,200 feet elevation along the pass between Silverton and Ouray, at 11,000+ feet!  Rocky Mountain Highs, indeed!