July 10, 2007

An early start today -- the boys and I headed west to visit Mesa Verde, ancient cliff dwellings of the Anasazi in southwestern Colorado. The site was about two hours away, but we knew it would be worth the trip.

The 23-mile road through the park followed the mountainside -- sometimes there were very narrow turns and tight switchbacks. The views were spectacular, but I couldn't really look at them while driving -- the boys got to enjoy the views, though. Add to that my wish that I had filled up on gas in Durango, and I was tense! (The gas turned out to be fine.)
The whole Mesa Verde experience is not for those with acrophobia, starting with the ride in. While my acrophobia isn't severe, I have found that I simply don't like being on the edge of a cliff. And here I was at Mesa Verde, where everywhere you go, you are on a cliff!
Our first stop was Spruce Tree House (and the museum at the trail head). This was a self-guided tour of a 114-room dwelling. The walk down and up was in the sun and as such very hot, but the cliff site was comfortable. I guess that's one reason they built the dwellings in the cliff in the first place.
So many tiny rooms and kivas. Kivas are ceremonial rooms, each with a fire pit and ventilation system. The grinding stones were very interesting -- the kids said they were heavy and hard to use. Nearby was a ladder leading into a dark kiva. The kids and I went down -- and a few seconds later came back up! It was interesting in there, but the kids didn't like the dust. This was a reconstructed kiva -- later we learned just how sacred these are to the Pueblo Indians. If I'd known that at that moment, I'd have kept us out of the kiva out of respect, but I didin't learn it until after the fact.
Click image for more photos.
Next was a ranger-guided tour of Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde. The climb down was on steep stairs and slopes -- my heart was beating very fast! How the park rangers can just stand so calmly on the cliff edge while talking to the crowds, day after day, several tours a day -- I just don't know! This particular ranger had one of those manners of speaking where you just want to tune him out, which is not really the quality you want in a tour guide.
It was hot at first, but in a short while it was overcast and much cooler, so viewing the site was very comfortable. We learned more about the kivas and what they were used for, as well as how they must have once looked. We learned more about the culture of the inhabitants, as well.
As we walked up the steps, we felt drops of rain. Then came thunder. When you are climbing a ladder at the top of a mountain, you generally prefer not to hear thunder at that time!
Our next tour was an hour later, so we drove to the site and stayed in the car for awhile, out of the rain. A few minutes before the tour was to begin, I asked the ranger if it was safe, especially for the kids, given the weather. The ranger said that of course it was safe... as long as there isn't lightning... <cue thunder>. By tour start the wind had become very strong, the thunder continued, and here we were standing on the edge of a cliff! It turns out the ranger's idea of safe and mine were very different.
The guide warned us that this site was no place to experience medical emergencies, but his description really downplayed the steepness of what we were about to encounter. Steel stairs took us down the side of the cliff, but then to get to the actual Balcony House, we had to a climb a 32-foot ladder, with the ledge RIGHT THERE -- we were so high up I couldn't look around at all while on that ladder. I was determined to get through the tour, but I was white-knuckled on that ladder, that's for sure. The kids did just fine. And the rain and wind had stopped, or we were sheltered from it -- one of those.
This guide was better than the last, and he really emphasized the spiritual purpose of the dwellings. He described how he had spoken to an old Pueblo woman, asking her why the people just left. She replied to him, "They left because it was time for them to go."
We crawled through a tunnel and climbed two more ladders to get off the cliff. Did I mention how freaking high up we were? Was I happy to see the parking lot! I actually love being up high -- I just really really hate being near that stupid edge of a cliff. Plus having my two children at that site, near the ledge, added to my heart pounding like mad. I spoke to another mom at the end, and we commiserated.
And then the boys and I got to drive back on the steep and windy mountain roads!
The one "crisis" was that Logan cracked a glasses lens during the trip. We'll have to deal with this in Denver, most likely. Durango was no help, because we drove through there after business hours.
Just before getting back, we did a quick hike to Treasure Falls, which falls from the mountaintop near Wolf Creek Pass. Nothing like the smell of firs, the sounds of birds and chipmunks, and the roar of the rushing water -- I could have spent hours in the park, as tiny as it was.

CHAPTER 7: to mesa verde.

We wet to mesa verde and saw cool things like Homes oF cliFF dwellers and we saw Spruce Tree House. and Spruce Tree House is very fun!!. Spruce Tree House has 114 Rooms and 8 kivs and we went in 1. cLiFF PaLace is humongous and it is very fun. and it was under a cLiFF, and 1 building touched The ceiling. and we got to cLimb a 32 Feet Ladder and it was on a cLiFF at the baLcony House.


Today we went to Mesa Verde national park. First we went to the museum. The museum had some artifacts, books, and plastic figures. The next stop was Spruce Tree House. The trip was hard and long going up after going down. There we learned about kivas. Kivas are large cermonial pits. Then we went to Cliff Palace. There were some doors in the wall that were touching the ceiling!! Those stored food for later. The way up was fun with a ladder. Then the final stop was Balcony House. There was a tunnel and three ladders. One was 32 ft!! Then we left and went camp. On the way we decided to maybe go to Treasure Falls. At Treasure Falls there were lots of birds, two chipmunks (YAAAAAAY!!!) and two butts of two living animals. There was also lots of plants (unfortunately some was poison ivy) and trees. The waterfall was AMAZING!!!!!!

July 11, 2007

6:10am MTN: I love waking up in the cool mountain air, with the sounds of chirping birds all around.

Today's agenda: jog, go to Lake City, and possibly do that driving tour of the mining sites near Creede.

The boys still need to fish with Grandpa, and I want to go hiking with them at Big Meadow. I want a good long hike -- haven't gotten to do that yet.

OK, Meredith, stop procrastinating. Time to jog!

7:24am MTN: Nolan has managed in his sleep to inch his sleeping bag off the mat so he's now laying across both rooms of the tent.

Logan woke up briefly an hour ago but went back to sleep. It could be that I'm succeeding in wearing these boys out! (pats self on back -- yay Mom!)

10:00pm MTN: What a day. It was a bit of a disaster. It started out nice enough -- we planned a trip to Lake City. After we got on the road, I found out it was a 2-hour road trip, and Nolan and I had brought nothing to do in the car (Grandpa was driving). Logan was clever enough to bring a book. Then they told me it was way up high in the mountains and would likely get cool. The boys and I didn't bring jackets or long pants with us in the car. Sigh. To make matters worse, a cold rainy front moved in while we were at Lake City.

Oh, and Grandpa's driving... I'll leave it at that. Let's just say that the Creede mines driving tour won't happen this trip!

Lake City was charming. The boys hung out with Grandpa and Gary while the womenfolk shopped. I bought a soft wam jacket. And there was a nice park in the center, so the kids got to play for awhile.
When we finally got back to the campsite, we discovered that it had rained and hailed. Apparently it hailed only on our tent (ok, not really). There were big dips in the roof where the hail was weighing it down. But the worst discovery was inside. The rain had soaked just about everything in the tent. This included suitcases, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, etc.
My afternoon then involved hauling everything wet and dirty to the laundromat in South Fork. Logan and I washed and dried and folded for hours, missing dinner with the family. Logan was a trooper, though, and didn't complain once.
So here we are in Grandma and Grandpa's trailer, soon to be sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. At least it's warm and dry in here!
The plus side to the hail storm is that I won't have to do laundry when I arrive in Denver. And we'll be able to leave early Friday, because almost everything is already loaded in the car. Hopefully the tent and sleeping bags will be dry tomorrow, if the weather cooperates -- that way we can go ahead and dismantle the tent and pack everything up.
There. Bad day documented. I hereby declare that the rest of our vaction be awesome. <Post-trip note: And it was!>

Today was a catastrophic day. We got rained on at Lake City. I crash landed once on the merry-go-round, was flung off of it once, and got dizzy. Then, we found out that the tent was flooded! Then we all had to haul stuff into the car. After that, me and mom had to stay in a laundromat for hours! Plus Nolan got extra ice cream!! How bad is that!?!?!?

Nolan: 10:14pm

CHAPTER 8: the FLooD.

We had a FLooD. in the TenT Everything is wet Except my Bag and it hailed. and Logan and me had a Snow Ball Battle and I got to have more Ice cream.

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