Mesa Verde National Park
Updated: May 20, 2020
As Lila showed you, we had a really good time at the Balloon Fiesta, even with the cold weather. I think it was preparing us for what was to come. After leaving the Fiesta, we headed up Highway 550 from Albuquerque to Farmington, NM. This highway went through various Indian Reservations most of the way, and we even crossed over the Continental Divide. I think Bob knew it too and wanted to see which way his pee would flow, lol! We had to stop there for Jen to give him ANOTHER bath since he just couldn’t hold it. Ugh! Lucky for him (and Jen), we had just enough water in the trailer to finish the bath.
The plan was to just stopover in the Farmington area for a day or two to break up the overall drive to Mesa Verde, but we found this BLM campground called Brown Springs that was great. It was 3 miles up a bumpy, dirt road. There were 10 sites with long, level, gravel pads, a fire pit, and a covered picnic bench. All the sites were pretty far apart from each other, so you didn’t have to see or hear much from anyone. We enjoyed our stay so much that we extended it to 6 nights and all for FREE.
Monday was spent mostly at the local library working and studying (Lila). Tuesday, I finally broke out the golf clubs and went out for twilight golf while Lila and Jen went shopping around town. The Pinon Hills Golf Course was pretty nice and for $22 I was able to get 18 holes in walking. I should have either listened to the guy when he said the course is pretty hilly or I should have checked what was in my bag before Jen drove away - 32 golf balls, plenty of tees, wind jacket, towel, rain cover, and various other tools and gadgets. Wow, that was heavy!
Wednesday, we went to the neighboring town of Aztec, NM, and visited the Aztec Ruins National Monument and walked around the small town of Aztec for the rest of the afternoon. The Ruins were worth the visit, but you could probably skip the town.
Picture 1 - Outer wall of Pueblo with different layers of rocks
Picture 2 - Construction technique for columns in Kiva
Picture 3 - Inside of reconstructed Kiva
Picture 4 - Exterior shot of Kiva and Pueblo
Thursday, we decided to hit the golf course again, but this time as a family. Jen and Lila didn’t play, but they learned all about the game of golf. We got a cart this time for $30 for 18 holes. Lila asked lots of questions (which is good) and even asked why there was sand in all the divots on the course. I explained to her that after a golfer takes some of the grass up with their swing, they are supposed to fill in the divot with the container of sand from their cart. Once she learned that one, she started filling every divot in she could find. Unfortunately, she was really efficient, and I didn’t mention to her that she shouldn’t EVER go near a golfer while they are swinging until they are completely done and they see you there. 😖 After one of my swings, I was admiring my shot into the tree line 😞 with my club still in the backswing position and, unbeknownst to me, Lila went down to fill the divot. I didn’t see her and brought my club down and whacked her right above the eye. Thankfully, she powered through it with no concussion but had a big bruise for a couple of days.
That night Jen and Lila made “Boo” bags to hand out to some neighbors for Halloween. Jen and Lila had seen that there was another trailer here with 3 kids in it so they planned on “BOO”ing them. For those of you not familiar with being BOO'ed, you fill a bag with goodies, leave it on your neighbor's doorstep, knock on the door, and RUN! They aren’t supposed to know who put it there, but they are supposed to pass a BOO on to another neighbor while leaving a card in their window saying they have already been BOO’ed. FYI, we decided when you are boondocking up a dirt road it probably isn’t a good idea to knock on someone's trailer door and then run. They waited until the next morning when the neighbors left and left the BOO bag on the doorstep.
Friday was a pretty chill day. We hung around the campsite and went to town for a bit. When we got back, Jen and Lila went on a walk to see if the BOO bag was gone. They noticed the neighbors still weren’t back and got worried an animal might get it, so they went to go grab it and take it home. As Jen went to grab it, "Lookout" Lila saw the neighbors driving up the road, so they hurriedly put it back, and started walking again. They decided to walk around the loop again to see what happens. When they got back around and the neighbors saw them, they all started talking to each other, and they asked if Jen and Lila left it for them. Of course, not being able to keep a secret, Jen said, "Well….maybe”. LOL! After quite a bit of talking, they invited the new neighbors over for a campfire and S’mores. We had a great time talking with them, and the kids had a blast playing together. As we were talking about what their plans were for the next day, they said they were going to Chaco Cultural National Historic Preservation. We jumped in on their plans and joined them the next day.
Saturday was a very long day, but very enjoyable as well. It was a 1-1/2 hour drive to Chaco, and down a very rough, gravel road for 16 miles. Yikes! The truck rattled so much that the locking nut on my bike rack even came off. Once we got there and got all the kids (plus Jen and me) their Jr. Ranger books, we headed out to the Ranger-led tour of the largest Pueblo called Pueblo Bonita. It was pretty amazing to see all the buildings that were built out of stone between 800 - 1300AD. Pueblo Bonita was 5 stories tall (the tallest structure in North America until the late 1800s) and took over 100 years to build it. Talk about dedication and then to leave it without a trace. Interesting!
Picture 1 - View into one of the Kiva's
Picture 2 - Pueblo Bonita with Jen and Lila
Picture 3 - Another Kiva in Pueblo Bonita
Picture 4 - Another view of Pueblo Bonita
Picture 5 - Corner window built into structure that was used to help predict time and weather based on where the sun hit through the window.
After the tour, we went back to the vehicles to fuel everyone up for the next hike. We ran a little low on time and had to hurry back to get the badges. We then went back out for a short 1/2 mile loop to check out the largest kiva in the area. We also learned there was a night sky program that evening. Our new friends hadn’t been to one, so we all stayed for that before heading back around 8 pm.
Sunday, we took our time in the morning to get going, and Lila took advantage of that to go play with her new friends until we were ready. After saying our goodbyes, we heading out to make our way to Mancos, CO, which is near the base of Mesa Verde National Park. We decided to stay at an RV park in Mancos so that our batteries could get a full charge in, fill up on propane, and we would empty the tanks there as well. Once we arrived, we found a very empty campground, which was great for us. The wifi was great, hence, all the updated blog posts. I was able to work from the trailer that Monday and not go into the library.
Tuesday, we headed to Mesa Verde and found out that it really is not a good idea to visit outside of their peak season. We missed the season by 3 days, and the only way to get close and into the cliff dwellings is on guided tours, which are all closed down until next spring. Lila was really looking forward to it because she had just read a mystery book on Mesa Verde. We were able to visit the museum and view the cliff dwellings from afar on the self-driving viewpoint road. We also went on a 3-mile hike to the petroglyphs, so that was fun.
Picture 1 - Cliff Dwelling from the road
Picture 2 - Jen and Lila observing from above
Picture 3 - On the Petroglyph hike
Picture 4 - Another Cliff dwelling
Picture 5 - Mesa Verde Visitor Center
Wednesday, we spent the day in Durango and checked out the historic parts of town plus a brewery or two 😉. We also got in a good little hike while there.
Somewhere along our path recently, we had let Lila try a creamy Root Beer, and she loved it! It turns out it was made in Durango so we took her there (It is called Zuberfizz) to pick out some of their flavors herself.
We are leaving tomorrow, and making our way down to the Grand Canyon, then towards the Sedona area for our first Thousand Trails campground. I am looking forward to warmer areas.