Friday, September 12, 2008

Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and The Ladder Lady

I arrived back home late yesterday afternoon from a four day trip to Mesa Verde with The Bride and The Bride's mother. It was a great trip and spanned 863 miles of Colorado's best scenery.

We left as early Monday morning as I could manage with two women and a car full of luggage that would have sufficed for a trip of 3 weeks rather than four days. Our goal was to reach Mesa Verde that afternoon. A 380 mile trip
all on two lane roads. That's a lot of miles under those conditions but it was a pleasant and scenic day. We travelled from the Denver area down through Buena Vista, Salida, Pagosa Springs, Durango and into the Mesa Verde National Park. The visitor's center in the park is about 25 miles from the nearest town lodging so we had made reservations at the lodge in the park itself. That was a wise choice and gave us the maximum amount of time to explore the park.

The lodge itself was nothing special except for the views. The buildings are situated on a high mesa and offered unobstructed views for at least a hundred miles. We could clearly see areas in New Mexico from our balcony. After a long days drive we three sat on the balcony with a cocktail and reveled in the extraordinary view! The lodge also had a full service restaurant so it wasn't necessary to leave the park for any reason if you didn't want to. The food too was nothing special but it was priced fairly. I had suspicioned that because we were "captive" customers the pricing would be outrageous. My hat off to whoever decided not to overprice the food.

Tuesday morning we took a guided four hour tour o
f the park. A park ranger accompanied us on the bus and provided commentary on the different sites. The tour included several mesa top pit house structures but the highlight of the tour was the Cliff Palace site shown in the picture at the top of the post. To access this site we had to descend from the mesa top down a very narrow and steep trail. After the tour the only way out of the site was another narrow and steep trail that had the additional feature of 3 ladders each about 8 feet tall that had to be climbed.

This is where the "Ladder Lady" part of the post title comes in. The ladders weren't an issue for The Bride or myself but we were concerned that it might be pretty difficult for The Bride's mother. In addition to being 72 years old she lives on the east coast so is not used to the altitude. To make a long story short, she did just fine and I decided that from now on her moniker on this blog will be "Ladder Lady".

Wednesday morning we headed out with the goal of spending the night in Gunnison, CO after driving the "Million Dollar Highway" into Ouray, Co and a visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The weather started out chilly and rainy but by the time we got to Molas Pass we ran into snow! Fortunately it was still too warm for it to accumulate but the Ladder Lady was not a happy camper.

She became much more of a happy camper when we reached Ouray and stopped for lunch, a little sight seeing and some shopping. This is the first time I have been to Ouray since the historic old Beaumont Hotel has been reopened after a complete restoration. What a great old building! A fantastic restoration that literally makes you gasp when you see the lobby. The Bride and I have added this to our list of "must stay" hotels in the future.

After lunch and shopping we were headed for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
. I had been there last year with my brother #4, and was really impressed with this little known National Park. I wanted Ladder Lady to see it. The weather cooperated by clearing off just long enough for us to do a quick tour and stop at several overlooks. After a couple of stops the clouds moved back in and we hightailed it to Gunnison for the night's stop.

Thursday morning we reluctantly headed back towards the Denver area, but by the scenic route down the Arkansas River Canyon into Canon City, Co.

I have been through Canon City a number of times but I confess that I always just "passed through" on the main highway. This time we detoured through the old downtown area and were pleasantly surprised by the shops and restaurants in the area. This will also be another area to explore more fully in the future.

We arrived back home in late afternoon, tired but with the warm glow of a great trip. I think we have Ladder Lady convinced that she should come with us on another trip to the Moab, UT area to see the wonders in that area. Ladder Lady leaves tomorrow afternoon for her flight back to the east coast.

Thanks for visiting...and here are a few more pictures.

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