Friday, October 1, 2010

Tour de Colorado

We are back from a much needed vacation and I feel a little more like a normal human being again.  It has been kind of a stressful summer for some very obvious reasons and I really needed a complete change of scenery.  Our vacation took us on a tour of dang near all of Colorado.  Since Kevin and I both want to visit all of our National Parks we built the trip around hitting as many of those that we could and getting to spend some time with our good friends in Denver.

The first stop on our trip was Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We climbed the big sand dune and I was fairly certain that was going to do me in.  However, Kevin's mountaineering skills came in handy as he encouraged me to do kick steps in the sand and do rest steps with each step.  That made it much easier to climb the dunes and we made it to the top.  The big dune is 650 feet high and the elevation before you even start climbing is 8200 feet and it was sunny so you can see that it was a bit of work to get up there.  Well worth it even though I will be picking sand dune sand out of my shoes and pockets for the rest of my life.  Running down the steep slopes of the dunes was a blast though!  Hooray for gravity!!!!

The next stop was Mesa Verde National Park to ooh and aah over the cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans (can't use the term "Anasazi" anymore) and the overall beautiful area of SW Colorado.

We took a couple of guided tours into some of the cliff dwellings including one that involved a climb up a 30 ft ladder to get in and a crawl through an 18 inch wide 12 foot long tunnel and then some more ladders and such to get out. I was kind of convinced my ginormous ass would get stuck in the cliff dwelling and then oh, what a tourist attraction I would become. 

This is one of the small exit ladders for one of the Cliff Dwellings.  Imagine one three times as long to get in.

Mesa Verde is really an amazing place and one that is well worth your time.  So much history and so beautiful.

Kivas, kivas everywhere!  I am pretty sure I have had my lifetime fill of kivas.  Besides, I think they were probably more ancient living rooms rather than holy sites 'cause, well, you know I have that anthropology degree and everything.  Or at least a degree that alphabetically precedes anthropology in the course catalog and that should totally qualify me to make these statements.

Look!  I am doing women's work!!  The women would grind corn with these HEAVY rocks for 6-8 hours a day. 

After camping and exploring Mesa Verde we headed up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and camped there for two nights.  I also got to experience my first night camping in a thunderstorm with torrential rains.  Wheee!  On the way we stopped for a gold mine tour that seemed like it might be cheesy but was actually really interesting and informative.  I learned a ton about mining and got to see a hundred year-old porta-potty on tracks that the miners used to use in the mine.  Yes, even a mine tour can be turned into a discussion about poo.  That is just how I roll.

Kevin summed it up best about Black Canyon:  it is worth seeing but it isn't a "must see" destination.  If you are anywhere near it you should definitely hop on up there and take a look at it.  The canyon is 2700 feet deep at its deepest point and the Gunnison River has some serious drop; 240 feet per mile at its  Also, some amazing rocks up there.  Quartz, feldspar and mica everywhere you look.  I was a good park visitor though and fought the overwhelming urge to pick some up and take it home.  So. Very. Hard.

While we were camping we made a friend - Olive the camp grouse.  Olive was perched on the picnic table at our neighboring site when we arrived and she hung around for the next two days.  She has been gorging on all the tiny acorns and fattening up for winter.  Smart bird to pick campsites that predators generally steer clear of to live in.  Our bird is wicked smart.

After two days at the Black Canyon it was at trip to Denver to hang with The Blue Sky Girls.  Don't sue me H for unathorized use of your photo!  I'll take it down if you really want.

We went to the Hammond Candy Factory where they have been hand making candy canes, lollipops and ribbon candy for 90 years.  So fun to see how Kevin and I bought our weight in candy at the store. 

We also went to the American Mountaineering Museum where Jim Whittaker tried to kill Kevin,

did some beer tasting, went to a large carnivore sanctuary that was eye opening about how many nutbars there are who try to keep large exotic animals as pets, and had fascinating conversations about pigeons and guinea worms.  And really, can a conversation about guinea worms be anything but fascinating?  The answer is a resounding "no".  If you don't know about the guinea worm you should really Google it because it is insanely creepy and disturbing. Don't be eating spaghetti when you look.

The last day in town we did a Volksmarch through downtown Denver to get to see some of the cool public art downtown Denver has to offer.

We had a great time and are very grateful for our delightful hostesses for loaning us their camping gear and putting us up for three days.  Can't wait to return the favor.


Kath said...

We're so glad you chose Colorado for your vacation getaway! : ) You are always welcome!!

aeep said...

That looked like an amazing trip. And I liked Kevin's "Where in the world are Anne and Kevin" posts on FB