Lunch in Telluride & Notorious 550

Posted: under Colorado.
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Golden Aspens near Dolores, Colorado

Golden Aspens near Dolores, Colorado

September 30, 2008–

We never know what our day will be like.  We decided to take it easy today — and just ride up to Telluride for lunch.  The map highlighted route 145 into Telluride as scenic and then we could continue on up to Route 62 and then turn south onto 550 and complete the loop by ending up in Durango and then back to Cortez.  Looking at the map, we figured we could do all of this in 4 hours, maybe 5 hours.  Ha!  

Rico, Colorado

Rico, Colorado

 

 

 

First this is a very scenic loop. We quickly realized that we would be experiencing “fall” in Colorado — the Aspen trees are mostly yellow or “golden” and the contrast of that against the green with a river flowing alongside the road. We couldn’t get enough of this and stopped frequently.  We passed through a town called Stoner, but it was the next town, Rico, that we fell in love with.

Rico, Colorado

Rico, Colorado

 

 

Sheep Mountain at Lizard Head Pass

Sheep Mountain at Lizard Head Pass

 This whole trip, we have been saying that every time we go around a bend we are surprised with a new scene.

Lizard Head Pass

View from Lizard Head Pass

Today was most definitely an example of this. Each state seems to have a unique geography and as we started our trip — the scenery was looking very “Colorado” with moutains and golden apsens. But then, as we started to climb up Lizard Head Pass, the scenery changed. It started looking more “Utah.”  At this point, we have learned just enough of the geology that we can do a quick read of the land.  Actually Carl is better at this. Regardless, when we reached the top of Lizard Head Pass, we were over 10,000 feet high.  

 

Lizard Head Mountain -- most dangerous mountain to climb in Colorado

Lizard Head Mountain -- most dangerous mountain to climb in Colorado

It is a bit past here that the roadside markers explained about the original railroad, and that this was this was the mining area that first proved that Tesla’s AC (alternating current) was a superior solution over Edison’s DC (direct current).  

 

Telluride

Telluride

We arrived in Telluride about half past noon.  Not sure what time we left the hotel but I think it took us nearly three hours. Telleride was interesting — quite obvious that there is no zoning — the niceor newly renovated is mixed in with old and run down. I like this mix but Carl found it a bit over done.

Houses in Telluride

Houses in Telluride

You can see that many of the buildings were built in the mining days and that the newer houses are built skinny with tin roofs to handle the snow.  I saw one sign that said that the whole town sits on top of bunch of tunnels from the mining days.

We had lunch at a bakery, sitting outside and sharing our bread crumbs with the birds.  Reminded me of our favorite bakery that used to be in Key West (until it burned down).Telluride is definitely a skier’s town — with a gondola that leaves from the town up to Telleride mountain.  We considered taking a ride but we had already left our parking was an issue.  

Dallas Divide Pass. We are at 8,970 feet here.

Dallas Divide Pass. We are at 8,970 feet here.

After leaving Telluride we came to some small towns (like one called Sawpit) and then we turned right onto route 62.  Another surprise.  We climbed back up to 8,970 feet peaking at Dallas Divide. Another terrific photo opportunity.

 

Town of Ouray -- They have Hot Springs here.

Town of Ouray -- interesting little town

62 ends at Ridgeway, which seemed to be a gas station.  Although we were looking for a “pit stop,” the town happened too fast and we kept going.  Here we came to Ouray, which is a hot springs location.  We learned about this as the visitor station (and pit stop).  We took a bunch of photos while going through the town.  

Edge of the Road on Highway 550

Edge of the Road on Highway 550

Again, we never know what to expect next — and no description in our guidebook prepared us adequately for the next stretch of road. We drove up a guardrail-less narrow road (Highway 550) that formed a steep switchback up the side of the mountain.  Wow!  I am so glad that Carl likes to drive.  We reached the top which was just over 11,000 feet.

Another edge shot on Highway 550

Another edge shot on Highway 550

 Interesting note:  While I was working on this entry, Carl was watching a segment on the History Channel on the world’s worse highways to drive.  Guess what?  Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton is one of the most dangerous. Seven lives were lost during avalanches last year!  We did note how high the snowplow reflectors were… no, this is not a place we will consider living. (Is it a coincidence that I chose to post Poornima’s review of TRAFFIC on MostlyFiction after this day? Actually, outside of the avalanches in winter, this is probably a safe road because everyone drives so cautiously…)

 

Highway 550, going down. Look at the Sign.

Highway 550, going down. Look at the Sign.

 Of course, coming down the other side is still a narrow road, but at least we were now the on the inside.  The Red Mountain Pass was one of the key area for mining silver and other ore.  In today’s standards, the made 250 billion dollars in this mining operation, but as you can see, they destroyed the area — though I do find the mountain top colors fascinating.

 

Coming down Red Mountain Pass on 550

Coming down Red Mountain Pass on 550

 

 

Top of Red Mountain - destruction from mining

Top of Red Mountain - destruction from mining

We thought we were all done with the up and downs, but alas we still had the Molas Pass — which peaked at an amazing 10, 910 feet — that’s practically 11,000.  To put this in perspective NH’s Mt Washington is just over 6200 feet.  So, our Prius climbed above 10,000 feet three times today — and we didn’t even get a bumper sticker!

 

Approaching Molas Pass -- at top of pass it is 10,910 feet

Approaching Molas Pass -- at top of pass it is 10,910 feet

It was while we were approaching the peak of Molas Pass that I realized that I had used up the battery in the camera and that was the end of my photography for the day.  Still, it appears that I took almost 200 photos in one day, so let’s say that I took enough already!

 

Durango was a bit of a puzzle.  Hotels and motels every few feet but the town itself didn’t seem to offer anything of interest – just a lot of traffic. We figure that it must be popular because of it’s proximity to so many scenic things and fun things including the Durango Ski area about twenty miles back.

 

Abandoned Mining Debris

Abandoned Mining Debris on Red Mountain

We were exhausted by the time we got back on 160 and the 45 minutes back to the hotel.  So much for a light day. Although we only clocked 241 miles on the odometer, It seems it was an 8 hour day.  We stopped at the grocery store before going back to our room and we got here about 6 pm.

 

As I work on this the Internet here is very flaky.  It’s practically 10pm and I’ve lost patience with this whole thing.  I’ll finish this when I can. 

We are still in Cortez, Colorado tonight.  We have no idea what we are doing tomorrow!

Comments (0) Sep 30 2008

Mesa Verde and Anasazi Dwellings

Posted: under Anasazi Cliff Dwelling, Colorado, Mesa Verde.
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First view of an Anasazi cliff dwelling

First view of an Anasazi cliff dwelling. This is Spruce Tree House.

September 29, 2008 —  Today we headed for the Mesa Verde to see the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings.   The drive up surprised us — after showing our National Park pass (good investment!), we still had to drive 15 miles up a steep winding canyon before we got to the museum and Spruce Tree House.

The guide book recommends people visit the Museum first and then to see a Cliff Dwelling.  The way it is set up is that you can do a self guided tour of the Spruce Tree House or you can go on a guided tour of either the Cliff Palace or the Balcony House.  You also can

Carl looking into a kiva

Carl looking into a kiva

drive around and stop at various pit houses.  The pit houses were above ground and were occupied earlier than the Cliff Dwellings, though they are built with same concepts.  We chose to do the self-guide tour and we did it BEFORE the museum because we were just too anxious to finally see one of these dwellings up close. Between the walk down, walking around the dwelling and then the walk back up and then sitting overlooking the Spruce House, we spent about two hours at the Spruce Tree House. This is the third largest cliff dwelling and was constructed between 1200 and 1276 A.D..  The dwelling contains about 114 rooms and eight kivas (kee-vahs), or ceremonial chambers — all built into the natural cave. They think 100 people lived here. It’s called

Taken from inside a kiva.

Taken from inside a kiva.

Judi inside a kiva

Judi inside a kiva--after climbing down this ladder.

Spruce Tree House because when a couple ranchers found it, there was a large Douglas spruce growing in front of the dwelling and the men used it to climb down into it.  Inexplicably, another early explorer cut it down.

Looking down into a kiva.

Looking down into a kiva.

Looking up at a kiva roof.

Looking up at a kiva roof.

We did visit the museum after we left the Spruce Tree House and then we had a delicious Green Chile Chicken Taco Salad for lunch.  From there we drove the rest of the Mesa Top Loop, stopping to take a look at the various pit houses and villages.

Carl looking in window at Spruce Tree

Carl looking in window at Spruce Tree

Early pit house ruins

Early pit house ruins -- can see it has same elements as kiva, which this evolved into.

Next time we come back, I’d like to take the guided tour of the Cliff Palace — we did see if from the road and I’d like to take the 2 hour round-trip walk to see the Petroglyphs.

Square Tower House -- tallest dwelling in Mesa Verde

Square Tower House -- tallest dwelling in Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace dwellings

Cliff Palace dwellings

Coming back down from the top of the canyon was just as exciting as driving up.  Can you believe that the road down was twenty miles long?

Mesa Verde steep and winding road -- note the fall colors!

Mesa Verde steep and winding road -- note the fall colors!

We are still in Cortez, Colorado tonight and have already decided to stay here again tomorrow night. Don’t forget that you can click on any image if you want to see a larger image!

Comments (0) Sep 29 2008

Four Corners

Posted: under Arizona, Colorado, Four Corners, New Mexico, September 2008, Utah.
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September 28, 2008– We crossed into Colorado today!

Carl and Judi standing on four states at once

Carl and Judi standing on four states at once: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona

I have always been fascinated by borders.  When I lived on Badgers Island in Kittery, ME, the border to NH was somewhere in the Piscataqua River.  I was born at the Portmouth Naval Base (in Kittery), again, just over the border from NH.  In fact for many years there was discussion of moving the border so that both Badgers Island and the Portsmouth Naval Base would suddenly be part of New Hampshire. I thought I would be one of the unique few who would suddenly have their place of birth changed from Maine to New Hampshire – though I did perceive some problems with renewing my passport.

 

 

Four Corners Monument

Four Corners Monument

It was only natural that I would be fascinated by a place called “four corners” in which you could stand on 4 states (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah) at the exact same time. (In fact, the Four Corners is the only place in the United States where four states come together at one place.) As it urned out that Carl was just as fascinated and we enjoyed many a morning cup of coffee talking about how we’d like to see Four Corners some day.

 

GPS shows we are parked on 4 states

GPS shows we are parked on 4 states

Well, we saw it today.  

All I can say is, if this really was to be the pinnacle of our trip, well, then I’d have to take a second look at all of our decisions up to this point. Outside of the fact that one can say that s/he stood in four states at once, there is nothing to recommend anyone to come here!  After seeing Mountain Meadows Monument and how nice that was done, I guess we expected more. Like maybe even a picnic table.  Or, an authentic Native American restaurant.  I suspect the Navajo eat stuff other than fried dough.

Of course, now that we have been here, we see the real irony in this being part of the Navajo Nation — the survey, and thus the borders, were done by U.S. Government and Astronomers: in 1868 with the survey of Colorado’s southern boundary. Surveys followed of New Mexico’s west boundary and Utah’s east boundary in 1878. The northern boundary of Arizona was surveyed in 1901. A small permanent marker was erected in 1912 where the boundaries of the four states intersected. The Monument was refurbished in 1992 with a bronze disk embedded in granite. Really, why would the Navajos care about this border?

Native American stands at Four Corners

Souvenir stands at Four Corners

Well, at least we now can say we have been here!

Tonight we are staying in Cortez, Colorado and will visit Mesa Verde tomorrow.  I am very excited about this!

 

Four Corners Visitor Center

Four Corners Visitor Center

Comments (1) Sep 28 2008