Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chaco Culture NHP

Driving from SW Colorado to Albuquerque, we had to make a stop at Chaco Culture National Historic Park.  Several years ago while at another ancient Pueblo site (maybe Mesa Verde), someone told us that we HAD to go see Chaco.  I'm always interested in places that we HAVE to see (feel free to suggest some).

So we braved the bumpy, washboarded dirt road to get there - yes, it was worth it, but what is the deal with that road?  It was a rather extreme test of how things are packed in our trailer.  Happily everything made it through (twice) with no obvious breakage.  I've never seen our table migrate so far or fling the cup holders away, but other than that, it was all good.

The campground at Chaco is great - right next to some cliff dwellings and a couple trails, good sun (which we prefer now that we're solar-powered), nice atmosphere.  I should have taken a picture.

I did get a photo of the nearby butte that you can see from miles away:

Between the afternoon of our arrival and a good 2/3 of the next day, we covered pretty much the entire trail network and sights of the park.  We even got out the bikes, always fun when we manage to acquire that motivation.

I took a whole slew of pictures of old walls, so this is probably less impressive from your vantage point.  But if you ever get a chance to visit in person, it really is amazing.

Different styles of stone walls, built extra thick to hold upper stories:

Enjoying the morning sunshine:

Intricate architecture, with sandstone cliffs in the background:

A large kiva, and a view of the wide valley:

The extent of the excavated sites was amazing, also the idea that there is a lot more still unexcavated that we can't see.

In one place, a huge part of the cliff wall fell and landed on top of part of the pueblo.  Luckily no one was living there at the time (I believe it happened in the last century).

Trying to imagine how it looked during the heyday of the culture.

One of the multi-story walls, and signs that some sections were added on later instead of being integrated into the structure:

A doorway in a shape you don't see every day:

Starting a run up onto the sandstone mesa, checking out another site first:

John is on the other side of the valley, looking down at some "stairs" carved into the rock.  Probably difficult to see, but let's just say I won't be taking those stairs without being tied into a rope.

Here's John!

And there he goes!  He's fast.

Top view of one of the villages:

And another:

We enjoy running where we can also go exploring.  This place sure fit the bill for that!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Four Corners

We were in the area, I couldn't resist visiting the Four Corners.  Something to do once in our lives!

It was a foggy morning...

State #1:

Possibly Arizona:

State #2:


Where we were coming from:

Not quite the mountains we know:

Where we are going:

Looks like more sun in that direction:

The official spot:

The obligatory pose:

OK, that was fun (and quick)!

Adventures to San Luis Peak

One last big Colorado mountain for the summer.  We were in Lake City anyway, so we decided to go for an out-of-the-way 14er, San Luis Peak.  There are a couple ways to reach this mountain, none of them very straightforward.  We drove through Creede in the dark and then up a dirt road for several miles.  Passing through the giant mine north of town was a little freaky in the dark - the start of an interesting adventure, it turns out.

We arrived at what seemed like a trailhead, still in the dark, finding another vehicle and some people who were trying to figure out where to go.  Sarah introduced herself, and together we checked out the options.  We finally decided to cross through the Equity mine complex.  Much later in the day we discovered a small path that leads to a road that leads around the mine.  Better signage here would have been really helpful.

Sarah and crew were still getting themselves ready, so John and I set off up the road.  A short bit later we came across a woman standing next to a truck, just past the spot where we entered National Forest land.  Good morning!  She helpfully pointed out the alternate road route.  Then we found 2 guys with 2 skittish dogs coming toward us.  No idea what that group was doing.

In the middle of all this, we were trying to find a small trail leading up the hill.  I had a map, just a copy from the website and not a full topo.  The basic problem was that we weren't exactly sure where the trailhead was located on the map vs. where we were.

On the plus side, we knew that the Continental Divide was above us to the right.  I had already been thinking we might want to explore the Divide on the way back from the peak.  I convinced John that we should climb up there now, to heck with wasting time trail-finding.  So we did.

It was a fun climb up through woods, along elk tracks, and up above treeline.  Now that we could see, we still couldn't spot any trails in the drainages to either side of the ridge we were climbing.  The slope was steep enough to be considered Barkley training.  Eventually we topped out and into the sunshine, yay!

We headed over to look into the valley on the other side.  Finally we could see where we were.  Hmm, we had started out pretty far off the map (the listed trailhead was almost a mile up from where we were parked).  At least we were on the map now.

We checked out the ridgeline of the Divide, going over to where it got pretty jagged and rocky.  John poked around a little further, but it wasn't something I was ready to try.  So we backtracked and found a rocky chute to climb down.  I was slow and sometimes a bit hesitant, but didn't have any problems.  John was patient.

Near the bottom I finally remembered I had a camera:

Looking back up the slope of rocks:

The little valley we ended up in, with San Luis Peak in the background:

We ambled over a rocky field and found the trail.  Sarah and her group were not too far ahead of us.  They had had their own adventures this morning, staying on the road but not finding the cutoff trail.  They eventually located the Colorado Trail to get over to the right valley, but it was a significant detour.  John and I were interested in figuring out the right way and spent moments here and there looking back to try to understand where to go on the way back.

Fascinating hoodoos on the slopes above us:

We left the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail for a long slog up to the top of the mountain.  We had played around enough that morning that it was time for clouds to start forming already.  But the weather held for a while.

The summit marker - seems not quite a "permanent" as on other summits:

Lovely alpine view, looking back down the trail we had come up:

Hanging out with the summit marker:

John making sure I didn't miss any part of him in my selfie attempt:

Nice break:

Time to go - the clouds are somewhat darker:

A marker for the Colorado Trail:

And another:

John found the little cutoff trail, but it sure wasn't obvious.  We decided to add a cairn on the other side of the trail to make a sort of "gate" at that spot.  No idea if it will be helpful, but it was fun figuring out if we could make a passable cairn:

What do you think?

We found our way back to the truck, no problem.  John ran on ahead and I followed, arriving just as the rain was starting to pelt down on us.  Nice timing!

Our 14ers tracking page:

And that's it for the big mountains for now!  We also spent a day running up Sand Canyon and back in Canyons of the Ancients NM.  That was most excellent - lots of cliff dwellings, quite fascinating.  I didn't bring a camera that day (probably good because we got poured on at the furthest point from the truck), so you'll just have to go see it for yourselves.  It's worth it!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


One last weekend in the Colorado mountains!  We planned to make the most of it.

But first - something different.  Some friends have a hops farm in Paonia, and when John heard that they were harvesting in September we decided to try to be there for that.  He doesn't drink beer, but the idea of learning something new and being involved in local agriculture is appealing.

The long vines full of hops, ready to go into the sorting machine:

Hops in the dryer:

I think John also likes to work, or at least misses it when he hasn't been working for a while.  I may not understand it, but I certainly won't discourage it.

From there we drove south, past the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (with the San Juan mountains in the far distance):

View from our campsite near Lake City - we really like this spot in the Wupperman Campground:

We got up crazy-early the next morning to walk up a dirt road in the dark.  Dawn started thinking about breaking by the time we got to the trailhead:

Silly selfie:

There it is!  We have been looking at Uncompahgre Peak from various directions for several years now.  It has such an interesting shape, especially the drop-off on the north side.  I was excited to learn that it's not a technical climb.  Just not necessarily easy to access unless you happen to be in Lake City.  And aren't focused on a race or something.

Short section of trail up through rocks:

Yay for mountain views!

Checking out the "more difficult" side of the mountain:

Shadow selfie:

A little bit of "yoga on the rocks":

Fairly well pleased with ourselves:

Love the colors all around us:

Mountain Man:

Thank you Uncompahgre!  You are our favorite 14er so far, and it will take a lot to change that!