So, That Vacation Thing, Then

Let's see if I can piece this together now. As noted last year, this blog's kind of taken the place of the travel journal I used to keep. Which I'm regretting even more. Especially since, a couple days after returning, decided that writing would have been an ideal use of my time while passenging.

This was the first full-week vacation we've managed to schedule together since 2006. Trying to come up with somewhere to go, realized that there was plenty we wanted to in the region. Rented a car and planned a trip north and west.

Thursday (before) Woke up with a sore throat. Meant that I was looking at a cold and a few more days where it just lingers, draining my energy.

Friday (before) If I wasn't leaving on vacation, I would've taken this as a sick day.

Saturday Even though we weren't traveling yet, we were on vacation. Started by taking Cheyenne out to The Tart's Treats for breakfast, then onto El Rancho De Las Golondrinas. GCNM had a table at the spring festival event there. Under a tree, but a heat wave was beginning. It was hot.

A couple hours there, then home for naps for 2/3 of us. A chef friend of Stacy's was in from New York on a whirlwind visit, so we were over there for a nice dinner party for the evening. Fun, great conversation, good way to kick off the trip.

Sunday Due to drop Cheyenne off at the dogsitter's (Camp P__.) late morning, then head on from there. I was dragging, it was a late start. Had never settled on an activity to do while leaving town. We socialized at Camp P__., didn't get to laundering and packing until afternoon. We just needed to be in Cuba by evening, and, other than a stop at the Railyard on the way out, that's all we really did. Once there, some pie at a diner, a little walk around town, and called it a night.

Monday About an hour-and-a-half into Chaco Cultural National Historical Park, checked in at the temporary visitors yurt to find out about trails and programs. Aiming for a 2:00 guided tour left us time for a hike before and the one that took us up and along the mesa sounded good — stretch the legs, get an overview. The morning's clouds were lifting and the sun was fully out, but at least the ground hadn't been baking all this time. However, after the scramble up, the walk along the exposed mesa edge, watching Monica disappearing into the distance, suggested that actually we just do the shorter trail, leading us to overlook the afternoon's tour destination: Pueblo Bonito.

Time to rest and for lunch before the afternoon's tour, led by a ranger who's been with the park for more than 20 years. And the central point of his tour was really, "we don't know." Over the years, so many conclusions have been drawn that have proven to be poorly supported, so many observations based on faulty data, so much archeology that, we know now, destroyed more than it preserved, that there's a lot of mystery surrounding even just what this structure was used for. Three centuries of construction, with a network of hundreds of rooms that had no light or ventilation accessed through one narrow passage, around a central courtyard with one tree, among hundreds of other, less elaborate sites in an area where the climate now is just as harsh as it was in 850. The tour went over two hours, longer than advertised — fascinating, but left us scrambling to get out and on the road. The evening's destination was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, about a three-hour drive plus whatever it took once we got inside the park.

Having learned from Big Bend how, at these big western parks, the trails and activities are often well beyond the entry station, opted to stay in the park at the lodge. Assured that a late check-in wouldn't be a problem, but I failed to clarify how late the park itself was open. As it turned out, not a problem, about 45 minutes winding through and around the mesas to the lodge. Where, also to our relief, the restaurant was still open. Enjoyed a big, fancy dinner, watching the deer outside in the fading light. Our small room was just fine for us, with a little balcony. Read through the park's brochures, made a plan for a couple guided tours the next morning.

Tuesday Enjoyed some coffee out on the balcony, then to the awesome '60s-era visitors center to get our tour tickets; there are really two mesas where most of the activities are, and rather than overextend ourselves, chose to spend our time at Chapin Mesa. Booked two tours, back-to-back, and figured we'd improvise the rest. First stop was at the little museum there, a beautiful CCC building filled with great, old dioramas and displays (I just loved all the buildings and want to know more about the history of the park). First tour was at the Cliff Palace, climbing down some stairs to the structures in the shelter of an overhang. Similar themes to Chaco, but more's known (or at least reasonably conjectured) about the purposes and the way of life there. Tours ran every half-hour, around 40 people; there was a group ahead of us, as well as archeologists working on the site. Our ranger told us to, rather than wish for solitude, imagine that all the activity was probably more indicative of what life was like there. Farming would happen on the mesa top, hunting and tree-cutting (until the resources were exhausted) below. Likely concurrent with the end of habitation at Chaco, probably influenced by and possibly constructed by people who came from there. For centuries, people lived in the hundreds of dwellings that dot the area, until (likely) drought and overuse of land forced them away, where they became the Pueblo people of the region.

At the conclusion of the tour, had to dash off to the next one at Balcony House. In the larger sense, covered the same topics, though in a different setting that allowed us to more access to the building itself. Probably could've made do with just one tour, but was valuable to get a different ranger's take on it and take time in the cliff dwellings.

Back to the museum, a quick look at the reconstructed kiva at Spruce Tree House, and then back to to the room. Cleaned and rested up, then to the rooftop lounge at the lodge for some drinks and views; dinner, learned the lesson the night before, and ate light to save room for dessert. And early enough to catch a ranger presentation after.

Wednesday On the suggestion of a couple we met at Monday's dinner, to the Petroglyph Point Trail first thing in the morning. Dropped us below the edge of the mesa and around a couple of them to, after about an hour-and-a-half, an amazing wall of petroglyphs.


The trip back was more direct, on the mesa top, and a quick, easier return. Then on the road out to Durango.

Found our way to the Caboose Motel, recommended by Tim. On the main drag but a bit outside of town, but there's a free trolley that runs though the evening that took us right downtown. Some strolling the streets and the stores, then to Cosmopolitan for a terrific light dinner at the bar.

Thursday Started with a big breakfast, then on the road to Ojo Caliente. Took us though Pagosa Springs and Chama, where we made brief stops to walk around and change drivers and then the scenic route along 64 through Carson National Forest. I guess I was hoping for more on this drive, and we probably could've planned something along the way, but it was a lot of time on the road. Whole days spent in transit still kind of irk me, though I realize that they're necessary to get to these great locations. Arrival into Ojo with some time to soak (though it was still really hot, even in the shade) helped mitigate.

There's been remodeling and building and expanding going on at the hot springs for years, now there's a new reception area for the lodging and the spa. The old hotel's gotten a nice renovation that still keeps its character, and now sports a wine bar, we passed our dinner there with a colorful local.

Friday Checked out of the hotel but stayed on at the spa, where a few of the kinks (sign-in locations, lockers) still speak to the less-fancy days. Some soaking before massages, then time for reading in the hammocks. Light lunch, then on the road home. In retrospect, probably should've taken another day in Durango and done some of the outdoor activities there, but it was nice to get home, relaxed and with time to ease back into the real world. Upon calling Camp P__. to arrange for pickup, was told, "your gal's outside hunting lizards." We're always afraid Cheyenne's going to like it better there, with the big open yard and wraparound porch with dog beds, but she was happy to see us, and, I think, glad to get back to her home and her bed.

And After As noted, we tried to do as little as possible for the rest of the weekend. It's been a bunch of chores since, cleaning and organizing in the house, yard activities and weeding (more on that later), getting a tooth crowned. Was off Friday, dog and I took little hike up Monte Del Sol, a little too late in the morning to beat the heat. So, again, thwarted in making it all the way to to the top.


Stacy said...

I just love this blog!

Paul said...

Kudos on the proper use of the "So, Then" construction.

On behalf of Minnesotans everywhere...


Bram said...

Thanks. But, y'know, a lot of guys might've saved the so, then construction for the post about the actual Minnesotans.