Amazing western Colorado – part 2

I arrived at Alpen Rose RV Park in Durango (review here), and was disappointed after previously staying at three Colorado state parks that were so nice.  This place was pricey and the sites were close together.  I guess I should have been happy that the coaches next to me provided some protection from the winds that went through in the afternoons.  Most other amenities in the park were very nice, but a little space and privacy are paramount to us.  However, it was a fairly good home base from which to do some exploring.

Mesa Verde National Park –

Mesa Verde
An interesting display at the Mesa Verde Visitor Center

What a gem – a 20-mile drive into the park atop a towering mesa (OK, technically a cuesta), with incredible panoramic views in every direction.  The ruins of the Ancestral Pueblo people were at the end of the drive, and there were guided and self-guided tours available for checking out the unique structures.

Mesa Verde
Yep, I’m going up there!

I took the self-guided tour of the Spruce Tree House ruins, and I thought it was very interesting.  I was also able to see and photograph many other cliff ruins from the turnouts across the canyon.

Mesa Verde
One of the decent shots I got at the self-guided Spruce Tree House Ruins. You can’t see the 100 or so people standing right behind me waiting to take pictures!
Mesa Verde
The panoramic views from the top of the mesa can’t be captured

Be forewarned that this place is VERY popular, and although I arrived just as the self-guided tour was opening, there were already three tour buses full of folks waiting to get in.  I put my hiking legs into gear and got in and out as quickly as possible.  I must say that just taking the drive and photographing the ruins from a distance along the way makes this a worthwhile way to spend a half day.

Mesa Verde
The canyons along the way were impressive. This is a smaller one, but it had several ruins under its top rim
Mesa Verde
Here’s just one of the ruins that can be seen across the canyon along the road
There are literally hundreds of “above ground” ruins here, too. I was pretty much “ruined out” by the end of the drive!

Four Corners –

This formation 20 miles east of Four Corners reminded me of Chimney Rock in Nebraska, but I couldn’t find it’s name. I HATE IT when they put power lines out in these beautiful areas!

To those folks who have said that standing at the four corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah is a bit over-rated – you were right!  Since I was halfway there when I left Mesa Verde, I thought “what the heck”.  I followed a large Monaco motorhome along highway 160 the last 15 miles there, and was almost hypnotized while watching it sway sided-to-side in the severe winds and bounce up and down on the lousy road – what an exciting drive that must have been!

Four Corners
The central area at Four Corners. It’s surrounded by wooden booths where Indian goods are sold.  Those flags tell the story of the wind while I was there!

Entering the structure after getting the car parked, I wondered how I was going to get a picture of myself.  I walked around the center area, over the corners of fours states that I’ve already spent a lot of time in, and amazingly felt no overwhelming emotions.  At least I got a selfie of my shoes standing at the center!

Four Corners
It’s not a selfie, it’s a footie! Darn, I need to wash those shoes!
Four Corners
I did a couple of “laps” around the four states

At least I saw restrooms there to use before my long drive home – oops, none of them had locks and on some the doors didn’t even close.  I finally found one in an area away from the parking lot that worked – yay!  There were picnic tables there, but the clouds of dust blowing through kind of put the kibosh on that plan, too.  Oh well, only 90 miles back to Betsy where I could eat my meal in comfort!

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad –

This was a “must-do” that we had known about for some time.  I had purchased tickets well in advance for us to take their last “wine train” trip of the year.  Although I was on the fence about going alone, I decided to do it and canceled only Mona Liza’s ticket.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Anxiously awaiting my trip into the mountains on a real steam locomotive pulled train!

The first few miles ran through the city of Durango and were not so exciting.  But after that it got more interesting as we ascended the mountains and paralleled parts of the Animas River along the way.  There were some spectacular canyons below and impressive rock formations around and above.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
We finally got into the real beauty of the trip

Since this was a “wine train” trip, the bonus was tasting several wines from four Colorado wineries along the way.  During the buffet stop at the halfway point, those wineries offered glasses of wine to enjoy with the very good food that the caterer had provided.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
The wine flowed as folks from four different wineries walked through the train to serve us the “happy juice”
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
This monster snorts, spits, bangs and blows steam everywhere – LOVE IT!
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
My favorite shot of the trip – this is the Fireman feeding the beast. Hey, aren’t firemen supposed to put fires out?

This turned out to be a fun and scenic tour, and I won’t mind taking it again when I come back with my honey!




  1. Steve,

    Believe it or not, it is also called Chimney Rock! We were there two weeks ago and looked it up. Another huge rock formation south of there is Ship Rock, but it’s remote with not a lot other things to see around it.

  2. Good for you! Thanks for taking us along. We were just talking about the 4 corners….that bubble is burst but the footie shot was good! Lol

    • Hi Debbie,
      Probably worth a stop if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t burn too much fuel getting there otherwise. I’m curious to see if Mona Liza wants to see it or not when I tell her about it.

  3. The train trip sounds fun. It’s something we’ve considered. Yep, you can always count on a fair amount of wind in that neck of the woods.

  4. Looks like you are finding lots to keep you busy while you wait for MonaLiza to return. We stayed at Alpen Rose when we were meeting up with Hans and Lisa. We didn’t realize that the park shared utilities which means you share lawn…not for us! We avoid these type parks at all cost!

    • Yeah, and I’m staying in another one in Gallup now. The shared utility posts seem to be the style in this area. I’m really enjoying your posts about one of my favorite areas and will use them next fall when we go through there again!

  5. It looks like you’re are making do while MonaLiza is gone. I know it would be much more fun if she were there to share everything with you, but thanks for showing us your journeys any way. the train looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon and see some fantastic sights.

    • Hi Sue,
      I’m working on a water heater problem now, but I hope to make it to Canyon de Chelly later this week. Looks like you all are having a good time out there in California, that sure is a beautiful area and I’m glad to see some snow on the mountains.

  6. So glad to hear you are going to redo this with your sweetie. She won’t want to miss it. We loved Mesa Verde when we were there in the late 90’s. If it is as crowded as you say in the fall, the off season, then I don’t suppose there is a time to go when one could really appreciate the spirituality of the place. Well perhaps when there are feet of snow there. I had really wanted to return and spend more time. Not so sure now. We went to 4 corners at the same time and I’m really surprised to see how “up town” they have now made it. Seems a shame too.

    • It seems like all of the beautiful places are getting crowded, but this one surprised me. Maybe the tour bus companies were having a special? I know ML will want to come back so we’ll just have to do our “first thing in the morning” routine and hope for the best!

  7. The wine train sounds like something we would enjoy! We really liked Mesa Verde, but it’s been about 10 years since we were last there. Sounds like it’s a lot more crowded now. You got a great shot of Spruce Tree House ruins, even with 100 people breathing down your neck, haha!

  8. What a fantastic place to visit. I love that first shot. Beautiful! The ruins are so interesting. Happy travels. 🙂

  9. It has been several years since we visited Mesa Verde. We loved taking the Silverton train ride. Wine tasting sounds like a great way to make the trip.

  10. Hi – I was in Mesa Verde early June and the crowds were not bad, we only saw one tour bus in our whole drive and Moorefield campground in the park where we stayed was not full. Chimmey Rock National Monument is not on the way to Four Corners from Mesa Verde, its 47 miles east of Durango on 160, we passed it on our way to Mesa Verde from the East. I am also wondering how the drive from Ridgway to Durango on the MDH would compare to driving on 160 from Alamosa to Durango – we crossed La Veta Pass and Wolf Creek Pass. Would the MDH be worse?

    • Greetings, I have not driven the route from Alamosa to Durango that you describe, so I can’t make a comparison. I will say that MDH is the most difficult highway I have seen for an RV to go over, and I wouldn’t dream of taking our motorhome on that route. Perhaps you have a smaller RV, but I guarantee it would be a white-knuckle drive for larger motorhomes, fifth wheels or trailers.

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