Amazing western Colorado – pt. 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

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There are literally hundreds of “above ground” ruins here, too. I was pretty much “ruined out” by the end of the drive!

Four Corners –

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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!

 

Next up:  Into New Mexico for some more adventures…