Sunday, May 19, 2019

October 11, 2018 The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway & Mesa Verde National Park

Today we are driving from Montrose to Durango along Route 550 which is the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. There is a mountainous section that is so scenic it is known as the Million Dollar Highway. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not good. 

But we have to be in Durango tonight, so we start out driving through the Uncompahgre National Forest.

This highway is known for being a treacherous drive through the mountains. Since I am a flatlander, I like to stop and take often as possible just so I can relax for a few minutes.

We stopped in Ouray with the plan to hike to Box Canyon Falls. But we arrived too early and the park was closed.

So we drove around the town and took pictures.

This is Bear Creek Falls just south of Ouray.

The scenery was amazing but the snow capped mountains were making me nervous as we drove up toward Red Mountain Pass which is at 11,000 feet.

Christy took these pictures while I was white knuckling the steering wheel.

Driving up hill through the snow wasn't enjoyable for me, but downhill was frightening to me. 

I had to pull over here just to relax for a few minutes...

...and use this outhouse.

There was no stopping on the downhill side of this road. 

Eventually we made it out of the snow and into a thick fog which was another joyful aspect of driving even slower because I couldn't see past ten feet on this twisting turning scenic road.

I'm not joking when I say I was so fucking happy to finally make it into the valley and still be alive.
There were times I really thought I'm going to die up here and for what? Because I took the scenic route on a day we could not see the scenery. 
We stopped here for awhile to enjoy the fall colors at this abandoned ranch.

The drive into Durango was much easier but the weather was still miserable.

We stopped at this sandwich shop for lunch and to decide what to do next.

We drove west to Mesa Verde National Park.

The drought out here has been terrible. It's been raining all day and it does look like it deserves to be at high alert.

There's a bit of a drive from the Visitor's Center at the entrance to the archaeological sites.

Navajo Canyon

We drove along the Mesa Top Loop first.

Pueblo Pit houses about 1300 years old.

I love history so I'm pretty sure I enjoyed this more than Christy or my nephew Kennedy did. 

These pit houses were built on the Mesa Top in this area. 

The progression from pit houses to pueblos is shown here. The walls of these rooms had a lattice of wood poles plastered over with mud. This is about 1100 years old.

The craftsmanship is incredible for these buildings to last for so long. 

This was possibly a meeting place or an early public space for recreation.

The Square Tower House built into a cliff. The only way in is to climb up from the valley below using hand and toe holds pecked into the cliff walls.

This might be Cliff Palace from Sun Point View.

A zoomed in shot.

Looking into Cliff Canyon.

Not sure what this one is known as either...

...but here's a zoomed in shot.

This might be Oak Tree House.

The sun lit up the far canyon wall perfectly.

At one point in the past, thousands of people lived in the Mesa Verde area. For over 700 years they hunted and grew their own crops.

It is incredible to me to be able to walk among these archaeological sites.

The Cliff Palace dwelling.

You can tour this with a park ranger but you have to book it in advance and be able to climb up to it on your own.

It's like a city built into a cliff. Just amazing to me.

We drove along the Cliff Palace Loop after leaving the Sun Temple location.

This is also a beautiful area for hiking.

Then we stopped at the Far View sites on our way out.

Far View House and Pipe Shrine House

Coyote Village

On our way out of the park, we saw blue sky for the first time today. I was so excited I stopped at this outhouse and picnic shelter just to get a picture.

Then walked along this short trail to take in the view.

But it all disappeared by the time we left the parking lot. It was fun while it lasted. 

Our day ended at Ska Brewing with dinner, beer and live music. Overall, it was a great day in Colorado.