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1997 West Vacation - September 13 through 27, Part 2


My 1997 West Vacation - 14 days, 5440 miles.
Days 5 & 6, Great Sand Dunes NM to Four Corners Monument.

Great Sand Dunes National Monument - September 17

One of the places I'd thrown out from the original route was Great Sand Dunes, but it wasn't that far out of the way, and Jo suggested we take the side trip. It was worth the side trip.

We have some sand dunes on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, but nothing like these. Sand is carried on the prevailing winds over the San Luis valley, but is too heavy to get over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. So the sand settles out, and over 15,000 years has covered 39 square miles and formed sand dunes over 750 feet high. (That's a 75 story building for you city-folk... :-)) This place is also famous with the super-natural crowd, it's widely reported that this place is haunted. I didn't bother to stick around to find out.

Great Sand Dunes National Monument
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US-160 - September 17

Just past Wolf Creek Pass (the continental divide), there's an overlook that looks down a thousand foot drop-off into the valley below. It's an unexpected treat.

US-160, near Wolf Creek Pass
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Durango, CO - September 17

We made a brief stop here so I could pick up a hat. The sun beating down on me at Great Sand Dunes made me decide it was a necessity...

We ended the day in Cortez, CO, just outside Mesa Verde National Park

Durango, CO / Cortez, CO
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Mesa Verde National Park - September 18

Square Tower House
Square Tower House. Impressive structures, considering they were built 1,000 years ago...
Mesa Verde National Park was an interesting experience. While most other National Parks are based on some amazing geologic area or about United States history, Mesa Verde is about the Anasasi, an ancient race that vanished without a trace a millennia ago, more or less.

A few of the cliff dwellings in this park are open to the public, but many involve ladders and small crawl spaces.

In seeming inhospitable places, sometimes a hundred feet above the valley floor, are stone dwellings built for unknown reasons. Drought? War? Famine? Disease? Just more mysteries lost in the fabric of time...

Mesa Verde National Park 1
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This is Spruce Tree House, one of the easier set of dwellings to get to. There were still a lot of switchbacks, and I was getting an early preview of what it's like trying to hike at 6000 feet when you're a flatlander.

Also pictured is Square Tower House, which is visible from the viewpoints above, but is off-limits to the public.

Mesa Verde National Park 2
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Some of the pit dwellings found here are dated to almost a thousand years before Columbus discovered America.

Also pictured here is Cliff Palace, accessible only by Ranger guided tours. If you look closely, you can see one of the ladders you have to ascend in the cracks in the rock. I'm sure it would have been interesting, but could have never done the climb...

Mesa Verde National Park 3
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Four Corners Monument, Navajo Reservation - September 18

Once US-160 turns south, you enter the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation. Once you pass the Four Corners, you're in the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Four Corners, is the only place in the US where four states meet. Not a Big Deal you say? Well, you're right. But that doesn't stop thousands of people from paying a couple of bucks to get their picture taken on that one spot...

In 2008, I found myself 5 miles from the Monument, and stopped in to get some better pictures. Back in 1997, it was all film, and you conserved it on long trips. Now, it's all digital, and you just take pictures of everything!

The Navajo Indian Reservation is a large place, and you're in it until you get to Grand Canyon National Park. There are random, fascinating rock formations that jut of from the ground throughout the journey. We stopped in a gas station/convenience store somewhere along the way, which had no phone (at least in 1997.)

Four Corners / Navajo Reservation
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End 1997 West Vacation - Part 2.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

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