Friday, April 25, 2014
Three nights in Aztec changed to one. We explored the amazing UNESCO World Heritage site with its renovated Great Kiva and phenomenally well preserved pueblo, but could not stay at the campground. Therefore, we changed reservations to Durango for a five day hiatus, using Durango Riverside RV resort as home base to take the narrow gage train to Silverton – same train that brought ore out of these mountains for over a hundred years. The Animas River rose frighteningly from spring snow melt each day we stayed, but we saw mule deer, elk, prairie dogs, reindeer. From Durango, we also explored Mesa Verde the most incredible of all ancient sites in the architecture of its cliff dwellings, in my opinion, the Anasazi Cultural Museum (what a fine job preservationists have done to preserve and display this ancient culture of ours), and Hovenweep, the community of watchtowers on a two mile circular route guarding the top of a canyon (and I am in agreement with others that they were possibly guarding water seeps and/or food storages). We were discouraged from visiting the Chaco Valley where much of this culture originated and so much of the origins and roots supposedly took place because the road was too poor for our RV. We spent a day hiking with an archeologist in the Canyons of the Ancients and were told that tourists are deliberately discouraged from visiting Chaco and the roads are deliberately not kept up because the more visitors, the more damage to the sites, which remember are still sacred and housing the spirits of the Ancients.
We are now in an idyllic setting called Kelly Place B and B that caters to educational groups wanting to learn more about the cultural, geological, and archeological history of the Four Corners area and especially the National Monument called the Valley of the Ancients. Kelly place is 100 acres of groves of fruit trees all flowering now and snowing pink and white blossoms. They have crabapples, pears, apricots, almonds, cherries, apples, and plums. It rained about three days ago, so Jerene’s patio succulents and cactus garden is blooming and so are the spring flowers up the canyons: Chinese Firecrackers, Indian Paintbrush, Daisies. There are huge fragrant lavender bushes and sage – wonderful bouquets to make potpourri for the camper. Kelly Place backs up to McElmo Creek and the Canyons of the Ancients. Jim and I have breakfast each morning with six couples our age on a Rhoades Scholar Program staying inside the big adobe for six days, and then an archeologist takes them to one site and another takes us to another site. At check-in, the hosts give the guests a booklet with a self-guided tour of the hiking trails and sites right here under the blossoming trees and across the grassy yards, which all have comfy benches for watching sunrise, sunsets, or just watching the bees and humming birds in the gardens. There are kivas and pueblos on site, petroglyphs and pictographs, a cliff granary, and because this was part of an old stage coach line and pony express, there are also old etchings and dates from early 19th and 20th century visitors. We have the only RV site. It backs up to a red rock cliff, very picturesque. There are two tent sites under overhangs which reflect the campfires at night (very cool!). Only one is occupied by a couple who has adopted a twelve year old Native American girl, let her choose her own name (“Paloma” which means “dove”), and have brought her here to learn more about her heritage. Their pug dog Eddie has “play dates” with our girls, Grits and Charlie, when we all get back home in the evenings. Our archeologist is an aging hippie (I think most people here are) who enjoys the outdoors and its revelations about peoples past more than he likes modern day people. It is a very strange and interesting group of people to be around.
For breakfast we have odd things (to us) like warm quinoa cereal with some of their farm dried fruits and nuts, steak and yellow peppers and onions (all from this 100 acres organic farm), yogurt and granolas, prickly pear cactus tea cake, prickly pear tea, crabapple butter, rhubarb jam, breakfast enchilada casserole. When you come in from hiking, there are a variety of cold and hot drinks and tasty treats to refresh with while sharing experiences with other guests.
Ahh, but tomorrow we head out to Moab Utah, the Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park and Dead Horse. We love the names of places out here and the legends that go along with them. We’ll be on our own with no hookups in the Utah parks, but beautiful sunsets and sunrises (although Jim will be the only one of us to see the sunrise probably).