In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dave: Mesa Verde

We didn’t get to our campsite, 67 Zuni Loop, at Mesa Verde until fairly late in the afternoon. The road into Mesa Verde is under construction and there were many traffic stops.

We only had a chance to tour one ruin, Spruce Tree House, before we met the Kalinskis for dinner. Then we all went to Cliff Palace, where we had arranged to take a special guided tour. A young man playing the character of a 1930s CCC worker took us on a tour of the ruin while telling us about life in the Civilian Conservation Corps. The tour was small, about 20 people, and dusk was settling in. It was a great time to be there in the ruins.

The next morning we had to get up early to beat the construction jams to get to the meeting point for our next hike, another ranger-led hike, to a ruin called Spring House.

Our ranger was Kim Accardy, a seasonal ranger from Louisville, Colorado. We began at Chapin Museum near Spruce Tree House, descended into Navajo Canyon and walked about four miles, finally climbing onto another mesa. After we left the museum we never saw another person. It was great. Along the way we saw a number of small cliff dwellings on the walls of the canyon.

We had to climb down a few ladders and do some boulder hopping to get to Spring House. It is still in its original state, having never been excavated at all. It was interesting, but because we had been able to climb right into River House on our rafting trip, this experience paled a little. They wouldn't let us actually step into the ruin. We had to stay on a viewing platform. When the kids tried to sit on some nearby rocks, the ranger told them to stand, as these rocks might have been part of the structure at one time.

On the trip back we were all worried a bit about Pamela. She was struggling a bit with the heat and the altitude. But she had her own personal retinue of three rangers (Kim, a volunteer ranger named Sharon, and Jessica, a third ranger who has to accompany every back country hike to make sure we don’t violate the country’s patrimony and to deal with any medical emergencies. Jessica agreed with us that it was a crazy use of ranger time, but as she said, “Hey, they’re paying me to hike.” They took good care of Pamela up the last climb, making sure she rested and was properly hydrated. We all made it.

It felt good to sit on benches in the shade, knowing we had completed a pretty strenuous hike.

We stopped to take showers. (Free at Mesa Verde!) Then Pamela swung into action preparing dinner because we were having the Kalinskis over to our home at 67 Zuni Loop. Not sure how Pamela did it. I was lapsing into catatonia about then, but she was able to whip up some potatoes and grill steaks and hot dogs.

Once the K’s roused themselves from their own stupor and fought their way through the traffic, the kids played Frisbee. We drank some beers, had some good steaks, and later Jim told us the famous “cardboard box in the middle of the road” story.

It was a good time.

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