Monday, September 24, 2012

Mesa Verde Day 2 and Four Corners

We had to be up early Monday morning to get to our 9:00am tour of Balcony house.   Vicki woke with a bad headache and had no energy.

We ate grapenuts and protein bars, and headed out to Balcony House.

It was cloudy, and there was rain in the morning forecast.   When we arrived at the parking area for Balcony House, Vicki just felt like she didn't have the energy to do it and wanted to rest in the car.  So I took the trip "solo".

 I was one of three Americans in the group.  There were 15 French, 15 German, a couple of Brits, and I think maybe a couple of Canadians.

Our guide, Paula, turned out to be the same lady who had sold us the tickets the day before.   Like Jo, she loved being a guide but they all have to do some time behind the counter as well.

This trip started out with a long flight of stairs down, a short walk along the side of the cliff, and then up a 30' ladder to the actual structure.   This was a colder location that didn't get as much sun, and it was built to be easily defended.  The theory is that this was a place where they stored a lot of their food, which, of course was very important.

It rained off and on during the tour, but never any sort of downpour.  And after climbing back out, I looked over to where the car hand been.  No Vicki.

No car.

She had driven to find a restroom, and had to do a whole loop to get back and parked in a different spot across the lot.  Whew.

We went on to the self-guided Spruce Tree House (accessible behind the Museum we'd been to the day before), and it was great to be able to spend as much time as we wanted just looking it over ... you're not rushed along as in the guided tours.  It WAS relatively crowded.  There was a Kiva there you could go down into, but it was rather busy and I was glad we'd been to Edge of the Cedars once again.  I didn't feel the need.

We exchanged playing photographer with an older couple, and decided to go to go to the park Cafe and Gift Shop.  Luckily, we got there RIGHT ahead of a tour bus.   They had something called a "Navajo Taco"  .... which was truly something else.  Lot of food, and good.  Ate, browsed the gift shop  - I actually found a silver/onyx inlay Kokopeli ring I'd been looking to repace an old one that never fit right.

Swung by the campsite and grabbed the propane tank from the camper.  Not really sure how much we'd used, but wanted to make sure we didn't run out tonight.  We headed into town, and found a gas station that filled bulk propane.   Turned out we'd used about half of it up to that point, and it was pretty cheap to fill it back up.  Filled the car with gas as well.

It was only about 3 in the afternoon.   We had originally planned on perhaps swinging by Four Corners on our way down to Mesa Verde from Moab, but cut it out of the trip as it was getting later in the day Saturday.  I knew we were within 60 miles of it, but I thought I'd punch it into the GPS and see how far it was.

38 miles.

That's a quick trip to Booneville back home.   We decided to go.

The road runs for a while along the edge of Mesa Verde, which rises from the plain on the left side of the road.  But the farther southwest you go, the more you see the kind of landscape Monument Valley is famous for.  Which shouldn't be surprising since Monument Valley is about another 40-60 miles down the road from Four Corners.

The weather continued to be a mixture of sun and clouds with long views to the south and west .   The sky was a dynamic canvas of clouds with dark, soft rain shadows falling from many of them.  Bright white where sun touched the clouds, soft purples where it didn't, and shafts of sunlight piercing through it all.

About where 160 splits off of 491 toward Four Corners is an impressive monument structure called Chimney Rock, a lone tower rising from the desert floor not far from the edge of the cuesta behind and to the east.

After the turn the road looked even more like a movie set with the black ribbon stretching out to the west, mountains to the north, and small mesas dotting the landscape.

The turnoff to Four Corners Navajo Nation Monument arrived unceremoneously, with a couple-hundred yard drive off the road into a parking lot.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  In my imagination, Four Corners would be in the middle of an extremely flat desert with little to no vegetation, and maybe a small concrete pad with a brass marker.

It's a pretty decent sized paved plaza.  Concrete, with brick colored concrete criss-crossing where the famous quad-border point is, and the names of the four states diagonally in stone in each 'corner'.  Therw are flags of the states and Navajo Nation all around.  There isn't much vegetation in the surrounding area, and the San Juan river runs nearby through the arid landscape, which actually isn't totally flat, but has mounds and mesas and little mini-canyons eroded out of the dirt.   Small colored rocks dot the ground ... some clearly had turqoise in them, among other colored minerals, but the backdrop was definitely desert beige.

There are four "buildings", lines of permanent vendor booths for Navajo artists ... one running diagonally in each state.  And in the center, the marker.

We ran into a group from Canada, one Greg Barnes and the group he was travelling with.  They had flown down to Reno Grand Junction (correction from Peggy -- another woman in the group after I emailed her this picture. Thanks, Peggy!) , I think, rented motorcycles, and were touring the area.  Pretty cool.   We traded photo-ops.  And Vicki and I went along and checked out the booths, about 1/3 of which were open for business.   There was pretty nice stuff there, mostly jewelry.  There was a pretty nifty knife one of them had chipped from quartz.  Some paintings and drawings.  I bought a brass road runner sculpture, and I bought Vicki some jewelry in addition to what she bought for herself and her mom.  These were clearly the best prices we'd seen on anything like this since the trip began as well, which surprised me.

About the time we were done shopping, about 5:00pm ... the vendors were closing down, a sight from across the parking lot caught my eye.  Sun shafts criss-crossing with rain shafts falling in the opposite direction.  I ran across the parking lot for a better shot.

I got a few pretty cool shots, and it did rain off and on.

We jumped back in the car to head back to Mesa Verde.   A rainbow appeared in the east, so I drove across the parking lot to take a few shots of it.   We left, marvelling at the sky and the sun on the desert landscape.   I had to stop and take some shots of Chimney Rock, the road going off to the west, and several other landscape shots.

And we booked back north to Cortez and Mesa Verde, arriving about sunset.  I took a shot of an amazing scene from Lookout Point on the way back to the campsite of clouds and rain over the plain.  We heated some leftovers, had a beer, and hit the sack.

For a last minute, in-again, out-again destination, it was definitely worth the trip, especially that day with the beautifully dynamic sky enhancing the scenery.

1 comment:

  1. WOW--love the documentary along with all the beautiful pictures. Hope to be able take my time on a adventure like this someday (when they kids are grown.)