Hovenweep National Monument – July 15, 2016

We enjoyed the trail at Hovenweep. We did the entire trail, which I think was 2.5 miles with the extra loop. You can do a shorter version of the trail and see most all the ruins just as well, but we wanted to climb down into the canyon. For the entire trail, you go down into the canyon and back out on the other side. It’s a beautiful hike, but there is quite a bit of climbing.

The ruins here were neat, but I think I enjoyed the wildlife on this trail most. We saw a long-nosed spotted leopard lizard, a collared lizard, several birds and a rabbit. It is a nice wildlife walk.

For anyone reading this who might be trying to decide where to visit, I will add that the road leading to Hovenweep isn’t the best. It is paved, but it’s old paving and it has a lot of potholes. With that said, you can always go around the holes or even drive in the middle of the road (which I did and the car behind me followed) because there is barely anyone out there. I think it’s around 24 miles from the turnoff to the monument, but that 24 miles took us about an hour. It seems to go on just forever. We cranked up the music and just enjoyed the drive. It’s pretty; it’s just long.

The rangers at the museum were very nice and there is a great short film to watch about the area. We always watch the films when they’re available. It gives you a much better perspective on the history of the monument or park.

 

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I've never seen one. It was beautiful!

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I’ve never seen one. It was beautiful!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

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This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It's a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It’s a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

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Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

One of the ruins.

One of the ruins.

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Mesa Verde National Park – Thursday, July 14

This is the first real chance I’ve had to relax. We decided to do our Mesa Verde tours today and then come back to the campsite to relax this evening. That gives us a chance to do laundry, eat a nice meal, catch up on news, etc.

We saw an ermine today. That’s a short-tailed weasel in case you didn’t know! (Don’t fret. I didn’t either.) It was incredibly cute and ran right by our campground. Speaking of that, this morning Hannah and I went to shower around 6:00 a.m. and there was a mule deer right outside our tent.

Today we did a 9:00 tour of Balcony House. This involved climbing a 30-foot ladder, going through a tiny tunnel, standing on the edge of a precipitous cliff, etc. It’s considered the most harrowing of the cliff dwelling tours. I overcame my fear of heights to enjoy this experience with Daniel and Hannah. It was great.

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This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn't get a photo of that one.

This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn’t get a photo of that one.

 

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus "Balcony House." :)

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus “Balcony House.” 🙂

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You'd have a very wide view.

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You’d have a very wide view.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you'd be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you’d be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

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A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

After Balcony House, we toured the museum on Chapin Mesa, found some bee sting relief for Hannah from a ranger and ate a wonderful lunch out of our van. (Hannah was wearing a bright yellow shirt and a bumble bee got tangled in her hair. It stung her arm and is pretty swollen still.)

Following lunch, we drove around Mesa Top for a bit and then took our last tour – Cliff House. This is actually the one Chris and I did with the kids in 2007 when we visited here. I really began to feel my leg hurt on this one. It’s still bright red from sunburn and it’s swollen, but it’s not excruciating so it must be ok. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow. I’m taking blood thinners so there’s really nothing else we can do. I just have to be careful about the high elevation hikes because it keeps swelling when I go up in elevation. I just want to see everything and do these hikes, though. I can live with a little pain to see these amazing places.

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A view of one of the houses from Mesa Top Loop. You can’t see it well, but you can see that there was building within the alcove, which I think is neat.

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Our first view of Cliff Palace. It’s amazing that these ruins have survived 800 years.

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There are even buildings and granaries in the tiny slots at the top of the alcoves.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Our experience of the Great Sand Dunes can pretty much be summed up in two words:  mosquitoes and sand. With that said, we’ve also had some neat experiences. We camped on the dunes last night (Tuesday, July 12). It took about an hour and a half to hike to a camping spot. That is NOT fun in the sand. We were also hiking to a much higher elevation and I began to feel a little sick again so when we finally made it to a camping spot, I basically laid there for the rest of the evening. We also had a misunderstanding about the sunscreen so we didn’t have any and we hiked out across the DESERT at 2:30 in the afternoon with no sunscreen, hats, sunglasses or windbreakers… The three of us are completely red from sunburn, windburn and tiny little particles of sand that beat against our shins the entire time we were hiking. We look a little bit like lobsters.

On the positive side, we did see two sets of bear tracks near the creek (about 1/2 a mile away from where we camped). We’ve also seen a coyote, lots of mule deer, elk, a few Peregrine Falcons… I really enjoy the variety of wildlife here.

Today we packed up camp around 5:30 – 6:00 a.m. and left the dunes. Our first stop was the Walgreens in a nearby town to buy lip balm for our very chapped lips.

 

Hannah presents the entrance.

Hannah presents the entrance.

A view of Medano Creek as you enter Great Sand Dunes.

A view of Medano Creek as you enter Great Sand Dunes.

First view of the dunes.

First view of the dunes.

Another nice view as you enter the park.

Another nice view as you enter the park.

The mosquitoes were eating us alive. You can't see it here, but Daniel has about 100 around him.

The mosquitoes were eating us alive. You can’t see it here, but Daniel has about 100 around him.

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These were beautiful trees along the trail. I believe they are aspen trees.

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View from Mosca Pass Trail

View from Mosca Pass Trail

Mosca Pass view

Mosca Pass view

Panoramic view from Mosca Pass Trail.

Panoramic view from Mosca Pass Trail.

Flowers on the Mosca Pass Trail

Flowers on the Mosca Pass Trail

Taos, New Mexico

We hadn’t planned to stay the night here, but Hannah wanted to visit art galleries and we also discovered that we needed to slow down a bit. We were traveling to higher elevations quickly and ended up with High Altitude Sickness. It was HORRIBLE. I ended up having to visit a doctor in Taos. She gave me steroids, which did help, and although I had been drinking plenty of water, she said we also needed electrolytes. I hadn’t thought of that because my brain had been oxygen deprived and I couldn’t really think at all!

Here are some photos from Taos:

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church

This church is over 200 years old. It was very beautiful.

This church is over 200 years old. It was very beautiful.

Here's a link about the church if you'd like more information. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/San_Francisco_de_Assisi_Mission_Church.html

Here’s a link about the church if you’d like more information. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/San_Francisco_de_Assisi_Mission_Church.html

Bandelier National Monument (Los Alamos, New Mexico)

This place is awesome! We’ve hiked about six miles today. (Yes, I went slowly and drank plenty of water…) It was truly an amazing experience to see the Native American dwellings, walk through the canyon, listen to the wind whistling through the crevices in the rock walls…  I can see why the ancient people who lived here cherished it so much.

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I don't know if you can tell in this photo, but my legs are swollen. After about 3 miles of hiking, I actually had to put my right leg up on a rock and let the kids go up into the Alcove House alone.

I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but my legs are swollen. After about 3 miles of hiking, I actually had to put my right leg up on a rock and let the kids go up into the Alcove House alone.

I love this photo of Daniel and Hannah together.

I love this photo of Daniel and Hannah together.

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Even the burnt pines look beautiful. It exaggerated their natural beautiful colors.

Even the burnt pines look beautiful. It exaggerated their natural beautiful colors.

 

This is where we were going. Our goal was to hike to the Alcove House at the top of this giant cliff. You can't see it yet in this photo.

This is where we were going. Our goal was to hike to the Alcove House at the top of this giant cliff. You can’t see it yet in this photo.

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Here it just looks like Daniel and Hannah are climbing ladders, but check out the zoomed out photo.

Here it just looks like Daniel and Hannah are climbing ladders, but check out the zoomed out photo.

This is the photo of where Daniel and Hannah were on the cliff. It really gives you perspective for how high up they climbed. I sat in the canyon with my leg propped up, trying to reduce the swelling.

This is the photo of where Daniel and Hannah were on the cliff. It really gives you perspective for how high up they climbed. I sat in the canyon with my leg propped up, trying to reduce the swelling.

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This photo is for my mom. We saw a rattlesnake and really wanted to make sure you saw it, too!

This photo is for my mom. We saw a rattlesnake and really wanted to make sure you saw it, too!

Daniel wanted to pet the snake, but he decided against it...

Daniel wanted to pet the snake, but he decided against it…

And... he slithered away. We were literally about 3 feet from this rattlesnake. He was about 4 feet long. Amazing sight.

And… he slithered away. We were literally about 3 feet from this rattlesnake. He was about 4 feet long. Amazing sight.

Tucumcari, New Mexico (along Historic Route 66)

This was a neat little town that’s still thriving along Historic Route 66. We drove through here about 25 miles an hour looking at everything. (There was very little traffic.) There are just so many “attractions” to see. These aren’t “tourist” towns in the sense of the way things have been built up for tourists on the East Coast. They are just simple little towns that attracted tourists in the early 1900s and they’ve retained the vintage charm.

We ate lunch at a place called “Restaurant.” (Actually, it was called the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge, but since the sign just said “Restaurant,” we decided to call it that because we thought it was incredibly funny.)

The mountain shown in this photo is actually the Tucumcari mountain. You can't miss it in the landscape as you're driving through this area!

The mountain shown in this photo is actually the Tucumcari mountain. You can’t miss it in the landscape as you’re driving through this area!

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