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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The drive from Santa Fe to Taos is some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen.
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.