A Big Rock and a Town

August 15, 2019

Shiprock. The rock that inspired a town.

Cruising along the all-but-deserted two-lane Highway 160 after our stop at Four Corners we catch Hwy 64 heading back east. The windows are down and we enjoy the fresh air. We are back in New Mexico. Shiprock juts up on the horizon.

I begin photographing waaaay before we even get close, but it’s just so fascinating. Me, who finds faces and animals in rocks everywhere, just can’t “see” the ship in this rock pushing up out of the ground around it.  Someone did, though, and I continue to stop and snap photos.

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As we get closer the haze lessens. I kind of get the sense of the sails on a ship.  Read about this interesting rock, it’s formation history and Indian legends HERE

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Thunderheads form quickly in the Southwest.

Finally getting enough of this huge outcropping of rock, we head into the town of Shiprock.  Located along the San Juan River there is some farming going on here, and once out of town and heading on to Farmington, I again stop to photograph rock. I love the way the verdant green of the cottonwood trees contrasts with the buffy brown of these sandstone cliffs.

It’s warming right up and we spend some time along the highway in the shade of the cottonwoods. I take The Boys for a walk in the abundant shade even though it’s along the highway.  There’s a wide band of dirt and plenty of room to park.

Our next destination is over 100 miles away, and I do not want to begin that journey so late in the day, so we continue on to Farmington about a 40 mile drive.

DSC_0038leaving Shiprock NM

It’s sweltering here, and road work on the main drag is in full swing.  I am ready to call it a day. We find Walmart and a spot with some decent shade and wait for evening. Hopefully when the sun gets lower in the sky it will give a bit more relief from the heat.

I am not anticipating a cool night and good sleep, but am grateful for the shade we do have.  With the doors open and the fan going it’s tolerable.  It’s time like these, in a public place, that my lace curtains on the side doors do what I meant for them to do —- keep us out of the public eye, but I can see out and some air can get in.

Hugs, Shawna

 

It’s Decided. Next up . . .

Four Corners! I always wanted to be in four states at one time, and I can’t imagine anything that would top the Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park,  so we bypass Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep, heading to Four Corners.

We head west on Hwy 160 and drop back into high desert where the scenery reminds me of Monument Valley in Arizona.

Four Corners Monument is privately owned by the Navajo Indians. They charge a $5 entrance fee, which is reasonable, and all along the outer perimeter of where the four states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet are vendors hawking everything from food to T-shirts.  These items aren’t so reasonable.

I wait my turn behind a group taking selfies and group shots of themselves planted on the Four Corners intersection, then grab my own photo of being in four states at once.

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Mentally crossing Four Corners off my bucket list, I go get The Boys out of the van, and we wander around the area outside of Vendor Square.  I spot a sign in the distance, and we walk over to see what that is all about. DSC_0022

It’s a trail that takes one down into the canyon below. Beautiful, but it looks like quite a hike back up out of there so, no Boys, we’re not going down there. It’s warming right up, and a sign warning about snakes keeps us at the top lest we change our minds.  I walk the guys around the dirt parking lot for a bit before heading out.

Back out on the highway we loop back around and begin heading back east toward Shiprock, spotting some interesting sights to stop and photograph.

DSC_0024 It’s good to have photos to show you again.  Lesson learned on that!

Thanks coming to Four Corners with us! Hugs, Shawna

 

 

Durango, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park

After the marvelous tour of the Aztec Ruins we get back on Hwy 550 and head north to Durango, Colorado where we find Walmart and get our supplies and ice before catching Hwy 160 toward Cortez, Colorado.

Looking for a place to stop for the night we come up short and end up staying in a rest area just a mile beyond the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. Any port in a storm, right?

We are up early and 2DogsTravel can’t wait to go through another ancient ruins area.  My senior pass gets us into the park for free, but guided tours here require a purchased ticket available at the visitor center that is located below the entrance to the park itself.

The ancient people who settled here were cliff dwellers and the tours involve a lot of climbing,  some steep stairways, and ladders so I forego the tours, choosing instead to get the best photographs I can from afar, which of course, I haven’t found for this marvelous stop either. *SIGH*.

The park is huge, and we spend almost the entire day here. Lots of driving, and climbing in and out of the van getting photographs of this land the Pueblo people made their home over 700 years ago.

One can see the dwellings just fine, but you miss out on a lot of information by not taking the tours.  I do purchase several informational brochures so I don’t think we miss any of the facts by not taking a guided tour, but I know I miss a lot of the personal observations a guide would have given.

  • The park protects over 4500 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings.
  •  The cliff dwelling known as Cliff Palace includes 150 rooms, 75 constructed open areas, 21 kivas, and two “kiva-like” structures.
  • Balcony House has 38 rooms and two kivas.  The site is divided into three plazas or courtyards with associated rooms:  Lower Plaza, North Plaza, and the Kiva Plaza.
  • The six-mile long Mesa Top Loop Drive shows the full range of architecture in this national park from the earilest pit houses to the cliff dwellings. 
  • The Puebloans lived here for six centuries, from around A.D. 600 until about 1300.

Read about the magnificent Mesa Verde National Park HERE , and if you are in this area it is MUST SEE.  They have a campground in this park, places to eat, and much more.

The Boys and I end up back at the rest area where I observe a guy go to the back of the rest area where he goes through what looks like a locked gate. He’s gone for a while, but once he comes back out we go to inspect the area where we find the gate isn’t actually locked, but a sign cautions to keep the gate closed.

The method for keeping the gate closed involves a heavy chain that is looped around a post and one of the links is to be inserted into a channel cut in the iron.  This keeps the gate closed and from afar it appears to be a locked gate.

It is BLM land!  BLM land means public access is allowed, and we trot back to MissAdventure , fire her up, drive through the gate closing it behind us, and find a spot to camp for the rest of the week. It’s good to be shut down for a few days and just kick back in the cooler temps of the mountains.  Warm days, not hot days, and wonderfully cool nights make for some good rest.

On August 12th, rested up and rarin’ to go we head to Cortez, a short 10 mile drive, where we find the dog park.  The Chiweenie Brothers get their freedom to roam for a couple of hours.

Once The Boys are worn out and ready for a nap, I then mark the required Walmart stop off our list, and begin planning our next stop.  Do we take in Canyon of the Ancients? Four Corners? Hoven Weep?  All three?  Decisions are to be made, but we’ll worry about that tomorrow.  Walmart is our stop for the night, and as I lay my head down on the pillow a decision is made on where we’ll head tomorrow.

Thanks for coming along with us on our adventures. Hugs, Shawna

CURRENT READ:  What you Did by Claire McGowan

Aztec Ruins, Aztec NM

August 8 – 11, 2019.  Leaving Navajo Lake State Park we take Hwy 527 back out to Hwy 64. Winding our way along the two-lane highway passing opposing traffic consisting of at least 100 white work trucks making their way east hauling various items: Tanks of some kind of liquid, various types of small equipment, spare tires. Because of the small oil wells and a Conoco storage facility we pass I am guessing these vehicles are on their way to do something related to the oil industry.

Enjoying our early morning drive, we soon come to Hwy 550.  It’s our intention to head up to Durango, Colorado for supplies, but first a stop in Aztec NM for a bite to eat, a walk for the boys, and time outside the library where I get some blogging done, a request sent for mail forwarding, and some bills paid while internet is available.

I love the libraries where their internet is available right in the parking lot.  Makes it so much easier to get done what needs to be done and not have to worry about The Boys. The Chiweenie Brothers are spoiled.  

Once all the “To-Do’s” are taken care of we head out only to spot a sign for The Aztec Ruins National Monument.  This is something I want to see. I motor into their parking lot, and fortunately there is a huge shade tree with no one parked under it. With the windows down a bit I know The Chiweenie Brothers will be fine while I take a look see.

First, however, a short walkabout for them; they have been so patient waiting for me to get that to-do list taken care of. It’s a lovely walk through the native plants botanical gardens, The Boys enjoying sniff and hike time.  Okay guys, back in the van, you can’t go into the ruins, so be good and take a nap.

Barking their fool heads off as I dare to leave them behind, I wait just outside the entrance to the visitor’s center until they settle down.  Once I am out of site they are quiet, giving up the attempt to convince me they need to go with me.

A short orientation before the guided tour begins I learn that the Aztec Indians (who are from Mexico) did not build these ruins, it was the ancestral Pubelo people who lived here centuries before the Aztec empire prospered.  Inspired by popular histories about Cortez’s conquest of Mexico, and thinking that the Aztec built these structures, Anglo settlers name the place Aztec, and it was never changed.

Highlights of this very interesting tour:

  • Life span for the people who settled here from the late 1000s to the late 1200s averaged only 30 years of age.
  •  Timbers for building this ancient city were hauled from 80 miles away without the use of draft animals.  Think about that!
  • Rock for building was brought in, by hand, from 30 miles away.
  • Not all of the ruins here have been excavated.  There are many more in this area, but will be left unearthed, because what is excavated needs to be maintained.
  •  The West Ruin is the largest of the houses and had at least 500 rooms that rose to three stories.  It was a public building akin to our modern public buldings like civic centers or places of worship.  Excavation revealed original roofs with centuries old wood and vast desposits of well-preserved artifacts.
  • Archaeologists believe once the Pueblo people got their community built and they had “more time on their hands”, they began the art of decorating their pottery, and beautiful pottery it is. Ancient “interior decorating”.
  •  The Pueblo people made blankets from turkey feathers.

I took many photos here, which I haven’t found, but you can learn more about and see some photos of this wonderful national treasure HERE.

If you are ever in this part of New Mexico, this is a must see!! Admission is FREE and so is the guided tour.  Don’t miss it!

Thanks for stopping by 2DogsTravel, and for being so patient with this mess of losing my photographs.  Hugs, Shawna

HERON LAKE IS A NO GO, Navajo For the WIN

After our stay at El Vado, the park’s sister lake is up next. Heron Lake. The drive there is short, around ten miles. I speak with the camp host who says site #1 and site #15 are both available. We drive the loop. Number 1 has no shade at all, so that’s out. Site #15 has lots of shade but someone has just pulled in there. Dang. A check of the other campground sections provides no place for us. Read about Heron Lake State Park HERE

Onward, Boys, there’s no room at the inn.
Back onto Hwy 95 and then Hwy 64 we head to Chama and buy a veggie delite Subway sandwich, a few groceries and ice, and fuel. We travel through the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation, then through some oil well country on BLM land. We are back in high desert and there isn’t much of anything but juniper so shade is scarce.
We end up traveling clear to Navajo Lake State Park through some interesting rock formations which I stop to photograph, of course, but for the most part it is quite a lonely drive. Not much traffic along this two lane highway, but we eventually gain the lake, find a temporary spot for the night, move the next morning to another temporary spot, then finally get to one of the sites with a covered table and blessed shade. Here we stay for a few days so I can catch up on some rest.
Navajo Lake is very pretty, and this is a busy campground on the weekends. Thanks to school starting and Monday rolling around we get this lovely shaded site. Campground hosts are from Albuquerque. I chat with them for a while and the wife tells me they took a couple of weeks off to make a trip to Alaska earlier in the summer. THEY TOOK A TRIP FROM THIS CAMPGROUND IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO TO ALASKA AND BACK WITHIN TWO WEEKS’ TIME. Wow, just wow. I don’t think I’d recover from that kind of traveling, but to each their own. I gathered it was more of an opportunity to check it off their bucket list than a chance to enjoy Alaska.

Read about Navajo Lake HERE.

Where to from here? There are several choices: To the other arm of the Navajo Lake and another campground? North to Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado? Durango? Mesa Verde National Park? Four Corners? Canyon of the Ancients? All of them?
Thanks for taking time out of your day to see what we’re up to. Appreciate you and love reading your comments, Hugs Shawna

Current Read: Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner

El Vado Lake State Park, New Mexico

As we leave our beautiful camp at Hopewell Lake I am taken with the beauty of the morning. The air is soft and cool, the sun is peaking through the tall pines, and I am looking forward to what awaits us down the road.

We are again heading west on Hwy 64. We almost immediately begin the long decent that will take us through Tierra Amarilla. (yellow earth). It’s a long, long decent some of it steep, but the vista we encounter on the way down is amazing. DSC_0003 (5)

The shock of what we enter into at the bottom is heartbreaking. Tierra Amarilla is a dump. I follow the road into town encountering several derelicts drinking in the shade of some large trees. It’s barely 9:00 a.m. Ramshackle housing and abandoned buildings are abundant. The police station and another government building look pretty decent, so there must be a better part of this small town somewhere, but honestly I don’t want to look for it. I get turned around and head back out toward Hwy 64.
A quick stop at a gas station provides us with ice for our stay at El Vado Lake State Park and we drive the 11 or so miles out to the park.
When we gain the entrance I stop at the pay station, dig a ticket out of the little box and fill it out with the date, our vehicle license number and state, and our year’s camping pass number. I leave the site number blank as I don’t know which site we will be in. I’ve done this all along and no one has said anything so I guess it’s okay.
We drive past the restrooms and showers, and hang a right on the road that follows the lake along the cliff top. Campsites are dirt with covered picnic tables on concrete slabs, a fire ring, and some with electric. There is no shade to be had other than the table covers and my heart sinks. We can’t stay here!
Following the loop around we head back toward the entrance to the park thinking maybe we can park facing away from the sun for a few minutes while I look at the map and see what I can see. As we pull up to the pay station I see a dirt road off to our right that descends down into a ravine and back up the other side where it makes another right turn off into some TREES. Let’s go check this out Boys. We may find something there.
And we do. There are campsites back here and many fairly good sized juniper trees and  small pines. We slowly cruise the area. There are a lot of campsites here, but most are not even close to level; even the picnic tables have an obvious lean to them.

Eventually I find a spot we will call home for about a week. I make it as level as possible by digging two holes on the front and back right side for the tires to roll into. Not bad!!
The Boys are staked out on their short leashes for the time being while I set about putting up our tarp awning, getting the generator out of the back along with the IP and sack of spuds. Out comes the camp chair and our table cloth. Lastly I eyeball a couple of the trees and guesstimate the length between two of them and put the Boys’ cable line up and get them settled in. They’re tangled up together in a matter of minutes, which is normal. LOL

And here we stay for over a week. Ice should be good until day five, but I have plenty of water left and food that does not need refrigeration as long as I don’t cook more than one meal at time.
If you noticed a lack of photos of El Vado Lake, it isn’t a mistake. I did enough of THAT already. At this point in our summer adventure I still haven’t found the rest of the photos. Still looking. I am cautiously optimistic, but am not counting on anything.

Thank you for stopping by 2DogsTravel. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!

Hugs, Shawna