We ended our summer in Colorado with a week in Cortez, located in the southwestern part of the state called the Four Corners region, the only location in the U.S. where four states meet. We had previously spent a night at the Cortez Walmart, and did laundry, shopping, and visited the Community Recreation Center while staying at McPhee Reservoir near Dolores, and weren’t all that impressed with the town but it turned out to be a good area to spend a bit more time in.
We stayed at La Mesa RV Park, just on the eastern edge of town, since it had fairly decent reviews and had the least expensive weekly rate ($190) of all the RV parks in the area. When I called they had only one site available, and have been full every night this past week.
Nothing fancy and too close to the neighbors, but it served its purpose.
The weather wasn’t so great the first part of our stay, with a couple of very windy days and a day of rain, but that gave Jim’s Achilles tendon injury time to heal, and we got our exercise at the recreation center, just a mile away.
The day we arrived we decided to check out two of the breweries in town, J Fargo and Main Street. J Fargo was having $1.50 happy hour, but we tasted some of their beers first and found nothing we wanted to drink an entire glass of, so we moved on to Main Street Brewery. We liked the atmosphere at the bar and the friendly bartender, and their IPA and Dugout Stout were really good. We ended up getting into a long conversation with Jeff, who was sitting next to me, and was on his way home to Texas from Alaska, having spent the summer traveling the entire Yukon River by boat. His friend who went with him kept a blog of the expedition, a fascinating read for a rainy day. We really enjoyed chatting with him.
I had read about historic Mancos, about 15 miles to the east, so on one of the windy days we took a drive to check it out. There wasn’t much to see but we walked around the small downtown, where most of the shops sold Native American goods.
A few photos from our walk.
Historic Bauer House, probably the nicest building in town.
One of several murals around town.
If you read down to the end of this plaque, you will see why I had to Google the Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. Learn something new every day!
It was closed so we couldn’t check out the inside and possibly meet a “Clamper”.
Vandalism with a sense of humor.
Jim walked a couple miles to Walmart and back and his leg felt pretty good so he wanted to go for a longer walk to test it out. I had read about Hawkins Preserve in one of the magazines I picked up about the area, and it turned out to be a really nice park just a few blocks from town.
It has a combination of easy, flat, paved and dirt trails, good scenery, and even some old ruins.
Art on the trail.
Remains of a pueblo from the years 900-1250.
It rained that morning which covered the mountains with a nice dusting of snow. It was a good 3 mile walk where we only saw one other couple and a volunteer doing some trail work.
Our next outing was to Canyon of the Ancients National Monument west of Cortez. We never made it there when we stayed near Dolores but visited their very informative visitor center, the Anasazi Heritage Center. The closest trail to Cortez is Sand Canyon, about 15 miles west of town, a beautiful drive along County Rd G. I can’t tell you how excited we were to see this kind of scenery after our months in the high elevation forests of the Rockies.
The Sand Canyon trail is 6.5 miles long, with spurs that go off to some cliff dwellings and other scenic spots, and a couple of other trails that intersect so you can do a loop hike. This area is popular with mountain bikers and we saw several riders.
Yes, the cameras got a good workout.
We hiked two miles out to a canyon overlook and turned around. We would definitely go back and hike more of this trail another time. There are some ups and downs but it’s not too strenuous and you can’t beat the scenery.
We spent a day in Mesa Verde National Park the first time we stayed near Dolores in 2012, taking a couple of ranger-led tours and doing some exploring of our own on Chapin Mesa. The park is so large we didn’t have time that day to drive the very steep and winding road to Wetherill Mesa, so that is the area we decided to visit this time. It’s a slow but beautiful drive, and is the less visited part of the park so there was very little traffic.
We stopped at several viewpoints where we did a couple of short hikes.
There was a tower across the canyon that was barely visible with the naked eye that was thought to possibly have been for defense or communication.
At the end of the road are several self-guiding trails to ruins, but most people visit Wetherill Mesa to take the Long House tour to the second largest cliff dwelling in the park. I didn’t realize tour tickets could be bought 48 hours in advance and they were all sold out for the day, so we took the two mile self-guided trail to Step House, a smaller settlement but containing several rooms and kivas. A ranger was on duty to answer any questions.
Apparently there are a hundred or so feral horses that live in the park. This one was near the parking area but would not cooperate and face the camera.
From the Step House we walked to an overlook of Nordenskiold Site 16, a 50-room pueblo in a two-level alcove in a continuous cliff face rather than at the head of a drainage as is more usually the case. Be sure to bring binoculars.
Jim’s leg was bothering him after around 4 miles of walking, so he went back to the car while I continued on to the Badger House Community, four separate sites that have been excavated and protected with elaborate aluminum structures.
On the lovely drive out of the park we made one more stop just beyond the campground so I could hike the Knife Edge trail. I just liked the name and it sounded like it had some nice views. Here is a trail description: “The Knife Edge Trail is named after the Knife Edge Road, which was built in 1914 as an entrance to the park. The original road was narrow and appeared to hang on the sheer bluff; remnants of asphalt are still present today. Though the old road is gone, the “knife edge” notion remains, as the trail sits on the side of a bluff.”
I enjoyed the two mile out and back trail without another soul on it, while Jim sat in the car engrossed in a book.
It was a good day at Mesa Verde and a good week in Cortez. We are now at Lone Rock Beach near Page, AZ after an eventful drive, but that’s a story for another post.