We continued west across southern CO, driving more scenic byways, heading to Mesa Verde. I got yet more beautiful mountain and aspen shots, that I just have to share with you.
As we got closer to Mesa Verde, the environment definitely dried out, but there were still aspens anywhere there was some water.
Mesa Verde is in the arid SW corner of CO and has several well preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
We hiked along a trail to a wall with petroglyphs, and the journey was a little challenging, but beautiful.
The petroglyphs are about 800 years old.
We took a tour through one of the dwellings, Balcony House, and it was quite the adventure, with climbing up very tall ladders -
…and crawling through tunnels on our hands and knees.
We enjoyed seeing the craftsmanship up close, as well as the views across the gorge.
One last look back:
As we drove back into NM, we were still happy to see some mountains before diving back into arid sagebrush country.
We stayed in Taos for a couple of days, killing time until the Balloon Fiesta. We went hiking in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. It sure is a small river at that point, but a pretty deep gorge.
Along the windswept rim, pinon pines are stunted and have neat spiral trunks:
We hiked down into the canyon, to the Rio Grande, and the trip was pretty easy as well as scenic.
The water in the river here was a pretty green (when we saw it further downstream near Santa Fe, it was a muddy brown). It was just a gentle stream.
Now, the hike back up was a different story.
That sign says “Little Arsenic Rim 0,8 mi” straight up. Not really, but at times, it felt like it. We ascended 700 ft in less than a mile - at 7500 ft elevation. Boy were we panting! We did it in 30 minutes and felt really good at the top. When we’ve been hiking in TN, most elevation gains are in the realm of about 300 ft, over several miles.
As we drove to Albuquerque, our weather luck changed. Rain dogged us most of the day, although we thought we might get lucky for a time, so headed to Bandelier National Monument for more hiking. The geology there is pretty cool (we never did find a good explanation as to why the rocks in this area eroded the way they did).
We hiked down through this canyon, in the rain, to the top of a nonexistent waterfall. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Or just like something that Lisa and Steve would do.
The canyon was very pretty, even in poor light, and we really enjoyed seeing how it changed over a short distance, depending on altitude and geography.
The shiny black in the next picture is the lava over which the waterfall flows (in the spring?).
Now… Balloon Fiesta here we come!