Mesa Verde Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights

Highs:

  • Touring the Mug House dwelling site (it was a back country tour that was off the beaten path)
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A glimpse of some of the Mug House dwellings (those window-looking openings are actually doors)

Low:

  • Minor altitude fatigue

Favorite Hike:

  • Petroglyph Point
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A view of some ancient rock carvings along the Petroglyph Point hike

Favorite Treat:

  • Elk quesadilla

Cliff Dwellers

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A top-down view of a Kiva, used for social and spiritual purposes

Mesa Verde has been quite a memorable park so far. I was able to take a guided tour of 3 different cliff dwellings and view a couple other sites on my own. It’s surreal to walk through ancient ruins and spot pieces of broken pottery over 800 years old.

I have a lot of respect for these Ancestral Peubloan, who fashioned entire villages wedged into cliff alcoves. They chipped hand and foot holds into the rock that they used to climb up, over, and into their fields on the top of the mesa. Scrambling down the rock face, slipping through tiny tunnels, and climbing up into their rooms made history truly come alive.

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Cliff Palace

Great Sand Dunes Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 4 nights

High:

  • Meeting so many new friends; it’s encouraging to encounter fellow travelers who are just as passionate about nature as I am

Low:

  • Sun exhaustion my second day (the weather is deceptive since constant wind makes the sun feel much less intense than it is)

Favorite Hike:

  • Mosca Pass
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This 7.5 mile hike felt like a happy fairy tale

Favorite Treat:

  • Watching the sun set over the Dunes at the same time a full moon rose over the mountains
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The full moon was rising behind me

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Using a sun telescope for the first time and viewing a solar flare

 

Dunes, Dunes, Dunes!

The views are spectacular and the hiking trails are out of this world, but the real bread-and-butter of this park is the Dunes.

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The Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background

A little education:

  • The sand you see at the Dunes is the tip of the iceberg… literally. Expert researchers have investigated and realized that there is way more sand underneath.
  •  If you take a magnet, plunge it into the sand, it will come out full of magnetite, an eroded mineral from the nearby mountains. I tried this. It was neat.
  • The sand particles at the Dunes goes through a cycle: strong southwesterly winds blow them, and then running water from nearby creeks carries them back.

 

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This was the bunny hill I warmed up on before hitting some of the bigger slopes

A little fun:

I rented a sandboard and spent a whole morning playing around in the sand. I almost got the hang of it by the end.

 

Westward Bound

I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive from Arkansas to Colorado, but it turned out to be full of kicks and giggles.

I got my fill of kitschy roadside attractions, including Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, TX.

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This famous art installation is interactive; people bring spray paint and add their own designs

I found this adorable RV Museum that was FREE! It had a bunch of campers from the 20’s to the 70’s. It was really well-kept, and had a lot of little historical touches that made touring each unit quite memorable.

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A teardrop from the 40’s (Clarence was slightly jealous of its chrome finish)

I stopped at 2 state parks, one for a quick picnic lunch and nature walk, and another to camp for the night. Red Rock Canyon, in Oklahoma was a little piece of paradise off of the interstate.

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I saw an armadillo hanging out by the edge of the trail

Lake Clayton State Park in New Mexico was simply enchanting. The landscape was gorgeous, and it felt like I was in another world.

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I spent 2 hours just exploring all of the cool areas around the lake (they have a dinosaur track site)

Colorado, here I come!

Hot Springs Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights

High:

  • Touring the Fordyce bathhouse
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The original tiling, pipes, and tub from the 1800’s

Low:

  • Hot, humid, and then extremely rainy

Favorite Hike:

  • Goat Rock trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Water – it’s tasteless and odorless but somehow makes my coffee taste extremely delicious
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One of the many places in the town where the hot water bubbles up (this isn’t for drinking, although there are many fountains around town that you can use to fill your bottles)

 

House of Baths

Hot Springs, Arkansas was the perfect blend of interesting history, relaxing baths, and gorgeous hiking trails. Although it is the smallest national park, Hot Springs had so much to offer. One of my favorite activities was touring the historical Fordyce bathhouse. It was three stories of fancy spa equipment, including some weird stuff going on in the “hydrotherapy” room.

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The high pressure needle shower
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The sitz bath tubs (apparently very good for lower back pain)

The following day, I was able to go through a traditional regimen at an updated bathhouse within the historical district. I could feel the toxins flee my body as I sat in a vapor cabinet and partook in the hot pack treatment. In between each session, I was wrapped in a white sheet. I felt like a goddess. Interestingly enough, no soap or bathing products were used during the whole 2-hour procedure. Just Hot Springs water, pure and simple.