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National Parks - 2010 Trip - Day 9

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Start Location: Alamosa, CO
Ending Location: Cortez, CO
Miles Today: 260
Trip Miles: 2849
States Visited: 7
Provinces Visited: 0
Low Temp: 40.5° F
High Temp: 87.8° F
Min Elevation: 6143'
Max Elevation: 10873'

Route Map:


Another incredible day on the road!  We left Alamosa this morning to clear skies, bright sunshine, and chilly temeratures.  Shortly after leaving, we entered the Rio Grande National Forest and the San Juan Mountains where we climbed to the top of Wolf Creek pass at an elevation of 10873 feet and crossed the Continental Divide.  From there we dropped into the San Juan National Forest where we spent most of the rest of the day.  The scenery and views were amazing but you'll have to believe us because it was a little too cold for pictures this morning.  Linda was wearing her mittens and it's pretty difficult to take pictures with this tiny camera with mittens on.

Early this afternoon we arrived at Mesa Verde National Park, home of more than 4000 archeological sites and the world famous cliff dwellings.  Around 1200 AD the Pueblan people who were living and farming on the top of what is today called Mesa Verde began building the cliff dwellings and moving from the top of the plateau to the cliffs ostensibly for better protection from the cold winters and hot summers.  They lived and thrived there for 75 years and then suddenly left.  A 23 year stretch of severe droughts started around that time and it is believed that they were forced to leave and find better climates for raising their crops.  These amazing dwellings remained unknown until 1888 when a couple of ranchers discovered the first ones while out rounding up stray cattle.  That began significant archeological studies that continue today.  There are numerous sites where you can approach various dwellings as well as many educational opportunities throughout the park.  There is also a museum with artifacts and a film which explains the history of Mesa Verde.  We were not able to spend a great amount of time here but we do have a few pictures and there are a lot more picures here from our trip here in 2006 - I'm sure the dwellings haven't changed too much since then.

Upon leaving the park we headed for Cortez to find a place to stay for the night and a church to attend mass since it's Saturday again.  Like many areas these days, there just aren't enough priests so it appears that one priest serves 5 small parishes in the vicinity.  He apparently says one mass per weekend in each church.  We went to the 4:30 mass at Our Lady Of Victory church in Dolores, CO.  The church is about 10 miles north of Cortez.  It was built in 1903 and currently serves 80 families in this small farming community.  Being such a small parish, I'm sure everyone knows everyone else and we were afraid we might sit in someones seats.  It was a nice mass and the people seemed very friendly.

Tomorrow we enter Utah and start doing repeats of parks we have done in the past.  We're not sure of our route yet but will work on it tonight.

On another note, I'm updating the Trip to Date map each night when I post the map for the day.  This is just a Google map showing the whole route from the time we left to where we currently are.  The link is at the bottom of the main National Parks Trip page just below the links for each page.