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3 Flags - Day 9

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Start Location: Blanding, UT
Ending Location: Durango, CO
Miles Today: 178
Trip Miles: 2453
States Visited: 6
National Parks/Monuments: 8
Low Temp: 54 degrees
High Temp: 80 degrees
Min Elevation: 6054'
Max Elevation: 8456'

Route Map:

We decided to spend the day today in Mesa Verde National Park. We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and plan our stay. We soon realized that there was no way we could do everything, so we decided to take the self guided auto tour, stop at each point of interest, and then see how much time we had left. Shortly after starting out, we saw signs of past fires. More about this later. Then we passed this sign that seemed to be put there just for us.

As we began our walk, we were greeted by this sign. Make sure you take water, but no drinks are allowed. Very difficult to accomplish. Our first stop was at one of the largest cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde called Spruce Tree House. Whoever named this place didn't know their trees very well, because it was surrounded by Douglas Firs. Maybe it was the same person who put up the signs at the beginning of the trail. This particular one is open to the public and one can actually climb down a ladder and enter the main area of the "house." We picked up a brochure to help us understand what the different areas of the dwellings were used for. I could go into explanations of all the "villages" and dwellings, but if you are interested in this, there are pictures of many of the information plackards on the page of all the pictures from Mesa Verde National Park. It may take a day or two to get them all uploaded. You can also visit the Mesa Verde Website for lots more information.

While we were driving through the park, I commented that I had seen very little wild life. Within minutes, someone pointed out this buck. I clicked off pictures of him munching on a tree until he looked up and started walking toward me. At this point, he was only about 20 feet away and he was really BIG, so I slowly turned around and left him to finish his dinner.

We still had a little time after we finished the auto tour and took the road that goes to the highest point in the park. At the top was the fire lookout. There was a sign up there that explained about the fires that have occurred in the last decade or so.

The views on the way down were incredible. We didn't know exactly what to expect today, but we were not disappointed.

Once we left the park, it was on to Durango. The skies all around us started getting darker and darker. It was also getting colder as we climbed higher and higher. The coldest temperature of the day was at about 5:30 pm. Somehow or other, we managed to miss all the rain. The roads were wet and the skies threatened, but we lucked out.