Goodbye Plains, Hello Mountains
Trip Start Sep 09, 2009
7Trip End Sep 18, 2009
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Our route through the mountains took us past the turnoff to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. We decided to drive up the 15 mile side road to see them. But, shortly after turning, we were stopped by a flagman dressed in a yellow rain slicker and hard hat. He had on several layers under the raingear and a hood under his hardhat
"That cloud there lives on that mountain," he added as clarification, motioning towards the cloud-shrouded peak nearest us. "Can't tell anything from that." I had already picked up what I thought was a native American lilt to his speech.
Joe was not a radio interviewer for 10 years for nothing and soon our companion was leaning on his red STOP sign and sharing his life with us. This was actually a retirement job that he did from time to time. The road construction ahead was being completed that day and he would be out of a job. But, he was optimistic about being sent to another location that was opening up the following week, but being retired, he wasn't really dependent on it. He had 4 grown children.
"Did they live in the area?" One did
Eventually, the oncoming cars (all two of them) reached us and we continued on up the newly paved road to see what the Dunes looked like. They turned out to be a spectacular phenomenon of sand dunes in an otherwise normal mountain valley, caused by the perfect balance of sand washed down from the mountains with sand blown up from the valley. We were able to scramble across a few of the dunes before the rain came pouring down and we ran back to the van.
The rest of the day we climbed and twisted through mountain passes until we ended up at about 8500 feet on the western edge of Colorado. We stopped for the night at Mesa Verde National Park. As we drove into the campground we were greeted by grazing deer. Eponymously blue bluejays flew across the open sky. When the sun extinguished itself behind the mountain, the black sky shown with the milky way and a thousand million stars. And there was no cellphone service!
By now we were getting tired of driving so the following morning we decided to extend our stay in the park in order to have a day off from the road and to visit the cliff dwelling for which Mesa Verde is famous. There were lots of foreign tourists both camping in rented r.v.'s and arriving in tour busses to explore the ruins. The world may be mad at our policies but our lovely national parks remain a draw!