Mesa Verde and Durango Train Museum

Trip Start Aug 29, 2013
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14
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Trip End Sep 15, 2013


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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today we got up at 6:45, had breakfast and left before 8:00.  We headed to Mesa Verde.  There were still lots of clouds but no rain.  It took about 45 minutes to get to the Park.  We bypassed the new Visitor's Center and went straight to the Far View Area to meet our tour guide which took another 45 miinutes.  We had a little time in the gift shop there.  The Far View Area has a cafeteria too.  We had a restroom break and did a little shopping.  Our guide did not show up because someone ran her off the road on her way there.  We saw her car in the ditch later in the morning.  By luck, the head Interpreter in the park was having breakfast at the cafeteria with his wife.  He very graciously took over as our tour guide.  He is the one who trains all the interpreters in the park and he was very good.

The first thing he pointed out to us was Shiprock in New Mexico.  It sure is a far view!  But we are very close the NM here..  As we headed south from Far View the Mike, the interpreter, told us all about the three civilizations that have lived in the area.  He talked about the history, the cultures, and their spirituality.  Our first stop was at a site called the Pithouse from about 600 AD.  This was the first civilization and they dug a shallow pit about 15 inches deep with sticks and bone scrapers.  Then they used wood to build the rest making the structure look like an upside down basket.  At this site there was a house, just a hole in the ground now, and a kiva a place for ceremonies.  In the kiva was a small hole in the ground to remind them that they had emerged from the third world below into the fourth world.  In addition to spiritual ceremonies, the kiva was also a gathering place used for other communal happenings. 

Our next stop was Navajo Canyon View where we just took pictures from the bus and he told us about the formation of the alcoves in the sandstone.  It is in these alcoves that later cultures built their dwellings.  Then we stopped at Mesa Top Site to see the big kivas there.  He told us more about their beliefs that everything they did was spiritual.  Then we stopped at Sun Point View where we could see several cliff dwellings and a Sun Temple which was a very large structure.

Our last stop of the day was at Spruce Tree House where we walked down a very steep trail to see cliff dwellings up close.  There was even an underground kiva you could go down into via a ladder.  We went down inside and saw how the park had made a replica of the roof.  The kivas was very similar to the ones we saw in Arizona in May.  When we got back to the top we went to the Museum and it was so well done that I wished we had a lot more time to look.  We got back on the bus and Mike told us more stories and explained about the theories as to what happened to the culture living there. 

We went back to Far View for lunch at 1:30.  I had corn chowder (really spicy) and salad, Larry had chili and corn bread and Derek had a Navajo Taco.  Larry had a bottle of Trippel from New Belgian Brewery.  Jose joined us for lunch and he had a Navajo Taco too.  We left about 2:15 and got back to Durango at 3:30.  Jose dropped a lot of us off in town at the Strater Hotel and then took everyone else back to the hotel. Larry, Derek and I went straight to the Railroad Museum located at the Roundhouse in the train yard.  In case you don't know what a roundhouse is, it is a platform that rotates engines and then they can drive into a house (garage) for repairs etc.  The house is round because tracks fan out from the platform like the spokes in a wheel.  Shortly after we arrived at the museum, an engine came into the roundhouse area.  First they dumped all of the ashes into a big pit between the tracks.  Then is backed onto the platform and they had to jockey it around a bit to get it perfectly situated.  Then they turned the platform with the engine and tender (car that holds the coal) on it so they could back it into the house.  It was really interesting.  While they were doing this, a front loader came in and scooped out all of the ashes and put them in a pile.  We found out later that some of the ash is used on the roads in the winter instead of chemicals and some of it is made into pavers. 

Inside the museum we saw two engines one of which you could climb up into the cab.  There was a very fancy car that looked like a Victorian sitting room.  There was also a caboose you could go into and a box car set up with an informative video playing.  There was a large model train display that was running.  For such a small town they did a great job of displaying all the artifacts.  We spent the rest of the time until dinner walking on Main Street and shopping.  Derek bought a new pair of shoes and Larry got a new pair of Minitonka moccasins which he uses for slippers.  Then we went to The Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel for drinks.  When we walked in, there was a woman playing honky tonk piano.  The waitresses were dressed up like saloon girls and it was packed.  We were lucky to get seats in the balcony in the back.  I got a Margarita, Larry had a Durango Hop Hugger and Derek had the Durango Wheat.  When we finished our drinks we went downstairs to the Pullman Room in the Stater Hotel for supper.  JFK gave a speech in this room at some point.  Derek and I had salmon and Larry had Pork Loins.  We sat with the two of the couples we had sat with for supper in Denver and Jose joined us as well.  It was a very good meal with salad and rolls and a wonderful cake with strawberry filling for dessert.  One of the employees of the motel came down to tell us a little of the history of the hotel.  Then Mark told us we had until 8:30 when the bus would leave.  So we took off for a walk.  We couldn't believe how clear the sky was when we came out.  We walked up and down the street and were the last ones to get on the bus at 8:20.  We were back to the Hampton Inn by 8:30.  Tomorrow we have to put our bags out by 6:30 and we leave at 7:15. 
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