It also amuses me, greatly, that I usually think of my trips in terms of food, and this one is no different.
We packed up and got out of the hotel by 9 and they gave us a discount at Rosi's Bavarian Restaurant just a few miles away. $2 off each of three meals, and it was far better than a free breakfast bar at a Super 8. John got the bacon and eggs breakfast. I got a crab instead of Canadian Bacon Eggs Benedict, half order with hash browns, and a side of bacon, and Jet asked for the crepes, without any filling, and just strawberries and whipped cream on top. The waitress looked dubious, but then took it as he ordered it.
It was tasty. We then jumped into the Eurovan and kept going east and south. First a bit on I-70 and then down 50 and past places like Palisade (peaches) and Olanthe (sweet corn), they're places that we see on our local food, and at the Farmer's Market, so it was fun to see the Western Slope valleys, green now with corn and wine grapes and all kinds of things that we hadn't known were there.
Further south it was the Million Dollar Trail between Ouray and Silverton on the way down to Durango, where places like Ironton and Red Mountain Mine were along the way. It's the remains of the silver rush through these parts, and the tailings at Red Mountain have made two flame-colored mountains of gold and red amid the black and green and brown. And there was one 20 mph stretch that was just utterly gorgeous, terrifying, and singular with no guard rails, huge drops and scenery so spectacular I couldn't even attempt to get it it with a camera because it was in all directions and there was literally no where to stop. *laughs*
You'll just have to try it sometime.
There was a rather unremarkable spinach salad, BLT, and grilled cheese sandwich somewhere in there, and then we ended up by Mesa Verde at the Mancos State Park, a little west of Durango and east of Cortez. It was on the same land as the Jackson Gulch Reservoir. We found a nice little site not too near the bathroom, a nice little bike ride from the lake, and big enough for plenty of room for us and the Eurovan. We took the spot, put our little receipt in and then went into the tiny town of Mancos and took a while to find the grocery store. The lucky thing was that it also had the second restaurant (the first was closed) in a little pizza parlor, so we had pizza there and the lady making it put actual bacon on our pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza (sighs). But Jet was very happy with his plain cheese pizza.
We went back to camp with some groceries and made Jiffy Pop and hot chocolate and had a great time with a nice, big camp fire. I now know that if I'm in desperate need to entertain the boy, I should just plant him in front of a fire. He now splits kindling with the greatest of ease with a little hatchet, and has a great time building a fire. The camp was mostly empty but for the two yurts which were taken for the week. I envied them mildly, but our van proved to be nice and weather tight and ended up being far warmer that night than I thought it would be. That was nice. Jet slept up top, we slept underneath, and were cozy and warm.
The next day was brilliant and sunny. We had cereal and bananas and coffee and then were up and out to Four Corners first, as that was the longest drive, a bit more to the west and south and we were in Cortez, then south and west a bit more and we were in reservation lands, as the Four Corners' Monument is in the middle of Native American lands. They had booths setup all around the site, and we were charged just going in. It's where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado all meet; and at the site there's a little plaza and concrete monument with all the borders meeting and people get their picture taken with a hand and foot in each state. It's pretty cool. We all got our pictures there.
There was a controversy a few years back about a person with a GPS finding that it wasn't "really" the spot, but it turns out that state law on in all four states puts the spot where the monument is, not at a particular latitude or longitude. *laughs* Someone took care of the possibility of an error in the tools of the time. We wandered the booths, I bought juniper berry jewelry for 'sweet dreams', and the three of us shared a honey drenched fry bread.
From there we went to Mesa Verde National Park, which is filled with cliff dwellings, including the Spruce Tree House, which was a collection of half a dozen dwellings in front of a deep cave that included trash and burial areas, and a good four or five kivas, one of which was still intact. We climbed down the ladder into the cool darkness and it was really quiet and nice down there. We found out that the scrubby short oaks all around us in our campsite were all over the park there and were called gambol oak, each little tree seemed to top out at about ten feet, and each of them was gnarled and twisted with the distinctive long palm of an oak leaf.
The National Park's pit toilets made me very, very glad for the clean and relatively uncrowded pit toilets at our campsite. *laughs*
We also stopped to take a look at the Cliff Palace dwellings and wandered through the museum and bookstore. I found out that wide-leaf and narrow leave Yucca was used for a variety of things by the cliff dwellers. Shoes, baskets, cordage, netting, cables, and even paint brushes, the fibers could be freed with boiling and beating and with the narrow leaf yucca the leaves could simply be chewed to free the fibers in order to use them as a very narrow, fine paint brush. Now I want to try that!
We went back through Cortez on the way to the campsite and stopped at a City Market for groceries, a running-water bathroom, and we ended up with mac and cheese and stir fry veggies for our dinner. We decided to have dinner before the boys went up to the reservoir to fish. I rode up there with them on our bikes, and it was amazing to see the valley spread out below and the mountains brooding above, and the lake mirror still with big fish jumping for bugs. I went back to tend the fire, clean up after dinner, and enjoy the scattered showers that blew through. When the sunset shone below the cloud cover, the boys came back to the site, empty handed, but with tales of seeing lots of fish jumping and three good bites.
The best kind of fishing, I think. Especially with s'mores and hot chocolate to tell them over.
We went to bed snug again, and awoke to the steady splatter of rain on the roof and walls of the van. Not the indecisive quick splatter of a blow-through, but the steady rain of something that was going to just stay.
I got soaked just running for the pit toilets... so stayed out in the rain and got the last of our stuff tucked up around the van. John got his rain slicker on and got everything stowed, and we threw everything else anywhere it would fit in the van and drove to Durango.
There we found the Durango Diner, a classical diner with a row of counter seats, four tables in the back and two in the front and when I asked exactly what was in the Dave and Jerry breakfast the waitress answered, "It's just two eggs, hash browns, and the green chile and gravy."
"Oh, okay, I'll have that then," I said.
"What'll you have for toast?" she asked, entirely oblivious. *laughs*
Jet's pancake was dinner plate sized and along with his four pieces of bacon he was a very happy camper indeed. John's Huevo Rancheros took two plates to include his hash brown as well as eggs, beans, green chile and other food. We all got looks for running around in the rain in our shorts, but Jet and John hadn't packed anything else, and my jeans had been soaked through in the morning adventure. The rain just kept coming down. Something we'd been used to in Seattle, but here in Colorado we were spoiled. *laughs*
We weren't even really able to drive out of it, just kept heading East and Northish... a quick snack and bathroom stop in Del Norte at the Peace of Art Diner and Organic Peddler... *laughs* Metaphysics on a plate... or actually in a bowl as the chicken soup was really, really good, and Jet had a smoothie and John and I got coffees to go and the rain finally let up to a drizzle as I took the van out to Salida.
We stopped at a Super 8 there, and enjoyed the hot tub there in a decadent usage of Hot Running Water. *laughs* Good hot showers later, we headed into the historic district and wandered about just to stretch our legs and see things. There were river kayakers there, just under the town's bridge, Jackson Kayaks was sponsoring a class or something, and there were a dozen little plastic kayaks plying the mostly tame waters, in two big standing waves right there off the city walkway. It was really fun to watch them flip and turn and bob about.
We ate at Me Gusta! I had the Steak Chimayo (red chile rubbed), John had the Sante Fe enchiladas Christmas styles (half red and half green) and Jet enjoyed his quesadilla. Afterward they gave Jet ice cream, and John and I shared a red chile chocolate torte with just enough cinnamon whipped cream to cut the richness. *sighs happily* It was very, very good.
From there we went back to the hotel, had herbal tea from the hot water in the lobby, and Jet got some hot chocolate and played lego.com in completely contentment while I wrote in a notebook of all things. We watched a little TV and then went to sleep.
Today was a relatively quick run back home. In Salida we stopped at Sacred Grounds for espresso, and they turned out to also roast their own coffee under the Mountain Phoenix label. I got a Mexican mocha that used what they called 'just Mexican hot chocolate', but it had a good helping of red chile along with the cinnamon, almonds, and chocolate. It was very nice.
On the way north we ran through a hail storm up on one of the passes; and suddenly, we came around a curve and there was a car on its side in the middle of the left lane. John slammed on the brakes, and we were sliding. He reacted quickly enough to let up on the brake, straighten us out and then pump the brakes to get us under control again. There were three other cars already stopped on the right side of the road and people running to the flipped car, and there was a garage getting a tow truck out, so when John had things under control again we just kept going.
The ice was thick, but we went much slower after that and got through relatively quickly. The rest of the ride home was uneventful. We got home, unpacked, and got everything put away in time for John to go to the grocery store and get dinner while Jet played at the neighbors and I got caught up on all the stuff here... That was very nice indeed.
And I'm very, very happy at the prospect of actually sleeping in my own bed tonight. *grins* Whew.