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Exploring Southwest Colorado

Carrie Rasak

Posted on July 10, 2019 22:16

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I went to Durango over the 4th of July weekend and spent a whole week exploring a neat part of my new state!

Durango is part of Colorado's Western Slope, the greenery and rolling hills cause you to forget you're still at 6500 ft and those are, in fact, still mountains. Hiking trails abound, along with access to the Pueblo ruins in the four corners. The town itself is small, but very quaint and walkable.

My husband and I, and our dogs, enjoyed exploring Durango and the surrounding area over the long weekend. We took them downtown for their morning walks most days. Downtown has many historical buildings, interesting shops, and shockingly a large number of healthy restaurants. It was great being able to (mostly) stick to my diet.

One nice thing about our trip was getting together with a friend of ours from Texas. She took us to the Spud Lake Trail, which is an easy two mile hike that was surprisingly difficult for us, since we're used to hiking at high elevation. This trail started at 9000 ft, proving that we still need to acclimate to even higher elevations. The views were worth it though.

We also checked out Silverton, another old mining town.

Chimney Rock National Monument was about 45 minutes from where we were staying, so we had to check that out too. We just barely made the last guided tour up the mountain and I'm so glad we did! We learned about the ceremonies that took place on the mountain, the mirror experiment to prove that it was possible to signal to other pueblos in the area potentially as a summons, and the value of the actual towers themselves. Public access to the towers is limited to a point on the trail due to safety concerns, along with their sacred meaning to the Native Americans.

They also have night sky programs, and in 2022 the lunar standstill will begin again, meaning the moon will be perfectly placed between the towers! 

Last but not least, our trip included Mesa Verde National Park. There are a number of self guided things you can do, but to properly see the cliff dwellings, you have to book a guided tour with a park ranger. Travel tip: if you stay in Durango, you can do this at the welcome center and save time!

We booked the Longhouse tour, which is the longest at 2 hours and 2.25 miles of walking. It was fascinating learning about its history and how archeology has changed in the last several decades. Unlike in the past, we don't presume to know what significance certain items may have had, or why something was constructed in a certain way. I didn't know that sometimes their descendants would come and perform religious ceremonies there, and leave offerings. Our ranger guide was refreshingly blunt as he described how they conserved water, and that this was a lesson we should take to heart in our own lives.

We already have two return trips planned to explore more of the ancient ruins, Colorado and New Mexico wilderness, and of course, more hiking trails! 

Carrie Rasak

Posted on July 10, 2019 22:16

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Source: Denver Post

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. -- In 1984, Cliff Spencer was interviewing with Chief Ranger Rick Gale at Santa Monica Mountains...

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