Having loved our morning at The Meow Wolf Gallery in Santa Fe we started the drive to Mesa Verde National Park and our next state – Colorado. We had put Mesa Verde on our itinerary as it contains some incredible cliff dwellings built by Puablo people some 800 years ago. We naively imagined we’d be hiking, biking and taking in the historic sites – but the weather had other ideas! We arrived at the park after the four hour drive (having seen the odeometer tip over the the first 1000 miles) and the scenery was quite spectacular.
Ed upbeat, in spite of the worsening weather and forecast of snow, was incredibly excited to set up our tent for the first time on this trip and finally be camping.
But instead of being able to enjoy our first camp fire, once we had the tent up, it was so cold we just cooked up some pasta and all huddled in our sleeping bags, trying to stay warm!
It rained hard all through the night – and the rain turned to heavy snow at around 7am. Our tent, all our equipment and the entire campsite was covered in 2 inches of snow.
Visions of delightful sun dappled hikes and bike rides quickly evaporated ! And the lack of cold weather clothes was a concern!!!
Undeterred we headed down to the park visitor centre to get warm find out about the tours of the Cliff Dwellings. We liked the sound of The Balcony House tour. This is one of the best preserved examples of the cliff dwellings and we were warned one of the most exciting and challenging to visit due to steep ladder climbs and tight tunnels. The visitor centre has an example of the ladders and a recreation of the tightest tunnel which visitors must be able to fit through in order to take the tour. We were delighted when Ed was able to squeeze through the mock up tunnel and we bought tickets for the tour next day. We then headed down to Cortez, the nearest ‘town’ for a hot breakfast and a trip to Walmart to buy some warm clothes…. Never in a million years had I imagined we’d encounter snow on this trip – I would never have agreed to camp in a tent in the snow! That’s just plain nuts – snow is for skiing on!
We then spent the afternoon at the excellent park museum Museum looking at the cultural artefacts of the Pueblo people (more home schooling…impressive!). They did some incredible weaving with yucca leaves and I loved their black and white pottery.
What I personally liked best about the museum was how warm it was!
The sun did finally come out and we were able to enjoy a quick hike down to a view point of Spruce House – another of the dwellings.
We endured another freezing night and the next morning, once we had thawed out, headed out for breakfast (simply could not face cold cereal and washing up!) and to tour The Balcony House. The ranger was superb, full of cool information, able to answer everyone’s questions and the cliff dwelling was amazing to see.
During the tour it began to snow again. It turned from a light dusting to a full on blizzard. We headed back to the campsite and took refuge in the campsite laundry to stay warm.
Ed was still overjoyed to be camping in these conditions
and wanted to stay but I had had enough and insisted we should leave the next day (a day earlier than planned) and head for some warm weather. I think he sensed impending mutiny and so agreed that we could indeed leave for Moab the next morning.
Our third and final evening in Mesa Verde was spent as the previous two had been – trying to stay warm! I did find the upside of the cold weather was that my sauvignon blanc was perfectly chilled!
I now realise, 15 years into marriage and far too late, that Ed’s idea of a ‘Four Seasons’ trip and mine are completely at odds – his Four Seasons involves ice and snow with high tech North Face equipment – whereas my idea is a gorgeous 5* hotel with Egyptian cotton sheets and room service….! This, I feel, bodes badly for the next 3 months so I now have a cunning plan. If we encounter snow elsewhere I am simply going to burn the tent down. This will have two desirable outcomes – the flames will warm me up – plus there will then be no option but to go to a hotel – obviously a Four Seasons! No more camping in the snow for us!
What Ed Says: I can safely say that its always worth spending a little more on gear (REI did well out of us) as you never know when it will be tested! I also now know that my family have spent far too long in tropical climates! My solar arrangement never got tested here as the freezer was outside and the temperature was -8. The Beast is running well and is a pleasure to drive. My thoughts of 15 miles to the gallon have gone out the window as I can’t sit at 65mph so 12 mpg it is! Moab will be the test of the solar set up in warmer weather (hopefully).
Next Stop : Moab, Utah.