Thursday, May 30, 2013

Campground Review: Mesa Verde RV Resort, Mancos, CO

Mesa Verde RV Resort is located one half mile from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, 6 miles West of Mancos, CO and 10 miles East of Cortez, CO.

The park has 47 sites, 30 are full hook up, 17 are water/electric, plus a few tent sites and two rental cabins. Roads and sites are gravel, all sites have a picnic table, most sites have mature shade trees. There are 6 GIANT pull through sites that do not have trees.

There is a lot of gravel in this park, which is noisy when anyone is driving on it. It would be great if they paved the roads. The only sites with any grass separating them are on the perimeter and these are closest to the highway which is fairly noisy during the day and quiet at night.

Lots of amenities including a pool, two hot tubs, laundry, playground, propane, good wifi, nice communal outdoor sitting areas with fire pits, small store.

There's a large meadow where dogs are allowed and several ponds that lure the local wildlife. You can also go through the fence and hike up the hill beyond the campground for views of the snow capped La Plata mountains near Durango (dogs allowed).

We stayed eight nights, including over Memorial Day weekend. The park filled up to about 90% over the holiday and cleared out to about 30% during the week after. This is a really pleasant park. Everything is clean and well-maintained and the park owners and hosts are very friendly. A BBQ dinner was provided for all guests on Saturday night of the holiday weekend.

Site 18, picnic table is behind the tree.
View from the dog run meadow.
Fire pit patio
Dog run meadow, horseshoe pits, pond, hill that you can hike.

View of the park from the hill. The giant pull through sites are on the right.
Duck family in one of the ponds.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Winding Down our Stay in Mancos, CO

Small town Mancos, CO is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park. It sits on highway 160 just about midway between Cortez and Durango. It's a beautiful place to stop in the spring, right near the border of the San Juan National Forest  in view of the La Plata Mountains. The Mancos River runs through town and the small valley is green and inviting.

Mancos River, right through town.
We spent our last full day back in Mesa Verde National Park and visited Wetherill Mesa, a part of the park with fewer visitors and only open in the summer months. We took the ranger-led tour of Long House, walked the Step House Trail and checked out the Badger House Ruins.

Long House

Long House from the opposite end.
There is a seep right below the center of the dwelling where young trees are growing.

I can honestly say we were spoiled by our hike at Sand Canyon the previous day. Not only was it free, but it was on our own time, self guided, wild, and unexpected. Mesa Verde is a beautiful park but there are many other wonderful sights to see around here. Next time we are in the area we will probably stay closer to the Four Corners allowing us more in depth exploration of the Ancient Puebloans land.

We've had a wonderful stay at Mesa Verde RV Resort (review up soon). Not only was the resort nice but our RVing buddies Amy and Rod stayed here a few days as well and we had fun visiting with them.

Tomorrow we're off to Durango for two weeks where we're excited to meet up once again with John and Pam whom we haven't seen since Tucson in February. There will be hiking! and biking! and a birthday!

Life is very good.

Sand Canyon: Hiking Through the Land of the Ancient Puebloans

The Sand Canyon Trail is located within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The trail is about 6.5 miles long (plus side trails) and is bounded on the North by the site of the Sand Canyon Pueblo which originally held 420 rooms, 100 kivas and 14 towers but is now mostly piles of rubble with interpretive signs. We chose to hike from the South access point, County Road G, 12 miles West of Cortez, CO.

We learned about this trail from a very helpful woman at the Mancos Visitor Center, who told us it was her favorite hike in the area. Boy, was that a good tip because this was a superb hike that served up the fun of searching for multiple cliff dwelling ruins, interesting rock formations, several collared lizards and lots of blooming flowers. Binoculars are a good idea for this hike as you are constantly searching near and far for ruins.

We hiked just shy of 11 miles, under somewhat overcast skies, at about 5500 ft elevation, with short up and down segments with no great elevation changes. There are many short spur trails along the way that take you close to the ruins. There is a map at the trail head and decent signage along the way. There was also a brochure at the trail head with a good map of the trail system.

Hike details: We hiked the main Sand Canyon trail, plus all the spur trails, until we reached the point where the trail climbs up the mesa (about 4 miles in). We returned the same way, until we reached the East Rock Creek Connector trail, then left on East Rock Creek trail, then took another Connector trail (unmarked) back to the main trail head.

We hiked mid-week and only ran into two hikers, two horseback riders and one mountain biker. This trail system has become popular with mountain bikers and is probably pretty busy  on the weekends. Personally I would rather bike at Phil's World and hike these trails.

This hike ranks up there as one of our favorite hikes we've ever done! AND, there are more trails we didn't have time or stamina for in the area...which means we have something to come back for. I took over 250 photos and had a heck of a time weeding them down to just a few that would tell the story of this hike; I hope you enjoy the highlights of our day in the land of the Ancients!

Castle Rock towers over the trail head.

A 40-room pueblo was built around Castle Rock, though very little remains of it today.
At the top of the rock you can see a wooden platform and small remains of a wall.
Lavender was the color of the day!
As we headed up canyon, on our left were fabulous sandstone formations.
Within the first half mile the first cliff dwelling was sighted.
Approaching Saddlehorn Pueblo.

If you don't want to hike far this ruin is also in the first mile of the trail.
The right side of the trail gave us views into huge canyons and out to the distant mountains.
Two shelves of ruins here.

And another two shelf site.

We spied this alcove ruin across the canyon a good half mile away.
Kiva on the mesa top.

We saw about a half dozen Collared Lizards.

Pile of pot shards.

Seen across the canyon.

In giant Rock Creek Canyon a number of smaller sandstone canyons converge.

Evidence of ruins on the top right rock.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Phil's World: Amazing Mountain Biking near Cortez, CO

Seriously, if you mountain bike, you gotta come here! Phil's World (map) is a system of about 29 miles of trails just 4 miles East of Cortez, CO.

There's an incredible variety of hard packed single-track trails that are all one-way so you don't have to worry about rounding a corner into an oncoming rider. The trails are curvy and flowing and in some amazing sections: swoopy, roller coaster fun that makes you laugh out loud! The trail system sits at about 6500 ft elevation but the uphill segments are generally very short and not too steep. There are some rocky sections, little ledges that are mostly downhill and mostly rideable for the intermediate rider like myself (more expert riders, like Hans, just fly right over them).

There are ledge trails that reminded us of Gooseberry Mesa in Utah, and sweeping views of the La Plata Mountains, Mesa Verde, Mancos Valley, Cortez Valley. Even the burned out meadow we rode through was eerily beautiful and had some really fun flowy trail going on.

We rode a 14 mile loop, covering most of the perimeter of the trail system. We both felt this was the best mountain bike riding we have ever experienced and we thought the RIB CAGE section was AMAZING! Here is a sample video of someone riding the Rib Cage.

Almost immediately you are flowing through juniper and pinion pine.
Soon you are riding next to a shelf of sandstone formations.
I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the trail, the rocks were gorgeous
and I was also looking for evidence of the Ancient Puebloans!
Brilliant Collared Lizard.
Blooming cacti and snow capped mountains in the distance.
We're having a great time and we haven't even come to the most amazing sections of the trail yet!
Hans ahead of me on a ledge trail section.
Winding through the trees with some rocky step downs.
We rode through this hauntingly beautiful burned meadow, with glorious patches of orange and yellow flowers.
We entered the Vertebrae trail section: swoopy, curvy, roller coaster awesomeness!
Catchin' Hans on a downhill!
There were vertebrae at the start and vertebrae at the end!
Then another ledge section with fantastic views!
Looking back at a rock step down section.
Then we entered the Rib Cage section! This is one of many roller coasters!
More Rib Cage, with a view!
The whole section was really fast and rolly and exciting!