"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again."
– Flavia Weedn
What a great couple of weeks we've had in Colorado. First, let me say that I am sorry we haven't updated the website in a while but we've been busy. We left Moab, UT and started our trek east back to Chicago to drop me off for school. Our first stop was Cortez, CO which is in southwest Colorado and is quite beautiful. We stopped there specifically to see Mesa Verde National Park to see the almost 1,000 year old ruins of the Pueblo Indians. The first few pictures of this series are Steve playing with different settings to capture the clouds that we drove into and some animals that we encountered on our way up to 8500 feet where the ruins can be found. Aren't they cool? Anyway, this National Park is home to some 4,500 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings. At its peak, some 30,000 people lived in this area, which is considerably more people than live in the Cortez area now. You may say to yourself, "how did these people find food and water?" Well the answer is that they farmed the tops of the mesas and lived under them along the cliff edges. Rainwater would run down the rocks and would be captured in cisterns. They had ample forest for wood requirements and they reached their farm fields by hand-and-toe-hold trails that they etched into the cliff walls. These were some extremely hardy people, wouldn't you say?
The first picture of ruins is the Cliff Palace, which can only be explored with the assistance of a Ranger. We didn't head down to see it first hand as there were a ton of school kids there on field trips. Plus, to get out of the palace, you have to climb a very rickety wooden ladder (see the pictures) and - - Homey don't play dat! Anyway, there is a black and white picture showing the state of the Cliff Palace when it was found and the next picture is how it looks today. As you can see, it was pretty well preserved as were all of the ruins in the park. The ranger told us that 95% of the structures are as they found them. Nice. Steve did a great job of capturing the educational signs that go along with the various ruins that we stopped to see. Check them out and learn some really cool stuff about these people. For example, between 1100 and 1300 A.D., the Pueblo Indians were thriving in this area. They were extremely industrious and very inventive - - developing housing from mere pit houses to the extravagant cities like Cliff Palace in a matter of 100 years. Then, for some reason, they left the area and never came back. These ruins then lay completely untouched until the late 1880's when two cowboys discovered them while on a hunt for some lost horses. It became a National Park in 1906 and is truly one of the best examples of cliff dwellings anywhere in the world. If you make a visit to the four corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado I would highly recommend checking out Cortez, CO as it is home to the Mesa Verde National Park, but is also a mere two hour drive North to Moab (see our previous post) and two hours west to Monument Valley, not to mention Taos, NM to the south.
From Cortez, we headed west to Alamosa, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Now, those of you in Michigan are probably saying to yourselves - "I've seen sand dunes. I mean, we have Sleeping Bear Dunes for crying out loud." Well, let me tell you, the Alamosa dunes make those dunes look like a mere drift. This sand deposit covers some 330 square miles and the dunes themselves reach to heights of 750 feet. In the summer, the sand gets to about 150 degrees so they are not a good place to hike, if you know what I mean. For most of the year, however, these dunes are climbed and sledded and snowboarded by visitors. You cannot imagine how high they are until you are standing in front of them and I have tried to climb sand dunes before so this was not an activity that beckoned Lauren Anderson, if you know what I mean. But we had fun seeing others having a good time on them.
From Alamosa we headed north to Colorado Springs where we basically stayed put while I worked on school-related projects in preparation for my two weeks in Chicago. We did do one thing that I truly enjoyed and that was a visit to Compassion International. As you will recall, we went to Haiti last November with this organization to meet our sponsored child, Wilguens. Visiting the corporate headquarters and touring the facility brought back a lot of very good memories for us. As you know, God calls upon us to have a heart for children and the poor and Compassion International is an organization that makes a difference for both. Check out their website and prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. It only costs $38/month and with that donation, you could save the life of a child and improve their family's quality of life as well. www.compassion.com.
Ok, so after Colorado Springs, we headed to Breckenridge where we meet up with Steve's sister Beverly and her husband Larry. YAHOO!!! I cannot tell you how special time with these two people are for Steve and I. We have been traveling together for years and always have a great time. Anyway, before I get to the fun stuff, let me tell you about Breckenridge. First, it's 9600 feet above sea level. HELLO! Can you say "suffocate"? Honestly, I have never experienced anything like it before but the altitude literally takes your breath away. Even when you are simply sitting in a chair watching TV, you are out of breath. There is this constant feeling of imminent suffocation - - like when you dive into deep water holding your breath and then run out of air just before you make it to the surface - - know what I mean? The scary part about it is there is just no place to go for air. There isn't any. I was particularly hampered by this and was nauseous and light-headed the entire time we were there. Then, on top of that, it snowed for three days. Yes, in late May, it was snowing. One area a little north of us got 24 inches the week before we got there. Say what? I cannot imagine actually wanting that kind of snow fall in May, but that's just me.
So, our first adventure with Bev and Larry was a drive up Pikes Peak. Steve volunteered to drive and man was he regretting it. He stuck as close to the yellow center line as he could and it still wasn't far enough away from the edge for him or the passengers on the right side of the truck. The drive up was really remarkable. It's 19 miles of some beautiful scenery but when you get to the top, it's absolutely FREEZING. The wind is blowing about 40 miles per hour and it was also sleeting. The lack of oxygen at 14,110 feet caused all four of us to have trouble breathing and all we did was walk around the gift shop. There were a bunch of crazy people riding bikes up the mountain (I mean, c'mon folks, really????) and on the way down, we were all stopped as a life flight helicopter was taking one of them to the hospital after being hit by a car. Based on the speed at which the rescue people were moving, the injuries were not life-threatening, so we are happy for that. Lastly, check out the picture of the blue bird that I took. Isn't he beautiful?
Our next adventure was a trip to the Royal Gorge. This is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world at some 1,178 feet above the Arkansas River below. We walked out to the middle of the bridge and watched some rafters down below us. On the other side of the bridge is a sort of bungee thing that people would strap themselves into and swing out over the gorge. No thanks! We played it safe and visited the little zoo there where we got to see some Big Horn Sheep (aka rock sheep), buffalo, and some elk, one of which had a very handsome rack! We also visited the old cowboy town they have there and stopped to see some funny headstones. Our last adventure was taking the tram back across the gorge but the walk to that tram nearly killed all of us. It was quite the hike up a steep hill (again, we're at 5,000+ feet of elevation) which is not something this old girl should be doing on a regular basis.
The last adventure for us was a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We were so blessed to see a good number of rock sheep, elk and even two moose, one of which had her baby with her. It was a beautiful day in Estes Park but as you can see from the pictures, the snow in the national park was still overwhelming. I was shocked to see the depth of the snow that is alongside the road and believe they need every bit of that snow plow we saw. Larry is in absolute heaven in the mountains so it was nice to see him really enjoying the drive. Steve was a passenger this time and hated every second of being close to the edge of the road like he was. I mean, there is no shoulder folks. It's a couple of inches of asphalt to the right of the white line and then nothing but cliff. We had a wonderful day and a nice lunch in Grand Lake, Colorado (which was an adorable town).
Steve and I said goodbye to Bev and Larry who flew back home to Toledo after visiting their friend Ursula in Boulder. We headed to North Platte, Nebraska where we are right now but heading to Omaha tomorrow. From there we hit Amana, Iowa and then into Illinois to deposit me at Moody (isn't that just the perfect name for a school for me????) Our next update won't be until late June as I will be in school for two weeks and then visiting family the week of June 17. After that, we are headed back west to Gillette, Wyoming for a rally with stops in South Dakota at Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument as well as a stop at Devil's Tower before we hit Yellowstone and a visit from my sister Carolyn. So there is much to look forward to in the weeks to come.
Take care everyone. Some of you I will see soon and I am very happy about that. Those of you that we won't see for a while, know that we miss you very much. Later!