Southern Colorado

Don’t worry, we’re fine. Just a lot to catch up on, so here goes; we last posted in Wyoming…

From Wyoming we continued south in hopes of avoiding the bulk of the west coast wildfires, and because we had a new mission which included a few unplanned stops in Utah and New Mexico (more on that later). As we left the mountains and drove south the warmer weather was a nice bonus. We camped for a night along the Snake River just outside of Alpine, Wyoming, and for another night just outside of Moab, Utah. (There was a bald eagle that landed in the tree we were parked beneath, but Mike scared him away before he could get any good shots). Since we had a date and time we needed to be in New Mexico we flew through Utah, really only stopping to eat tacos and sleep, but we definitely plan on coming back.

After making it to our destination of Farmington, New Mexico, we found ourselves with some time to kill near the Four Corners region, which is where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all meet. When we have free time in a city our go-to is either coffee shop or brewery with free WiFi, and since it was after 12 pm we opted for brewery. That night we found a free spot to camp on BLM land just south of Farmington at Angel Peak Scenic Area.

Views from the Angel Peak Scenic Area.
Views on the way to Angel Peak Scenic Area.

The next day we drove over the border into Colorado with plans to visit Mesa Verde National Park, which we didn’t know much about. At most national parks we look for the best hikes but this park is more known for its archaeological history, ruins, and the people who used to live there. There are Pueblo cliff dwellings built into canyon walls that are hundreds of years old. It was interesting and a bit surprising to know that historical ruins like this exist in the US, which we usually think about having to travel outside the country to see. Parts of the park were closed, including tours of the actual ruins, but we were able to enjoy them from afar and see some great fall foliage.

Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde
Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde

Throughout the park there was evidence of forest fire damage, which by this point we were well aware was a regular occurrence in this part of the country. Different parts of the park were in different stages of recovery and we noticed plaques along the main road through the park with the name and year of large fires. There were areas damaged from fire close to 20 years ago that still looked like they were years away from fully recovering. We stopped at a fire lookout near the north side of the park where apparently you can see all four states in the Four Corners region on a clear day.

Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde

After leaving Mesa Verde we spent the afternoon/evening hanging out in Cortez, Colorado, to enjoy a few drinks and delicious dinner. After dinner we drove west just outside of Cortez to camp in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The dirt road we targeted followed the edge of a canyon and we found a spot to park with 360 degree views of the sunset and (full) moon rise and, after a few games of cards, we called it a night. In the morning when we were getting ready to leave we saw a woman cautiously walking down the road towards us, which was a little unusual for camping in the middle of nowhere. Turns out she and her husband were camping down the road and had accidentally locked their keys, phones, and everything else important in their car. Fortunately we had cell service and we let her borrow a phone to figure out how to get back into her car. The fact that they were also from out of town and were parked on a random numbered dirt road with no address made it a little difficult to describe to a towing company. We ended up sending GPS coordinates, which worked. Shortly after we left the campsite we got a phone call from a random New Mexico number – it was the woman calling to thank us again and let us know they were already back in their car. We’re crossing our fingers that if this ever happens to us we find some nice neighbors to help us out.

That day we drove around to the other side of the valley to hike up into Sand Canyon. The trail was long, really quiet, and really hot. We followed the edge of a canyon and passed by more cliff dwellings and only passed a hand full of people the entire day. By the afternoon when we finished we were almost out of water and pretty wiped. We decided we really needed a shower, even if we had to pay for a campground, and fortunately found one close by in Cortez. We booked through Hipcamp, which is kind of like Airbnb for camping. The hot shower was totally worth it and as a bonus we had access to a fully stocked shared kitchen and outdoor seating area. Between the community showers and bathrooms, shared common space, and other campers hanging around, the place reminded us a lot of a hostel, which was a nice change of pace from camping in the middle of nowhere. The fluffy camp dog named Luna who hung out with us was another bonus.

The next morning we woke up early to head back to Farmington, New Mexico for the next leg of our adventure…

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