Road Trip Recap {Part 5 - Mesa Verde}

From Colorado Springs, we headed west and south through the Rockies on  US 24 to 285.  The mountain highway was full of beauty on either side as we ascended and descended through switchbacks and long gentle turns.  There were wide-open verdant valleys dotted with pronghorn deer.  (The antelope really do play!)  We crossed rivers swollen to nearly overflowing from the melting snow in the mountains.  In the steeper parts, where the highway switched back and forth with cliffs on either side, the snowmelt streamed down in rivulets of clear water, creating little waterfalls.  We crossed the South Platte, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, and the San Juan Rivers.  So many times I wanted to stop to take photos, or wished I were a passenger so that I could take photos out the window at least.  But we had a lot of distance to cover, so I tried to stop only when necessary.
On the stretch from Johnson Village to Saguache along 285, the kids were hungry, but we hadn’t found any place they wanted to stop.  There was a Coyote Bar and Grill or something like that in Johnson Village, but that didn’t really look like a place they wanted to try.  In truth, they were hoping to see anything familiar, McDonalds, Wendy’s, a Subway perhaps.  As we drove closer to Saguache, it became apparent that we were not going to find anything familiar and that if we found a restaurant of any kind, we should stop.  We noted some dust devils dancing across the dry fields beyond the road and I think we all wondered how much further.
Saguache is a very small town, but big enough to have a theatre, school, library, and a diner.  We had juicy cheeseburgers on freshly baked buns with shoestring french fries.  Way better than McDonalds any day!  Plus, you just can’t beat a place with local flair like that with lively conversation and an antique upright piano in the corner. It’s the kind of place where the little girl across the street can run over and borrow some ketchup from your table.
Waterfall in Rocky mountains - photo by Adrienne Zwart
From Saguache, we traveled due South to pick up US 160 west.  Highway 160 was a challenge as we drove up further into the mountains.  Road construction and hairpin turns made for some tense moments.  When I saw a place to pull off across the highway, I took advantage of it.  I’m so glad we stopped!  There was a beautiful view of Treasure Falls.  We took some photos, stretched our legs, and then got back into the car.

Mesa Verde National Park

We finally came upon the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, CO. The wind carried the scent of the smoke and it concerned me, so I pulled in to ask about the wildfires.  (I knew they were still in Arizona, but I hadn’t seen or heard any news and just wanted to be sure they weren’t getting too close.)    The ranger assured me that the fires were still about 150 miles away, so we didn’t need to worry.  
Did you know that your park ticket is good for two days?  I was glad because we arrived later than I had expected and the park would be closing at dusk.  The ranger encouraged us to purchase our ticket that evening to drive in and get a preview of what we’d be exploring the next day.  (He reminded me to keep my receipt to present for entrance the following day.)  The ruins are about 20 miles inside the park.  More switchbacks with narrow shoulders and rockslide warnings.  I tell you, I was getting pretty good at the downshifting by this point.  
I leave you with some photos from our time at Mesa Verde:
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park - photo by Adrienne Zwart        Cowboy's Delight red wildflower photo by Adrienne Zwart      IMG_3366
cliff dweller ruins at Mesa Verde National Park - photo by adrienneinohio.blogspot.comcliff dweller ruins at Mesa Verde - photo by Adrienne Zwart
       cliff dweller ruins photo by Adrienne Zwart           tower with window at Mesa Verde - photo by Adrienne Zwart
cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park - adrienneinohio.blogspot.comMegan trying to be serious. :)          Ethan at Spruce Tree House         boy on kiva ladder Mesa Verde - photo by Adrienne zwart
      yellow wildflower photo by  giant seed puff - photo by Adrienne Zwartyellow Cactus Flower- photo by adrienneinohio.blogspot.comSpruce Tree House Mesa View - photo by Adrienne Zwart        purple wildflower            purple wildflowerbrown lizardBoys exploring the Far View Mesa ruinsyellow wildflowers photo by Adrienne Zwartnative American ruins at Mesa Verde - photo by Adrienne ZwartWhite Thistle wildflower photo adrienneinohio.blogspot.comasters photo by adrienne zwartsun setting in cloudy sky - Photo copyright Adrienne Zwart

Here is a video that gives an interesting overview of the park.


Hi Adrienne, Love seeing your pictures. What a gorgeous waterfall... And I hope we can get to Mesa Verde sometime. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos. I know it was a special trip for you all---and Jeff would have been so happy...
Oh my goodness Adrienne! I love your trip. Such a grand adventure. I can't pick my favorite spot you have stopped so far. Each place is more exciting than the next. My favorite pictures of all have the kids in them!
Kelly said…
...incredible, Adrienne. My saw so much on this trip. Your description of winding through the mountains is fantastic.
Janice K said…
Wonderful pictures and your narrative made it just like being there. I have many fond memories of being at Mesa Verde with my parents and a child and then taking our children there when they were about the same ages as your family. A fun adventure.

I must also say I admire your courage in driving some of those mountain roads. I think they are somewhat better than they used to be, but still can make for some stressful driving (especially when you would rather be looking out the windows and enjoying the scenry instead of concentrating on keeping on the road).

Have a happy day!
Lona said…
Just fabulous Adrienne. What a wonderful site to visit. I would love the Mesa Verde park. The ruins would be such a great thing to view. Maybe one day. LOL! Do you walk into where the ruins are located? Just fabulous pictures of the area and foliage too. Well maybe not the lizard but I appreciate the beauty of it all the same.
Anita Johnson said…
I thought Mesa Verde was amazing. The longer I stood there, the easier I could imagine people living there...moving along the cliffs, using the ladders and gathering supplies. What an amazing trip you proud of your self...I know I would not have been that brave! (-:
Coy said…
Awesome trip Adrienne! Loved the pics of Mesa Verde; a place I would love to visit
Linda said…
Wow, it's like National Geographic magazine!
Sounds as if you were glad you didn't find a McDonalds - that diner food made my mouth water. McDonalds in Scotland is really crummy - regarded as the lowest of the low!

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