Colorado HighER.

April 26 to April 30

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After our introduction to the beautiful state of Colorado in Durango, we were bummed that we hadn’t planned more time in the state. Alas, we only had a few spots to visit on The Master Plan (which doesn’t really exist). For our second and final experience in CO, we picked very, very well.

But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story (any Captain Underpants fans? No?). We made a pitstop at Back Country Solar in Cortez, CO for a wee little solar upgrade. (If you’re in Cortez, go to Beny’s Diner for breakfast!) Our slightly used Airstream came to us with 2 little panels on the roof equalling a mere 100w of power. If all we were doing is running one LED for the evening, cool. But we have devices to charge—and we find we enjoy camping off-grid often! So we opted for 200 more watts of moveable ZAMP panels so we can chase the sun. We also upgraded our batteries from a single group 27 12v to two 6v Trojans (and had to have a welder deepen our battery box to handle the bigger batteries). An excellent investment. As a bonus, the owner gave the boys (T-shirts and) a lesson on how solar power works (hello homeschool science lesson for the day!). Highly recommend Back Country Solar.

OK, now to the good stuff. Mesa Verde National Park. And I thought Bandelier was my favorite. Mesa Verde is a “you have to see it to believe it” park. Pictures, brochures, websites, books…nothing does this place justice. Seeing and experiencing it does. We took a ranger guided tour of the Balcony House (the other tours hadn’t opened for the season as it was STILL SNOWING—see pics!) with Ranger Sean Duffy. We’ve had experiences with loads of National Park Rangers and none has been as passionate, engaging, entertaining, knowledgeable or brilliant as Ranger Duffy. He made the cliff dwellings practically come alive for us and the boys.

During our tour we saw how incredible the Ancestral Pueblo people were…resourceful engineers and architects…creating entire towns out of the rock and in caves many hundreds of years ago. We climbed down a whole lotta steps to get to the Balcony House and the only way out was to crawl through a claustrophobia-inducing slit in the rocks on all fours, climb up a VERY tall ladder perched on the side of a VERY tall cliff and then shimmy up the cliff wall on teeny little toeholds. We did all this in 33 degree weather and SNOW. It was scary and completely invigorating. We celebrated with hot chocolate and chicken tenders. Obviously.

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, Mesa Verde National Park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. The stunning landscape of Southwest Colorado, near Four Corners, is the backdrop.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a cool silver coffee joint and let our Airstream, Malarkey, do a little flirting.

Mesa Verde is one place I KNOW we’ll return. There’s so much more to see!

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