Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park

We visited Mesa Verde the weekend of July 11. We took US 160, and passed over Wolf Creek Pass on the way west.

On the way, we stopped in at Great Sand Dunes, for a quick visit. It had been a couple of years since we had been there, and we wanted to just take in the view.

Leece at the visitors' center, with Mt Herard in the far background.

Leece takes some snappies at the Zapata Falls turnoff. Mount Blanca is on the right, standing at 14, 345 feet, slightly higher than Pikes Peak. 

We stayed at the Far View Lodge, about fifteen miles inside Mesa Verde's boundaries. The motel, though not luxurious, was clean and comfortable, and we did indeed have a 'far view'... all the way to Ship Rock and beyond, as a matter of fact.

We visited the Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace, as well as the Far View community, and the museum at Chapin Mesa. Leece has some photos and a blogpost on the museum visit, and she has posted more photos and her own comments about Mesa Verde here.

This is a good park for a three day weekend. You can make a half day or one day visit, but to really appreciate the park's content, three days is a decent start.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cheyenne Mountain State Park 07.06.2014

We decided to take a day trip to Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and do a bit of hiking, and perhaps some wildflower shots. It's getting late in the year for the best wildflower photography, but there's always something ...

The visitor center for the park is off CO 115, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. From I-25, take exit 135 west. This is also the southern Academy Boulevard exit.  From the exit ramp, turn left onto South Academy, and drive west past Pikes Peak Community College, past Magrath Avenue (which will take you into Fort Carson), past the Chiles Street exit, pass over CO 115 and then turn left onto the ramp for 115. Proceed north past O'Connell Boulevard, till you reach the lights for what most people see as the main entrance to Fort Carson, Nelson Boulevard, on the left. You want to take a right at that stoplight, onto JL Ranch Heights Road. The turn off is well-marked with the brown signage commonly used for the state parks. The visitor center is on the right, a hop and a skip up from the turnoff.

There's a $7.00 day use fee for CMSP. We paid that at the visitor center, then geared up for the hike. We decided to take the Soaring Kestrel trail, which was new to us. We started on Coyote Run. This one starts right behind the visitor's center. Further up the trail, we picked up Soaring Kestrel, then Bobcat Way, which runs back into Soaring Kestrel, then we made our way back down to the visitor's center. This gave us about 4.5 miles for this hike.

Most of this is through Gambel oak. The southern trails, such as Blackmer Loop, run through the conifer forested area. It was hot enough to suck the breath away; the rangers later told us it was 98, and it reached 102 for a short time. This is fairly unusual for this area. We went through four 24 ounce bottles of water each, refilling at the campground at the top of Bobcat Way, then guzzled those on the way back down. We also soaked our hats and t-shirts, which helped considerably. This hike, in God's own sauna, helped clear the cooped-up-in-the-air-conditioned-house fuzzywuzzies.

And we got some pretty good photos, which can be seen here:

This has long been one of our favorite parks, great for a fast getaway. Here are galleries from past visits:

Cheyenne Mountain State Park 07.04.2009

Cheyenne Mountain State Park 08.10.2013

Cheyenne Mountain State Park 09.01.2013

Leece took this shot of a Mariposa Lily

Butterfly Milkweed

Canadian thistle