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Old 09-29-2018, 02:23 PM   #1
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5 Days in Southern Colorado and Utah

Since I havenít done much work on the van, we decided just use the van and take another vacation through southern Utah and Colorado. The goal was to go to hit those places we have driven by many times in the past, but never stopped.

I left work early and finished packing up the van. We have not completed much in the interior, so we just piled the gear in the back.

We left home about 4 pm and headed south to just past Green River, UT and camped at the Crystal Geyser on the banks of the Green River. There were a couple of other campers in the area. It was a beautiful clear and warm night. No wind, no bugs. We found a great spot just above the river and cooked some BBQ chicken for dinner. We sat on the banks of the river and watched the stars. It was a great night.

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At 1 am we heard the geyser go off. It is not a hot water geyser, but a cold water, CO^2 powered geyser. It supposedly goes off either every 8 hours or every 22 hours. We have been here before, but have never seen it go off. This time we heard it go off, but it was too dark to see it.


The next morning we got up late and packed up and drove further south to Moab. We didnít stay long as we are coming back in early October for RZR riding with family. The next stop was at Hovenweep National Monument. It is on the border of Utah and Colorado. There is a concentration of Pueblo ruins around the rim of a canyon. A 2 mile hike allows you to see all the ruins. It is in the middle of nowhere, so we were surprised to see 20-25 cars in the parking lot. It was an interesting place to see and seeing it once was probably enough.


From Hovenweep we drove east into Colorado and stopped for gas in Cortez. From Cortez it was 11 miles to the visitor center at Mesa Verde National Park. We bought tour tickets for the next 2 days just before the center closed.

From the visitor center it is a 5 mile drive from the valley to the top of the mesa where the campground was. We were originally going to camp outside the part the first night and inside the park the second night. But we found a real nice spot, so we thought we would grab it now. Most of the spots were not that great. Small, uneven, too close for us. They have a store and showers and Eva was ready to use the shower in the morning. They also have WIFI in the campground and it was good enough to watch the end of a football game while we were eating our fajitas. By the time we cleaned up, it was dark at camp.


The next morning after breakfast we drove to the Mesa Top area of the park. It was a 45 minute drive from the campground. Our first tour was the Cliff Palace tour. The Cliff Palace had more than 150 room and probably had 300 people living there at one point. This ruin is the biggest one in the park and the one that most people associate with Mesa Verde. The tour goes down some metal stairs and rock steps about 200 feet. Then we walked through the main plaza of the ruins. The exit was climbing up a crack on a few log ladders. We worked our way to the front of the line so we could hurry up and get out to our next tour. Some of the people on the tour looked a little out of shape to climb up the crack.

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More to come. . .
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Old 09-29-2018, 02:26 PM   #2
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We drove the couple of miles to the next tour at Balcony House. This ruin has the other famous picture of a double wide 30 ft ladder that you have to climb to get up to the alcove that holds the ruin. There were several other ladders and narrow cracks you have to climb through. The ranger said this was the most strenuous tour in the park. For us it was not bad at all, but we saw a few others that has some problems. The Balcony House ruin has an example of a preserved balcony on the face of the dwellings. The balcony was how the ancient Pueblo people go from room to room (hence the name of the ruin). It was another great tour and an better opportunity to pass through the rooms of the ruins. To exit you had to crawl through a 12 ft tunnel and then climb up 100 ft of ladders and sandstone steps.

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Old 09-29-2018, 02:32 PM   #3
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We drove to the Chaplin Mesa Museum and ate our lunch in a very nice and quiet day-use area. The museum and film was nice. We also walked over to the Step House overlook. After that we stopped at several other ruins or overlooks to see the ruins.

The two tours were the coolest parts of the day. It was an opportunity to walk through 8-900 year old structures that were build without any metal tools. It is amazing that they have lasted this long. It was the protection of the canyon walls and the overhanging alcove that protected these small cities from the weather. Most of the dwellings on top of the mesa have collapsed and been covered by dirt and sand.

We drove the 25 miles back to the campground and we both took showers at the campground village. We ate Teriyaki Chicken Rice bowls for dinner then relaxed around camp.

We slept in a little longer this morning because our tour of Long House on Weatherill Mesa was not until 2:00 pm. It was a mile walk to the trailhead and then about 1/2 miles down the canyon and back. This was another large site with 150 rooms and about 100 people lived there. There was a large area that they called the dance floor, and then a lot of rooms and storage behind, under the alcove. After the tour Eva and I hurried back on the trail. We wanted to take a shower and then leave the park and get to our next campsite before dark.

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We got a quick shower and then headed down from the mesa to the valley. We stopped in Cortez to get some gas and we stopped at Burger King for dinner and some WIFI time to find a campsite on Google Maps. I found a site on the San Juan River, just off the highway. It was right on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. It was only a few miles from the Four Cornerís monument.

My first choice for camping along the river was gated off, so we went on the other side of the highway. There was a dirt road with a sign that said ďCampingĒ. It was 1/2 mile down a dirt/sand road. It was dark by the time we got there and I had to use the off-road lights to find a place to park. We camped on a rock bluff, right above the river, but it was too dark to see much. We have had a full moon every night, but it was overcast tonight. We raised the top of the campervan and since it was a really warm night, so we opened all the windows in the top. We talked and looked out the windows. That is one thing I really like about our camper-top, the huge windows. Throughout the night we heard coyotes howling in the desert.

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This morning we ate yogurt and fruit for breakfast and got back on the road. We drove to the Four Cornerís Monument. We were there early and able to take pictures without others in the way. This monument was build by the BLM, but is ran by the Navajo nation. There is not much there. Just the monument, and it is surrounded by booths were the Native Americans sell art and other things. Since we were early, they were just setting up the booths, so we did not look around. We only spent 1/2 hour there and then we backtracked back to Colorado and the highway to Bluff Utah.

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At Bluff we toured the old Bluff Fort. This the location where the Hole in the Rock pioneers settled around 1880, after their 5 month journey from Escalante. This is the group that create the hole in the rock route from the Escalante bench down to the Colorado River and back up. The fort was pretty interesting, although most of it has been rebuilt. There was one cabin and one wagon that was original. It was very interesting if you like that kind of stuff.

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Old 09-29-2018, 02:35 PM   #4
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From Bluff we stopped at Sand Island to look at the petroglyphs for a few minutes. We then drove to Gooseneck State Park. This park overlooks the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. We ate lunch and took pictures.

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From there we started the long drive north on the scenic byway that ends in Hanksville. We stopped at the Hite Bridge on the Colorado River and hiked down to the cliff overlooking the river. We also took some pictures of the bridge and scenery. We then continued on the highway that wound through the sandstone canyons to Hanksville. This was my first time on this highway and it was very scenic. At Hanksville we got gas and a shake at Stanís. From there is was about 30 minutes to camp. We took the Goblin Valley turnoff and then the Behind the Reef Road. About 4-5 miles up the road we found a nice private spot in a valley surrounded by cliffs and hills. We ate dinner and then watch the stars. It was before the moonrise, so it was a clear and dark night and we had some good views. About 10 pm the full moon came above the canyon walls so it was another bright night. The next morning we headed home.

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Old 10-02-2018, 02:42 PM   #5
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Nice trip report, thanks for sharing! It looks like you had a good time.
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Old 10-02-2018, 04:18 PM   #6
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Great pictures and report. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. That hole in the rock trail is pretty neat. We did the east side on bikes a couple years ago. Quite the journey those pioneers had!
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Old 10-02-2018, 04:30 PM   #7
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Exciting & time well spent, appreciated the Pic's and explanations - informative. Very sad, your last sentence..."The next morning we headed home."
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Old 10-03-2018, 11:20 AM   #8
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Yes, I could have kept going for weeks
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:19 PM   #9
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Excellent report and photos. Looks like fun. Thanks for posting.
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