Thursday, 22 July 2010


Telluride is about 1½ hours drive from Cortez along the San Juan National Byway. The drive takes you along the Dolores River valley and over Lizard Head Pass with some beautiful views along the way.
Telluride is nestled in a valley created by glaciers. We found the free parking lot and walked along the river to the Gondolas that travel up to Station St Sophia and Mountain Village.

Station St Sophia is a stop for hikers and mountain bikers to either go up or down the mountains.

Telluride from St Sophia.

We took the next gondola down to Mountain Village it looks just like a Swiss village as you arrive.

Mountain Village is a ski resort and was pretty quiet on a hot July day.

Telluride was the town where Butch Cassidy was involved in his first bank robbery, the bank burnt down and was replaced by another building years ago.

We had a great day and plan to go back to do some hiking soon.

Have fun, we are!

Painted Hand Pueblo

Another lovely sunny morning and a trip to Painted Hand Pueblo, part of Canyons of the Ancients. A very small brown sign points the way down a red dirt road, and yes we did shoot past and have to turn around.

The red dirt road is driveable by passenger car, carefully, but is much easier with the truck.

At the parking area we followed the trail, and as with most pueblos it is situated on the edge of a canyon.

Yes, we did climb down here and back up again as well, obviously the Ancestral Puebloans were much fitter than us!

At the bottom we reached the first tower.

The tower is built on a boulder with the remains of rooms underneath. There is a huge sign nearby asking you not to touch the petroglyphs and pictographs. Hmm, they must be there somewhere, but this time we just couldn’t see them for looking, we were probably staring right at them and just didn’t realise what they were.

In some of the mortar you can actually see the fingerprints of the Puebloan builders.

Painted Hand is a beautiful place with far reaching views across the valley and to the mountains in Utah.

Have fun, we are!

Railroads and Bears!

Another very early morning start in time to reach Durango and catch the 9.30 a.m. historic narrow gauge Durango to Silverton Steam train.
Our seats were in the Silver Vista carriage, which has open sides and a reinforced glass roof, so fabulous views all the way.

Ellie, our attendant giving us a briefing as we leave Durango.

The train runs along the Animas river following the road part of the way and then takes you through otherwise inaccessible areas of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Silverton.

Hikers are dropped off and picked up at flag stops to connect with hiking trails that go high into the mountains.

In front and behind the train a small rail car travels checking that the cinders from the train don’t start any fires, if they do then the car driver puts out the fire, if it’s to big for them to deal with they call in the forest service fire fighters. The day before the train had started a couple of fires and the fire fighters were still there damping down as we passed.

On average the train travels at about 18 miles an hour although in places the ledge the train travels along is so narrow that the speed limit is only 5 miles an hour, and yes it is an awful long way down to the river.

Although the line wasn’t allowed to be closed because it was the only access to mines and homes in the area, what really saved it was Hollywood. This is the train that was used in countless movies, among them Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

There are spectacular views of mountains and the river all the way.

As we got higher into the mountains and pulled into Silverton, there was still snow very high up on some of the mountains.

Silverton is an old western mining town that now caters to hikers and tourists and is full of restaurants and stores. We had lunch at Natalia’s the oldest bordello in town.

Downtown Silverton.

As we were travelling home, we saw a bear grubbing around in the rocks just outside of Silverton. A huge cinnamon coloured thing with massive paws, beautiful but I was so glad we were in the train and not on the mountainside with it. Unfortunately no photographs as we were so excited we just didn’t think to take any.

Even though it was a long day, we had a fabulous time.

Have fun, we are!

Sand Canyon Trail

Sand Canyon Trail is a 6.5 mile one way trail from Sand Canyon Pueblo in the North to Castle Rock in the south. Starting from Sand Canyon Pueblo it’s a steep descent into the canyon and best walked with a vehicle at both ends.

As recently as the 1930’s Castle Rock was home to several Ancestral Puebloan buildings, only one remains in the trees at the bottom of the rock, the others have disappeared.

The trail sets off to the side of Castle Rock, across the slick rock and takes a right along the bottom of the cliffs the remains of another building are just a few yards along right on the edge of the path.

After that spur trails take you off into the brush and past buildings in alcoves and under cliff overhangs. Some are hard to see until you’re right on top of them

We followed the trail down a steep descent around the northern edge of a deep canyon and discovered that some are easily spotted from the trail.

It’s a beautiful trail through red rocks with lots of juniper trees and hackberry bushes.

There are some lovely views over the mountains as well.

But even though we’d set out early down between the canyon walls it was getting hotter by the minute, I actually drank my camelback dry and had to refill it, so after 2½ miles we decided to head back.

We were so glad we did, it was well into the 90’s when we got back to BT and we were never so thankful for air conditioning! I think the guy who invented it should be a saint!

Have fun, we are!

Lost and Found!

Sand Canyon Pueblo is part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The directions in my book, Ancient Ruins of the Southwest were quite specific, we followed them carefully and found, absolutely nothing. We turned around and drove back slowly, tried a couple of side roads still nothing. Sand Canyon Pueblo had vanished!

After talking to the very knowledgeable Pat in the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez we found out why. We should have been on Road N not Road P as stated in the book no wonder we couldn’t find it!

Armed with the new directions we drove straight to it. The parking area is at the head of the Sand Canyon Trail and from there it’s about 200 yards down a separate trail to the pueblo.

Luckily I put my boots on, because as we walked along I strode straight over the top of a snake! Thank goodness it wasn’t a rattler! We were told it might be a gopher snake, but whatever it was it was about 5ft long and had black squares on its back. After that I looked at every shady spot under a bush, twice!

Sand Canyon Pueblo is situated at the head of a canyon near a spring it has been partially excavated and then backfilled for preservation, so while there is not a lot to see it is an interesting place.

The whole village had an outside wall running around the edge of it, the trail crosses the wall in several places and there are interpretive boards along the way.

Have fun, we are!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, Pagosa Springs

We got up way too early yesterday morning and headed off to Chimney Rock Archaeological Area. Despite that it was a lovely drive on a beautiful sunny morning through the San Juan Mountains through Durango where we continued on highway 160 towards Pagosa Springs before turning onto highway 151.

The best way to view the site is on a volunteer guided tour which starts with a car caravan 3 miles up a steep dirt road that although graded does have its slippery washboard moments!

After some background information and a safety chat the tour starts with the lower section of the pueblo.

The real highlight of the tour is the climb to the Chimney Rock Pueblo a Chacoan Great house, which at a height of 7,600 ft is the most remote and isolated of the Chacoan ‘outliers’.

Chimney Rock Pueblo.

There is also little or no water on the mesa which is about 1200 ft above the valley floor, so all water had to be carried up (probably by the women, not sure there'd've been much left in my jar by the time I got to the top!) the steep mountainside.

The views of the surrounding area and Chimney Rock and Companion Rock are well worth the climb.

Every 18.2 years a lunar standstill occurs, when the moon rises between the rocks and although probably well known to the Ancestral Puebloans was only discovered in 1988 during an archeoastronomy study.

It’s a very impressive place and is full of spiritual significance to Native Americans.

Below is the path to the Pueblo, as you can see, steep, rocky and precipitous drops on either side, but well worth the effort.

After all that climbing we enjoyed our picnic lunch under the pine trees by the visitor centre before heading home.

Have fun, we are!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Hovenweep National Monument

We left Cortez and drove through the red rocks of McElmo Canyon on Road G across the Great Sage Plain to Hovenweep National Monument.

Hovenweep, which is Paiute for ‘deserted valley’ straddles the Colorado/Utah border and is close to Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. The once thriving communities have been deserted for over 700 years

We followed the trail from the visitor centre along the edge of Little Ruin Canyon

Hovenweep Castle

Square Tower House was built on a sandstone boulder in the canyon, close to a permanent water source.

The trail dips down a very steep 80ft across a weathered coal deposit then crosses the canyon floor before winding its way up the opposite side.

Stronghold House from the canyon floor.

It took us around 2 hot, dusty hours to hike around all the towers. We had lunch under a shady ramada and, once the motor home that had its aircon running left, listened to the silence.

Have fun, we are!

San Juan Mountains - more walking with bears!

We followed Forest Road 561 high into the San Juan Mountains in search of a short trail with a great view.

The road is well maintained but steep, our trailhead was at 9,000ft, the road continues onwards, but I’m not sure how much higher it climbs.

The Big Al trail is named for a forest service employee who was disabled while fighting the Clover Mist Fire near Yellowstone National Park in 1988. It is only a half a mile each way and is barrier free. We parked by the campground and headed off.

Quaking Aspens and wildflower meadows abound on each side of the trail, there are benches every 400 yards and at intervals there are information boards, the last one had been damaged but was about black bears maybe they’re trying to keep it quiet but we know they’re out there!

Wildflower meadow.
Not at all sure what they are, but they're very pretty.
At the end of the trail is a viewpoint, over looking West Mancos Valley and the San Juan Mountains.

This time of the year thunderstorms are not uncommon in the afternoons, they move fast and can reach you in next to no time. We could see storm clouds forming in the distance, but thankfully they passed us by.

There is beef pasture (maybe the bears would prefer a nice burger?) in the mountains and corrals line the forest road ready for the fall roundup.

Have fun, we are!