We are trying to stick to our hiking resolution so we went on another hike today. We went to the Tortolita Mountains with our friend and our puppies. We started at the Wild Burro Trailhead, and then took the Upper Javelina Trail from 2,800 feet in the valley to 4,300 feet on the high slopes. The landscape is absolutely beautiful with a wide variety of cactus and plants. Another beautiful sunny warm day in Arizona. Thank goodness that Merlin has become a good water drinker, since there is not much shade. Crosby was camera shy, but he had a great time on the hike.
The All Souls Procession is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones and ancestors. The Procession had its beginnings in Tucson, Arizona in 1990 with a ceremonial performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson. Johnson was grieving the passing of her father, and as an artist, she found solace in a creative, celebratory approach to memorializing him. After that first year, many artists were inspired to continue, growing the Procession into its modern incarnation. Today over 100,000 participants create a human-powered procession that ends in the ceremonial burning of a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed.
Our daughter was visiting and this is something that Leslie and she have always wanted to do. It was very moving and touching and we are so happy that we went. There is a Dia de los Muertos flavor to the procession which is evident from the pictures. There were incredible memorials that were carried, made into floats, put on strollers, etc. (many of these are worked on for months before the procession). There is a Honor Wall where you can write the names of loved ones (last picture) and we both wrote messages for the urn. It was so nice to be a part of this event.
The first four pictures are actually from yesterday. We had a technical problem with uploading from the camera and these did not get uploaded. The first picture is Pinkerton Hot Springs. The minerals in the water have turned the rocks all different colors. The 4th picture shows the sign before you start on the highway toward Ouray. Nice that they warn people.
Mesa Verde National Park protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the United States. With more than 4,300 sites, including 600 cliff dwelling, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S. Mesa Verde (Spanish for “green table”) is best known for structures such as Cliff Palace (10th picture), thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
The Mesa Verdeans survived using a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa’s first pueblos sometime after 650 AD, and by the end of the 12th century, they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known. By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico.
We have been here before (thus the older picture of Don and the sign) but not at this time of year. The fall colors on the hills (last picture) were beautiful. The color was all over the park, but once again there were no turnouts to get pictures. Don really needs to work with people to put turnouts in the appropriate places.
We went east today to Durango. It is another cute town in this area that exists because of mining in the 1880s. The weather was a bit rainy, so we put off the scenic drive until tomorrow. There was a wonderful trail along the Animas River, so we decided to take a long walk. In addition to being by the river, part of the trail was right next to the railroad tracks for the Durango and Silverton narrow gauge railroad. We were not lucky enough to see the train, but Don (and other photographers) got to take pictures of the tracks. New city, new brewery. We went to Steamworks Brewing Company. Don recommends this brewery if you are ever in Durango.
We fled Gunnison a day early to avoid the snow that was supposed to fall all day today (is this fall or winter?) and drove further south toward the San Juan Mountains. There are 28 peaks in this mountain range and 19 of them are more than 13,000 feet – 7 of them are over 14,000. The first four pictures show the gorgeous views as we were driving. The mountains in Colorado are breathtaking.
Something we have been looking forward to was going to Telluride and eating at Brown Dog Pizza. Last year we ate Detroit style pizza for the first time at Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. It is the best pizza we have had. Don found that a relative of the owner had moved to Colorado and opened Brown Dog Pizza, so we have been looking forward to trying it. In truth it is not quite as good as the original, but it was pretty close and a whole lot closer than Detroit.
We decided to take Merlin for a quick walk before we went on to Delores to spend the night. We happened upon the Telluride gondola which is a one-of-a-kind transportation system – the first and only free public transportation system of its kind in the United States. Lo and behold, dogs were allowed, so Merlin got to take his first gondola ride. The views were very nice. One of Leslie’s biggest fears on a gondola is having it stop while in-transit. Evidently, they were trying to help her get over it as it stopped 5 times during the round trip (add to that the 25 mph winds and it was a lot of fun to be hanging there). There was not a problem, someone was getting married at the mid-point, so they had to load equipment, etc. so it took longer to load some of the cars. The last two pictures show the beautiful view while riding the gondola.
The weather in Gunnison was not nice today, so we decided to go to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (which is an hour away). The Gunnison River drops an average of 34 feet per mile through the entire canyon, making it the 5th steepest mountain descent in North America. By comparison, the Colorado River drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile through the Grand Canyon. The Black Canyon is so named because its steepness makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate into its depths (certain parts only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day). As a result, the canyon is often shrouded in shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black.
This park is Merlin’s favorite national park because he was allowed to walk on all of the overlooks. The next to the last picture is the river down in the canyon. We can attest to how steep the canyon is. We took a 4 mile windy road at a 16% grade to get there. We have never been on a road that steep. The ranger said to put the car in 1st gear the whole way down and we would be fine. That’s what we did. The good news is the road is paved and had some wide shoulders, so at least it wasn’t insane to drive down there. The last picture is from our first visit to the canyon about 20 years ago.
We did not have a beautiful sunny day today, but the clouds can sometimes make for interesting pictures. We drove to Ohio Pass on a 22 mile dirt road. There were a lot of ranches in the first few miles and then it gave way to aspen forests. Someone told us that aspens are the world’s largest living organism, so we had to look it up. We found that most aspens grow in large clonal colonies, derived from a single seedling, and spread by means of root suckers; new stems in the colony may appear at up to 98–131 ft from the parent tree. Each individual tree can live for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived. In some cases, they live for thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground. They are able to survive forest fires, because the roots are below the heat of the fire, and new sprouts appear after the fire burns out. There seems to be some controversy about the largest living organism part, but the botany lesson was interesting.
We found some sun and took a hike to Beaver Pond (10th – 11th picture). We also took another hike, but there is no photographic evidence because we had just gotten to the lake and it started to rain so we had to book it back to the car. We felt after our 3/4 mile run (at an elevation of 9,000 feet) to the car that we could stop in Crested Butte and go to Niky’s Mini Donuts since they only serve tiny donuts. We behaved and just got two cake donuts – one vanilla frosted and one maple frosted. Don, who can take or leave sweets, really liked the maple frosted one. It did not take much to twist Leslie’s arm to go back and get another one. Ok, truth be told, unbeknownst to us you have to buy two at a time, so we had 4 tiny donuts.
We took a drive to Independence Pass (first 5 pictures) which at 12,095 ft is the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the U.S. It was a bit of a white knuckle drive, but not as bad as we thought it might be. Do not get us wrong, in several places there were inches between the edge of the road and a drop off the side of the mountain, but we have been on worse.
The last 5 pictures are from a drive along Castle Creek near Aspen. Seems like the leaves were past their prime in some places, but this allowed Don to take his artsy pictures.