San Juans

After a super fun day exploring ancient Pueblo ruins at Mesa Verde, woke early excited about my Day Two adventure – dog sledding! Another bucket list activity – check, done 🙂

Met up with 2 guides (‘Kentucky’ Chris & Sarah) from Durango Dog Ranch & 2 other day mushers from Sweden (Monica & Ida) at a local coffee house in Mancos – approx 35 minutes west of Durango on Highway 160.

Because of recent warm weather (past 2 days), drove deep into Mancos State Park in search of adequate snow for sledding.  Kentucky Chris who lives nearby in a yurt (whole lotta back-story here) gave us our safety/do/don’t speech & we started unloading dogs.  Sarah showed how to harness the friendlier dogs – lotta yapping, lotta fun.

 

What didn’t I know?  Alaskan huskies are mutts.  Each have a small percentage of Siberian husky in their bloodline (which makes them wanna pull) but then the remainder is greyhound or pointer generally – added for speed.

What else?  Siberian huskies don’t really love people.  Their temperament are more like cats.  They really don’t need us.  They’ll take food of course but not a fan of petting or human affection.  Today’s huskies with a higher Siberian mix were very standoff-ish, sported sky-blue eyes – and made the best sled dogs.

What about whips?  Yea, they thought I was crazy.  I guess that ended sometime around Jack London.   Now it’s all voice commands – HAW for left, GEE for right, YIP YIP for go & WHOA for stop.

Where do the humans go?  One stands on the back, one rides on an ice chest in the sled (where supplies generally go).

 

Yip, Yip & away we went.

These dogs LOVE to run.  Had to stop twice to avoid cattle guards (which can break the dogs’ legs) & with each stop, one of our lead dogs in particular kept jumping straight up & down – and barking wildly.  LOVE LOVE to run, can’t wait to start up again.

Took a turn as Musher for a short distance but I’d be fibbing if I told you I did any more than went for a ride.  The dogs knew to follow the groomed path ahead – I yelled HAW & GEE to keep us out of snow banks…that still counts, right? 🙂

Day ended with water, chow & hot dogs for the huskies – hot chocolate, hummus & crackers for us humans.

So was it worth the 7 hour drive?  YES, YES, YES.

 

WATCH my clip ‘Durango Dog Ranch’!

End of the year & unexpectedly found myself with a few extra days (my employer decided to close between Christmas & New Years).  What to do?  Kick around locally or road trip.  Yep, I vote ROAD TRIP.

Durango & the many peaks on Colorado’s Western Slope have thus far eluded me – hard to spur motivation for the 7 hour drive.  Having the extra days off however, no excuses.  Drove 5 hours with M before camping near Pagosa Springs.

Day One destination – Mesa Verde National Park.  Day Two – Dog Sledding…yep, dog sledding.  Awesome idea, huh?

Added Mesa Verde to my Colorado bucket list from a AAA Traveler flyer viewed almost 3 years.  Pueblo Indian ruins located in a Southwest backdrop?  No brainer – gotta go!

Started at the Visitor Center educating myself on everything Native American.  The Pueblo cliff dwelling people settled in Mesa Verde from 500 – 1200 AD (long ago for our continent).  Their kiva dwellings were constructed under surrounding cliffs which protected from the harsh winter elements – but also trapped smoke in the village (largest cause of death).

A kiva is a room used by modern Puebloans for religious rituals, many of them associated with the kachina belief system. Among the modern Hopi and most other Pueblo peoples, kivas are square-walled and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies.

M & I hiked down to Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde’s best-preserved & only cliff dwelling open during the winter. Unbelievable [that] these structures still exist & remain intact for visitors to explore.  Hard to imagine these ancient people constructed buildings & planted crops 7,000+ft UP.  SPECTACULAR!

Drove Mesa Top Loop Road, taking in other nearby cliff dwellings before enjoying late lunch/early dinner in Cortez.

Kick back, catch some zzz’s before tomorrow’s adventure?  Nope 🙂

Ended the day at Four Corners Monument, a marker designating the border of 4 US states – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah.  Located in the middle of a Navaho reservation, kinda sad to see the poverty of our native people.  The hour drive from Cortez however was BEE-UT-IFUL.  Savored our last hour of sunlight in the neighboring New Mexico mountains.

LOVED this place, LOVED LOVED this day!

 

Road Trip: The Southwest’s Four Corners

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/four-corners-southwest-road-trip/

 

Coming off a marathon run last weekend AND 2 weeks of crazy cold sub-zero temps, thinkin’ this might be my best chance/motivation to complete gift purchases & send out holiday cards.  Only 11 days ’til Christmas!

Think again…. received an email from Fort Collins hiking buddy, Cammy – Erik & her are free 2 of the next 3 weekends.  Winter 14er hike?  Heck yeah!  (I’ll get holiday inspired next week 🙂 )

Teamed up with M & caravanned down I-25 to the Sangre de Cristo Range – destination: Blanca Peak.  Located the pull-off from Highway 160 & managed maybe a quarter-mile off road before burrowing deep in mountain snow.  Erik unloaded chains – determined their Subaru would make the journey UP.

Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. 4WD SUVs and trucks can slowly make it 3.25 miles to several pull-offs at 8,800’, before the road turns nasty.

As the clock ticked 1 (a.m.), pulled out sleeping bags & crashed for a few hours before tomorrow morning’s ascent.  Ice formed on the inside of M’s jeep – all liquids froze except for a last minute Gatorade purchase.  Cold, super cold!

3 of us crazies started the hike UP, catching the most beautiful pink sunrise.  (M drove on to Alamosa for the day.)  Snow was only wind-blown patchy in areas so I make an über dumb move & leave my snow shoes behind – opting for a lighter pack.

Another mile further we reached sunlight – warmth improved my spirit while ice dangled from my beard.

I struggled this day in knee-deep snow (why did I leave my shoes in the car? ARGH!)  Found myself lagging far behind.  Who wants to be that person?  Decided this just wasn’t my day so I would head back – but needed to first catch Cammy & Erik.  Not once but twice I almost reached the Super Hikers, only to see them complete their mini- snack break & push even further.  LOL>

Snow is now waist-deep.  Thinkin’ I’m D-U-N (done).  Only .5 miles further to Como Lake.  Totally do-able.

SUCCESS!  Kicked back on the frozen lake, I refuel & catch some zzz’s.

Return hike is soooo much easier – no longer cutting a trail UP in snow.  11 mile roundtrip winter hike.  No Blanca Peak today but gotta thank Team Ft Collins for pushing me this day.  I’ll be back…in the summer 🙂

Wait, wait – this tale’s not finished.

Back on the highway & only another 15 minutes down the road, we take in an hour at Great Sand Dunes Nat’l Park.  Sand dunes & snow — followed by Mexican food in Walsenburg.  FANTASTIC finish, FANTASTIC day!

 

 

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