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Posts Tagged ‘Mesa Verde’

 “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”–Neale Donald Walsch

Here’s How It All Began

Balcony House: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Not only have my travels taken me all across the country, they have also taken me back in time. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It was a sunny day in 2004, just three weeks before I would retire from a 37-year career as a journalist, when I drove a brand new RV off an Ogden, Utah, sales lot. It felt like the butterflies in my stomach had developed thorns on their fragile wings.

Everything that had been a part of my past life was about to change. I had just blocked off all chances of remaining rooted in my small, but cozy home that sat in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountains I loved. There simply was not enough money in my future to both fulfill my lifelong dream of living and traveling on the road while maintaining fixed roots within a circle of friends that had taken over 20 years to acquire.

This day I had not only chosen the unknown road that lay ahead, but had wrapped my choice in cement. I had even traded in my Honda Odyssey as part payment for the undersized, 22-foot RV that was now my only form of transportation, and soon would be my only home.
By the time all the paper work giving me title to the 2004 Volkswagen Vista/Winnebago had been scrutinized, signed and finalized, it was early evening. I was too unsettled to take my purchase for a check-out spin. So, feeling tall and strange sitting behind the wheel with my new living, dining, sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities behind me, I drove home. Emotional turmoil, good or bad, always sapped my energy.

When Maggie and I began our travels, her muzzle was still solid black. -- Photo by Pat Bean

On carefully pulling into my driveway, testing the wideness needed to turn my new RV, I heard frenzied barking from inside the house. It was how my dog, Maggie, reacted to the sound of strange vehicles invading her territory. She never barked when I returned home, nor did she at any of my frequent visitors. But she did not recognize this new vehicle.
When I opened the door, Maggie gave me a quizzical look of surprise. Then, realizing in a split second that something new was parked in the driveway, she dashed between my legs and ran out to explore.

I opened the RV’s side door and she eagerly hopped in. She slowly sniffed every surface she could get at, then finally hopped up onto the couch and gave me a look that I easily interpreted as: So where are we going? To explore America, the beautiful, I reply. I always answer my dog’s inquiring looks. .

And that’s how my travels with Maggie began. It’s been a journey that’s covered over 125,000 miles and heading into its eighth year.  I have nary a regret.

*This post was published today as part of Story Circle Network’s One Woman’s Day blog at: http://tinyurl.com/5tevft5  

Bean’s Pat: Birding on the Cheap: Rio Grande Valley http://tinyurl.com/riograndebirds Great birding blog with photos about a  place to escape for the winter.

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Pueblo cliff dwellers left a mysterious legacy for us to unravel. Where did they go from here? Photo by Pat Bean

 “If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” Eleanora Duse

While I know the landscape will eventually recover, the extent of scenes such as this saddened me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Day 19

 The 15-mile twisting, steep drive up to Mesa Verde’s Farview Visitor Center was a cruel lesson about the destructive nature of fire. In the year 2000, over one-third of the park’s 52,000 acres burned. Unlike the Yellowstone fires, this Colorado park’s pinyon pine landscape has not done much visible recovery.

As one who had visited the park before the lightning caused fire, I was devastated to see the drastic changes. And I had plenty of time to look as my drive up was often interrupted by road construction crews. I saw one lone squirrel in a burned out tree surrounded by a forest of burned out trees and wondered about its survival, and about those animals that didn’t survive.

 A view from Park Point, at 8,572 feet and the highest spot in the park, showed the immensity of the lifeless, black devastation. I would have gasped in pain at the sight if the short hike up to the fire lookout hadn’t left me without gasping air.

 The up side – I’m always looking for one – is that the fires were kept away from the park’s other treasures. Mesa Verde protects hundreds of 12th and 13th century Pueblo cliff dwellings. I also know that fire plays a role in the environment and that eventually, like Yellowstone after its fires, Mesa Verde will recover. It’s just doing it much slower.

An RV neighbor in the valley below where I was staying said he watched the huge 2000 fires. “You could see the flames and feel the heat. ” He also noted that the fires that had scarred the landscape revealed hundreds of additional Pueblo historical sites.

Meanwhile, as if to say she was sorry for the devastation,  Mother Nature made it a blue bird day for me. In areas where green still ruled the day, I saw a Steller jay, a pinyon jay and a western bluebird, each wearing its brightest and unique shade of blue.

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I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to to plan the day.” — E.B. White

A cheery cafe to go with a dawdling morning. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A cheery cafe to go with a dawdling morning -- Photo by Pat Bean

 Day 18

It was going to be a short drive today, so I got a late start and then stopped for a late breakfast in the little town of Mancos. It’s the kind of town I imagine Park City as once being. With just a little over 1,000 residents, it plays host to those visiting nearby Mesa Verde National Park for sight-seeing, Jackson Gulch Reservoir for fishing, Mancos State Park for mountain biking, or Chicken Creek resort for skiing.

 I visited the co-op gallery located on its funky main street. Called Artesians of Mancos, the shop features the work of 17 local artists. My favorite pieces were Jan Wright’s watercolors. Sadly, there’s no room in my RV for such luxuries.

 I actually walked into the gallery by mistake. I was looking for the cafe, which was in back of the former bank building, a bit of trivia I guessed from a sign at the top of the building. It was a delightful mistake.

The Absolute Cafe and Bakery in the rear of the building was a good choice. The walls were full of art, and the décor included shelves full of used books for sale – which I perused while waiting for my food – and live plants. There’s something very sad about plastic greenery.

My sausage, egg and hashbrown breakfast was superb, with enough to take back to my RV for the next morning. Before I left, I also bought a blueberry-lemon bar that was to die for. I had it for dinner. I seldom eat out, but this experience left me wanting to do it more.

Native American scupture at the entrance to Mesa Verde RV Park -- Photo by Pat Bean

Later that day, at Mesa Verde RV Park, I saw my first magpie of the year. It’s my favorite bird but not one that can be seen in Texas. . I also watched the brightest yellow-rumped warbler I have ever seen playing around in the window beside my motor home.

 Have I told you lately that life is good?

Copyrighted by Pat Bean

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