David has been tossing around the idea for a few summers now of a true family vacation -- not just going to visit people, that is -- and realized this year that the girls are growing so rapidly that they will be off to college before we know it, and the opportunity will be gone -- so he planned a vacation that was in part a re-creation of a family vacation from his childhood, and a few wish-fulfillments of his own. (And yes, he did ask us repeatedly, "What do you want to do?" but since my own interests are considerably further north and/or north-east, I told him to choose what he wants this year, and I'll choose next time!) He remembered Mesa Verde with amazement and fascination, and wanted us to see it, and also had a hankering after seeing some videos of alpine slides to try one of those, so he found one that was relatively near Mesa Verde -- and also of course added in some trains.
(We are so delighted, by the way, with our new-to-us Honda Pilot that we have taken to calling it the TARDIS, sure that it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.)
We joined up with the old Route 66 through a bit of Arizona. I am not much of a desert-person myself, but the skies were gorgeous. There were a couple of thunderstorms -- with some very exciting rain once, and when I say "exciting" I mean "nerve-wracking" as we were driving at the time -- but on the whole the weather was gorgeous, summery-warm but for the most part not hot.
We stopped at Meteor Crater -- part of David's childhood trip, so he was amazed at the difference between the ramshackle (?!) visitor center he remembered, and the extensive and rather elegant one currently under construction.
We stayed the first night on the road at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, part of the old Route 66. Each "wigwam" (tipis, really, of course, Julia reminded us sternly) has a vintage car parked in front, to add to the mid-century charm. It was very compact and bijou, but clean and comfortable, and aside from the mosquitoes I enjoyed it immensely.
The next morning, we stopped for a while at the Petrified Forest. A friend had remarked upon hearing of our plans that she'd been a bit disappointed in the Petrified Forest, having naturally expected trees to be upright, whereas here everything is prone -- to be honest, I'd had no idea what to expect, so I'm glad in a way that I was prepared for the flatness of it, as it were! and could simply appreciate the immense antiquity of it all. I thought that the park itself was really well done, with manmade trails (paths and steps) that take you around to see pretty much everything, but keep you from intruding on the landscape itself.
We drove through the Painted Desert -- miles of rather dull desert interspersed with amazing canyons and overlooks onto such things as the Newspaper Rock petroglyphs -- and then stopped any number of times at the overlooks around Canyon de Chelly. This I suppose is rather like a miniature, more comfortable Grand Canyon -- gorgeous, fascinating views of sediment-layered rocks -- but much less crowded!
This is Cliff Palace, at Mesa Verde --we stayed at the lodge, so managed to see quite a lot of the sites. Some are ranger-led tours, some are on-your-own, some have ladder-only access, and some you can walk to, so there really is something for everyone. One of the more vivid memories I've come back with, I will admit, is the ladders that must be climbed -- you can just see the top of one in this photo, to the left of the "triangular" boulder that is wedged between another boulder and the cliff face -- rather nerve-wracking.
On the second day, we did a hike to see the petroglyphs -- one of the few places, rather surprisingly, that they exist here. Obviously, the urge to scratch one's mark on a rock hadn't yet taken hold in the 12th century, in this part of the world at least. The hike is said to be 2 1/2 miles, but it feels much longer -- the terrain, I guess, since it is a lot of up-and-down and quite rocky and narrow in places.
I found this very moving -- marks left by men sharpening their axes on the stone. Certainly the dwellings are evidence of human presence, but this seems really to bring it home, that people stood here a thousand years ago, doing something as ordinary as sharpening their axes.
We were pretty fortunate in the weather, for it being late July -- it was hot most days, but not scathingly so, and the reward of skies like this more than made up for anything. (Though we did drink a lot of water.)
After Mesa Verde, we drove up to Durango, and the Durango Mountain Resort -- quite a change of pace! Not only had the scenery changed from dry desert to pine forests and mountains, but it was raining when we looked out in the morning -- this is the main open area of the resort, with the miniature-golf course at the bottom of the picture and the chair lift which goes up to the head of the alpine slide. It rained off and on, but for the most part was rarely more than a shower, and it didn't seem to hinder things much for us.
This is the beginning of the alpine slide down the side of the mountain. I do not like heights, so I'm afraid my teeth hurt once I got to the top, from clenching them, but David gave me a pat on the back once we arrived, at once patronizing and affectionate, and I must say I enjoyed the slide and did it more than once. (Wheeled "bobsleds", with fairly effective handbrakes, so you can go as fast or as leisurely as you like.)
I did not do the zipline, though both girls did -- you can see the start of it on the top of the tower near the middle of this photo. It looks much tamer in the photograph than it does in real life, I assure you.
On the second day in Durango, we went down and rode the steam train up to Silverton. Being a train family on both sides, we enjoyed this immensely. Not only was it live steam -- puffing! hissing! conductors! whistles! brakemen! smuts! clackety-clacks! -- but the scenery along the way was truly magnificent.
We spent a few hours in Silverton -- not enough, actually, we practically raced through the museum, not realizing it was so extensive -- and took the bus back down to Durango, where we lingered another hour or two in the station museum, which takes up part of the roundhouse -- the rest is of course a working roundhouse, and in fact we got to see one of the engines being pulled in for repairs.
We left the next morning with not a little regret, but still glad to be on the way home after a week on the road. We stopped in Phoenix to stay overnight with friends and not coincidentally break the long drive home into two parts -- on the way, we saw a roadside sign that said "Dinosaur Tracks" and David screeched a turn down the narrow and very bumpy road to where there were -- and I laughed at the delightful surreality of it -- Indian guides who took us around to look at the dinosaur tracks on the valley floor. It was very strange, remembering that the miniature-golf course at Durango had had "prints" in the concrete paths, to think that this is the real thing. Dinosaurs.
And then home!
But as for knitting -- since this is a knitting blog, after all -- well, this was my sock before we left --
and this was my sock when we got home --
And school starts tomorrow! Time to get out of vacation mode, however reluctantly, and start thinking about notebooks and new shoes....