During our stay in Oklahoma, my mom, Jun, and I decided to take a short road trip to Colorado. After thinking about where we would like to go, we settled on visiting Durango and the surrounding area.
The drive to Durango from Guthrie took us between 11 to 12 hours. Fortunately, Mom and I were able to take turns driving; it wasn’t too bad getting to Durango as a result.
When we arrived, we were glad to be able to settle in our room. By that time of night, none of us wanted to venture out and find a place to eat. We asked the front desk if they could recommend a place for delivery and we ended up having this amazing pesto-based pizza from Home Slice Pizza. It was one of the best pizzas that any of us had ever tasted.
With our stomachs happy, we soon went to sleep.
Our first full day in Durango had us driving again westwards towards Mesa Verde National Park. When I was an undergraduate, my area of concentration was in the archaeology of the North American Southwest. One of the cultures I had studied were the Ancestral Puebloans who had lived in the present-day Four Corners Region. One of the major representations of this culture exists in Mesa Verde.
For many years since I was an undergraduate I had wanted to visit the national park, but the opportunity to do so had never occurred. While I had visited other examples of Puebloan culture, such as Taos Pueblo and Bandelier National Monument, Mesa Verde was at the top of the list. After many years, I finally had the opportunity to visit the place!
One of the highlights of Mesa Verde are the cliff dwellings. These were the places where the Ancestral Puebloans built their homes, fortifications, and storage complexes. Typically, they had built these structures in shallow caves or under rock overhangs along canyon walls.
To get to the cliff dwellings required driving up a winding road to the top. My mom is adverse to heights and had me drive while we were in the park. She sat in the back of the car with her eyes closed. When we got to the top, it was much easier for her as we went around the park.
The rest of the morning and the early afternoon had us visiting the different areas of the park. The highlights were Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace. It was wonderful to visit each of these places.
After we had seen everything we wanted, Mom, Jun, and I went back to Durango and explored the town. As we were walking we found this amazing chocolatier—Animas Chocolate & Coffee Company—that had an amazing array of coffee related drinks and snacks. I enjoyed a hot chocolate infused with chili peppers. While it definitely left a tingle on my tongue, it left me extremely satisfied. It was in many ways a nice last note for the day.
We continued our explorations of Ancestral Puebloan culture by driving down to Aztec, New Mexico. We went there to visit Aztec Ruins National Monument. Another Ancestral Puebloan site, the site resembles more of the great houses of Chaco Canyon than the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. Nevertheless, they share many similar cultural traits, such as the construction of ceremonial kivas.
Built and occupied from the 11th to 13th centuries, it was later abandoned for unknown reasons. The site, however, is still revered and occasionally used for ceremonies by the modern-day descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans. As for its unusual name, 19th century Americans had thought the Aztecs of Mexico had built the site; it has remained its official name ever since.
All three of us enjoyed our visit to Aztec Ruins. We were fortunate that there were only a handful of other people at the site. We comfortably meandered through the different sections. We were impressed with how it was beautifully preserved and interpreted.
Afterwards, we went back to Durango to first walk around Fort Lewis College to get an amazing view of the Animus River Valley. From there we went down into the town to grab lunch at the wonderful Ken and Sue’s restaurant. After our late lunch, we took a walk along the Animus River Trail. By then we were ready to relax a bit and went back to the hotel.
We left early for Oklahoma to try to avoid the storm that was approaching the region. Fortunately, we did miss the rain and the snow. What we did get was a wicked strong wind all the way back to Oklahoma. We made it back to Guthrie at 9:30 that evening. All three of us were exhausted and were ready for sleep. It had been a fun trip, but now it was time to rest.