National Parks: Mesa Verde and Canyonlands Needles

This is our first official vacation together in several years; either I’ve being going somewhere while Dan stays with Jesse, or vice versa. Now, we’ve booked a week off of work, and are exploring the Internet-limited areas of National Parks, as we make our way through Colorodo and Utah.

My last entry left off after our first week in Albuquerque. After less than stellar weather, but most excellent company for the weekend, I caught a flight to San Jose for a week of meetings and design sessions in Mountain View. I also managed to squeeze in my first Giants game (in a suite, no less!) and got to see my favorite Santa Cruz posse briefly for dinner. By the time I caught my flight back to ABQ, I was tired and managed to pick up a nasty cold. But… vacation awaits!

Three years ago we coined the idea of ‘not the National Park tour’, where we’d travel to NP areas, but would spend much of our time in BLM land or National Forest, and then car tour through the NP, which are generally pretty dog-unfriendly. We found we could experience awesome lands (that don’t stop at the park entrance) without the crowds and usually having Jesse off leash in back country. It was time for part two of the adventure.

We got on the road Sat morning and headed to Mesa Verde, CO, which has some incredibly preserved ancient Indian cave dwellings. We were also impressed that a National Park actually had a dog-friendly hiking trail; two, in fact, for a total of about 6 miles of trail! Great fun to be able to explore by foot in the NP, and am grateful to the park for allowing this, as it’s a new development for them. Hope this is a trend.

Today, we are settled in at Needles Outpost in lower Canyonlands in BLM land. It is just outside of the NP boundary, so we are able to hike leash-free on the trails. Needles itself is a beautiful park, and we enjoyed our car tour of the various overlooks. Unfortunately, this NP isn’t quite as dog-friendly as Mesa Verde, but that was more to be expected. I loved my walks over the stone hills and into the lands below, which are all open range – kept my eyes out for cows, in case Jesse got any big ideas about getting a job.

We also discovered a great ‘make your own route’ hike at the end of Indian Creek, recommended by a woman I met. One of those great, “go four miles down the road at the unmarked dirt road, go four miles down the dirt road until you hit creek, park and start hiking” suggestions that ends up being gold. We explored the canyon and then headed up the cliffs. Lucky for me, Jesse and Dan had a good sense of direction to get us back out. So far, it’s been the highlight adventure of the week!

Cave dwellings in Mesa Verde NP

Cave dwellings in Mesa Verde NP

Excited to be flying East to my hunz, dog and vacation!

Excited to be flying East to my hunz, dog and vacation!

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Mesa Verde Cliffs

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I was enchanted by the strip of green velvet grass on the valley floor below

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Indian Creek, you can just see Jesse cooling off, and the mighty Green Bean Flying Machine in the background, taking us to the end of another road in America.

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Cooling off after a big hike through the back canyons. Spectacular!

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Over the hill and around the bend… hiking straight back from the campsite into BLM lands.

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View from our camp spot, Needles Outpost, Canyonlands, UT

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Dan by the waterfall at Indian Creek.

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We’ve dodged a lot of weather on this trip! Getting lucky again as we skirt around this storm.

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Sarcasm or irony?

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Home sweet home at Mesa Verde, CO, where we staying in the NP campground.