Pheasants gone Wild!

Sleep came quickly, and the beauty of sleeping in allowed Jody to cook up some pancakes before we were to brave this day’s brisk 17 degrees!  Unlike the day before, the wind is mostly absent, and the sun is bright with skies clear of foreboding clouds.  img_20181107_101653099We bundle up, and even though it has “warmed” up to 19 degrees, it feels significantly warmer than the day before.  Most of us are surprised to find ourselves somewhat sore in the “groinal” area, and tops of our thighs.  It feels like we did a 10,000 yard swim set, all of which was kicking.  Apparently wading through thick vegetation for a couple miles will do that to ya.

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We load up in our vehicles and follow “Chuck” and his dog “Sam” to this morning’s hunt location.  Chuck tells us that in South Dakota (during hunting season) we can have our shotguns in the passenger seat with rounds in the magazine (NOT in the chamber) just in case we spy a bird along the way to our field.  Awesome!  In earnest we all scan the edges of the roadway as we drive.  On the way we bag one bird, standing on the roadside.

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We arrive at one of Roy’s fields (he has 12,000 acres as a 5th generation “Homesteader”) and pile out of our vehicles.  This walk will be about a mile.  Once vehicles are shuttled to the end of the row, we begin.  No sooner does Chuck release his dog and give her the command, “find the bird, Sam”, Sam flushes one up and it is taken down quickly. We miss the next two that are flushed and then the next three, Sam catches herself and brings them back to us.  I’m a little annoyed, but then I think, ‘this dog is smarter than all of us’.  In her dog brain she must be thinking, “it’s f@$^%$g cold out, and if these numbskulls keep missing, I’m gonna freeze my nuts off, if I had them”.  Hence the capture of the next three.  Back on track, we take down another 4 birds, one of which includes a perfect shot…mine.

img_20181112_185344All head, no body.  No pellets to pick out of the meat.

img_20181107_114538736_hdrPaul is the first one with a limit, and the rest of us quickly follow.  Within an hour and having only to walk a mile, we all have our limit.

It is 1130 am!  Now what to do?  We head back, clean the birds and have lunch.  The boys are going to try their luck with varmits…coyotes to be exact.  Even though they are a “nuisance” animal, I won’t shoot anything I won’t eat…unless it tries to kill me or my dog. Jody and I on the other hand, will go back to yesterday’s field and try our luck at grouse and partridge in the lower cut area of the field.

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Can you find the pheasant in the picture?

We kick up, and are startled by a dozen “flying footballs” (Hungarian Partridges), with no time to get a shot off.  Those things fly a zillion miles an hour…away from you, land a tenth of a mile away from you and then run another 100 yards away.  We (I) discover that without a dog, this is futile, but it is better than sitting on our butts at the Lodge.  We then take on the task of finding and stalking as many pheasant as we can.  With mild success.

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Often it is a “Where’s Waldo” kind of event.

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Find the bird…

Even though we have our limit, nothing says that I can’t shoot pictures of them.  Eventually one “poses” for us.

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This occupies the bulk of the afternoon, and we somewhat fullfill our most daunting and ridiculous task…take a “selfie” with a live, and uncooperative, lone pheasant.

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This was the best we could do.

After more than enough fun and laughter in the quickly “cooling” afternoon, we return to the lodge to catch the boys returning empty handed,

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and, a marvelous sunset.

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Pretty birds…and tasty too!

Now we originally were supposed to have a guide and his dog for the two days of pheasant hunting, however this morning is Election Day (we mailed in our ballots) and our guide is working in Minnesota as voting “officer”. This however will not prevent or hinder this morning’s hunt. We’ll do it the “old fashioned way” and walk as a line in the partially mowed millet fields we have driven to. There are 4-5 strips of standing millet nearly a mile long each. We will walk into the wind, that is blowing 20-25 mph. img_20181106_102418296_hdrWhen we stepped out of our car, the temperature read 26 degrees, so with windchill it had to be a brisk -4 degrees. Good thing we’ve been in worse and are actually going to be moving as opposed to sitting in these conditions.

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Roy drops us at the east end of the crop rows where we spread out 5 yards apart and begin to wade westward into the wind through the mostly thigh high dried vegetation.

Who needs a dog when you’ve got the five of us. In no time, Paul literally kicks up a pheasant and brings it down with ease. Okay we think, at least we won’t be skunked. I run into the next two, who refuse to fly, so I take them where they sit. 15 more and we will all have our limit for the day. In South Dakota your daily bag limit is 3 pheasant, all of which must be roosters (males). As we are from out of state, we are allowed a total of 10 days of which we can hunt, divided into two 5 consecutive day periods during the season. The most we can have in our possession for this 5 day period would be 15 birds, but then we’d have to hunt here for 5 days. At the price we are being charged, that is NOT going to happen. Besides we don’t have that much freezer space. We finish the first row, with everyone having bagged at least one pheasant. Matt’s bird is actually 1/2 of one.  When the bird flushed, it got caught up in a gust of wind that pushed it directly up and over the top of Matt.  His shot (the pellets) had no time to disperse, and as such, literally blew the bird in half, the remains of which then rained down on my face.  Thank goodness I was wearing shooting glasses!  Once at the end of the row, Roy picks us up and transports us back to the east end once more for us to walk the next row. From the bed of the truck, the boys spy two more pheasant, which now completes Paul’s limit. Matt now has an intact bird.  I spy another and fill my limit.

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The next row, Kenny, Paul and I are the “bird dogs” and attempt to spot and flush birds for Matt and Brian. Brian fills his limit.  On the drive back down to the next row, Matt got his last bird.

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Not bad for 4 hours and about 3 miles of walking through millet fields.

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Now time for Roy to go back to Ranch work and us (the boys) to clean the birds and bag them for the freezer.

Birds in the freezer, and time for us to thaw out…with some celebratory Whisky! Tomorrow’s hunt will include a guide and his dog, and even colder temperatures.

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South Dakota

Alright, continued from Windyoming…

So staying in a hotel was a good idea. It rained all night and got down way below 20 degrees, which is what my bag is rated to, so that and hot shower made it an even better decision. After our complementary hot breakfast with “endless” coffee, we were on our way. “Martha” our directions app, failed to alert us to our first option that would take us to Faith, South Dakota, and from there to the hunting “lodge” (Grand River Lodge) where we would be hunting pheasant out of for the next two days. I think it had to do with the fact Paul had “muted” her when she insisted on re-routing us each time we made a turn out of the Cabela’s parking lot (in Rapid City, SD) on our way to the hotel last night. She had been unmuted, but to spite us failed to “speak up”.

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Thus having missed our initial turn, we were relegated to her “alternate route”. We have found that back-tracking to take the “original” route usually results in a few “dead–ends” just to remind us that “she/Martha” often holds our fate. As such, “she” took us on an alternate route over well maintained, yet unpaved, and now muddy, county roads. While I’m sure this was the “longer” route, it was by far the most scenic for us. We passed through wide ranging ranch land, most of which having been staked out as homesteads during the push of civilization to the West in the late 1800’s. Rolls of hay and fields of smaller faced sunflowers (used for oil and harvested once they reach below 15% moisture) bracket our moistened roadway.

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Rivers/streams carve whimsical ribbons in the landscape.

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White butts scamper away, knowing full well they are within our range. Lucky for them, this is strickly a Pheasant hunt.

White butts of mule deer with massive racks taunt us whilst in the folds of the landscape where it seems the remaining trees survive or flourish. The wind is more than brisk, and nothing less than bone chilling. Eventually we arrive in Faith where we do our grocery shopping for this hunting adventure.

This mural is adjacent the LynnMart (Grocery store)…and where the liquor store is located

The distinct smell of 8000 cattle and the echo of an auctioneer can be heard over the roar of the wind. We complete our shopping, and looked for a liquor store in order to complete our resupply. Here, liquor is sold separately from food items, and next door to the market is the town’s liquor store, “Package Liquor”. I walk to the store’s door while Paul loads our groceries. The door is locked. It is well past noon, on a Monday, so I’m a little perplexed. Then I read the sign. “Monday – Thursday 8-4, call this number”. Of course the area code is not listed, but I have 4G and can look it up. I call the number, and the woman on the end of the line answers, “Faith City Hall”. I tell her I’m from outta town and the sign on the liquor store said to call this number. “Oh, you’re at Package Liquor, we’ll send someone down to open it up for you”. 10 min later “Patti” arrives. Paul being the comedian, asks her if she is the Mayor, seeing she was coming from City Hall. She chuckles, “No, I just work at City Hall.” Having selected our “poison” we make our purchase and continue to talk. We ask about the area and its industry, and of course…hunting. She graciously offers us names of local ranchers, including her and her husband that allow hunters on their property…some for a fee, others for none. Once done, we call and check in with our friends to see where they are. We are all within an hour or so of each other and plan on meeting at “Flat Creek Rd.”, which according to Martha does not exist. Not to worry, we have no problem talking to “strangers” and asking directions. We drive over a bridge called “Flat Creek” and figure the road must be somewhere close. In actuality it is, but it takes us several passes of said road to figure that out, as it has no road sign posted. “Martha” eventually points the way. We wait in an icy wind, and talk with local ranchers who pass by, asking if we are okay…or lost, considering our California plates. One particular rancher, Gary, stops and spends considerable time helping us figure out where we are supposed to go. We talk hunting, and he tells us that the pheasant population is down nearly 90%, due to the drought conditions they have been experiencing the past few years. Uh Oh! This explains why Brian’s friends told them they recently came back with nothing from their North Dakota pheasant trip. Gary talked of times when they’d get 200 birds a season…each! Heck, we only want 15 between the two of us. Gary assures us that we’ll be able to come home with something, as he is familiar with the Grand River Lodge, and Roy the property owner. img_20181105_153048729

With the sun beginning to set, and proper directions, we “saddle up” and “wagon train” it to the Grand River Lodge. (Turns out that the website directions are correct, Kenny had transposed the numbers on the address, hence our befuddlement and “Martha’s” crazy directions)

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Through a gate or two and a half an hour later we pull up to a compound with three separate houses, one of which is the “Lodge” we will be staying at for the next three nights. A sign on the door asks that we remove our boots.  How’d they know our boots would be muddy?! We enter the building and find it sparsely appointed, but not lacking in necessities. The seven of us have the place (which sleeps 12) to ourselves. Excellent! We pick our rooms complete with twin (think dorm room) beds with RealTree camo comforters and pillows. Yup. This is a lodge for hunters. Once unloaded we make our dinner (we have chosen the “no frills” package). Roy comes by after finishing his Ranch chores, saying he’ll come by around 10am and take us out to where we are going to hunt for pheasant. 10 am? Could this get any better? Normally we are up at the ungodly hour of 4am to prepare for the day’s hunt. I could get used to this hunting hour, and then I learn that you can’t hunt the pheasant here until after 10am. Either way, it’s a morning “win” for me. Hopefully it will “warm” up a bit by then, cause it’s 19 degrees now!

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Windyoming (Wyoming)

You know when you are in the mountains gaining elevation because your ears “pop”. You know you’re in Wyoming when you open your car door and it nearly rips out of your grasp. The wind, like taxes and death is a truism here. A Conoco gas station, with an obvious sense of humor had banners posted, “Free Wind”, which we thought odd at first…and then we got out of the car! As such, we were treated to as much “Free Wind” as we could take, while fueling up and stretching our legs, before we retreated back to the still air of our car’s interior. We are on our way to South Dakota for a pheasant hunting trip with our deer hunting clan, a 3-plus days drive. Normally we would be deer hunting, but alas we were not successful in our draws for the opportunity to hunt in either Utah or Wyoming. Being the cheap SOB’s that we are, we camped the night before in Utah at Sand Hollow State Park, an OHV and fishing park. We lucked out and arrived just before the entrance gates closed (and are locked) at 9pm. We were directed by the Ranger (after paying the $25 “primative”camping fee) to “camp anywhere on the sand” to our left, after the “three flags”. Just after the flags, we drove off-road onto the rust colored red sand dunes crisscrossed with narrow ATV tracks, and thought better of setting up in this area. Upon returning to the park road we consulted the park map and meandered further down the now dirt road where we made a hopeful left turn onto a sandy, brush flanked, path that we hoped led to the water’s edge. A maze of paths carved into the sand and brush appeared before us. A left turn, a right turn, another left and a right. Watch us get ourselves lost we laughed, and suddenly the soft, rutted, sandy path opens to a flat opening with a shiny aluminum picnic table and the water’s edge. We took this as a sign, that we had “arrived”, and set up camp. In the near distance we could hear the sound of ATVs motoring about, and see their headlights where we had originally pulled off, and were pleased with our decision.

After an “okay” nights sleep, we pack up and hit the road. Wyoming is this day’s destination. Just after night fall we make it to the North Platte River, famous for it’s rainbow trout fly fishing. We find a BLM campground called Pete’s Draw. The campsites are gianormous and flat…like most of Wyoming. The North Platte River meanders below us.

We set up underneath the permanent awning just in case the approaching storm arrives a little earlier, as would be our luck. The temperature guage of my FJ read 38°…and because our truck is “broken” we, as the night before, are relegated to tent camping. Joy. Joy. We, however, are prepared for cold weather… mostly. We set up quickly, then fire up the JetBoil for a steaming hot Mountain House meal. It is pitch dark, and ironically, we have 4G reception…go figure. We listen to a radio app on Paul’s phone as we eat, and notice that there is not a breath of wind. Ah yes, the calm before the storm. It appears that there will now be a high probability of no fishing for me tomorrow morning. Grrr. We crawl into our tent as the temperature drops to freezing. As is customary, and inevitable, at my age, I soon awake uncomfortably cold, and realize it’s time to pee. Clumbsly I exit the tent and am treated to a clear sky full of stars, milky way and all. Once my bladder is relieved, I gaze skyward and drink in the splendor of the night’s twinkling tapestry until literally frozen with delight. Back into “bed” I crawl, where sleep returns once I thaw out. I awake once more near 4am to the vestibule door, that we failed to stake down, flapping violently against my head. Yup, no fly fishing today I confirm to myself, and fall back to sleep.

Those little “dots” are geese

Soon the morning’s sunrise, and the incessant honking of geese beckons us to arise. The wind gusts through our campsite, reminding us that, yes, we are in Wyoming. For us, it is bitter cold. It is near freezing with the wind chill, and our exposed fingers are rendered near useless as we fumble to take down our tent and pack up. A hot cup of coffee, a day old donut and a freezing splash of water on our faces, and we are on our way once more, taking note to return earlier next year and fish to our hearts delight. As we head towards Casper, we check to see if we can make the Sunday morning mass. We arrive at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, just in time for the 830 service. We find it ironic that we have driven all this way and end up at an Our Lady of Fatima, of which we too have in our town. After church, we scan the church bulletin, and take notice of the Knights of Columbus “Annual Gun-A-Week raffle”, and chuckle. For the briefist of moments we imagine moving here. Nope! Too much wind. It makes my hair all staticy…drives me nuts. We remark to each other how different the recreational culture is between here and our home. Our Parrish’s Knights of Columbus raffle giant TV’s and surfboards. Back on the road once more, we traverse the wide open countryside dotted with oil rigs and pronghorn. Periodically, at intersections, rail crossing style gate arms stand tall biding their time till the winter snows call them into action and their purpose as road sentries.

Blonde rolling plains of knee high grass eventually morph into jutting rust red plateaus and soon black dirt and the forested knolls of the Black Hills of South Dakota appear. Signs for Devil’s Tower National Park alert us to a possible side trip, but for us it is too cold and the skies are too grey and dreary to make that an enjoyable side trip, at least for now. A rain/snow storm is a-coming and once we reach Rapid City South Dakota hotel points will be redeemed.

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Mesa Verde

Get your climbing shoes on! This place it whack! An hour or so outside of Durango Colorado is Mesa Verde National Park. It spans over 52,000 acres, 5,000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings. The bulk of the park sits at 7,000 ft, with a 25 mile roadway that climbs from the base of the Mesa (Verde), where the Visitor Center is located, to its top. This one mesa top chronicles over 750 years (early 500’s – late 1200’s) of history of the Ancient Pueblo peoples, from mesa top to alcove (cliff) living. It wasn’t until December of 1888 that the abandoned cliff dwellings, specifically the “Cliff Palace”, were “discovered”. Of course the Ute indians, of which the mesa was part of their land, knew full well what was there, but it’s existence and subsequent fame was not brought to light until a rancher, Richard Wetherill came upon it. The Wetherill’s brought several people to this site, to explore and document these magnificent dwellings. Of import, was a Swedish scientist, Gustaf Nordenskiöld. He not only surveyed and studied the cliff dwellings, but pilfered them as well…to fund his studies. At one point he had loaded nearly 2 train cars full of “antiquities” to transport “home” for sale. He was stopped by the authorities for “stealing”, only to be let free, when as he reminded the “authorities” that there are no such laws on the books in which to prosecute him. This tale, amoung others, was the catalyst for the 1906 antiquities protection act. And it was in 1906 that Mesa Verde gained National Park status and protection. On our way into the park, we stopped at the Visitor Center. It is here that much of the artifacts retrieved from the park are housed and studied. It is here, that if you want to explore the cliff dwellings first hand, that you must purchase a $5/person ticket for one of 4 Ranger led tours. It appears that 55 persons is the max for most tours that begin on the 1/2 hour starting May 25 through October 21. As we had only one day at this magnificent park, we chose to tour the “Cliff Palace”, which is the largest cliff dwelling in North America, and believed to not only be living quarters for 100-200 people but a center of civic activity for the area. With tickets in hand we return to our truck and head up the hill presenting our National Park annual pass to the Rangers stationed at the entrance station, otherwise the entrance fee would have been $20. There are two mesa tops that can be accessed and explored, Chapin Mesa (open year-round) and Wetherill Mesa (May – September, weather permitting). While inside the park, there is a campground (Morefield) and the Far View Lodge for those who wish to stay overnight in this day-use only park. Our first stop is at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum located just before the road splits into two one-way only driving loops, the 6 mile Mesa Top Loop and the 6 mile Cliff Palace Loop where two of the Ranger led cliff dwelling tours (Cliff Palace, Balcony House) are located. In the museum we watch an informative movie, and peruse a collection of diaramas and displays of artifacts found at Mesa Verde.

It is here that I compare pictures of the pottery shards I discovered while exploring Peñasco Blanco at Chaco Culture Historic Park.

Soon it is time to head over for our tour of the Cliff Palace. Parking is at a premium, and one is best served taking the first spot one sees, as there is no opportunity to turn around, being a one-way loop.

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At the overlook to Cliff Palace we are met by a Ranger, who explains how the tour will work and what we will see. This tour requires the descent of steep, uneven (non- OSHA approved) stairs, and the ascent of two ladders. Disclaimer completed, the Ranger collects our tour tickets one-by-one as we filter through the now unlocked gate that limits access to the cliff dwelling. The route is fairly short and not particularly difficult.

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We muster under an alcove before we enter the site. Looking toward the site (pictured below), oddly it seems smaller than it looked from above, and I wonder how 100-200 people could have crammed themselves in here, especially in inclement weather. As we are used to having sites to ourselves for the most part, we find being on a “crowded” tour a little annoying, and not as “adventurous” as the last few days.

This, however, does not take away from how facinating these structures are, and their access is to us.

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Adobe “plaster” applied by hand…fingerprints sometimes visible

Closer examination of the walls, some of the adobe “plaster” still remains, but is slowly sluffing off and returning from whence it came. We are told, (and there is evidence) that farming took place atop the mesa, of which the staples were corn, squash and beans. Said crops were then transported back to these “fortress” like structures tucked under cliff overhangs and into alcoves. As the tour concludes, we exit the exact route the inhabitants of this “Palace” used via a ladder to the mesa top. Why the Puebloan people stopped living on the mesa top in “pit houses”, and decided to build these structures is just as much as mystery as to why they climbed upon this mesa in the first place. My theory…to escape attacks from animals with sharp teeth/claws, and more fantastical and imaginative…dragons and/or pterodactyl (Thunderbirds).

After the Cliff Palace tour, we returned to the truck and continued along the Cliff Palace Loop, stopping at turnouts to view additional cliff/alcove housing/villages in differing states of erosion across the mesa from where we stood.

Our binoculars were particularly useful. With still plenty of daylight, we continued to the Mesa Top Loop, on Chapin Mesa where the full spectrum and “evolution” of “housing” that has been found at Mesa Verde.

We take a walk around the floor of an excavated Pit House “common” from 700-950 CE. There is a nearby village of Pueblo style building(s) “common” from 900-1100 CE. As it is getting late, we leave that walk for another time and head back down the mesa, stopping at each of the vistas to search out more dwellings tucked into alcoves and under eroding cliff tops.

45 degrees from edge of mirror is the top pinnacle of Ship Rock…

On our way down, we pass by Far View, and its Lodge, and on this particular day, its name does not disappoint, for the views from Mesa Verde stretch into New Mexico where we can see Ship Rock jutting out on the horizon some 100 miles away. As we make our way down to the bottom of the mesa, we wonder aloud how remarkable a feat it was to build this road, and even more so, how the Ancestral Puebloans came to live upon this particular mesa top. With all of our technological advances, I feel somewhat “primative” compared to the ingenueity and skillsets these ancient peoples employed.

Posted in Ancestral Pueblo People, Ancient Architecture, cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park, Mini Adventures, National Parks, puebloan ancestors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Tripp’n – Southern Ute Nation

From Chaco Culture Historic Park, we return to the NM 550 northbound toward the Colorado border. For the next three nights we will be staying in the RV park at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, just outside Durango Colorado.

Adjacent the Casino is the Southern Ute museum. It has well designed and thought out displays, and tells the story of the area’s Native peoples, specifically the Southern Utes, past, present and future in a “matter of fact” method. It also has a thought provoking display about the north american wolf population and a study done in Yellowstone. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, not unlike all the other Native American people, were much maligned and thought to be “savages” for their way of life. Contrary to the “European” view of land ownership, the Ute believed that the land “owned them”, and lived in a symbiotic relationship with the land. As a people they pride themselves in being skilled horsemen (having early on “lifted” a few from the “visiting” Spainards). The introduction of the horse was a game changer for the Utes, allowing them to become superior big game hunters and to better provide for their people. The Southern Ute, like much of the Native Americans, were “moved” onto reservations in the late 1800’s. These parcels of land were involved in lengthy and vitrol land disputes with the “Europeans”. Often, the land “given” to the Native Americans was thought to be “surplus” land, considered by the “whiteman” as “useless” to them. In this case, the joke was on them, as underneath this “useless” land was a wealth of minerals, oil, and natural gas. It wasn’t till after WWII, when many of the Southern Utes who had returned from overseas (having fought valiently for the US), that they we able to capitalize on their “buried treasure”. From there, they have rebuilt their nation and are working on recapturing and restoring their native language (Shoshonean) and culture. The dividens from the tribe’s financial holdings (which includes the Sky Ute Casino Resort) are paid out to those having documented 25% Ute ancestory. Unlike some Indian Casinos we have been through, the Southern Ute’s, Sky Ute Casino Resort is remarkably modern and meticulously maintained, evidence of their personal pride as a people and nation. I do not mean this as slight to other tribes or nations, it is just an outward observation in this particular case. The RV park we are staying in has 20 full hook-up sites located immediately adjacent to the Casino. When camped at the RV park, you have full access to the Casino, to include the pool, it’s shower/locker room and laundry facilities. The first order of business once we have checked in and completed our hook-up, is a SHOWER!

Once all cleaned up, we plan out our stay. Seeing that the weather is holding nicely we decide to head to Mesa Verde National Park, and the examination of some serious cliff dwellings, the following morning, an hour drive or so.

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Chaco Canyon – Pueblo Alto Complex

Up early to clear blue skies.  Today’s exploration will be the 5.4 mile Pueblo Alto Complex Loop Trail that takes you past a crazy Chacoan staircase up the side of a cliff.

Map of trail to Pueblo Alto

The trail starts aback of Kin Kletso.

It requires a careful scramble of sorts up a narrow passage to the mesa top.

Once through it, you emerge onto a rocky rambling mesa with exquisite views.  img_20180920_090451654We are the first, and only ones up hiking at this early hour and the rewards are breathtaking.  img_20180920_085040843_hdrThe trail meanders about grinding stone spots and numerous pockets of water left over from last nights rain.

(This reminds us that we should always have our LifeStraws with us on day hikes…just in case.)  We are treated to an overview of Pueblo Bonito.

img_20180920_0921410751Definite signs/scars of an ancient roadways can be seen in the South Gap of the canyon floor.  img_20180920_090230735

An area of what was also an ancient roadway a top this mesa is roped off for “protection”.

img_20180920_094148231_burst001As we move northward the mesa continues to stairstep in elevation (270 ft in total) till we reach the absolute top of the mesa and Pueblo Alto.

The horizon’s view stretches clearly for at least 100 miles.  And again, we have this all to ourselves!  As we are to head out to the Durango Colorado area this afternoon, we do not linger or explore much of Pueblo Alto or New Alto.  The trail continues to our east cirumnavigating elevated rim of the fingers of the canyon.

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A sign “Jackson Stairway” ensures you do not miss the precarious steps carved into the canyon’s stone wall.

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See if you can find the stairs.  Hint: look for “unnatural” lines

We see not one, but two sets of stairs (one long, the other much shorter), hewn into the rock, no longer viable due to erosion and lower cliff failures.

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These people certainly had no fear of heights…or at least falling.

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Chetro Ketl

The trail leads over the top of Chetro Ketl where we thought was to be a descent point, only to continue to descend to the lowest part of the mesa top and make a hard right following the contour of the canyon.  Eventually we find ourselves back at the overlook of Pueblo Bonito, and trace the route back to the narrow passage, from which numerous people are now emerging.  We wait our turn, and carfeully make our way back down to the ruins of Kin Kletso.

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Unfortunately I slip 3/4 of the way down  to the bottom of trail (about where Paul is in the picture), violently wedging my right foot into and between several rocks causing the lateral tendon (most likely peroneus longus) of my right ankle to “migrate” into an extremely painful and immobilizing position.  Shit!  At least this didn’t happen somewhere in the middle of the hike.  This rarely happens hiking, but generally happens when I try and put my ski boot on, and takes about 5-15 minutes to “relax” and slip back into proper position.  The problem is, is that I have another 40 feet to descend, and am unable to put any significant pressure on my foot without excrutiating (“Hee” breathing) pain (those of you who have been in labor will understand).  Being that I am impatient, and we are to meet my dad in the next 10 minutes, and we have a mile to walk back to the truck, I do my best to ease my way down the narrow rocky trail without setting off too many jolts of halting.  I feel ridiculous.  Once at the bottom, and upon flat terrain, I hobble along with the aid of my trekking poles.  I send Paul ahead to meet up with my dad.  20 minutes later, still hobbling and the tendon firmly out of place, I get to the truck.  Lunch, a chair and a cold beer is waiting.  When lunch is finished, it is time to head out.  We would have liked to spend more time here as well, but we have more territiory to cover.  Off to the Sky Ute Indian Casino’s RV park in Colorado, of which we will use as a “base camp” for further exploration of the four-corners area.  A small herd of elk watch as we exit the park…proving our ears did not decieve us.

 

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