Then we carried on down the road and pulled into Mesa Verde National Park around 3pm
. This arrival time is pretty much unheard of for the Heidmanns on Tour. We tend to show up between 6-8pm and in a mad panic, pitch the tent, cook our dinner and try to get the kids unwound and into bed. We certainly enjoyed the experience of pitching the tent and setting up our base and then
having the late afternoon to go for a drive and explore. We decided to head 11 miles down into the park in order to go to the Visitor Center and buy tickets and book on a ranger-led tour of the ancestral cliff dwellings/cities/pueblos that are located throughout the park. There are several places that you can go on self-guided tours and then others where you book to go on a guided tour. We are booked on the 9am tour tomorrow morning for the Balcony Trail.
But, by far the highlight of the day and maybe even the last couple of weeks was what we saw on the drive to the Visitor Center this afternoon. No, it wasn't the herd of wild horses that roam the park which are the next generation of the horses that were left on the Native American Reservation when it became a National Park. No, it wasn't the small group of deer that we saw charge across the road and down the hill. No, it wasn't the incredible views and the green tops of the mesas. No, it wasn't being in cooler weather. But……as we drove down the road, Jess said; "What's that? Is it a dog?" In fact, it was a juvenile black bear grazing on some flowers about 30 feet off the side of the road!!
! Despite the name of 'black' bear, it was cinnamon/chocolate colored and stood there for about 5 seconds as we sat there gazing at it in awe. Then, realizing we were slowing down, it turned and quickly ran off into the brush. We all had a good look at it and it fulfilled one of our chief wishes for this adventure. Ever since we first camped in bear country in Virginia, we had all been fascinated and intrigued by the prospect of seeing a bear. Hooray!!!!!
After that wonderful sighting, we headed back to our campsite for a wonderful relaxing evening of playing around the campground. The kids got to scooter, Tim and Jess got to sit in our screen room and we had a wonderful dinner of turkey burgers, rice pilaf and broccoli. As I write this, the weather is cooling down, the kids are getting ready for smores and it is nearly time for bed. What a wonderful day. We hope that the hard, hot long days of driving in the past three weeks are now going to pay off and we can slowly and carefully bounce from National Park to National Park and really take our time in these wonderful parks in the Rocky Mountains.
After a final night's sleep in comfortable beds, it was time to move out of the hotel, reload Odie and head to a new campground. Our plan was to stop at Trader Joe's for another supply of water and food and then head northwest from Albuquerque and light out for Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners, the only place in the USA where 4 states meet at a point. The states are New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. We pulled into the Four Corners in the early afternoon and stopped for a quick photo shoot with some of us posing with one limb in each state. Because the Four Corners is in Native American land, all around the monument were stalls that sold different Native American Jewelry, knickknacks and, in general, lots of good chachkis (cha-ch-keys). Jess bought herself some earrings, Lily a tortoise necklace, Eli an arrowhead and we bought Eli a bracelet of juniper seeds that is meant to keep bad dreams away.