On Friday we did the short drive to Bandelier National Monument, one of our favorite places. When we were about 6 miles away, we started to see signs on the highway to pull into the Visitor’s Center and take a shuttle into the monument. What? We stopped and discovered that the disastrous 2013 flood had washed away a lot of our favorite spots. Because some of the parking had disappeared, people could drive in before 9 am. or after 3 pm. All other times: take the shuttle.
We continued to Juniper Campground and were lucky to get a good space; there were few spaces left that were long enough to accommodate our rig. No great views but a very peaceful place. We chose this night to enjoy our Tobin James Fat Boy, a wonderful Zin. I made chicken cacciatore and it was a great dinner. When it got dark, the stars came out and the Milky Way was visible. Very nice.
We got up early to drive the 3 miles into Bandelier’s Frijoles Canyon. It’s a narrow canyon with the gentle Frijoles Creek meandering through it and spectacular cliff dwellings that run for about half a mile. Petroglyphs? Yes, they have them. Fall was always great because the elms would change color and reflect in the quiet stream. We were shocked to find how much things had changed. The flood hadn’t reached the high cliff dwellings, but everything along the creek was pretty much gone – swept away by the flood. There is still a trail along the creek but we had to hop back and forth across the water and each large tree left alongside has debris and there were many snags. Most of the foliage around the water is gone and Frijoles Creek is color of dull, brown refried beans. Too bad.
We once again climbed up the ladders to Alcove House, a place with a view if ever there was one. Once there, we found people could no longer enter the kiva. Another change. We were tired by the time we got back to Visitor’s Center and returned back to the rig to take it easy.
Sunday was Dave’s 60th birthday. Unfortunately, it was also the big driving day to catch up with fall color north of Durango. So we set out on a 200-mile drive. The terrain was pretty – New Mexico bench country with nicely colored rocks. We saw a coyote lope across the road right in front of us. But the clouds took over and we had intermittent rain for a lot of the trip.
We arrived in Durango, CO at about 3:30 and tried to find the campground at the fairgrounds, but the admin buildings were closed and nobody around seemed to know anything about camping there. So we resorted to the RV “resorts”, both expensive. Alpen Rose had flooded open areas and Dave didn’t think he could set up the satellite under all the trees for the sites that were available. We moved on to United Campgrounds, a site right by the Animas River. It looked a little more open but was $49 per night. Yikes! We bit the expensive bullet and billeted there for 2 nights. The payoff occurred at 5:15, 6:00 and 7:00: we were right by the train tracks of the Durango-Silverton Railroad. The steam engines chugging back down from Silverton all went right past us.
After listening to the rain ping, pling and plink off the trees onto our roof a lot of the night, Monday was chore day, big time. We had a long list of things to do. I started with the laundry, then went grocery shopping. We set out looking for Dave’s birthday present: a pair of trekking poles. The first two stores only had cheap ones. He finally found a pair he liked at a small sporting goods store downtown. We visited the Open Shutter Gallery, devoted to photography. The owner, Margy Dudley, is considering Dave’s work for an exhibit. What a great location: a large, airy space with an extra tiny display room set in the old bank vault.
Then Dave and I went in search of haircuts. There was supposed to be a Great Clips near Walmart but it no longer existed. There was a shop in Walmart but it had a 1.5-hour wait. We tried another salon but it would have been 7 pm before we were both shorn. We bought cheap wine that was expensive in the liquor store. We asked about propane and the RV park person wasn’t too sure where we could get any. All in all, an unsatisfactory day. But we had a nice dinner, watched a amusing bad movie (The Prophecy, starring Christopher Walken as the evil angel Gabriel) and ate large pieces of good birthday cake.