Heading East, September 2017

September took us from Colorado to Massachusetts! We took the drive pretty quickly, but we did manage some sightseeing and visits with friends and family along the way.

After Mesa Verde, we set out for Denver. Bear’s mother lives there so we took a day for visiting. Last time we had been out, we wanted to walk LoDo, the fancy name for Lower Downtown Denver. We had grabbed some lunch and then got rained on. So we figured, we’d take care of that this time around. We had lunch at our usual stop, Wynkoop and then made our way through town. There is a nice pedestrian walk right through town, and it’s filled with art and music. I really liked the pianos out for public use.

Our time in Denver was pretty quick, we had a lot more road to cover. We set off and stopped in Lusk, Wyoming. I really enjoyed this campground. It had a nice playground and the fence of bird houses was downright adorable.

Eventually we made it out to South Dakota. On our way to our camp in Rapid City, we made a quick stop to a little known place called Mount Rushmore! On the way we got some great views of Standing Rock!

The whole family enjoyed the visitor center, which goes through the history of the monument, from its initial dream to the actuality. It was an amazing endeavor.

We had three nights in Rapid City, and we took one of our days to drive to Badlands National Park. I was very excited about this park as many fellow travelers have enthusiastically recommended it!

It was well worth the praise. The land reminded me of a lot of formations we’ve seen in the Southwest, but the colors were quite different. It was cloudy, and we came in the middle of the day, so the light was not it’s best. Nonetheless, we were wowed by the sweeping views and multi-hued formations. We even got a treat, big horned sheep!

The visitor center is not to be missed. As usual, it gives a comprehensive rundown of the geological and cultural history of the area. It also has a paleontology lab where you can see real life paleontologists working on fossils. There are also coloring activities for the kids.

On our way back from the park, we stopped at the infamous Wall Drug for some free water and a Jackalope ride. We also made some friends.

We took one afternoon to drive through Rapid City and visit the local park. I’m really glad we did. This park was awesome. It had a few different play areas, some based on sounds and lights, some more traditional. We had a great time poking through each section.

We could have easily spent more time in South Dakota, but we had to move on. Our next stop was near Chicago, and we stayed at a county park in Big Rock. We never made it to the city, but we enjoyed pizza and meeting friends at the campground.

After our time in Chicago, it was time to get back to visiting friends! First stop was Erie, Pennsylvania, where a very good friend of Bear lives. We got a nice campsite, on Lake Erie, and although the area around it was.. interesting (especially the sewage treatment plant), the campground itself was clean and pleasant. (And we never smelled the plant!)

We enjoyed some delicious food in town. At first the hostess seemed apprehensive of our kids, but I think it went well!

We took a day trip out to Niagara Falls, which was a pretty good drive, but worth the trip. We didn’t have time for any of the boat tours, but we took the view at the rim and poked around the visitor center.

Our last stop before Boston was in upstate New York, visiting my second family! This family lived across the street from me in my hometown downstate and it had been way too long since we had seen them.

They have a horse and a pony, so we put the kids to work and in exchange, they got lessons!

We took a few sightseeing trips to explore the area, including a fire tower, some fossilized trees, and the power authority.

We had made it to the east coast! Next stop, Boston.

Mesa Verde, September 2017

With our route change, we had gained the opportunity to return to Mesa Verde National Park. We had spent one afternoon here back in May. We had been at Black Canyon of the Gunnison and we were snowed out, so we took a day trip. I had told Bear that when we returned, I would want at least three days to further explore the park. Well, we got it and it was wonderful!

Mesa Verde is a real archeological treasure. It is the largest collection of cliff dwellings and has examples of the architectural steps it took to get from the mesa top to the cliffs. As you enter the park, there is a great visitor center that can orient you to the layout of the park and the cultural history. There is even an archeological lab that you can peer into. (Photos are from our previous trip, we were lazy and didn’t drive out to it!)

There is another museum on the Mesa which is the Archeological Museum. There are wonderful dioramas detailing the different archeological periods of the ancient peubloans. Many of the artifacts found in the park are on display here, and it was a thrill to see them! Our favorite factoid: alarm turkeys! Apparently, turkeys were kept for food, company, and alarm systems!

The drive up the Mesa is quite pretty, there are great sweeping views and some scary turns. We stayed at the campground in the park, which was comfortable and convenient for exploring the park. There were a few trails nearby, good for an afternoon walk.

We took two days for sightseeing, which is most driving from place to place. There are pamphlets for self guided tours available. Usually a small donation is asked for. We visited the Mesa Top sites, which included several versions of the early dwellings, pit houses, and some pueblos.

There are, of course, a few stops which overlook the cliff dwellings. These are quite impressive, but hard to photograph in the wrong light! (I cheated with some filters!) You can also get tours of these and go into some of them! A treat we saved for the next time we come through.

We also stopped at the Far View site, which is a Pueblo City and was a really incredible stop. There are a few things to see here, including the cities and the reservoir. This part really reminded me of ruins I’ve seen throughout Europe!

The girls enjoyed learning about and seeing the varied of archeological sites and artifacts. The park is the only park (or maybe the first?) purely dedicated to preserving cultural history and it’s very easy to see why! We still haven’ seen everything to see, so we’ll swing by again sometime.