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Meeting different cultures – recent and past

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We liked Santa Fe a lot, but after all none of us are real town people. We’re rather in the outdoors and that’s why we headed off after another night in the Santa Fe National Forest (at an alititude of 8475 ft or almost 2600 m).
After a quick stop at the national cemetery our first destination was Los Alamos. Both Sam and I had read the book ‘Surely, you must be joking Mr. Feynman!’ by Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, in which he recounts about his time in Los Alamos. And somehow we felt that being in the vicinity, we wanted to make a stop there. The stop was limited to a picnic break, shopping in a local supermarket and driving through the center of town, but was worth it. As we headed out of town towards the Jemez mountains to the west, we were surprised by a control point where the nice lady checked if Sam’s identity card is still valid. If was, and consequently we were allowed to pass by the Los Alamos National Laboratories into the direction we were headed.

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We had not quite expected the road to wind up so high though and at some moments we almost had the feeling that it was more snow than rain coming down. The landscape was awesome: we saw some deer along the way and were amazed by the spectacular Valles Caldera – a 13-mile-wide volcanic crater created about one million years ago.

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After passing through some nice forests, we decided to stay at one of them, once again in a National forest close to the Jemez Falls. Despite the not so distant thunder, we attempted the hike to the nice waterfall and while not necessarily spectacular, it was a very nice sight. And we were lucky not to get wet, as the rain seemed to limit itself to other areas close by.

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For dinner we once more used our fireplace to cook a delicious vegetable stew. Max did a great job in helping Sam to cook. As we were told, we put away all food again into the van, as the rangers told us that there was a harmless black bear seen this afternoon in loop 1. We camped in loop 3, but still thought, it’d be a good idea to stick to the guidelines in regards to food storage.

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Moving on the next morning, we decided to take the paved much longer road vs our original plan of passing by Fenton lake, which would have been unpaved. We had unfortunately forgotten to fill up our tank in Los Alamos before heading off and it just seemed a bit too risky to end up without fuel on a less travelled road. And in retrospect, we’re very happy that we took that decision – the landscapes we passed through were simply spectacular. And it seems that with every bend in the road they changed dramatically.

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A couple of hours later we arrived at Aztec and visited the local Aztec ruins, a National Monument and World Heritage Site – a recommendation that the German couple had given to us a couple of days earlier. And the recommendation proved to be excellent. We bought our $80 ‘America the Beautiful’ Pass, which will give us free entrance in all National Parks and affiliated sites for the coming year and decided to also invest into a Passport to collect the stamps of all sites we’ll be visiting.

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We were lucky to complete our tour of the ruins just in time before the heavy rain started, which accompanied us up to Durango and beyond. Unfortunately, due to the rain, the vistas were hidden and we could only imagine what was hidden from our sight. And on the way to Mesa Verde NP we even noticed a bit of snow next to the road – so we mentally prepared for a cold night.

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Arriving at Mesa Verde we were just 10 mins late – the visitor center had closed at 5pm. We tried our luck and just went towards the park entrance. And we were lucky to be let in with our new yearly NP pass and to hear that there are still plenty of campsites available. And in fact we found a nice spot that should be our home base for the next two nights with a nice mountain backdrop.
We enjoyed a quiet evening including all the pleasures of our new location (such as free hot showers and free wifi). And then we were ready the next morning to head off to the sights. Already the views from the various view points were spectacular.

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But even better then the cliff dwellings... While it was already hard to understand the full meaning of some of the buildings we had seen in Aztec, the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are clearly something even more staggering. For some of the dwellings it seems just so difficult to reach them, let alone to build them and to support more than 100 people living in one of the larger ones… Amazing!

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Have a look at the second picture: do you spot the cliff dwelling in the overhang?

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:11 Archived in USA Tagged cliff los verde mesa aztec dwellings alamos Comments (2)

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