It may be hard, but it is possible to stave off a hangover and make a 6 hour drive through mountain passes. Still, I don’t recommend it. By the time I was in Alamosa, Colorado, the headache had finally dulled to a light blip and I no longer felt like water was too spicy for my stomach. I was human again, even if it was only partially.
I think what really shocked me out of the fog still hanging from the previous evening was being nearly hit head on just as I was coming into town. Some people just don’t need to be passing on mountain roads and that particular Chevy Cavalier should accept its fate of being stuck behind trucks. Literally pulling off the road to avoid collision, I immediately began looking for the nearest gas station as I had nearly shat my pants in the face of certain injury.
The drive was as you would expect for labor day weekend, slow and obnoxious. Apparently every vehicle had broken their cruise control so I was stuck constantly monitoring my speed between 7 over and 17 under the limit. Mildly annoying yes, but for 6 hours is also tiresome. I was relieved when I saw the towering mesa in the distance for I knew I was close to my destination and a hot meal.
I checked into the campsite after purchasing the obligatory guided hiking tour at the visitor center. You can’t visit Mesa Verde without going into the cliff dwellings. That would be like going to disney world and not incurring unreasonable debt so your kid can see a cartoon mouse. The loop was fairly full when I got there so I had to be less picky than I normally would be when picking a campsite. The spot that I did snag was perfect as it had large hedges to the south east which would block the morning sun. That’s what is really important.
What I did not know about my awesome campsite upon picking it was the flying insect horde that guarded my picnic table. A nearby yellowjacket nest made my dinner a target for a full on raiding swarm. Turns out, even wasps like fried chicken. I cleaned up my quick dinner and set up the tent and retired into it early as I didn’t want to move campsites or deal with the buzzing pests that had taken over my campsite. Waiting for nightfall I sat and digested and dozed off.
The early alarm interrupted a strange dream of being a lighthearted teenager again and something about skateboards. I don’t quite remember, only that it was weird. My breakfast was attacked as my dinner had been. It was more satisfying though as I had broken out the camp stove and cast irons, so my breakfast was the demise of multiple mean insects. I cackled as several flew into my open flame, never to buzz in my face again.
QUickly packing up camp I made my way to the meeting spot for the morning guided tour. The breathtaking vistas of the green mesa slowed my drive as it should. Even the tragic skeletons of the forest where a fire had ripped across the mesa top was morbidly beautiful. Pink and orange rocks jutting above green juniper forests. This place is incredible even without the history in its cliff dwellings.
My gate was great, which I knew he would be as he shared my name. Never met a David I didn’t like. We had a very insightful and informative guide, who was more than just a knowledge machine spitting out prewritten words. Being half Pueblo, he brought his insight as a native and what the ancestors of the people who lived at Mesa Verde thought and did. I was quite impressed with his insight and left feeling like I had truly learned something.
I made my way out of the park, stopping at overlooks and short hikes along my way filling my camera roll with the views. It truly is a fine national park that gets a little overlooked, which is a shame. I reflected on what Ranger David had talked about as I sat in the parking lot of the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez, then quickly my thoughts changed to how maybe a few less transplants would end up in the state if they took down the welcome center. After my sandwich I headed into the Ute Reservation, head full of ideas and finally feeling free of the hangover.
Part II coming soon…