Much LAZIER than your average blogger  
  LZ's info | past | photos
8.31.2009 - 15 comments 

There are probably only a few of you who know, that something that is on my own personal “Bucket List” is to visit ALL 58 of the U.S. National Parks, but having said that; this particular park was one of those that I was not terribly excited about visiting. But after having now done it, I would have to say that this park actually turned my opinion of it completely around now. It was much more interesting than I would have ever expected.

There were some really interesting things that happened while we were in the park though. One of those was the fact that I always "thought" there was just one of these cliff dwelling sites in the park, but actually there are over 20 mesa top sites and view points which may be visited on your own while in the park.

By being unoccupied for many centuries, they have been weakened by natural forces. Some were so badly damaged by looters before the area was made a national park. So they make sure that maximum protection is given to the dwellings in order to preserve them. One regulation that is strictly enforced, is that visitors may enter cliff dwellings ONLY when accompanied by a Park Ranger. However, there are over 4,000 known archeological sites in Mesa Verde National Park, 600 of which are cliff dwellings. Only a few of these sites have been excavated so far.

Archeological sites of many different types are accessible to visitors. They range from pit-houses built during the 500s to the cliff dwellings of the 1200s. So you can actually see how they progressed over that 700 year period. Of all the things there are in the park to see, the cliff dwellings are the most spectacular, but the mesa top pit-houses and pueblos are equally important. Seen in their chronological order, these sites show the architectural development of Mesa Verde.

Mrs. LZ and I actually viewed them in the wrong order (chronologically speaking) but it may have been even more impressive than doing it the other way around. And, although I did take a picture in one of the ceremonial rooms (with the ladder into it) It was really just an empty room. To think that they basically started in a hole and worked their way out and up with very rudimentary tools just seemed amazing to us.

Another point that the park rangers made was that area was inhabited for about 800 years by agricultural people who began to drift into the area shortly after the beginning of the Christian Era. The National Parks rangers call the first farming people in the Mesa Verde area the Basketmakers (A.D.1-400), because weaving excellent baskets was their outstanding craft. At this early date, the people did not make pottery, build houses, or use the bow and arrow. No sites dating from the early Basketmakers have been found within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park. Then around the year A.D. 400, the people began to make pottery and build roofed dwellings.

Around the year A.D. 750, they began to use the bow and arrow. Although the people were still the same, the culture was changing. Archeologists call these people the Modified Basket-makers (A.D. 400-750). The pit-houses were built in alcoves and on the mesa tops. Scores of pit-house villages have been found on the mesas, and two pit-houses have been reconstructed at Mesa Verde.

Starting about A.D. 750, the people grouped their houses together to form compact villages. These have been given the name of "pueblo", a Spanish term meaning village. The name, Developmental Pueblo (A.D. 750-1000), simply indicated that during this period there was a great deal of experimentation and development. Many types of house walls were used; adobe and poles, stone slabs topped with adobe, adobe and stones, and finally layered masonry. The houses were joined together to form compact clusters around open courts. In these courts were pit-houses which grew deeper and finally developed into ceremonial rooms we now refer to as kivas.

During their last century, some Pueblo Indians of Mesa Verde left the mesa tops and built their homes in the alcoves that abound in the many canyon walls. This last period marks the climax of the Pueblo culture in Mesa Verde and is known as the Classic Pueblo Period (A.D. 1100-1300). The exact number of dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park is unknown, but over 600 cliff dwellings have been documented.

There were several things that we noticed about these Cliff Dwellings, like the fact that you can see the blackened areas where there campfires were. The other noticeable thing for us was that these places all seem to be located so that they were protected from both the sun as well as the elements. Another thing was the fact that many of these structures could be seen on both sides of the canyons. And from the road driving around this area you could view many of them.

Lots of people have asked us why these people left this area and we were told by the park rangers that beginning in A.D. 1276, drought struck the region and for 23 years precipitation was scarce. One by one the springs dried up and the people were in serious trouble. Their only escape was to seek regions which had a more dependable water supply. People left village after village. Before the drought ended, these people had left Mesa Verde area.

In 1906 two new things happened in the United States. Mesa Verde National Park was created and Congress passed the Antiquities Act. Mesa Verde was the first National Park established to protect a historic feature, the famous cliff dwelling houses built by Native Americans over 600 years ago. The Antiquities Act did something equally important. It allowed the President to set aside government-owned lands as National Monuments.

Mesa Verde National Park is located in the high plateau country of Southwestern Colorado. The park itself lies atop a high mesa that rises from the canyon of the Mancos River, a tributary of the San Juan River. The Mancos has cut a deep, broad valley along the eastern and southern edge of Mesa Verde, which in turn is dissected by 15 canyons formed by smaller streams. This erosional action has thus created many smaller mesas. Two of these, Wetherill and Chapin mesas, provide the primary access to most of the park's public archeological sites.

Mesa Verde National Park encompasses 52,122 acres, about 81 square miles. It runs about 9 miles both east-to-west and north-to-south. Elevation on Mesa Verde varies between 6,000 and 8,500 feet.

So to all of you who may not have been excited about a visit to this particular National Park, let me advise you to move it up higher on your own National Parks “Bucket List!” Also I'd watch out for climbing in the bushes where you can see that one sign while in the park too!

“Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.” ~ Chief (Luther) Standing Bear

8.23.2009 - 12 comments 

Even though this part of our trip was a little off of the beaten path and perhaps just a bit disappointing, (compared to all the other things we had done) it was still kind of fun... at least for my part of the story. As the signs tell you as you approach to site, “The Navajo Nation cordially welcomes you to one of our most unique landmarks - The Four Corners.”

The fun part of this is that this is the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. This location is very remote as you will experience when visiting it. It seems like the only access to this place via road is controlled by one of the tribes and you have to pay on a per person basis to even keep going down the road to where the Four-Corners Monument is placed. The surrounding area around the monument itself seemed a little like a native American carnival or street fair to me. But… maybe I am just being a little cynical here?

The original marker was erected here in 1912 and was a simple cement pad, but has since been redone in granite and brass which you can see in the pictures. The Visitor Center is open year round, and features a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans. Navajo vendors also sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods nearby. In fact there are people selling stuff all around here and the purchases can be from Navajo Tacos to Turquoise Jewelry and Ice Cream Bars. To me the commercialism here was just a little sad.

Picnic tables and self-contained restrooms were available. But overall, both services and accommodations around the Four Corners area are very limited to small cafes, grocery stores and self-service gasoline stations within a 30 mile radius of the Four Corners; but having looked at a map before venturing off there, I made sure I wouldn't really need any of those things while we were there.

If you ever visit there, I’d recommend that you have plenty of water, food, snacks, hand wipes and extra toiletries when visiting. The area is very remote, no running water, no real electricity, no telephones etc.

In fact the nearest Gas Stations are in: Teec Nos Pos, AZ - Shiprock, NM - Cortez, CO - Mexican Water, AZ - Bluff, UT.

Even though Teec Nos Pos, Az. is the nearest community (approx. 6 miles away). But as we left this Four Corners area (in the exact opposite way in which we had gotten there), the next big thing I saw was this huge rock extrusion which to me looked like a gigantic rocket ship out in the middle of “Nowhere Desert” (my description of the area) not really it’s name.

As we traveled closer to it and our angle of approach changed, it looked more like a sailing ship than it did like the rocket ship I had initially compared it to. It seemed a little hazy that day so I apologize for the shot here, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.

Guess what? This geographic feature is called (of all things) Shiprock! And the closest town to Shiprock is also called Shiprock, New Mexico. The town is located in northwestern part of the state of New Mexico, but it not really around the geographic feature. It (Sailrock the rock) was actually several miles from the city of Sailrock, but you could see it (the rock) for several miles after yolu could no longer see the city.

The Shiprock (the rock) feature itself is a most impressive example of a volcanic neck, or a central feeder pipe found anywhere around there. It is actually the remnant of an eruption around 30 million years ago (give or take a few days here or there) during the Oligocene era and it is actually the basalt core of an extinct volcano.

Near the main peak, you can see small pinnacles, the remains of smaller auxiliary volcanic vents. When the magma solidifies before ever reaching the surface, it is referred to as a "diatreme". The local Navajos consider it sacred, being a main character in their folklore. They call it Tse Bitai, meaning "the winged rock". Which, I suppose may be one reason the town is not very close to the Rock. It could be hallowed ground to the Indians?

The central part of Shiprock is visible from many miles away, and it is roughly 1,640 feet in diameter. Stretching almost 2,000 feet into the sky above the surrounding terrain, Shiprock is part of both the Navajo and Chuska volcanic fields in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico, extending north into Utah and Colorado. It is also within the boundaries of the vast Colorado Plateau, known (of course) as the Four-Corners area.This region of extinct volcanic features covers approximately 20,000 square km of this area.

Shiprock (both the city and the rock feature) were an unknown entity to us as we travelled away from the Four-Corners area, so it was kind of nice to see it and to learn all about it too. And, even though our side trip to the Four-Corners was less than I had expected, it was nice to get to make a fool of myself and have four bodily extremities in four different states (at the exact same time) and to be able to tell about it afterwards.

P.S. That cross is in Groom, Texas 40 miles East of Amarillo (off of I-40) and really should have been in the Route 66 post but I forgot it. It is actually over 150 feet tall. It was put up by a religious group in 1995 and can be seen for miles in any direction. It is made out of stainless steel.

“Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what's going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?” ~ Will Rogers

8.13.2009 - 13 comments 

Well folks... Mrs. LZ and I have just returned from a pretty extensive road trip of some almost 3,500 miles. So rather than just doing this chronologically, I thought I'd mix this up a little and start with the ending and move backwards and confuse both myself and the reader.

I am not so sure I can say that I have ever done a post about a road before, but in our travels this summer, we came across the signs for the old historic "Route 66" in many of our travel destinations. Any of you who may have seen the "Great American Travel Adventure" on TV this summer will already know about this historic route and where it goes and its derivation, but for those of you who may not, here's some facts that may be useful.

Officially, the numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago to Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926. With that designation came its acknowledgment as one of the nation's principal east-west arteries.

From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.

While legislation for public highways first appeared in 1916, with revisions in 1921, it was not until Congress enacted an even more comprehensive version of the act in 1925 that the government executed its plan for national highway construction.

Albuquerque boosters began pushing for a straighter route, and in 1931, federal money was designated to realign the road to a more east-west direction. By 1937, the entire route from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California was paved.

The new road carried thousands of GI's longing for a better look at America and yearning to see what the country held in store for them. Route 66 was fixed in the memory of many by John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath and Bobby Troup's lyric "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" as well as CBS TV's "Route 66". Today I-40 runs over much of the original roadbed, but many parts of the old highway can be seen today just beside I-40.

Albuquerque and Santa Fe as well as many other then relatively small towns grew up along Route 66. Near Route 66, you'll also find the Albuquerque Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science and the National Atomic Museum.

Walking or driving along Central Avenue in the downtown area, you can enjoy the majesty of this vibrant district. Step into the Pueblo-Deco KiMo Theater and the ambiance of diners and boutiques along the way. You can stop for a bite at one of the revitalized diners and other restaurants that line the route. We found many many of those in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but we were trying to find Maria's (a favorite of our youngest son and his wife). We finally gave up that effort and just decided to keep moving toward home. But in spite of that the revitalized Route 66 was a real treat for us.

As you can see from several of the photos I have attached to this post, many familiar old signs could be seen all along those Old Route 66 Highways all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. In fact I was so taken by a Texas Highway Rest stop about 50 miles outside of Amarillo, Texas that I included many shots that I took not only of the rest-stop, but also from the inside of the ladies room (which Mrs. LZ consented to help me with).

This highway technically is now called US Interstate 40 (which we took) all the way to Oklahoma City before parting ways with it. One of the other signs I have posted as the top picture here was one of the "Historic Route 66" signs we took while in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

You may also notice that one of these signs in the Texas rest area was particularly concerning to us. I am sure you can figure out which one I am referring to? And... you can believe me when I say that neither Mrs. LZ nor I either one ventured in the rocks or grasses around that particular stop. Most of the other signs were actually hung inside the rest stop.

Mrs. LZ did manage to find us a couple of our new favorite delicacy called a Texas Cinnamon Bun. While probably not on the Zagot's List as a classic dining facility, we did enjoy our restful stop there on our way back home.

"About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation." ~ Will Rogers