We met my in-laws at a phenomenal antique store that was truly like traveling in time. All items were beautifully organized by category or glassware by color ( of a certain period- depression era).
We all then headed into Mesa Verde. Now, I will say I'm so glad we made it here but there are a few things we should have done better so here are my tips
* arrive early- the park is HUGE and the roads are windy
* stop at the visitors center to get tickets for the ranger led hikes. A lot o the park you cannot see on your own and you must go with a group.
* if you have really little ones bring a carrier if you plan on going, some of the ladders are 100+ feet up and down. ( we didn't do these)
* even the easy hike is strenuous if anyone has trouble getting around.
* there is so much to see and it should be seen in ones lifetime
We were really short on time but hope to one day come back. Both girls made it to the Tree House where we climbed down a short ladder. They really enjoyed it and it helps them visualize different was of
living including architecture and masonry
We spent the next two nights in a cabin at Vallecito just outside of Durango. The kids spent the day learning to fish in idyllic lakes set with snow dusted mountain caps in the background. It was surreal.
Durango is a very cool and popular little town. We wish we had more time to explore. There's a train ride up the mountain passes that takes you to the town of Silverton. There is also a bike race in which thousands of cyclists race the train up this treacherous elevation. This town had so much to see and do including beer tasting at Ska.
The 160 from Pagosa Springs to Del Norte offers so many scenic stops and a gorgeous view as you climb in elevation to reach summit at Wolf's Pass at the Continental Divide.
Getting to the Great Sand Dunes before sunset was a rush but also the perfect time. Unfortunately we were unable to
book a campsite inside the park and had to drive 40 min in and out. I do NOT recommend this site. There are campsites just outsete the park with a general store that looked a lot better.
GSD is a park not to be missed. I loved it 10 years ago and I loved it this time. The little creek that runs in front which you MUST cross to reach the dunes is definitely the highlight for kids. The dunes themselves are deceiving in height. Little legs did ok going up but had complaining once up the first peak. We didn't get very far. The worst part of this whole day were the mosquitoes. The older one gets huge golf ball like bites that took a few days to recover from.
The next day we packed up early and got on the road by 7:30am. We had a long two-day journey to make it to Chicago. The drive along the Sangre de Cristo mountains is amazing, I'd love to check out some hikes one day. The portal town of Salida is very quaint and hip with art galleries,"coffe shops" and eateries along the water.
We were giddy with excitement on the drive from Salida to Canon City. The Arkansas River winds next to the road with rafters all along. I would not take the kids at this age but I do intend on coming back to do this!!
The bridge at Royal Gorge is historic and stunning but the whole thing is a money making enterprise. You cannot walk over without paying a fee. The whole area is set up to be a theme park with zip lines and cable cars. It's unfortunate.
After meeting with a friend in Colorado Springs for lunch we said Adieu to the mountains and locked in on some flat farm roads up to Nebraska. Staying on the local roads were scenic but you must pay attention for on coming traffic that passes head on to you.
Seeing cattle graze on grass for acres and acres and a random cayote lurking was all romantic until you hit the interstate and from there on you get to see the Industrial Complex that produces America - Corn.