Poverty Point is not the showiest National Park, but it is an Unesco World Heritage site and they are very proud of it! The general theme of the park is that there are five large earthen mounds and several concentric ring mounds, all built by Native Americans between 1700 and 1350 BC. All the experts agree that they have no idea what they were for or why they were built, but are convinced that this was a large city of importance. Very interesting.
I texted Peter later in the day and described the park ranger as “a really friendly Ron Swanson.” He might have been a little too friendly! But he was super great with the girls and he taught us to throw spears, and even (hesitantly) let Esme have a go at this pump drill.
There is such a benefit to being the only visitors in the museum. We love having rangers all to ourselves!
All around the country we have heard about paleontological research and the information gleaned from it. But Waco Mammoth National Monument jumps right to 11 in that regard.
Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t either. Here’s a quick history- in 1978 a three foot femur bone was found on a dairy farm. After preliminary excavations they found fossils of an entire Nursery heard of Colombian Mammoths in the clay stream bed. Most of those fossils have been removed for storage in a museum, but other fossils have been left in situ and a ‘floating’ building has been built above the dig so that visitors can walk through and see. These in situ fossils will remain there, but the dig is still active and there are other fossils (mammoth and otherwise) that will continue to be excavated.
This was a small park with a 1hr tour, but it was really fantastic. If you are near Waco you should definitely check it out. We really loved it.
It was a soggy day in San Antonio, but we braved the rain to visit Mission San Jose and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The park video was very informative and I liked walking the grounds. I was disappointed to see that the chapel was closed, but I loved seeing the exterior. Especially the remnants of the original paint.
The elevator at Carlsbad Caverns is currently out of order. That didn’t bother us as we began our descent into the entrance. These are only the first five or six of about a hundred switchbacks on the way down.
The NPS gives a few warnings/tips but otherwise is pretty nonchalant about your hike in. “Your safety is your responsibility” signs line the pathway on the surface and we were reminded that, “there isn’t a secret employees elevator. Every step you take down you have to make up.”
We made it down and back up again with no problem, but it was quite a hike!
We spent a pleasant hour or so at the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico. They were pretty passionate about presenting the story of the 1947 ‘crash’ of an alien spacecraft.
The only museum panel that really appealed to my desire to know the truth, however, was this one, titled “Identified Flying Objects.” The labels read “Thrown Hubcap” and “Suspended Model.” The girls and I got a kick out of “Suspended Hat” and “Reflection of Lamp through Window.”
We have had some happy surprises along the way, places we didn’t intend to go or didn’t know much about beforehand that turned out to be really neat.
One of those places has been Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, NM. We had camped at the campground on the property the night before, so we were able to get down into the park quite early, before the shuttle busses were running. This gave us the opportunity to tour the cliff dwellings almost all alone.
After Mesa Verde, these dwellings felt very small, but here we were allowed access to a few of the caves. We climbed up the ladders and into the dwellings and just sat, taking in how they felt and trying to get a sense of what it must have been like to live there. It was a huge difference from the more hands-off visit to Cliff Palace.
Bandelier was a small NPS property, but well worth the visit.
More often than not we have found ourselves without wifi or cell service as we roam around the country.
Luckily, we brought a whole cache of paper maps with us and some old school map reading know-how.
Our original trip route didn’t include Colorado, but we found ourselves charting a course for Mesa Verde National Park from Moab anyway.
It would be an understatement to say that it was a great idea. We took the guided tour of Cliff Palace, which, at $5/person, was the best deal we’ve seen on this trip. We came down a narrow, rock staircase and hugged the cliff as our guide gave us information about the history of Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellings. We then walked down around the kivas and dwellings and got to peek inside.
The most exciting part, however, were the three narrow ladders that we needed to climb to get back to the top of the mesa. What an adventure!
We got up early this morning and zipped across Moab to Arches National Park. We wanted to make an early start on the Delicate Arch trail and were happy to have beaten most of the crowds as we headed onto the trail at 8:30ish. The whole trail was interesting and different from anything we hike at home, and of course the arch was amazing, but this bit of narrow trail, hugging the edge of the rock, was my favorite bit.
Coming out of Bryce Canyon today and heading toward Moab, UT, we took the advice of two separate retiree couples we’ve been along the way and drove Scenic Byway 12. Twists and turns, huge ups and downs, and more landscape changes than I could count made the trip fun, and the narrow road between two steep dropoffs as we crossed The Hogback made it spectacular.
I was driving much of the way, but managed to get this pic toward the end of 12. Check out the pictures and the map at the link above for more info.