Southern Utah/Colorado Getaway

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I remember after we first got married, I thought to myself, “Orion and I are definitely not outdoor-sy enough to go camping just to two of us!” Orion never even loved camping anyways and despite my many requests for a quick camping trip just the two of us, the answer was usually no.

I finally convinced him to go down to St. George with some friends of ours after Memorial Day and we had a blast and a half! I think I also became a lot more confident in our camping abilities as a couple.

We decided a few weeks ago to take a weekend trip down to Mesa Verde National Park in Southern Colorado. We invited a few different friends, but none of them could make it. We decided to embark on the adventure with just the two of us!

We ended up dubbing it our first anniversary getaway trip and I am so proud that we went just us, and survived. Although upon arriving, Orion did discover the rattlesnake that lived just four feet from our car. I was terrified. Orion was fascinated. And that’s how things usually go around here.

We got to camp at around 715 after a stressful time crunch between wanting to eat at the infamous “Burger Boyz” joint (which closed at 7) and getting tickets for the cliff dwelling tours (which also closed at 7). It was a stressful half an hour but we pulled into Burger Boyz two minutes before closing and still got our burgers and sweet potato fries.

Because we didn’t have friends to sit around the campfire and chat with, we brought Orion’s fully charged laptop and rented “Shazam” from the RedBox. After setting up camp, we cuddled up and watched the movie before heading to bed.

We woke up early the next morning, got ready, and headed to the restaurant outside our campsite that served all-you-can-eat pancakes. We didn’t need to be at Balcony House for our tour until 1015. It was only 830 at this point so we decided to stop at the Park Point Overlook for a few minutes.

We drove further down Chapin Mesa closer to our tour, and decided we could probably squeeze in the time to do the 2.4 mile petroglyph loop in an hour and ten minutes before the weather got too bad. We got going and the hike seemed to go on endlessly.

At one point, we wondered if we should just turn back. Orion insisted on five more minutes. Those five minutes were up and just as I was about to turn back, Orion ran to see if we’d miss out on anything and just a few yards in front of us was Petroglyph Point where we saw a few great petroglyphs.

I wouldn’t say that it was super overly cool, but it was great to see some petroglyphs! We then had about twenty minutes to make the same trip that originally took us forty five minutes. We booked it and did it in 25. Hurriedly got in the car and sped to balcony house. We got there with about three minutes before our group left. Phew !

Balcony House was a cliff dwelling where in order to access it, you had to climb a thirty foot ladder, and in order to leave you had to climb 2 fifteen foot ladders, and go through a twelve foot long tunnel. It was quite an adventure!

Orion making his way through the tunnel. I was scared that with his broad shoulders and height he wouldn’t fit!
One of the kivas at Balcony House. In the Winter, families lived in these and were able to stay warm!

After Balcony House, we drove over to Cliff Palace. We ate some sandwiches on Hawaiian bread. (Usually we buy the sweet Hawaiian rolls for campouts, but Walmart was out *cries silently*, but the bread was pretty great too!) We had plenty of time to spare this time (thankfully), and left to tour Cliff Palace!

Cliff Palace is the most famous of the dwellings. Most of the pictures people see online of Mesa Verde National Park are of Cliff Palace and it is easy to see why. It is absolutely huge! We only had to climb a couple ladders for this one but it was still fun!

At this point we were absolutely EXHAUSTED. Our little run back on the Petroglyph Trail had finally caught up to us, combined with standing out in the heat and climbing huge ladders. We decided to do the Mesa Top loop where you drive around and stop off to see some other sites.

We saw some Pit Houses (where the Pueblo people lived before moving down into the rocks), a Sun Temple, as well as this Square House. (When looking at pictures, Orion was most excited about this one.)

At this point we were absolutely pooped. We drove the hour back to the campsite with plans to lay and read in our tent. We made a quick stop at the Far Ridge Lodge store to use the bathroom and WiFi, and pick up our annual trip souvenir. One of these days I should go through and take pictures of all of them and post about them… Hmm…

We finally made it back to camp, grabbed our books, and prayed that our tent wasn’t sweltering. We made it about two minutes before feeling like our skin was melting off our bones. We got back in the car and found a shady spot right next to the gas station building near our campsite. We rolled down the windows to enjoy a nice breeze and enjoyed our books.

I was exhausted and Orion encouraged me to catch a quick nap. I woke up a little over an hour later and found that Orion had fallen asleep too. I let him sleep for awhile longer and he was so surprised when he woke up that it was already 6:00! We slept for so long!

Here’s to hoping Orion never reads my blog bc I’d totally get in trouble for this.

We headed back to camp and sat in camp chairs in the shade behind our tent and read and chatted and really bonded. Then we finally decided to approach the ordeal of starting a fire.

Orion didn’t chop any fingers off while cutting the wood into smaller pieces (thank heavens). He used probably more lighter fluid than necessary. But I can now verify that he is an Eagle Scout because he got it right the first time and that fire burned bright!

We roasted hot dogs and s’mores and had the fire out by 9:00. We got ready and went to sleep early.

The next day we decided to not go to our Long House cliff dwelling tour because we kinda felt like “You’ve seen one or two and you’ve seen ’em all”. But I’m so glad for the ones we did get to see.

We stopped in Cortez for church and learned that the temple they were zoned for was the Monticello temple. We drove through Monticello and Orion joked for me to look for the temple. I found it pretty quick and Orion turned around and we made a quick stop.

To make up for not doing the Long House tour, we took my Uncle Kevin’s advice and detoured on our way home to Dead Horse State Park. Friends of ours had driven all the way down there from Provo for wedding pictures and Kevin raved about it so much. We knew that we had to drive the thirty minutes out of the way to see it.

It was pretty amazing! I’m glad Orion and I are becoming better campers and that our love of nature just keeps growing. What a fun weekend! Now off to wash the smoke smell out of our clothes…

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