Monday, May 27, 2013

31 May

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

When we left you last Friday we were heading north from Sante Fe. Before leaving the city, we stopped at Loretta Chapel which is located on the site of a missionry school for girls run by the Loretta Sisters in the 1800’s. In the 1870’s the sisters had the chapel built which is small but the art work, statues, and stained glass windows are stunning. As typical at the time, the church choir loft was built without stairs since the choirs were mostly men and they would use a ladder to reach the loft. However, this was an all girls school and the sisters objected to the girls having to use a ladder. The architects said that a stair case would require the elimination of too many seats because the chapel was small. The sisters prayed a novena (9 days of prayer for a special intention) to St Joseph for a solution to their problem. At the end of the novena, a lone carpenter showed with only some hand tools and said he could build a stair case with minimal loss of seating below. He built a spiral staircase which makes two 360 degree turns and was supported only at the bottom step on the floor and the top step at the choir loft. It took six months to build and at the completion the carpenter disappeared and left behind no bills for labor or material. It is an engineering marvel to this day as to how the staircase supports itself. It is believed that the unknown carpenter was St Joseph! The staircase was originally built without a railing, but a railing was added later for safety.

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Our chilren should all know this story as we read it to them or they read it for several years when they were young while  waiting for Christmass Eve Mass to begin. The mission has snce been closed and the chapel was offered to the Dioceses of Sante Fe, but they declined the offer (there is a Cathilic church every few blocks in Sante Fe) so now the chapel is privately owned and operated as a museum.

We are now traveling north along the Rio Grande river and then the Charma river. The rock formations along the river valley are also stunning including camel rock. Our river tour guide yeserday said this was the inspiration for ET.

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On the road north we came upon a place marked on the map called Ghost Ranch. Since it was only a mile off the road,  we decided to stop in even though we were not sure if this was some kind of tourist trap. It turned out to be totally noncommercial and vey interesting. Ghost Ranch is a retreat and conference  center run by the Presbyterian church. In the  late 1800’s the area was controlled by some cattle rustlers who encouraged some ghostly stories about the area to keep people away and hense the name today. Artist Georgia O’Keefe had one of her homes here on the Ghost Ranch and many of her landscape paintings are of the mountains surrounding the ranch. Today, Ghost Ranch operates as a retreat center for groups or individuals and they offer hiking, horseback riding, mountain cycling. They also offer courses on archeology,  paleontology,  music, art, wholistic health, and spirituality.  They have camping and rustic lodging available along with a cafeteria serving meals 3 time a day. Over all not what we expected when we pulled off the road, but interesting and maybe a place to come back to some day.

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Continuing north toward Colorado the landscape changed from desert to green and lush as we climbed to higher elevations. As we approached the Colorado state line we got our first glimpse of snow capped mountains.

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We continued on the way to Mesa Verde passing tnru Pagossa Springs, Co. Manny remembered this town’s name from Mannheim Steamroller’s Cd called American Spirit.  The song is called Wolf Creek Pass. It is a funny song about a tractor trailer losing control hauling a load of chickens over Wolf Creek Pass. The song ends as the semi crashes into the feed store in Pagossa Springs.While our route did not take us over that pass and we did not see the feed store, we did play the song on our Ipod while we drove thru town! Continuing on thru Durango, which I did not have a song for, we made it into Mesa Verde campground just in time to set up camp before the sunset. Glad we had a reservation as the campground was full.

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The next morning, despite incorrect information, we did manage to find our tour for a 4 hour trip around Chapin Mesa. We learned much about this area as pertains to geology and anthropology. The cliff dwellings of the people who lived here, from A.D. 550 to 1300, are just mind boggling. Their engineering skills to have constructed these homes and managed the water source is an example of perseverance and survival. We toured Cliff Palace which is a 150 room dwelling sustaining approximately 125 people.

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On Sunday, we toured the Wetherill Mesa with some hiking as well as a tram which enabled us to tour Long House.

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This cliff dwelling was one of the largest communities that has been located. It was also unique in the manner of touring as you are able to walk throughout the rooms.  Most of the other dwellings are viewed from the front and are roped off.  The many vistas seen while hiking into the cliff dwellings as well as from the road on top of the narrow mesa are vast and breathtaking!  The elevation of 7000ft or higher cerainly adds to the panoramic views.  We did find the high elevation  and low humidty of the desert to dry out our nostrils and take deeper breaths to accommodate for feeling short of breath at times. The evenings were cool at approx.45 to 50 degrees which had us pulling on our hats and long pants.

On this Memorial Day, we continued our westward journey, stopping at Four Corners just to step in all 4 States simultaneously.

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As I finish typing this we are 10 miles outside of Grand Canyon. Our destination for today!

Blessings to all as we explore this vast and varied country!

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