“I Walked on the Moon” – Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID (part I)

View from the top of Inferno Cone - Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

First things first: if you don’t understand the reference in the title of this post, drop everything and go look up Brian Regan on YouTube (well, okay, read the rest of the post first and then go look him up!). He’s my absolute favorite comedian for two reasons: (1) his humor is clean, and (2) he takes everyday things that happen to everyone and makes them hilarious. There are many things my family and I can no longer do without hearing Brian Regan in our heads. I like all of his stuff, but I highly recommend his Emergency Room skit and his Airport Humor skits. The title of this particular post is from his aptly-named “I Walked on the Moon” feature.

Now obviously I haven’t actually walked on the moon. If I was an astronaut, I’d have much more interesting things to blog about. But I have walked on the barren, black expanse of land in Idaho known as Craters of the Moon National Monument. And of all the places on Earth that I’ve ever visited or seen in photographs, this area does in fact most closely resemble the moon. Continue reading

Spectacular Speleothems – Timpanogos Cave National Monument, UT


Because the drive from Grand Junction, CO home to MT would have made for a very long day, we broke it into two days with a stop just south of Salt Lake City, UT at American Fork Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains. I don’t recall where we camped, but I do recall that American Fork Canyon was a zoo. There were so many people there. It’s easy to see why, though – the geology of the canyon is incredible and the views are fantastic! Definitely plan to arrive early in the morning if you want a place to park.

American Fork Canyon, UT
There are many recreation opportunities in American Fork Canyon. It could be a vacation destination in and of itself. Since we only had half a day, we headed to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Continue reading

An Unplanned Adventure – Colorado National Monument

Rock fins - Colorado National Monument, CO

After two wonderful days in Mesa Verde, we’d reached the home stretch of our summer vacation. It was time to head back up north. Our first stop, approximately 4 hours north of Mesa Verde, was the city of Grand Junction, CO where my sister would be touring Mesa State College (now called Colorado Mesa University).

We’d planned to spend just one night in Grand Junction before continuing our drive home, and aside from the college tour, we hadn’t done any type of planning. I can’t even remember if we camped near Grand Junction or stayed in a hotel. What I do remember, though, was that the Mesa State campus is very pretty and that Grand Junction street names are very weird. At one point, we found ourselves at the corner of 27 ½ Road and F ½ Road. Apparently the town has expanded greatly since they first started naming streets so they decided to fill in the gaps with fractions. It was very odd, and something I’ve never seen anywhere else. Continue reading

Up on Top – Mesa Verde National Park, CO (part III)

Far View Sites Complex - Mesa Verde National Park, CO

The remainder of our time at Mesa Verde was spent exploring the rest of the Chapin Mesa area. The end of Chapin Mesa Road splits into three short loops. One leads to Cliff Palace and Balcony House, the second is the Mesa Top loop, and the third is the Spruce Tree Terrace loop. After completing our tour of Cliff Palace, we headed up Mesa Top loop road.

The Mesa Top sites are exactly what they sound like – ancient sites located on top of the mesa rather than on the side of a cliff. In the early days of Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde, they didn’t have the technologies to construct and survive in cliff dwellings, so instead they lived on top of the mesa. The main dwelling unit at the Mesa Top sites is called a pit house, so named because it was constructed by digging down into the ground. In later years, they began building houses out of wood, stone, and adobe – a precursor to the cliff dwellings. In fact, cliff dwellings were only built and occupied during last 100-150 years that Ancestral Puebloans lived in Mesa Verde. For the first 600 years, they lived on top of the mesas. Continue reading

Life on the edge of a cliff – Mesa Verde National Park, CO (part II)

Cliff Palace - Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Most people don’t know this about me, but one of my majors in college was anthropology. Granted, it was anthropology with a biological focus. But I still took all of the introductory classes, including archaeology. In fact, I initially went into the field of anthropology because I wanted to be an archaeologist. Obviously I changed my mind – long story – but I still find archaeology to be incredibly cool!

So for me, Mesa Verde was a very interesting place to visit. Not only could I see all of the old dwellings, but I could read the interpretive signs and begin to see how many of the things I learned in class had been employed here by archaeologists as they aimed to understand the lives of the people who used to live in Mesa Verde.

Some of it will obviously always be guesses and approximations. But over the years, archaeologists have been able to formulate some pretty plausible explanations for what life was like for these ancient peoples. And what better place to understand this than at Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America? Continue reading

Green Table – Mesa Verde National Park, CO (part I)

Park Point Overlook - Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Mesa Verde – Spanish for “green table” – probably conjures up images of a giant plateau topped with luscious greenery. Or a dinner table covered with a green tablecloth. Depends on your thought process, I suppose. Or your level of hunger. Clearly I’m hungry as I’m writing this. Maybe I should go eat lunch first.

Okay, lunch eaten.

As I was saying, “mesa verde” = “green table” which in this case obviously refers to a giant green plateau. From a distance, that is in fact what Mesa Verde looks like. But Mesa Verde is so much more than just a large, green plateau. Mesa Verde is a place where thousands of years of history is preserved in the cliff faces and stone remains left behind by ancient peoples. Because of this, Mesa Verde has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park contains over 4,000 well-preserved archaeological sites, including the largest known cliff dwelling in North America. Continue reading

The place where 4 states don’t quite meet


After Canyonlands National Park, our next destination was Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. The two parks are only about 3 hours apart by car, but we drove at least an hour out of our way (through the absolute middle of nowhere) for the sole purpose of visiting Four Corners Monument. Here, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet, making this the only location in the US that 4 states come together. The monument itself is overseen by the Navajo Nation, as it also marks the border between the Navajo and Ute Indian reservations. Continue reading