Dramatic Mesa Verde dominates the view East of McPhee Reservoir.

The Trail of the Ancients

You’ll often hear about how man shaped a landscape, but we’re in a place where landscape has most definitely shaped man. The southwest corner of Colorado is part of the “Four Corners” area where the dramatic mountains of the Rockies sweep low into the semi-arid canyons and mesas of the Utah, Arizona and New Mexico that have forever dominated the history of the landscape.

This is a place where nature decided the outcome and you see the evidence of it all around you.

To the West of here lie the Great Sage Plains with vast plateaus and fertile wind-deposited soil that attracted the first Ancient Pueblo dwellers. From AD 1-AD 1300 it created a culture deeply rooted to nature that prospered to over 10,000 settlements. The history of that culture lives on today in Indian Tribes while the physical remains thrive in active archeology all over the region.  Pueblo history is in fact such a key part of this area that the entire region is crossed by the only National Scenic Byway completely dedicated to archeology The Trail of the Ancients

We already touched part of this trail at Mesa Verde, but around Dolores CO there is so much more. The Anaszi Heritage Center showcases more than 2 million artefacts of Ancient Pueblo history including interactive displays and films (it’s well worth a visit!). The nearby Cortez Cultural Center provides cultural, artistic and educational programs, and the scenic byway takes you through a plethora of ancient pueblos. If you’re a hands on kinda person you can even participate in actual digs at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

View towards the Great Sage Plains from McPhee Reservoir

Mano and Metate on display at the Ansazi Heritage Center. This is how the Ancients ground corn, seeds and nuts.

But the landscape asserts itself in more modern ways too. To the northeast the stunning Colorado Mountains were the backdrop for silver mining and the narrow-gauge railroad that grew from its riches in the late 1880′s. We saw part of this railroad in Chama, NM.

The famous Galloping Goose in Dolores CO

Here in Dolores lies another fascinating little piece of that history, a wacky hybrid bus/car/railroad vehicle called the Galloping Goose. An invention of necessity to cut costs in the nearly bankrupt Rio Grande Southern, they became a famous icon that ran mail and passengers from 1913-1951. There’s a fabulous little museum and working car dedicated to this story tucked in Dolores which is sooooo worth visiting. We chatted with the docent and managed to get access to sit in the car and handle the control (every man’s dream, is it not?)

We’ve spent a wonderful week here getting to know the landscape and soaking up the stories. It’s further north and onto the mountains next, but we’ll definitely remember this spot for both its rich history and weird little inventions.

Clouds create a dramatic setting for the La Plata Mountains. According to legend they were created by First Man and First Woman with earth brought from the lower world.

Paul soaks in the displays at the Anasazi Heritage Center

A happy man at the wheels of the Galloping Goose

Weather on the plains

14 Responses to Ancients & Galloping Geese – Dolores, CO

  1. Yair says:

    Yo, come up north and say hello! (We’ll be in Idaho Springs later this week.)

    • libertatemamo says:

      That’s an AWESOME spot! Wish we could join you guys but we’ve had a errmmmm “incident”
      (story coming soon on the blog) which means we’re gonna have to hang out for
      a while at the RV doctor in Grand Junction :(
      Can’t wait to see your pics on your blog from Colorado!
      NIna

  2. Sandie says:

    I remember reading about the Galloping Goose when I was a child. I’ve always been fascinated by trains and other things dealing with the railroad.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh Sandie you’d love this! It’s such a cool contraption and the little museum was just excellent!
      Nina

  3. Marsha says:

    That Galloping Goose looks hysterical. Thanks for the link. It was so interesting reading about it and see all the additional pictures. So many times we find the coolest things in small town America. Enjoy the ride.

  4. Amazing what you can find when you get just a litle ways off the beaten path. Great area up there, can’t wait to explore it ourselves.

  5. Daniel says:

    It is an outstanding area, we too enjoyed it very much and learned so much about the history.

  6. jil mohr says:

    love the cloud photo…my kind of picture….

  7. How fun! You continue to whet our appetite for a future trip.

  8. [...] Boondocking ← Ancients & Galloping Geese – Dolores, CO [...]

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