June 15, 2015
As Morgan and I drove out of Mesa Verde National Park, we decided to make one last stop. We pulled in to Park Point with our stomachs rumbling and started trying to plan what we’d eat when we left the park. But then we realized we had all we needed to cook a meal with us in the van! So, we pulled out our little propane stove and Morgan whipped up some eggs. The view from his outdoor kitchen was a 360 degree panoramic from the highest point in the park. We laughed and felt rich, with love and happiness, as we chatted and ate bacon and egg soft tacos at a picnic table. I love these moments and how they reveal to me what I really value– namely great views, good food and wonderful company.
We finished eating, I washed our single dish (this meal took one pan and a spatula), and then we finally went up the short, paved trail to see what the park service booklet for this trail boasts is “one of the grandest and most extensive views in the country.” The view certainly was stunning and I tried to capture it in a video, but there is nothing quite like experiencing looking across the plains at distant mountains and feeling the wind blow across from one range to another. (Click here for video of the view.) Looking east, we saw the mountains that had been the backdrop at Mancos State Park. We learned from the booklet, which was provided at the trail head, that the mountains were named Sierra de la Plata (Mountins of Silver) by Don Juan Maria de Rivera in 1775 because of the veins of silver ore they found there.
Turning toward the north, my naked eye could just barely see the Abajo Mountains, blue and hazy on the horizon, 60 miles away from where we stood. I don’t think my lenses did the view of these distant mountains any justice. As I turned west to survey the view, I tried to imagine what a sunset or sunrise would look like from up here. The sun would descend over Sleeping Ute Mountain, which is named for one of the local tribes. The Ute have a legend that this mountain is a god who collected rain clouds in his pockets and then laid down to sleep because he was angry with his people. The storms that frequently gather around the peaks are the clouds slipping out of his pockets.
The grandeur of these views is undeniable. But to fully appreciate the beauty of this place to me means noticing the finer details of the scenery, such as the flowers, which add different accents to the landscape as the months pass through spring and summer to fall. Though the peaks in the distance have been here and will continue to be here for hundreds and thousands of years, each flower only blooms briefly each year during a select few months. In the Texas Hill Country, I am familiar enough with what wildflowers bloom when to guess what month a picture was taken in based on what’s in bloom. Here, I don’t even know what flowers I’m looking at. But that’s part of the joy of travelling–seeing unfamiliar things, and then becoming familiar with them. I travel with field guides for flowers, trees, reptiles and insects, so I can identify what’s around me and then gain deeper insight into the environment by reading more on websites like this digital herbarium. What I discover about the environment around me broadens my view of what is out here. I want a panoramic of this place that is more than 360 degrees, that takes in deeper details of the mountains and the flowers and trees, an ecological view that sees the interactions between all these things, coming together to form the great patterns rippling around us.