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.
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.
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.