Sunday, 22-June – Mesa Verde National Park
Trip miles: 0 miles
Route taken: walk from campsite to trailhead
Average Gas mileage: n/a
Weather: cool (50F) in the morning, warmer (80F) with light breezes at 7000 ft. in the afternoon
Elevation: 7527ft -> ~8200ft
- seeing our first Short-Horned Toad
- finding bear tracks on the trail
- Prater Ridge hike
Today was our last day at Mesa Verde. We had the Prater Ridge Trail on our itinerary but were ambivalent about hiking it once we saw the trailhead. There did not seem to be anything of interest along this trail. Since we hadn't done a long hike for a few days we hiked it mostly for exercise. On the way to the trailhead we saw Mule Deer in the campground (not an unusual site). Along the trail we spotted our first Short-Horned Toad, actually three different ones, one of which was quite large. We saw a fresh rabbit kill (maybe from a coyote?) and bear tracks – lots of evidence of wildlife but no actual animals. On the way back to the campsite we caught a glimpse of a kestral flying low. Overall the hike gave us a little more than exercise. The 9 miles were easier than we thought they would be at over 7500 ft of elevation.
After lunch we showered, did laundry, updated the computer software and generally prepared to move on early tomorrow morning.
Prater Ridge (South and North loops) – These two loops wind around the south and north rims of Prater Ridge, above the Morefield Campground and through an area burned in the Bircher Fire of 2000. The trailhead is at the entrance to the campground, just before Pueblo Road. The south loop is 2.4 miles. The north loop is 4 miles. The two loops meet at the top of the 1.25 mile access trail, which has the largest elevation gain of about 750 ft. Both loops pass mainly through recovery growths of Gambel Oak bushes with some small open wildflower meadows. There is no shade on either trail. The footing on each loop is easy. The south loop has very little elevation change. The north loop does have some gradual elevation changes. From the south loop there are views of the Mancos Valley. The north loop has views of the Montezuma Valley. The trails and views are not particularly interesting but they are a pleasant walk if time allows.