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A Trip Around the Four Corners Area of the U.S.


  • Published: 2014-09-03 : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Thomas C. Weiss writes on Traveling with a disability from Colorado to the Four Corners Area of the U.S..

Traveling when you experience forms of disabilities can be a challenge, but with the right planning it can also be an immense pleasure. The prospect of traveling with the forms of disabilities Kathleen and I experience did not sway our decision to go. Kathleen's nephew, Cameron, and his wife to be, Michelle, live in Farmington, Colorado and it was close enough to drive to in order to attend. Our thought was, 'Why not see some of the attractions around the area while we are at it'

The Four Corners is a region of the United States consisting of the southwestern corner of Colorado, northwestern corner of New Mexico, northeastern corner of Arizona and southeastern corner of Utah. The Four Corners area is named after the quadripoint where the boundaries of the four states meet, where the Four Corners Monument is located. It is the only location in the United States where four states meet. The United States acquired the four corners region from Mexico after the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848.

Cameron and Michelle's wedding was the incentive to plan for a trip around the Four Corners area and we took advantage of the opportunity. As a person who experiences disabilities which include osteoarthritis, epilepsy and sensorineural hearing loss, I also paused to consider the diabetes and arthritis that Kathleen experiences. The drive to Farmington was many hours long, we would need places to stay that were on the first floor, and of course there was the checklist of items that we had to bring with us. We had to make sure the car was in good shape and would make the trip; most of the road in-between Pueblo, Colorado and Farmington ran through the middle of nowhere. If the car broke down...well, we couldn't exactly walk out to civilization.

The Preparation Phase

Sheer envy crossed my mind as I thought of those who could simply throw clothing in a suitcase and go on such a trip as Kathleen (Kat) and I planned. We had to ensure that we had medications and other items, prepared clothing, and other medical items such as knee braces and so forth ready. We had to make sure the car we were taking had an oil change and was in good shape before we left. If something went wrong along the way, we had to make sure we had emergency plans in place.

Image of the sign at Four CornersAbout This Image: Image of the sign at Four CornersIn some of the areas we were going to there was no cell phone service. The roads that wind through the Colorado back country are ones that go through mountain passes, as well as through open fields that seem to never end with high cliffs, mesa's and bluffs all around. Traveling by car meant a certain amount of faith in the car we were in.

We made sure we had all of the usual items people travel with such as clothing and so forth, as well as all the items we would need related to the forms of disabilities we experience. We made sure people we know were aware of where we were headed in case we simply disappeared or something. We also made sure we knew which roads to take and where the hotels and other places were along the way.

The Wedding in Farmington

The road trip down I-25 to Walsenburg was an easy one with very little to be concerned about. Major stops along the way included everything from towns and cities to the many offerings they present. It was when we switched to a less-traveled highway for the major portion of the trip that things began to spread out.

We entered the San Isabel National Forest and wow - nature everywhere! It was stunningly beautiful, with forested areas and increasingly smaller towns, many setup for the purposes of camping and skiing. During a hot summer, the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees in the mountains, a relief from the 90+ degrees we were used to in Pueblo. The rivers we saw were crystal clear and flowing through valleys that were so picturesque they made postcards of the area seem rather bland.

Kat and I shared the driving so neither one of us would find our knees, feet or ankles wearing out on us and hurting too badly. By the time we arrived in Durango, we were both starving and decided to stop for a burger (here it comes...). Ok - first mistake; we both ended up with a bad burger, but Pepto Bismol later we were alright. We continued our drive and finally arrived in Farmington, checked into the hotel room and promptly dunked ourselves in the swimming pool and hot tub.

Talk about relief for a couple of souls with aching joints! The hot tub was a wonderful relief for two people with different forms of arthritis. Kat had booked this particular hotel for this very reason, knowing that the pool and hot tub would provide just the kind of relief we would need. After relaxing and recovering, we ate dinner and slept like a couple of babies.

The next day we went to Cameron and Michelle's wedding, finding ourselves at a small country-style wedding filled with family members and friends. Some of the family members present had driven all the way from the east coast; one of them was Kat's brother whom she had not seen in a decade. The, 'I do's,' went down and the party began.

Summertime in Farmington was nearly as hot as it is in Pueblo and to be plain, a lot of us were wearing shorts; myself included. The fact that I was wearing shorts found my knee braces showing and those braces of mine caught a certain amount of attention from people who had never seen a person with them before. To me they are an everyday kind of thing. Suddenly, I was reminded that they may seem different to others. I was patient and explained why I use knee braces to the people who asked, it helped them to understand.

The people who did not have any questions about the knee braces I use were the Special Olympics athletes we encountered at the hotel. We met the, 'Clarsbad2,' team from New Mexico Special Olympics, who were staying at the same hotel Kat and I were. Carlsbad2 was in Farmington to pursue swimming, softball and other sports. We have never met such polite, friendly and wonderful people.

After the wedding was over and the party at the wedding had ended, we went to Cameron and Michelle's house for a private party. The newlyweds had a wonderful idea for their private party; they did the ALS ice bucket challenge and raised money! It was a great time watching as they doused each other with ice water and nominated friends and family members to do the same. We had a great time at the private party, playing beer pong and other games and just spending time with each other.

Cortez, Colorado after All These Years

When I was 8 years old my family lived in Cortez, Colorado and the town was absolutely tiny. Cortez was a town that prized itself on its hay and alfalfa production, as well as livestock and a country way of life. My parents were both nurses at the time and worked at the local clinic. Some of my best childhood memories are from Cortez.

Kat and I stayed the night in Cortez on our way back home because we wanted to see what changes had come to the town. We were not disappointed - Cortez has fast food restaurants and a City Market grocery store at this point. The main drag is actually confusing now, unlike the simple little place it used to be. Many of the old houses are still there of course, but the city limits have definitely grown.

It was like going back in time. Cortez still values its hay and alfalfa, but it has so many modern things that were not there before. I found myself staring around and saying, 'wow,' repeatedly. Time sure has a way of making things change. At this point, I would not attempt to walk across the City of Cortez, it is too big.

Mesa Verde National Park

Image of some of the cliff dwellings at Mesa VerdeAbout This Image: Image of some of the cliff dwellings at Mesa VerdeThe next morning, we drove onward towards Mesa Verde National Park. Kat wanted to see the ruins located in the park and I am glad we went. The park is huge and very green indeed. We arrived at a time of year when the tourists are slowing down, something we were very glad for. The roads through Mesa Verde are windy and there are hairpin turns all the way through the park.

There was a massive wildfire at Mesa Verde at some point; many of the trees have been burned in large areas of the park. Do not be disappointed, the majority of the park remains intact and is stunningly beautiful, with canyons, trees, yucca plants and many other kinds of growing living things. Eagles and hawks soar above and the clouds are so close to you from the top of the park you feel as if you could reach out and touch them.

The park is largely accessible, although the main attraction - the Palace Ruins, require you to be physically able to climb a steep series of stairs if you want to visit them directly. The Palace Ruins are visible from several accessible places fortunately. There are a number of, 'pit dwellings,' which are early archaeological sites that are accessible as well. The park has many places to visit that almost anyone can access and it is a fabulous place to visit if you get the opportunity.

We ate a picnic lunch at a fully-accessible spot in the park, enjoying the peace and quiet. It was so peaceful our only company was a squirrel who certainly enjoyed a piece of bread. Tiny lizards were running around everywhere and our fellow visitors were all polite, no matter what nation they happened to be from.

Home Again in Pueblo

Image of Kat at Mesa Verde ParkAbout This Image: Image of Kat at Mesa Verde ParkAfter a nice day at Mesa Verde, we almost decided to spend another night in a hotel; we decided against it. Instead, we decided that we should just bite the bullet and drive the remaining hours home to Pueblo. As we drove home, we encountered a massive thunderhead to the east of us, out on the plains. It was not affecting us weather-wise in any way, but it was very pretty to look at from a distance.

We also saw a bear that was around a year old run across the freeway. We wondered where baby bear's mom and siblings were, but the little guy was too quick and we were driving. The bear was a good reminder of just how isolated some of the country we were driving through really is. It made us wonder what life must have been like in these areas 200 years ago.

People with disabilities do indeed travel; we saw many people with visible forms of disabilities on our travels. We wondered just how many people with invisible forms of disabilities we did not see. At one gas station where we stopped to use the restroom, we met a truck driver who used crutches, for example.

The winding highway eventually ran back into I-25 and we knew the trip was coming to an end. We drove up the main freeway and the change in environment was very notable. Here again were the many things freeways bring to American life: Fast food restaurants, bigger towns and cities, and the many attractions along the way. With aching joints and rear ends, we caught our first glimpse of the Steel City, Pueblo.

We drove home, dumped our gear and promptly collapsed. The trip through the Four Corners area, Farmington, Cortez, Mesa Verde and back was an enjoyable one. With a little planning, we had attended a wonderful wedding, seen some spectacular natural areas, some wildlife, some historic places and all without worrying too much about disability interfering. We are glad we went.

Mesa Verde National Park
www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

City of Cortez, Colorado
www.cityofcortez.com/

The southwestern Colorado town of Cortez, one of America's richest archaeological centers, lies between the entrance to world-famous Mesa Verde National Park and the fascinating Ute Mountain Tribal Park. Whether you come to visit either or both of these sites, by the time you leave you'll be steeped in the history of the Ancestral Puebloan people, from the places they lived to the tools they used in everyday life.

Four Corners Monument
navajonationparks.org/htm/fourcorners.htm

The Navajo Nation cordially welcomes you to one of our most unique landmarks - The Four Corners. This is the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. This location is very remote as you will experience when visiting.

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