Museo Casa del Alabado

Quito has a wonderful little museum in the old town, opened four years ago, that has a fairly large collection of pre-Colombian art. Containing about 5000 pieces, the museum is made up of archaeological items from most of the cultures which formerly inhabited all regions of what is now Ecuador. The museum is housed in a restored mansion built originally in 1671.

The collection is organized thematically, with a focus on native ancestral ritualism and spirituality in the Americas. The pieces date from 7000 BC through the arrival of the Spaniards in 1530 AD. The ancient cultures inhabited the Pacific Coast all the way to the tropical forests and mountains of the Andes. The artifacts in the collection include creations in pottery, stone, conch, metal, textiles and wood. They show an incredible range of technical skills and a significant diversity of styles and shapes.

The history of the region began at the end of the first ice age. The pre-ceramic period, which ended around 4200 BC, consisted of the Las Vegas culture, who were hunter-gatherers and fishermen on the coast, and the Inga culture located near present-day Quito. The Formative period began and flourished with farming and the use of ceramics. The major culture then was that of the Valdivia, the first culture where significant remains have been found, dating as early as 3500 BC.

This period was followed by the development of more stable cultures located in discrete towns, focused more on farming , trading and other activities all the way through to the 15th century. The Incans invaded the area from Peru in the late 1400’s, but only controlled Ecuador until the arrival of the Spaniards.

The museum is well organized, and with an accomplished guide can be reviewed in an hour or so. The open courtyard includes comfortable seating and offers limited refreshments.

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

We recently returned from a ten day sojourn to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and what a spectacular trip it was! I will be doing a number of blog posts covering this visit, starting with our brief time in the capital city of Quito. We have literally hundreds of photos to share, particularly of the wildlife on the islands. But first Quito.

The capital city of Ecuador is located at 9350′ elevation in a valley adjacent to an active volcano, Pichincha, and in the Andean foothills. The population is about 3 million people. It was the first city recognized by Unesco as an historic site. Constructed on the foundation of an ancient Incan city, Quito is known for its’ well preserved colonial center, rich in 16th and 17th century churches. Quito is a blend of European, Moorish and indigenous styles. Highlights include the cathedral, the Plaza Grande square and the ultra-ornate Compania de Jesus Jesuit church.

First populated some 8000 years ago, the city was established in 1541 and named San Francisco of Quito. There are more than 200 churches, convents and monasteries in the old town, and many cases of original buildings exist. The old city is charming, with many sights and restaurants, and very friendly people.

Ohio Pass Road

Ohio Pass road is probably the prettiest route from Crested Butte to Gunnison, although certainly not the fastest. The views are spectacular in wildflower season and in the fall when the aspens are turning. The route is 22.5 miles long and runs over Ohio Pass at a peak of 10,076′. About 1/3 to 1/2 the road is gravel, but passable for regular vehicles.

To take this route, head out of Crested Butte along Kebler Pass Road for about 7 miles. Watch for a left turn onto CR 730, or Ohio Pass Road. The peak is reached about two miles later. Parts of the road which flank Mt. Axell are gravel, narrow and shelf-like.

Views of the West Elk Mountains and eventually The Castles are quite rewarding. And the road passes through a substantial forest of aspens which is stunning in the fall. Eventually the road descends to the old town of Baldwin, established in 1881 during the gold rush. The focus ended up on coal in this area. The road, now paved, runs about 15 miles through the Ohio Creek valley by farms and ranches.

San Juan Mountains

In southwest Colorado, the San Juan Mountains offer perhaps the state’s most varied scenery with 13 peaks over 14000′.  The mountains contain highly mineralized veins of silver, gold, zinc and other metals. The towns in the area are all unique and interesting, many established during the mineral rush in the late 1880’s. They include Silverton, Ridgeway, Ouray and Telluride. The San Juans were the home of the Ute Indians for hundreds of years.

Today this area is  very active year around for hiking, skiing, off roading, camping and other activities. It is also a photographer’s paradise, particularly during the fall color change. The area between Ridgeway and Telluride provides expansive views of the “Sneffels Range”, which includes the Uncompahgre National Forest (950,000 acres), Mt. Sneffels, Dallas Peak, Mears Peak, Wilson Mesa and Mt. Wilson.

Take SR 62 west from Ridgeway towards Placerville and Telluride. About 8 miles west of Ridgeway one comes to a parking lot in an area called Dallas Divide. This location offers one of Colorado’s iconic photography spots (others include Maroon Bells and Crystal Mill). This offers a view of the Sneffels Range along with massive aspen groves and other rolling land and forests.

Beyond this stop, one can take Last Dollar Road (CR58P) over to Telluride. This road is a winding, narrow trek of some 21 miles, and offers spectacular views including Wilson Peak. A 4WD vehicle, while not necessary, is strongly recommended.

Back towards Ridgeway, there are two county roads which run through the Double RL ranch (read Ralph Lauren) into the Uncompahgre National Forest. These are both fairly smooth gravel roads – windy and somewhat narrow but passable for passenger vehicles – which both offer more spectacular views of the range and massive groves of aspens. One is CR 9, or West Dallas Creek Road; the other is CR 7, or Dallas Creek Road. Both follow the Dallas Creek valley for 6-8 miles up into the foothills, and are commonly used for hiking access to the forest.