Conference Choices

by Don Laine

Where are we going next year? And maybe the next few?

With apologies to Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and the delightful Dorothy Lamour, “We’re off on the Road to Morocco…”

Well, not really. But we are checking out three possible locations that are just as fascinating, all relatively small communities with plenty to see and do, and we hope, affordable lodging and meeting space. Please continue reading and then email with your thoughts. Now, in no particular order, our three possible locations are: Los Alamos, NM, Cortez, CO, and Kanab, UT. Read on for why…

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Los Alamos has a delightful variety of activities available, practically something for everyone. Top attractions include Bandelier National Monument with its 13th-century ancestral Puebloan ruins, including cliff dwellings, a large pueblo, and an abundance of rock art. There are also a variety of trails, including one that leads to two picturesque waterfalls. The mostly undeveloped Valles Caldera National Preserve is the result of a huge volcanic eruption over a million years ago. The preserve boasts herds of elk and mule deer, plus black bears and mountain lions. Miles of old logging roads – mostly closed to motorized vehicles – provide easy access to the backcountry for hikers.

Of course, Los Alamos is primarily known as the birthplace of the world’s first atomic bombs, code-named the Manhattan Project. Los Alamos National Laboratory operates the Bradbury Science Museum, which tells the story of the development of the bomb as well as other projects, including non-military uses of nuclear energy, and the Los Alamos History Museum highlights the human history of the area. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a work in progress, and includes sites in Tennessee and Washington State, to tell the story of the development of the bomb. 

Cortez, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park © 2004 Barb Laine

This is an excellent home base for seeing some of America’s most impressive archeological sites, as well as a wonderful mountain drive. The main attraction here is famed Mesa Verde National Park, where you can explore 13th-century cliff dwellings and other archeological sites on your own or on guided tours. Nearby is Ute Mountain Tribal Park, which has cliff dwellings similar to Mesa Verde, plus wall paintings and ancient petroglyphs. Access to the park is strictly limited to guided tours. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains thousands of archeological sites, including an excavated 12th-century pueblo, the remains of kivas, cliff dwellings, and sweat lodges.

Noteworthy for its 20-foot-tall sandstone towers, Hovenweep National Monument is about 40 miles west of Cortez along the Colorado-Utah border. The monument, once home to more than 2,500 people, actually covers six separate sites, the best preserved being the Square Tower Site in Utah, where there is a ranger station/visitor center. Cortez is also a good jumping off point for driving the spectacular San Juan Skyway, a 233-mile circuit through the scenic San Juan Mountains, crossing five mountain passes and passing through Durango, Silverton, and Ouray, Colorado.

Kanab, Utah

For some of the best red rock scenery in the American West, head to southern Utah and northern Arizona, and Kanab is an ideal place to start. At least that’s what Hollywood thought. Think the long-running TV show “Gunsmoke” was filmed in Dodge City, Kansas, where it supposedly took place? Nope. Just outside of Kanab. You’ve seen the area in numerous TV shows and movies, and remains of several movie sets are nearby, giving Kanab the moniker “Little Hollywood.” Kanab’s Parry Lodge, opened in 1931, was where many of the actors and film crews stayed, including John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra, Maureen O’Hara, and Roy Rogers. Movie fans will also want to drop by the open-air Little Hollywood Museum.

Nearby is the aptly-named Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Also nearby, Buckskin Gulch, a slot canyon on Bureau of Land Management property, is considered one of America’s best and most beautiful hikes, and one of its routes is a fairly easy walk. We would certainly want to do a day trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and conference attendees might want to schedule extra time for trips on their own to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Especially scenic is Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, although high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed to access much of it. Tired of rocks and old movies? Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter for up to 1,600 animals just outside Kanab, offers tours, where you can meet the residents of Dogtown, Catworld, Horse Haven, Parrot Garden, and Piggy Paradise.