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TRAVEL Q&A

Exploring the Four Corners

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By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Q. I'm a first-timer who would like to do some hiking and exploring in the Four Corners region this summer, particularly in archaeologically significant areas. Where do you recommend?

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David Koch, Silver Spring

A. X marks the spot, and we're not talking about that venerable patch where one can touch four states at once. Rather, the Four Corners area is also the epicenter for remnants of an ancestral Pueblo culture that dates back more than a thousand years. Dottie Peacock, a program developer at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in southwestern Colorado, summed it up as "the richest archaeological area in the United States," before adding that novices should consider a tour their first time around. "It's a great way for people who really want to know what they're seeing . . . as well as a way to get to places that you would be hard-pressed to visit on your own." Areas of interest include the spectacular cliff dwellings in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park ( http://www.nps.gov/meve), the castle ruins at Hovenweep National Monument ( http://www.nps.gov/hove), the petroglyphs of Ute Mountain Tribal Park ( http://www.utemountainute.com/tribalpark.htm) and the center of trade that was Chaco Canyon ( http://www.nps.gov/chcu).

Among the problems facing fledgling hikers, however, is a confusion about what areas are open to the public. "Within the parks, there are guides to what's open and what's not," said Peacock, whose Crow Canyon offers tours of the Four Corners region, sometimes in restricted areas, from May through September ( http://www.crowcanyon.org, 800-422-8975). "On the reservations, they are very strict on permitting people. You have to be with someone who knows where they're going."

I have a relative who needs to use oxygen. Can you tell me what kinds of limitations she faces regarding flying?

Katherine Cooper, Washington

There are indeed issues. Chief among them: "Federal regulations prohibit airlines from allowing passengers to bring their own oxygen canisters aboard to use during the flight," says a statement on the Transportation Security Administration Web site ( http://www.tsa.gov). So what are the alternatives? Juliet Hedge Ellis of the National Home Oxygen Patients Association ( http://www.homeoxygen.org) says a POC, or portable oxygen concentrator, which extracts oxygen from room air and delivers it to the user via a tube, is convenient for travel "if it meets the oxygen user's need. There are currently five POCs that are approved for use on airlines; however, not all airlines approve all five for use." You'll need to check with your airline to determine its policy.

"The user should also consider the length of time on the POC battery, bringing additional batteries to cover usage at least 50 percent beyond the scheduled travel time," Ellis said. "Access to a power supply to recharge batteries on planes is very limited."

Check the NHOPA Web site, which includes tips on stowing tanks in luggage (some airlines allow empty tanks to be checked, but none allow filled tanks) and a reminder to keep a copy of your oxygen prescription with you at all times.

Your Turn

With regard to our answer regarding teen-friendly castles in Germany (March 2), Laura Marling of Vienna says to "use the Web sites http://www.romantikhotels.com and http://www.gast-im-schloss.de to stay in castles. Our grandchildren . . . loved staying in Schloss Rheinfels near St. Goar and Hotel Markusturm in Rothenburg."

Send queries to travelqa@washpost.comor Travel Q&A, Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name and town.


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