Monday, September 29, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park


Yes, we made it to Mesa Verde National Park today.  Very interesting place…must have been amazing people who once lived here some 700+ years ago.  Although vast amounts of archeology investigation has taken place in the past 130 years, there is much we just don’t know about the Ancestral Pueblo, also called Anasazi.  Many of the “whys” just have not been answered.  Many of the “hows” have.  How they farmed, how they hunted, how they stored food, how they diverted water and stored water for later.  But “why” they decided to live in the cliffs is something that we many never have definitive answers to.   Might be defensive, might be religious, might be for warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer.  We had our own “whats and dids”.  What was life like?  Did they feel crammed up there??  Did young boys ask their mothers if they can go down the cliff a ways to visit a young girl in another cliff dwelling area?  


This is a view of the Mancos Valley, just outside of the park, and where the RV Resort, err, park is located.


There we are right under that tall green tree right in the middle of this picture.


So where we were up there somewhere….


Here is another overlook looking out over Cortez in the Montezuma Valley. 


This view is taken from Park View parking lot.  Park View is just over 8,500 feet and the tallest point within the park.


And when you climb the 300 feet, I mean, 32 feet up (at 8,500 feet I have a tendency to multiply things by 10, must be the lack of oxygen) to where the ranger fire lookout post is located, you get a great view of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.  Just about smack in the middle of this picture is Four Corners, which is tomorrows destination, some 50 miles away.  A nice clear day could have provided a nice picture….but as it was, I was just glad it was not raining.  In fact, it threatened our entire trip, cut our visit down a bit (we might go back on Thursday), and it looked pretty nasty at times.  


Our first of many cave dwellings was at the Spruce Tree House area.  This is the one and only cliff dwelling area where you can go into without a “ticket” and reservation for a guided tour.


At Spruce Tree they have rangers on duty pretty much all day. It is a half mile walk and you go down 1000 feet (ok, just 100 feet), and you know what they say…what goes down must come up! Did I do it, not yet….will I do it on Thursday, yes, if weather permits and if Marcia doesn’t mind waiting the couple of hours it would take me to do this.  Wish the GoGo could make it, but I would end up pushing it back up the hill, and she just won’t allow that. (Yes, there really is a God to thank for that)


From the parking lot, to the left of Spruce Tree House, you can see these two little structures. Through the day we saw many of these on either side of larger cliff dwelling structures.  Got to wonder if these were outcasts, guards, or just people who wanted to “get away from the city”.


Next we visited Scorched Pit House, which is the remains of a Pit House which had burned down.

On the Internet I found this reconstructed Pit House to give you an idea of what type of home it would be.  The Ancestral Pueblo first lived in this type of house some fifteen hundred years ago before they started to build cliff dwellings around a thousand years ago.


Evidence shows a series of pathways down, over, and up canyon walls throughout the area where the Ancestral Pueblo lived.  No wonder they felt “at home” within the caves and cliffs.  With 30-40 inches of snow to deal with each winter, with temperatures which range from upper 90’s in the summer, and lows in the teens during the winter, I am sure there was a feeling of comfort within the caves.  And the dwellings in the caves had what I would call “basements”, which surely helped to keep temperature extremes at bay.

5a     5b

There are over 4,000 ruins found within Mesa Verde, and around 600 of these are cliff dwellings.  Sometimes you will find dwellings facing each other with a valley separating them.   You can see small, one room dwellings, and you can see communities with hundreds of rooms within the cave.  


Cliff Palace, above, is also the opening picture for this blog posting.  It is the LARGEST cliff dwelling in North America.  You can see the group of people at the right who are wrapping up their tour…the group on the left had just reached the dwelling after leaving the viewing area where I am taking this picture…and a third group was up here at the viewing area and heading down.  They say the total trip is only 1/4 of a mile….but I heard the ranger lady at the top tell her group about all the stairways and ladders involved, and it got me to thinking that the group to the right is “lingering” because they know the climb they have before them, and the group to the left is acting like they are listening, but they really are catching their breath.

6b    6c

At the left is the group headed down….to the right is the group coming back up.  As for me, I was exhausted just walking up the trail to get back to the car!


Well, we have been pushing our luck all day, the weather really pushed us to "go", and our camera battery was down to one bar, and we still had the Wetherill Mesa Road to cover…so we decided we would try and come back on Thursday before we leave on Friday.  Yes, it rained after we got home…but it was not for very long or hard.  We are also back down to the 6,000 ft elevation where one can breath just a bit easier.  Smile


  1. Your pictures today are gorgeous. You saw quite a bit from that distance. Love your last shot of the threatening rain and your cliff house. Just beautiful. I really had a sacred feeling being at Mesa Verde but I'd sure like to be there when there weren't so many people. Wonder when that would be? LOL at your resort err park!!

    1. Yes, there seems to be a bunch of people there. I know you two would like the hikes, but not the crowds...but as you said, it is a special place. You have to wonder if these people faced issues of crime, of power hungry people, or was it a paradise....guess we will never know.


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