Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park - Where the Ancient Ones Lived

Green mesa's
About 40 miles west of Durango is Mesa Verde National Park.  Mesa Verde means green mesa and it is very aptly named.  This is a huge national park encompassing 81 square miles.  Its main attractions are archaeological sites.  There are over 4,500 sites and about 600 cliff dwellings.  

We arrived in the late morning and were able to spend the afternoon visiting several sites.   The park encompasses several mesas that pitch up abruptly from Rt 160.  The mesas gently slope south with several deep canyon cutting thru the mesas.  It’s in these canyons where the cliff dwellings are.

It's a long drive from the park entrance to the main sites.  It takes 45-60 minutes to drive across the mesas to these sites.  The main sites of Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House require a tour sign up in order to get a close up tour. The tours cost $4 and takes about 1 hr. There is one site, Spruce Tree House, which you can tour on you own.

Spruce Tree House
We drove the Mesa Loop road which offers several stops to view cliff dwellings in alcoves just below the mesa tops.  The views are spectacular.  Here are some pictures.

Square Tower House

At Cliff Palace, I didn’t feel I had the stamina to climb down to the site and then back up four ladders.  A bum knee and the 7,000 ft the elevation was getting to me.  I let Cav, who has almost 30 less years on me, go down and take the tour and report back.  He got a real close up view. 

Cav at Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace
These dwelling where discovered in 1888 by two cowboys.  They were  built over 750 yrs earlier.  It’s amazing to see how our ancestors lived.  For the past 200 or so years we’ve had it relatively easy, but for hundreds and thousands of years our ancestors spent all their time gathering or hunting for food, building their shelters and clothing, and eluding hostile tribes and animals.  Image when you’re hungry or need clothing and you’re only solution to that problem is to go out and kill an animal with a spear or stone club and hope it doesn’t kill you first.

We spent the night at Morefield Campground in the park.  We were lucky to get one of the few full hook up sites.  The campground is a little pricey for a National Park.  Its $30 for a basic tent site and $40 for one of the 15 full hook up sites.  It has restrooms throughout the camping loops and showers and laundry at the campground store.

We had a good visit.  A day was enough for us to see the main sites.  The park was pretty busy with tourists and the campground looked about two thirds full.

We left the next day for Monument Valley.

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