I can’t believe that an entire month has transpired since we returned home from our RV road trip through Colorado on June 10th, and somehow I lost my writing mojo along the way.
For someone who LOVES to travel, takes a ton of photographs, writes for a hobby and then truly enjoys sharing our adventures, this was so out of character for me. But, sometimes life gets in the way, other things become a priority, and before you know it, thirty days have come and gone.
But, I still have a couple of places that we visited in June that I want to get down into the memory vaults before I forget them all together…
June 5 – 7th – Mesa Verde National Park
President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. It is the only National Park in the United States that was created to preserve Ancestral Pueblo culture and prehistoric architecture.
About AD 500, long before Europeans explored North America, some of the people living in the Four Corners area migrated to Mesa Verde. Here they grew crops and hunted game on the mesa top, and built alcove villages beneath overhanging cliffs.
“Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.” ~ nps.gov
In the late 1200’s, over a span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.
Local ranchers discovered the ruins in the 1880’s. Since that time, archeologists have spent decades doing excavation, analysis, classification and comparison, trying to understand the lives of the people who lived here.
Still our knowledge is incomplete…
We do know that the cliff dwellers were adept at building, and skillful at living in a difficult landscape. Their basic construction material was sandstone that they shaped into bricks, mortar and wooden beams. There are over 5,000 archeological sites, including nearly 600 cliff dwellings spread over 52,000 acres inside the park.
Here is a brief introduction film if you are planning to visit:
We allowed two and a half days, but the highlights could be covered in less time if you are well-organized and willing to cover a lot of ground in one day.
We stopped at the visitors center the afternoon of our arrival. This is the best place to purchase your tickets if you are planning on doing a ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace, Balcony House of Long House. That is the only way you can see these three amazing dwellings up close as there are no self-guided tours allowed.
Entrance into the National Park is $20/car (free with Senior pass) or $15/motorcycle. The ranger guided tours are $5 per person per tour.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking at least one of the guided tours. We chose the Cliff Palace tour for our first full day, and the Long House tour for the following day. We ruled out the Balcony House tour as it sounded a little too adventurous for us with crawling through a 18-inch wide tunnel for 12 feet and then climbing up a 60 foot open cliff ladder.
Sadly Spruce Tree House was closed during our visit due to recent rockfalls.
We also stopped at several view points and self-guided sites along the way, but by far the highlights were the two guided tours we took.
Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. It contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas (round sunken rooms of ceremonial importance). It is estimated that approximately 100 people lived here.
“It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.” ~ Wikipedia
There is no age or height restriction on this one-hour tour, but children must be able to climb ladders by themselves or be carried in a backpack.
Here is a sampling of what you will see:
This is the second largest cliff dwelling in the park. A good 2.25 mile hike is involved in this two-hour ranger-guided tour as well as climbing two 15-foot (4.5 m) ladders within the site.
The hike to Long House:
There were a lot of similarities in the construction of the two cliff dwellings. Here are some of our shots from Long House:
I’m not sure that I had a favorite between Cliff Palace and Long House, but our guide on the longer Long House tour was excellent. He engaged everyone, making us use our wits to figure out what we would use for building materials, how we would do the construction, where we would get our food, and find a source of water.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that the writing bug has returned, perhaps not full-fledged, but at least enough to allow me to get these memories recorded.