Mesa Verde National Park, 2017

On our way to Mesa Verde we traveled through Illinois, crossed the Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado.  In Nebraska we stopped at a Pony Express Station from the 1850s which was interesting. We stopped in Boulder and Denver, Colorado and then drove through some beautiful Colorado autumn scenery.  The aspen especially, were beautiful as they were just beginning to turn colors.

Mesa Verde is located in the southwest corner of Colorado.  We have driven near several times but decided to stop this time.  We spent two nights in the park which gave us a full day of exploring.  We had a room with a balcony overlooking the park. Beautiful.  And dark at night!

The cliff dwellings here are the best preserved in North America.  Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos built beneath the overhanging cliffs.  There are nearly 600 cliff dwellings within the park, ranging from 150 rooms (Cliff Palace) to 1-5 rooms or even single room storage units. One wonders what their life was like.

The park is open all year but the lodge closes the middle of October—or a week after we were there.  Also at this time of the year all but two of the cliff dwelling tours were closed.  (The only way to see the cliff dwellings up-close is with a guided tour.)  When we arrived at the park only one tour, Balcony House, still had openings – it was the one we had read about ahead of time and said we didn’t think we would go.  It involved first descending a 100-foot staircase into the canyon, then climbing a 32-foot ladder, crawling through a 12-foot tunnel (our ranger said it was 1 ranger hat wide and 2 ranger hats high!), and climbing up a 60-foot open rock face with toe holds and stone steps and two 10-foot ladders.  We saw some photos and decided that we could do it after all!

Balcony House has about 40 rooms.  We saw the rooms, kivas, passageways, and plazas built and occupied in the thirteenth century by the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico in the cliff alcove.  They were excavated and stabilized in the early part of the twentieth century.  Our guide was half Native American and had good insights into Native America culture and philosophy.

In the afternoon we hiked the Petroglyph Point Trail.  This is a loop trail that in parts was quite rocky with several areas of narrow steep stairs.  But the views of the canyons are amazing.  The 20-foot wide panel is the largest group of petroglyphs in Mesa Verde.  The designs include hand prints, animals, humans, spirals, and other geometric shapes.  In 1942 four Hopi men visited the area and interpreted some of the glyphs.  The guidebook gives those modern day interpretations which may or may not have been the same as the original rock artists actually thought.  But it was interesting!

Overall, we were very happy that we visited.  Highly recommended!



Leave a Reply