Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park

At Priest Gulch RV Campground, Dolores, Colorado...

Since we were so close to Mesa Verde National Park, we decided to make a side trip there, knowing little about it other than its preservation of cliff dwellings used by an ancient culture for some 1,200 years, beginning about the time of Christ.

The visitor center is very nice, appearing to have been of fairly recent construction. The rangers were very friendly and informative, and it was a good place to get an overview of the park.

We learned that the cliff dwelling sites were near the end of a 20-mile drive across Mesa Verde. Well, it was not actually a mesa but a "cuesta," a term new to me. The difference? A mesa has a flat top, and a cuesta's top is sloped. We pointed Mae toward the park's entrance booths, entering for free with our old people's national park pass.

I must say, the twenty miles to the sites is a drive I would gladly have taken even if no attraction awaited at the end. I love the vast vistas of the Southwest anyway, and these were on full display during this drive. There were ample turnouts at particularly good viewing locations.

Near one of the larger sites was a small but interesting museum with an introductory video playing and all kinds of artifacts from the period. We watched the video and thought it was quite well done. We didn't take any of the guided tours of the cliff sites due to our inability to negotiate the demanding number of steps involved. One of the sites even required a visitor to descend and climb a 32-foot ladder. Given Sandy's acrophobia, this might have been the end of her. Thankfully, there were very good vantage points for photos without having to push our limits:

Spruce House Pueblo
Cliff Palace Pueblo
One has to marvel at the talents of the ancient builders who were able to construct, with the most primitive of tools, structures such as these that would survive for 2,000 years and counting. I was also impressed by the wisdom of the builders to relocate their families to a place that would give such significant relief from harsh winters.

We didn't think we had missed all that much by eschewing the up-close tours. My imagination is just as fertile from the vantage point of the overview site as it would be up-close and personal to the pueblos. Plus, there was wisdom, I think, in not putting a klutz like me in harm's way, crawling around on rocks and ladders and such.

We enjoyed the views of the trek back to the main gate just as much as the way into the park; a nice rainbow developed in a distant rain shower, adding a delightful surprise to the journey:

After our excellent visit to Mesa Verde, we returned to have some chili dogs cooked outside on the Weber Q. I had made the chili earlier by cooking it in an iron skillet on top of the Weber Q, a trick I learned from fellow blogger and ex-chef George Yates, whose interesting blog I read.

Is Mesa Verde a must see? I think so, especially if you have an interest in the remarkable achievements of these ancient peoples. But you won't be disappointed, even if you choose not to get out of the car. 

The next post will be from Durango again.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

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