August 17, 2010 Mesa Verde
At the beginning of school last year the Oldest daughter was learning about Native Americans. One of the things she studied was about the Cliff Dwelling Indians. When we decided to visit family in Colorado this summer, it was an easy decision to include a side trip to the famous Mesa Verde.
As a side note: Our son also wanted to visit the Four Corners, which is about an hour from Mesa Verde. He (and I) wanted to stand in four states at once. I know that’s kind of corny. To our surprise and let down it was closed due to upgrades to the monument. Many other families had made side trips just to see the same thing. Please realize there is NOTHING near the Four Corners, except sand. and rocks. Some families even went out of their way, four hours or more to see it. One family I talked to choose to see the four corners instead of Mesa Verde. Bad idea! I did what any good slacker mom would do. I let them write on the sign about their disappointment.
Words cannot explain the awesome views we took in. As you approach the park you are greeted by this cool mountain:
As I mentioned in a previous post we camped for a couple of nights. If you plan a camping trip in the summer be sure to bring warm clothes for the cool evenings. As you are driving to where the cliff dwelling are you get to enjoy the beauty of canyons and mountains. It is about a 20 mile drive into the park to where the dwellings are located. Along the drive you can see the effects of forest fires, which are part the natural cycle. Near the “Long House” you can see one of the more recent fires. It reminded me of a tree graveyard. Miles and miles of dead trees. The fires even came up to the dwellings, as you may see in some of my other pictures.
The park has several self guided tours, as well as, guided ones. The fees for the guided tours are very reasonable, and well worth the cost. You are able to see up close some of the larger dwellings as well as learn from park rangers about the Indians that lived here, how the dwellings were discovered, and other theories about what life was like and why the Indians left. The people who lived in these dwellings did not die out, but rather moved to lower grounds near by.
One of the things that Alan and I found was that there are several theories to the reason the Indians lived in the cliffs and even what life was like. It was fun to talk about what we had learned and compare the theories to what life was like and why these dwellings were abandoned.
The other thing I wanted to point out was the amazing architecture of the houses. It is harder to build round structures even in modern times, yet this civilization built beautiful towers. They used ever nook and cranny. Our guide at the Cliff Palace pointed out that after a recent burn of the forest they found that the people even engineered the mesas above where they lived with canals they used in farming.
There is one final thing I wanted to mention about our trip. Normally Colorado is very dry during the summer. Not for us. When we were about the tour the Cliff Palace a huge thunder-storm rolled in. The thunder echoed extra loud through the canyons. While we hiked down to the palace we were drenched, but once we were down there, we were perfectly dry and safe from the weather.
If you are planning a trip to Mesa Verde I would recommend at least half a day. Ideally a full day is better. We saw most of the structure you can tour in one full day. During the (summer) day it is quite hot, so bring water and good walking shoes. Our youngest is 4 years old. She did pretty well with the hiking, but needed coaxing and a little carrying back out of some of the cliffs. (She did really well on the ladders). If camping isn’t “your thing” they also have lodges to stay in with spectacular views. You can click here for more information about the park.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. We visited four cliff dwellings, but also saw several smaller ones throughout the canyons.