This was my first visit to Mesa Verde National Park. I hate to admit this, but I’m not much into cultural resources. I much prefer the “natural” world. But I did enjoy our visit.
We lucked out and were able to get a campsite in the campground for two nights. This was one of the most expensive NPS campsites we’ve camped at. After securing our campsite, we drove the road out to a series of ruins. While Jack went to the museum, I checked out the Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwelling. There was a site along the way that held a lot of good birds so I got detoured from the archaeological ruins to watch the birds. I hated to leave this area.
Oh you thought you were going to see pictures of ruins? Okay here goes……….
Next we went on a guided tour of the Balcony House Cliff Dwelling, followed by another guided tour this time the Cliff Palace. Of the two tour guides, the first was the best. He engaged the young children (former grade school teacher), and readily answered questions. Much of what I had learned of this culture was debunked by our guide. The Anzasis did not just “disappear”, but left the area because of a combination of conditions – a 24 year drought (that should be enough) but prior to that was a continuing immigration population taxing the ability to provide food, possible soil depletion, and the Pueblo belief that they are to search for the Center of their Culture and Mesa Verde was not considered in such reverence (one reason the area was not repopulated in later years).
Balcony House Ruins
A Kiva would have a roof and is thought to be a community gathering area with some spiritual significance, but may also have served as a warm place to escape winter’s harshness.
Cliff House Ruins
The next day we visited several ruins or pit houses (the early inhabitants lived on the mesa and only later descended to cliff houses, possibly for protection) and then made our way to the Longhouse Cliff Dwelling ruins and another guided tour. But first, we went to Step House Cliff Dwelling. This was a self-guided tour (no tour guides provided – a Ranger with a serious face was present overseeing the eager tourists climbing amongst the ruins).
Step House Ruins
Long House Ruins
Each of the Cliff Dwellings had ‘indoor plumbing’ – an essential water seep along the back edge of the ‘Alcove’ (not a cave). We were told, however, not to drink the water. According to our tour guide, a couple of years ago a park ranger drank the water and subsequently ended up in the hospital for three days.
We did see some wildlife other than birds. On the way back from the Cliff House we came upon a black bear just off the road eating vegetation on a tree. We also saw deer and elk in the park.
We did enjoy our short time in the park. Maybe some day we will return.
It’s a Great Day to Bird (and get out and just enjoy nature – all of it).