Thursday, October 9, 2014

To Mesa Verde October 1-3, 2014

October 1, 2014

Waitress at Black Bart's.  
This was a relatively easy travel day with lots of beautiful and diverse scenery along the way from  Las Vegas to Flagstaff, AZ.  We stayed at Black Bart's RV Park which boasts its own restaurant and musical review.   The music is provided by the wait staff who are all musical theater students from U. AZ.   They sing mostly Broadway musical numbers, and all of them were very good, especially the piano player.  The food was pretty good too!

October 2, 2014

Another easy travel day with more beautiful scenery from Flagstaff to Cortez, CO.
 On the way, we stopped at Four Corners where the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet.  For some reason I thought it was a National Monument, but it is owned by the Navajo Indians who charge an admission.  The actual site is surrounded by stalls where the Native Americans sell their crafts.  It's one of those things I am glad I saw, but would not do again.

Sarah in Colorado and Utah-Steve in Arizona and New Mexico.  
We camped at the Sundance RV Park in Cortez, only 9 miles from the entrance to (#1 on my bucket list) Mesa Verde.  We had a quiet evening with the Shields after the guys went to Wal-Mart and brought back a roast chicken for dinner.

October 3, 2014

As I have said before, any day when you can cross something off your bucket list is a good day, and when you can cross #1 off, it is a GREAT day.

We set out for Mesa Verde bright and early, arriving at the park about nine o'clock in gorgeous weather with snow capped mountains in the distance.
The Mancos Valley and Rocky Mountains.   
We toured the Visitor Center and bought our tickets for the Cliff Palace Tour (all 4 of us) and for the Balcony House Tour (just me).  Steve was going to join me on the Balcony House Tour until he saw a replica of the tunnel you have to crawl through  there.  He decided then to wait for me with Larry and Bonnie.

The 20 mile drive up the mesa to Spruce Tree Terrace had jaw-dropping views at every turn.
 The museum there gave an outstanding overview of the geology, architecture, and people who built this marvelous place.  Dioramas throughout the museum showed life as it may have been when the early people lived in Mesa Verde between 550 AD and 1330 AD, and many artifacts found here were displayed.
Diorama in the museum.  
The the builders of the more than 600 cliff dwellings here were once called the Anasazi, but now they are referred to as the Ancestral Pueblo People because the modern pueblo peoples of the Hopi villages in northern Arizona and  Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, and  Rio Grande pueblos of New Mexico and Texas are their descendants.  They were truly an amazing society that lived and farmed in this area for about 800 years before moving away and abandoning these marvelous architectural treasures.

Soon it was time to meet our park ranger for the tour of Cliff Palace.  We met our excellent guide, Sharon,  at the top of a long flight of stairs, and she gave us an overview of the tour before we descended.  Cliff Palace, an architectural masterpiece by any standard, is the largest cliff dwelling in North America.  The collection of rooms, plazas, and towers fits perfectly into the sandstone overhang that has protected it since the 13th century.  There are about 150 rooms, 75 constructed open spaces, and 21 kivas (large, circular, partly subterranean rooms probably used for ceremonies, living space, or social gatherings).  It is estimated that Cliff Palace housed 100 to 120 people.  The skills of these ancient people at building and farming is astounding.
Looking down into Cliff Palace from the Mesa.  
Going down.   
Going up.  
To reach Cliff Palace we had to go down about 100 stairs, walk on very uneven ground, and climb 4 ladders.  I am happy to report that all 4 of us were able to do whatever was required to see this marvelous place.

Bonnie and Sharon.  

We survived!
Steve, Larry and Bonnie dropped me off where I was to meet the ranger for the tour of Balcony House and they headed back to the museum area (6 miles away) to wait for me.   Imagine my chagrin when, just as they drove out of sight, I remembered that my ticket for the tour was in my wallet which I had left in the car!  Of course there was no cell service in this remote place, so I had to throw myself on the mercy of the ranger who allowed me to go on the tour without my ticket.   Thank you Ranger Kevin.

After receiving an overview and safety instructions, we began what the brochure calls "the Most Adventurous Cliff Dwelling Tour".   It required climbing a 32 foot ladder, crawling through an 18 inch wide and 12 foot long tunnel (with a huge boulder in the middle),  climbing up a 60 foot open cliff face with stone steps, and finally climbing 2 ten foot ladders to exit.   What was I thinking!!!!
Climbing up to Balcony House-32 ft. ladder.     

Entering a crevice by climbing up footholds.  

Entering the tunnel  (this is NOT me).

One of the 10 ft. exit ladders at Balcony House.  

Balcony House is one of the best preserved sites in the park and has a stunning view down into Soda Canyon.  It displays some intriguing architectural features such as balconies, a long retaining wall, and a tunnel.  Much smaller than Cliff Palace, Balcony House has 38 rooms and 2 kivas divided among 3 plazas and housed 35-45 people.  Significant planning and engineering skills were required to build the two kivas side by side in the center of the site.  Although it was very challenging to get into and out of this dwelling, I would not have traded the experience for anything.

Balcony House.  

Kiva at Balcony House

Soda Valley seen from Balcony House
After I rejoined my companions, we drove the Mesa Top Loop Drive to see Cliff Palace from an different angle.  
Cliff Palace seen from Mesa Top Loop Road
We also saw many more of the hundreds of dwellings that comprised this once vibrant community.   Along the mesa top we also saw mule deer and  wild horses, and the mule deer cost us a lot of money.  Steve stopped the car so we could take pictures of them, and a very diligent park policeman gave him a $100 ticket! Really??  No warning Officer Mitchell??

Wild horse on the Mesa.  

Officer Mitchell at work.  
The $100.00 picture.  

Not the best ending to the day.  

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