Thursday, October 13, 2016

Love Mesa Verde National Park!

Wow, is this ever a wonderful scenic place with so much history!  This is the view from the driver's seat in Waldo -

Not bad, huh????

Ken and I left the CG at 9:15 and headed into Mesa Verde National Park for an 11:00 guided tour of the Balcony House Cliff Dwellings.  They had told us that we would have a 1 1/4 hour drive through the park before arriving at the starting point of the tour.

Ken was expecting a lot of the drive to be on a dirt road but the entire roadway was paved.  There were lots of twists and bends but the scenery was amazing. We stopped at several vistas along the way to take pictures of the breathtaking sights.  

The mountainside is so colorful and beautiful!

The most spectacular sight on the way to the tour was the Cliff Palace Dwellings.

It really looks like a small city!

I was so surprised when we came around the corner
and saw these "ruins"!

Normally you can take a Ranger led tour to the Cliff Palace,
but the tours ended Sept. 30.  As you can see, they are doing
some maintenance work on them.  They do not alter what
is there, but "patch" the buildings when necessary!

Our Ranger, David, a native American, was so interesting and knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor.  Ken and I think it was really Willie Nelson impersonating a Park Ranger.  He was very convincing!!  His helper, Cannonball, about a 15 year old, was doing an internship under Ranger David and he did a great job too!  

Ranger David was so much fun and a Willy Nelson look alike!

You can only visit the Balcony House with a guided Ranger tour and it requires moderate physical exertion and a sense of adventure.  You climb three long ladders, navigate a steep trail with some exposure on cliff faces, go through crevices, and crawl through a narrow 12 foot long tunnel.  Needless to say, I was hoping we could do it, but it was easier than I thought and such a great adventure. 

This is the longest ladder and Ranger David warned us that
when you go up the 1st step you have to keep going.  Park
rule- you can not go down a ladder!!!

Getting off at the top of the ladder!  Wow, we are up high!!!

We went through several narrow crevices
along the way!

Watching people climb the ladder when we had finished
climbing and gone through the crevice!

Another crevice!

And then the itsy, bitsy tunnel!

Coming out of the tiny tunnel!

...and then up the "straight up" steps at the
end of the tour!

When you take this tour you are actually in the cliff dwellings, touring the rooms and going up the steps that the natives carved in the rocks.  

We are actually in the cliff dwellings!

There are steps carved into the rocks to the right of
Ranger David.  We all used those steps made by the cliff
builders and went through the crevice to get to the dwellings on the
other side!

A great view of the gorge from the cliff dwellings!

Up the steps we go!

There are 38 rooms and 2 kivas in the Balcony House.  Kivas are
like a basement dug into the rock.  They include a bench around
the interior, a firepit, a ventilator shaft, and a sipapu in the floor
for the spirits.  The kivas had a roof  with a 2' square hole where you
climbed a ladder to get into it.  It was used for spiritual ceremonies!

Near the end of the tour, Ranger David played us a native song on
the flute he had made out of cherry wood from western PA!
It was special!

The builders of Balcony House are now known as Ancestral Pueblo people.  They were farmers who lived and grew crops on the Mesa tops until about A.D.1300. However, beginning about A.D. 1200, many chose to build their homes in cliff-side alcoves.  Although Balcony House feels isolated and remote, in the 13th century it was part of a much larger community.  Eleven small sites have been counted in the immediate vicinity, and many significant larger ones are within easy walking distance.  Our guide said that the average live expectancy of the men was 35 and women 25.  The men were only about 5'3" and the women 4'5".  No wonder the tunnel we crawled through was so narrow and low!

After the 1 1/2 hour tour, we found a nice picnic area to eat our lunch.  Then we took a walk on the 1.2 mile Soda Canyon Overlook Tour which gave us a view of where we had just toured.  

Now there is another group touring the Balcony House
 we had just left!

It was exciting to see a view of it from a distance!

From there we went to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to watch the movie about the Park history and to view the artifacts - a very nice museum. There was a viewing site behind the museum to see the Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwellings.  Usually you can go into those dwellings with a guide, but recently there have been some small rock slides and after some assessments it was revealed that the risk of continued rockfalls make it unsafe for visitors to be on the cliffs.  But, fortunately the viewing site gives you a great view of it.  It is 95% original with only some minor repairs needed!  I find it hard to imagine how this early folks built these structures let along go up and down the cliffs to plant, harvest, hunt, etc.

These pictures show all of the areas of the Spruce Tree House
cliff dwellings.

I found all of the cliff dwellings positively fascinating!  It
looks like a small city!

We returned to the CG by 5:30 and I had a nice phone conversation with my dad.  He is doing very well and was happy to talk about our travels!

Chatted with our neighboring campers who have a Winnebago too!  Then it was time for dinner, downloading today's photos, posting the blog, and a game of Pinochle, which I won.  I think I failed to mention that we played a game last night and Ken won!  I guess I forget that!!

It has been a fascinating day!

1 comment:

  1. Cudos to you guys...I couldn't have done that! What a neat experience. It's hard to imagine living like that with all the modern conveniences we have. Can't fathom how they dig all that out with hand tools!!!