Thursday, October 31, 2013

CO Driving Trip - Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings - 9/12/2013

The Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings are a short drive southwest of Durango, CO.  We arrived at the park around 9:00 am.  It was hit and miss cloudy/sunny after raining all night.  CO sure has been getting hammered by daily rains which has lead to widespread flooding in the Denver area.

The park has a nice visitors center at the entrance.  The park covers 81 square miles and it is a 20 mile drive from the visitors center to the museum and most popular historic sites.

Right after this photo, it began to rain.  The low clouds rolled in and the rain turned into a downpour.  We were on windy mountain roads and could not see more than a few car lengths ahead of us....the headlight were on.  finally, we just had to pull over and wait the storm out.  Fortunately, that only took about 15 minutes.  As we continued to drive towards the dwellings, the skies cleared and were had a beautiful day again.  As we have said before , we are very lucky travelers.  Below is a panorama taken from the lookout point where Sigrid posed for the above photo.

The museum and restaurants have the distinctive southwestern architecture that Sigrid and I enjoy.

From this view point, you can't see the cliff dwellings.

After a few more steps, they burst into view.  The is the easiest to tour and most famous dwelling in the park....Spruce Tree House.

The trail down to the dwellings is nicely paved.

Of course, if you lose your way or become injured and can't make it back to the top, there is always help waiting for you.

Due to a combination of a bad hip and a badly ingrown toenail, I was not able to make it all the way down to the dwellings.  Even though the path was good, it was steep and the pain made it not worthwhile for me to continue.  Fortunately, Sigrid was able to get good photos of the dwellings.

There are about 150 rooms in the Spruce Tree House area and around 300 people lived here back in the day.  Originally, the Ancestral Puebloan's lived on the cliff tops and farmed for subsistence.  Around 1190 AD, they moved to building homes in the cliffs.  That continued until about 1300 AD when the tribes migrated south and abandoned the cliff dwellings.  Archaeologists speculate that changing weather patterns and a lack of water forced the migration.  The dwellings were not re-discovered again until 1888 by local ranchers.  If you want more info, Google Mesa Verde and see what Wikipedia has to say.

The Chapin Museum has a nice video presentation on the history of the dwellings and the people who lived there.

There had been a forest fire two years earlier and large swaths of the park were still recovering.

We briefly visited another one of the large dwellings....Cliff Palace.

The scenery is spectacular in the park.

A great place for a snack break.

These are the kind of roads we were trying to drive on in the fog and rain earlier in the day.

We are off now to Telluride.

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