Friday, May 4, 2012

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Hi all, Dianne here.  We're spending four days at Mesa Verde, Colorado, mainly to visit the Ancient Pueblo ruins in the national park.  

View from our front windshield
We can see Mesa Verde out our front window at the rv park, and also can see the twisty-curvy road winding up the mesa.  

On Thursday, it was our turn to take that road up, up, up to the visitor center.

The drive was beautiful, and we could see snow-covered mountains in the distance.  At the visitor's center, we purchased tickets for the 12:00 ranger-guided tour of Cliff Palace, built by Pueblo Indians between 600 and 1300 A.D.  While waiting for our tour time, we visited the interesting park museum and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  

Roger took this photo of me climbing up the steep, narrow stone steps to enter the ruins. At least we didn't have to use the hand and foot holes carved into the rock that were used by the ancient ones to climb in and out of their city.

This tour is not for the faint of heart; there is some scrambling up steep stairways to enter, and more steep stairways and a series of 10-foot ladders to exit the ruins.  The 7,000-foot altitude made it seem even more difficult than it was.  I am afraid of heights, and did manage to make it up the ladders at the end of the tour (hand railings next to the ladders at the top helped).  Roger joked that the best way to get me to climb up a ladder like that is to have a line of people waiting behind me.  I admit, that probably did help  me overcome my fear and make it up, although it wasn't pretty.  (Picture me scrambling on all fours at the top of the ladder to get off).  

Roger took a photo of me from behind as I climbed the ladder.  He actually took two photos, but let's just say the other one wasn't exactly at a flattering angle, so it shall remain hidden for all time.  (Elephants come to mind....)

I need to make special mention of Ranger Wolf, our guide for the tour.  He was an excellent, experienced guide, and truly made the experience memorable for us.  He explained that the ruins were an architecturally planned community, as ancient plumbs and levels were found in the ruins.  

We also learned that after devastating wildfires, which burned over 19,600 acres in the summer of 2000, previously-unknown archeological sites were discovered.  One discovery proved that the ancient Pueblos diverted water and had a system of water works, moving winter snow melt toward their community.

 He also explained to our group how the kivas were designed in a perfectly round shape, per their religious beliefs.  Each kiva had a roof with a smoke hole, and a cold air return duct (shown in the above photo) with a baffle built in front of it to circulate the air away from the fire and support the updraft of the smoke through the roof.  

Original Wood Timbers Around Window Opening
  Another result of the wildfires that burned thousands of acres in the park in 2000 was that most of the trees in the national park were burned, and the grasses and shrubs that are springing up in the burned forests aren't using up as much of the snow melt, which has put pressure on the foundations under the ancient ruins, endangering some of them.  Studies are being done to find the best solution to help preserve the ruins from further damage.

Imagine Climbing Down this Cliff to Enter the City on Hand and Foot Holes
The photo above shows how Cliff Palace sits in the landscape, under a cave overhang.  You can spot some of the dead trees above it from the wildfires.  We drove through acre after acre of dead trees on our drive up the mesa.  I learned so much from this tour.  It's hard to believe that before we visited Bandelier National Monument in September 2010, I didn't even know what a kiva was.  Traveling the U.S. these past three years has really broadened our minds and horizons.  I still feel like we're just getting started!

As usual, I took way too many photos of the ruins to include in the blog, but if you have way too much time and are interested in seeing them all, here's a link to the photobucket album:

Additional photos of Cliff Palace Ruins

As with most national parks, dogs are not allowed, so Bandido and Tequila have been "guarding the motor home" while we're away touring and hiking in the national park.  They don't mind too much, because they know they'll get special Kong treats and chew bones to keep them occupied while we're gone.  

Give Me The Ball!!
The pet photo of the day shows Bandido and Tequila playing ball together at the small enclosed dog area at USA RV park where we stayed in Gallup, New Mexico, on our way to Mesa Verde.  Bandido is really happy that we adopted a pal for him to play with when we're away from Retama!


Linda said...

We loved Mesa Verde. I agree with you Dianne about the ladders going out, I was worried, but with a line behind you, you just climb and before you know it, you are out!!

Gin and Syl said...

I like how you say that travelling has broadened your minds and horizons. I think of those vacations when you stay in hotels or rental cottages more as "touring". You experience more when you travel by RV.

Anonymous said...

Where did you stay in your RV? How did you like it? We are going there this summer. I know, hot, hot, but it is "on our way" from Yellowstone back over to Colorado.