Mesa Verde Day 2

Today was an early start as my first tour, the long house, was at 9:00am and it was about a 1.5h drive across the park to get there.
Long house was a bit bigger than Balcony house and once had some 150 rooms, it is probably in the worst shape of all the dwellings I saw. They believe Long House was more of a ceremonial place as in the middle was a great Kiva. The guide pointed out an interesting feature, the sipapu in the great Kiva wasn’t centered but offset at an angle from the fire pit which was strange, but when the guide held a compass over the sipapu it pointed true north-south. I thought this was pretty amazing considering we were talking 600-700 years ago. It always amazes me how in-tune ancient societies were, they generally have a great understanding of astrology, building practices that allow their buildings to stand for hundreds of years and a way of utilising the materials around them to create these amazing structures.

Long House

Grooves in the sandstone from where they would sharpen their tools

Long House

My next tour was of the Cliff Palace, so I made my way there Via the museum which had some artifacts and tools on display as well as some more information on the development of the Puebloan buildings and society. There was also an overlook to Spruce Tree house, which was shut due to rock fall risks, so I had a look at that from across the way. It looked to be pretty well preserved.

Spruce Tree House
Spruce Tree House

Cliff Palace was also very well preserved and from the observation area above It gave you a pretty good idea of what it might have looked like back in the day. Cliff Palace they believe was home to about 23 or so Puebloan Clans as there were 23 Kivas. This is one of the youngest dwellings only about 600 years old.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

Kiva
Kiva
Some extremely well preserved wall decorations inside one of the towers.
The original rendering just hanging in there

It was amazing to see the dwellings and fascinating to learn a little about Puebloan society. I thought 3 tours might be a little too much and repetitive, but each guide brought their own facts, figures and ideas as to what might have been going on or how life was. A great stop and well worth it, my favorite cliff dwelling was probably Cliff Palace.

Colorado – Mesa Verde Day 1

My first stop on my way to Colorado was actually an unplanned stop in a small town called Chama, NM. Don’t worry it wasn’t for any car troubles, but for a friend, Tegan, She is obsessed with trains (might have something to do with her job at Queensland rail, but I worked for an AC company…. I don’t have an obsession with AC’s). I had seen all these signs for the Cumbres & Toltec scenic steam train so I decided to have a look. It was only 3-4km’s off track so no big deal. As I pulled up in the train station car park I saw a steam engine puffing along towing another behind, I found a park got my camera and went for a look. I watched for a while as they ‘fueled up’ (added coal to the Tender), and moved around the tracks. It was pretty interesting to, they also didn’t seem to care if you walked around the tracks to have a closer look, I followed others.

Cambres & Toltec Steam Train

Cambres & Toltec Steam Train
‘Fueling Up’

Back on the Road I hit Colorado. Although my stay in Colorado was short it was beautiful and amazing from the moment I crossed the state line. As I entered Colorado The sun was shining and in front of me rose these amazing mountains. My first stop was for lunch in a pretty little town called Pagosa Springs (yes they are hot springs). I found the town park which was a cute like park with some nice green grass, picnic tables and playground set on the banks of the San Juan River. After my chicken, Avocado and Mayo wrap I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air for a little bit, then wet for a short stroll along the river. It was a pretty active river, people wise that is; there were some people floating down the river from up stream in inflatable tubes; a few fly fisherman; and down stream a bit further I could see a watering whole where people were swimming and sunbathing on the rocks, It was a very Nice town and I was tempted to stay the night, but decided to keep moving.

I arrived at my final destination, Mesa Verde National, at about 3:30-4pm. I stopped at the visitor centre to get some information on the sights in the park; Mesa Verde is home to Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. A few of the Dwellings were only accessible on tours and I thought It would be good to get some more insight into the fascinating structures. At only $5 a tour I decided to do 3; Balcony House, Long House and Cliff Palace. Balcony house was that evening at 5 so I got moving as it was an hour drive through the park to where the tour took place. I was lucky enough to arrive at the park on it’s birthday so entry was free (usually USD$25/car I believe), the road twists and turns its way up and along the cliffs, until you get on-top to the Mesa (Plateau, Mesa verde translates to Green Plateau) then its relatively straight. The drive is quite scenic with lots of views over the valley way down bellow.

Valley View
The Balcony house tour stars with a short walk to some steps that take you down onto the side of the cliff, then along a path to a 9 meter or so wooden rung ladder to get you up and into the balcony house. Here we learned that all of the cliff dwellings are built on or near seep springs, a point in the sandstone where the more porous sandstone meets harder rock and the water that has filtered down from the Mesa above is forced out, this was their water source. Balcony house is from the 13th Century so approximately 700 years old and was built around the time they were transitioning from a hunter gatherer nomadic society to a Sedentary society farming on Mesa above. It was amazing how intact and well preserved it was considering its age, with original decorative paintings still visible.

Cliff Dwelling across the Canyon

Balcony House

Balcony
Here you can see the different layering they used in the balconies
Original wall decorations

The tour was excellent a informative, afterwards I headed back to the Campground. One of the more expensive ones at $30 or so, but pretty with free wifi throughout (projected from the restrooms) and showers available. I also didn’t have to pay entry so evens it out.