One of my most-anticipated stops on our roadtrip was at Mesa Verde National Park in Southern Colorado. I remember going there when I was about 8 and this fantastical memory of it somehow stuck with me through all these years, so I really wanted to go back and experience it again, this time just being slightly older.
Most people haven't heard about Mesa Verde and it's not something people would usually name if you said "Hey, list off all the national parks that come to mind right now." It's fairly small and in a fairly obscure corner of Colorado. However, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to some of the most well-preserved Anasazi dwellings in the world. ...Oh, and all the dwellings are located on the sides of cliffs.
Let me let this sink in for you. These things were built around 1200 AD. They're made out of sandstone bricks and adobe mortar, which is basically just sand, clay, water, and sticks. And they're on the sides of cliffs. It's not just two or three piddly little buildings either. There's over 600 (that's six. hundred..!) of them, with more still being discovered today.
Hi. Are you getting this? These are not your Josefina the American Girl Doll kinds of pueblos, people.
|"I have clothes and shoes and a plush body!|
Soy una muñeca patético!"
There were natives who climbed the sides of cliffs, no harness, no climbing tools, minimal clothing. This was a society, that means all kinds of people - elderly and children included - lived on the sides of cliffs in these huts that they built in ye ye ye olde tymes and they are still extremely well-preserved. The cliffs of the park are at around 6,000-8,500ft in elevation.. For comparison, the highest point in Minnesota is Eagle Mtn. which is 2,301ft and the highest point in New York state is Mt. Marcy at 5,344ft. Both significantly lower than where these ancient tribes were living on a daily basis.. So think about that before you complain about your walk up three flights of stairs, mmmkay?
Anyways, it was a great visit, I wish we could have gotten their earlier because I didn't really realize that there was so much to see there. I figured hey, a couple hours to see some ruins, no big deal. Well. To visit the entirety of the park you'd need the whole day to get to everything because there really is quite a bit to see and do. The park is also really kid-friendly (hence why my parents chose to bring me and my sister there when we were so young) so there's lots of kids to laugh at and awww at. Also if you do go, definitely purchase tickets (they're three bucks.. so even the cheapskates can afford them) to tour one of the dwellings.
We (me and my sister) went on the Balcony House tour, which is considered one of the more intensive tours that you can do, simply because it's a bit scary to get up to it and to get out of it (and around it, for that matter.) It was a really fantastic experience, save for the part where I got dehydrated, almost fainted, had the tour stop because of it, and then had an emergency medic/cop come to help me.. But hey. You only live once. So do a tour! (And bring lots of water so that you don't faint.)
But otherwise it's a beautiful drive up to where the cliffs and dwellings are, I definitely recommend it! It's about a six hour drive or so from the Denver area, and it's about the same distance away from the Grand Canyon. Like I said, random location, but that's probably why it's so awesomely awesome. Duh!
Until the next time..
|The drive up! Super wind-y (not like.. wind. But wine-dy.)|
|View from the lookout point.|
|Mesa Verde is in an area where the terrain is transitioning from the low desert area to the Rockies,|
so it's a beautiful combination of lush trees and desert-esque rocks.
|This is from the highest point in the park which overlooks the surrounding area.|
They have a person posted in a hut up on the top of this hill 24/7 in order to spot forest fires.
Human eyes are still the most effective way here to see the smoke.
|Remains from pit houses.. Haha. Fairly anticlimactic, but interesting nonetheless.|
|Area where there was a massive forest fire in 2000, which left most of the area charred. Sadly, the types|
of trees that grow in Mesa Verde are not quick growers, so it will probably look like this for a while.
|View of Square Tower House. This actually used to be much bigger and the tower was higher and fit around|
60 people living inside of it.
|Closer look at Square Tower House.|
|Just a reference point of where it is. The road/where we parked was essentially right overhead of where the|
dwellings are located.
|Cliff Palace from across the canyon.|
|A reference point to where/how big Cliff Palace is.|
|The ladder we had to climb up to get to Balcony House.|
|Me, right before I started feeling really faint. Note how unpleasant my face looks.|
|Looking through that small window next to me in the photo above shows you this.|
|A kiva! These were used for spiritual purposes. The small deep hole a little off center is what the Anasazi|
believed led to the underworld. There's one in every kiva.
|Me and my sister on our private tour.. Haha|
|The little crack in the rocks that we had to squeeze through. There was a very tiny square hole at the bottom|
which we crawled through.
|So this is how we got out.. You can see the crack/crawl hole in the stone that we crawled through,|
and then those steps are carved into the side of the cliff (where the chain railings are.)
|Cute little T-shaped doorway.|
|Kiva at Spruce House.|
|Any time you see black streaks on the stone cliffs it's old smoke residue from fires when the Anasazi|