Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Descend into the Past

This was the reason for the trip....
all of the other stops were because of their proximity to this location.

Mesa Verde National Park.

I have wanted to visit this park for a long while.  I wanted to immerse myself in history.  I wanted to descend stairs, climb ladders, and crawl thru tunnels to see this amazing archeological site.  I wanted to learn about this amazing civilization that built houses and cities with engineering genius and no large pack animals and very crude tools.  I wanted to find out why they left.......
The reason for the whole trip....
This was the park that started the planning.
We were up early and at the Visitor's center by 9 am for a couple of reasons.  I was excited to visit the park, but even more importantly, to visit Cliff Palace and Balcony House, you needed tickets that could only be purchased at the park.  I really, really wish they would at least put some online, but that's a complaint I filed with the National Park Service.  We had a day and half window to get the tours we wanted, but I was still nervous.

Fate and luck were with us.... 
Not only did we get both tours, but we got the times we wanted!  :)

Let the breath go that was pent up for not wanting to miss a tour.....

Ok, now for the adventure that was Mesa Verde.

I had no clue that to get to the sites, you first had to drive a 20 mile windy road to get you up onto the Mesa.
looking out to the valley, Cortez to the left

enjoying the long and winding road
I was traveling with my mom, who has a MASSIVE fear of heights, so when I bought our tour tickets, I knew she would not be joining me at Balcony House, but I was unsure about Cliff Palace.  The ranger told me there were stairs and a small ladder but it is family friendly, so I talked to mom and convinced her she could not miss the Cliff Palace tour.  Bravely, she agreed!
looking across to Cliff Palace
We had lunch and then joined our Ranger and the other 45 people for our tour for the....

Our Ranger was simply the best.  He was entertaining, informative and engaging, but he also managed to scare Mom before we went down the first set of stairs to get to Cliff Palace.  While the first 20 or so stairs were metal and even he told us, the next set were built into the rocks in the 1930's and were uneven and a little steeper.  It was before OSHA and regulations, he said.  Panic was beginning to set in, but I told her it was not a race and she could take her time, Mom reluctantly went along.
the views from our first stop

this site is MASSIVE!
Archeologist now believe that Cliff Palace was not a massive living area, but more of a Downtown area.  I tend to believe them, because of this fact....  in other sites, there are soot markings above most of the 'houses', but in Cliff Palace, they are fewer and father apart.  Yes, some people lived there, but most of the buildings were businesses, storage, gathering areas.  In a civilization that had time to build and plan this engineering feat, it makes sense they had time for learning and gathering..

Notice both the round and square buildings...
Advanced engineering and planning were needed
The point of the National Park is to preserve and protect the sites, so you do not get to explore the individual buildings as much as you might want, but you still get the effect of the place.  Also, they have not rebuilt or repaired buildings unless it is a threat to public safety.  In the overview photos, if you see a lighter patch, it has been repaired.
they used the overhang for a natural cooling and

no horses, no donkeys, no pack animals
helped in the building

only crude tools and hard work
built this

notice the lighter patches of repair,
but it stands the test of time well.
The hardest part of this post is limiting the amount of photos I post, but I wanted to put enough up that you get the whole picture, yet hopefully not bore you....
I was fascinated by the site and it translated into a ton of photos.
looking out from Cliff Palace,
the notch on the other side of the canyon, left side is a small dwelling site

the diversity of architecture just amazed me

and it still stands

the rare place where you get to look into a tower...
Our tour came to an end, sigh.....
and it was time to climb out.

Mom nerves kicked back up with the narrow cut into rock stairs and a short ladder, but once again, she did fine and once she got back to the parking lot agreed she would of been disappointed if she had missed it.

While I had learned a lot and had a lot of my questions answered,
one still remained.

Why did they leave the dwellings?
It remains an unanswered question, even to those who know Mesa Verde best.

Descended into the Past
and enjoying it...

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