While I was camping I came across a pamphlet to Mesa Verde. I had known there were old cliff dwellings somewhere in the area but I mistakenly thought it was Chaco Canyon and I skipped it the last time I was here because of that little mix-up. I decided to go check it out… it was phenomenal!
Driving in I asked the woman who took my entrance fee if it was a hike to see these things. She said yes but otherwise was of no help with my questions, only saying there was an additional guide fee to these places. I really hadn’t the energy to hike into the middle of nowhere and the idea of paying an additional fee for a guide annoyed and confused me. When I ended up at the visitor center everything was cleared up. Basically there is an auto road, free where you can see a lot from a fair distance. Then there is a cliff dwelling you can go into for free, but it is a short hike down and then back up the cliffs. The rest, the guided tours, were to get into all the other dwellings and have someone teach me about them. Each tour had a group of 50 people and were an additional $3 per site to see.
I went into the Spruce Tree House, the free cliff dwelling. There was lots of people. The structure was still a ruin but a very interesting one, there were windows and different rooms, corn grinding stones, and an underground kiva that you could get to by ladder. There was a line for that and I watched as an impossible amount of people file out of it like a clown car. I waited and went in after they came out, making jokes with the girl aside us. “This is the first time I have waited in line to get into someone’s basement.” It was a round and very dark room, reinforced by a number of logs. There wee little niches here and there but all and all it wasn’t that big of a place. After this group of people went in, probably numbering twenty or more, we all filed back out. It was interesting.
I walked back up the cliff. I was huffing and puffing. Hikes straight up hills and cliffs always get to me. When we got to the top we took some photos. I accidentally got in the way of an Asian couple taking a photo (I hadn’t seen them there.) I backed up, smiling.
I entered the museum after this and I fell in love with their black and white pottery which looked so much like some of my own artwork it was a bit eerie. Here they had all sorts of things on display, a set of dioramas displaying the engineering of the structures. The fact all the Indians were depicted wearing loin cloths made me quite tweaky because if they really dressed that way they’d freeze their asses off in winter! Surely enough the next display was on a bunch of clothes remnants archeologists had found… full clothing, head to toe. SIGH. White people are so racist. It reminded me of my grade school text books where the Native Americans celebrating the first Thanksgiving were also prancing around in loin cloths… as if! As much I am in support of such liberating clothing I’ve been in Massachusetts in November. Suffice to say if you don’t want to get frost bite on your balls you better cover up.
I also got to play “guess what the object is for” with a bunch of little items that still baffle anthropologists. I think I had good guesses… rings, game pieces, etc. It was a neat little museum.
Afterwards I decided to take the auto road, with thunder booming in the background and threatening me with rain. The first stop was an overlook of The Square House. It took all my breath away. It looked so perfect and serene sitting in the middle of a cliff. I pondered how they even got into that crevice to build it in the first place, it seemed to be a sheer surface both above and below it. The other tourists remarked how amazing it was and what a lovely surprise.
The next stop I got to see the evolution of the pueblos. They hadn’t always been on a cliff. Apparently the Anasazi were one of the first cultures out here to settle down and make permanent residences instead of living nomadically. At first they built homes underground. I got to see what was left of them. Some still had pottery in tact and venting systems. It was really neat.
I drove around and looked at these things, all under modern structures to keep them preserved. This was fortunate as by now it was pouring. The rain finally let up at the end of the road when I reached the Sun Temple. I could walk around the outside of it and then there was the most amazing thing of all… an overview of almost all the structures here in the park. There before me in the cliffs, hidden, were whole little villages and homes, scattered everywhere. It was like seeing something completely camouflaged come to life. I took photos and gawked for a very long while. The sheer engineering and beauty of these structures was more than enough to marvel at. I was very happy with the trip here.
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