Tuesday, September 24 – Our journey today takes us to Mesa Verde National Park. This archaeological preserve is the nation's largest and features 5000 known archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. It gives an awesome look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300.
We began at the new visitor's center (opened in May 2013). The center is located at the Park entrance. The America the Beautiful pass was used to get us free entry. The Park movie and museum is at the Chaplin Mesa Archeological Museum 20 miles into the park. Don't miss it! The movie is very good.
Due to the big fire that went through this park, there is only one self-guided tour,Spruce Tree. All other visits to the cliff dwellings must be done by a Ranger-led tour.
The first thing we learned is this park is isolated…guess that's why the ruins survived this long. We drove 20 miles into the park before we came to the first Indian ruin. The park is located atop a mesa so the road serpentines uphill most of the way.
The first thing we noticed when we walked to our first cliff dwelling is we were huffin' & puffin'. The explanation is we are at 7000' altitude. We aren't use to hiking uphill at that altitude.
The path to Spruce Tree (a self-guided tour) is paved but by no means a leisurely walk. Don't be fooled by walking down to the dwelling, remember what goes down will eventually have to come up. Spruce Tree, the the third largest cliff dwelling, was constructed between A.D. 1211 and 1278 by the ancestors of the Puebloan peoples.
The Ranger at the site was wonderful. She answered everyone's questions and gave us some insight into the living conditions of the Puebloan people.
The Park has gone to great length to preserve the historical pit houses and pueblos. They have built shelters over each of them.
Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people. An average man was about 5'4" to 5'5" tall, while an average woman was 5' to 5'1". Most people lived an average of 32-34 years, however some people did live into their 50s and 60s. Approximately 50% of the children died before they reached the age of five.
The ruins are amazing. We repeatedly asked ourselves how these people prospered and built these amazing homes on the side of a cliff. They were quite the builders, that's for sure!
We can only wonder what those ranchers thought back in 1927 when they stumbled upon these ruins searching for lost cattle. We bet they couldn't believe their eyes! It's also a wonder how the ruins survived for over a 1000+ years and remained in such good condition. Ah, what wonders!
We give Mesa Verde two thumbs up!
Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see y'all back real soon. Have a great day!