Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mesa Verde National Park

I spent a day and a half touring the Mesa Verde National Park. The first half day I spent within the front portion of the park, where the focus is more on the natural environment, like a normal national park. There were several short (1+ mile) hiking trails that I explored, to get views of the surrounding peaks, mesas, and valleys. Then I left the park for the night, so I wouldn't have to spend $25 for a campsite in the national park.

The next day I got up early to spend the whole day going around the back side of the park. The closest interesting portion of the park is roughly 20 miles from the entrance, so I had a full day of pedaling, especially given how hilly the park is.

The first archeological site I went to was the Spruce Canyon Tree House, which is one of the cliff dwelling sites, right near a museum. This was one of the cliff dwellings that you could do a self guided tour for free, so I was able to go pretty much right to the dwellings, which were stone houses built into the side of the cliff, in hollowed out sections of the wall.

Then I did a 6 mile loop going through roughly 600 years of Pueblo history. This included several mesa top sites, such as pit houses and village sites on the flat portion of the mesa. The cooler stuff was the long distance views of several more cliff dwellings on the opposing cliff faces. Theses dwellings are several hundred feet from the top of the mesa, and are again carved into the side of the cliff face. Some of them held multiple buildings in a single alcove, so an entire village could survive on the side of the cliff. Then the villagers would climb to the top of the mesa with toe-holds on the cliff face, so they could farm along the top of the mesa.

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