May 17th-May 19th
Mesa Verde is unique among the National Parks because it is the only one fully devoted to archeology. The cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, built by the Ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi, are spectacular. We had an”adventurous” time visiting the park. When we arrived in Mesa Verde, we drove straight into a weather front that was pushing across the West. In spite of the impending weather, we set up camp. It rained hard overnight and was still raining the next morning. The drive from the campground to the Visitors’ Center climbed a little bit in altitude and the rain turned into a wet snow. We ended up having breakfast in the car and lunch in the car. To see the cliff dwellings, we did two ranger guided tours. For the first one to the Cliff Palace, the weather let up a little bit. We followed a steep set of stone stairs down from the rim, into the ancient site. The ranger explained to us that the original inhabitants used a series of toe and finger holes to climb in and out of the site, often balancing heavy loads. The Cliff Palace is quite well preserved thanks to its protected location, and we can see many of the original 100 rooms and several large kivas, or ceremonial rooms. From the Cliff Palace, we did another ranger guided tour to the Balcony House. This tour, nicknamed the Indiana Jones Tour was made even more authentic by the rain falling overhead. On this one, we had to climb a series of ladders to get into the dwelling, which is named the Balcony House because of the curious log and plaster balconies. To get out, we had to crawl on our hands and knees through a tunnel. That was a fun one! We explored the other sites, like the Spruce Tree House and the Far View aboveground sites on our own. Though we had a little sun towards the end of our last hike, the drive back to the campsite was in a dense fog. When we got back to the tent, there was about an inch of snow on the tent. The snow let up and we got a little sunshine for dinner. We ate early and went straight in tent. It stormed again overnight and the next morning we had several inches of snow on our tent and on our car. When I opened the tent, I burst out laughing. We thought we had escaped a Romanian winter, but here we were at the end of May shoveling snow off our tent. We packed up our wet stuff and went to Denny’s for breakfast.