Today we found why everyone says Mesa Verde National Park is awesome. It really is!! We set out at 8:45, drove six miles east, entered the park and then went up and up and up on a very curvy road. We were behind a verrrrry slow motorhome so decided to bypass the Visitor’s Center and stop there on the way out of the park. By 9:45 we were at the staging area for a 10 AM tour of the Cliff Palace -the ruins you see in every Mesa Verde National Park advertisement. Our tour guide was a Navajo Indian named Clyde. There were many steps down to the ruins and many photo ops during our one hour tour as we learned about the people who built and lived in the cliff dwellings. Climbing up ladders and narrow steps carved into the rock to get back to our vehicles was a challenge for many on the tour. We were sooo glad we had purchased our tour tickets at the Visitor’s Center in Cortez two days ago, especially when we found out there were 100 people lined up to get tickets at the park’s ticket window when it opened this morning. The upcoming Memorial Day 3 day holiday is causing a rapid increase in tourism. Our next stop was the staging area for the noon Balcony House tour, billed as the most physically challenging of our guided tours. Ranger Jo, our very much younger looking and acting 71 year old tour guide, was interesting and entertaining. This tour was different because we got to go inside the ruins instead of just looking from the outside plus we had to climb a huge ladder to get to the ruins. Seeing the hand print of one of the ruins builders was a surprise and that the hand had six fingers was even more surprising. Jo chose Wayne to lead the way out of the ruins via a 18” wide, 12’ long tunnel and up two big ladders. He had to unlock and open the gate at the top of the ladders to everyone could return to their vehicles. After all of that we found a shaded picnic table and enjoyed our picnic lunch-and the nearby comfort station. But…so many more sites to see. We stopped at lots of kiva and pueblo sites and took a one mile round trip hike to Spruce Tree House, the third largest ruins in the park and least restored and best preserved of the largest ruins we saw today. The one question that we have is how can a one mile round trip hike be all up hill? Our plan to stop at the Visitor’s Center on the way out was foiled since it closed at 5 PM and it was almost 5:30 by the time we got there. After a stop at Walmart for groceries we returned to the RV and fixed dinner. Lots of pictures to download and title tonight. For those of you who have never been here be sure to put this on you bucket list.
Tomorrow a trip to Four Corners is planned.
The link(s) below will get you to a Skydrive account that has a few pictures from today.
Click on a photo to get a larger view.