Today was my day off. Sometimes, even if I am in amazing surroundings, I can only really relax in other, amazing surroundings…so I took off for Mesa Verde, an ancient Puebloan community about two hours away. The drive itself was so interesting, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road. I don’t get this kind of raw and exposed, geological greatness where I live in Texas. The mesas and buttes are like illustrations from a book. It took great self-discipline not to pull over to the side of the road to take photos of each one I passed.
As I approached the tunnel leading to the high mesa where the ancestral people grew corn, squash and beans, on the other side, the view of the valley and the remnants of a huge fire, several years ago, greeted me.
…so did this guy, a lone coyote, the “Trickster” in this culture’s storytelling.
Arriving at the trailhead to the Cliff Palace site, I saw there was a gate closed to the trail and asked a nearby Park Ranger if there was another way down. This is a guided tour site only, he said and I asked where else I might go because I didn’t have a ticket.
He smiled. You look like a nice person, you can just slip into the group I am taking down in about five minutes, he said. Wow! Talk about synchronicity! Thanks God!
This is what I saw.
Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in this group of Mesa Verde sites. The people who lived here planted their crops on the top of the mesa and lived under the overhang of the mesa surface, in these structures. This was a trading and market site. People did live here and because there are no written records, a lot of the information I heard yesterday is an educated guess, but after living here for hundreds of years, in just two generation’s time, they slowly left. It is believed the drought conditions forced them to another location. They are not a lost people, their ancestors still live nearby. They are the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo and Zuni people. The contemporary members of these tribes still use this site today for ceremonial purposes. There are many self-guided trails and sites to see so be sure and experience Mesa Verde near the four corners area of Southwestern Colorado.