September 12, 2019 – Mesa Verde National Park

This morning we headed directly to the section of the park with the ruins. I forgot to mention yesterday that the drive itself is memorable. It is 23 climbing, winding, and high miles inside the park to get to them.

There were not many cars pulled over for the pit houses. I suppose people are just interested in the more famous cliff dwellings. I am gla we stopped. It had not occurred to me that ancient people also lived on top of the mesa, not just in the cliff alcoves. From the signs, we learned the time period and peoples that people used different house construction and could see how they advanced over time.

This shallow pit is the earliest. The Puebloans had learned to farm and lived in these home permanently, unlike their ancestors who followed the animal migrations for food. There were small villages in spots where the farming was good. You can tell their harvests were successful from the food-storage alcove at the back of this ruin.

The signboard gave me a better idea of what it was like. It reminds me of the houses we saw in Patrick Point a few weeks ago.

Whoa! Look at the mug the archeologists dug up. Those folks were just a bit too early for Starbucks.

The pit house ruins were covered under roofs with sliding covers for the windows. I guess they will be preserved for a long time. This one had three phases of improvements in home design.

This house was built deeper into the ground for better insulation from the bitter winters. It had a vent (I call it a chimney) to get the smoke out without the heat going out the top of the house. It’s that semi-circular hole in the back. The hole at ground level is the “chimney”.

Next, they got the idea to build with stones at ground level.

This is the kiva, a ceremonial hut where meetings and rituals (or maybe meditations) were held. Pueblo people still use these today. I asked and was told that these are not the sweat lodges we had seen in California.

I think this was an example of housing built on top of housing over the ages.

The stone in front of the fire pit was labeled a “deflector”.

I am not going to attempt naming these ruins as I am having trouble matching pictures of signs to pictures of ruins. I didn’t think to photograph the sign for the overlook.

Here is my first look at what I was expecting. Seeing it was an emotional, heartfelt experience. Cliff dwellings really do exist, just like I saw in my school books.

It is not clear why they moved to the cliff alcoves. Weather? Protection from enemies? A roof over their heads? They still farmed on the mesa above.

Please read this Wikipedia brief description of the peoples who inhabited this area over the eons. I found it fascinating – and a lot more depth than what I got from the signs.

Here is a closer look. Even though trees obscure the fact, this village is still far above the canyon floor.

Another closer look.

We saw this Sun Palace from across the canyon.

Later, we found it by road. There was apparently no way inside as we walked around the tall walls. The sign showed us what is inside.

We walked past the pylons into that little square notch just above the You are here dot in the above photo and looked into the apparent entrance holes. I stuck the camera in and took a picture.

This is the view down the canyon from the Sun Palace, so named because of its orientation to the sun. The experts have no idea what this was used for. No household artifacts have been found here.

Another village.

and another closer look.

We did get a closer look at this village we had seen from across the canyon. There were groups of people waiting for their tours. I looked at the steep metal stairs leading down the cliff to get to the village and realized there was no way Andy could make it down – or back up.

That was the morning in Mesa Verde. Then we took off for Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. The campground in the park was full so we went back out to the KOA near town. Better, because we had a full hookup and running water. This was our view of the moon rising in the early evening. The moon was sharp and clear, not fuzzy like my picture show. Huge monoliths dot the entire landscape, not just in the park.

This one is just as red when the sun was on it.

Here is Scamp tucked in for the night.