When I woke up on the morning of Sunday, July 1st, I couldn’t believe that we were in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado! We got through all of our Utah stuff in ONE DAY! Who would have thought?!
[Josh at out Mesa Verde Camp]
[All set up]
We spent the whole day exploring the Eastern Side of the park.
First stop: Balcony House.
This was one crazy site! Well, the site itself wasn’t too crazy but access was not what I expected. We had to hike down metal and rock steps, walk a long path along the cliff edge, and then climb a 32-foot ladder just to get into the site!
The climb was a little scary but definitely worth it. Once inside the site we were able to explore the area and learn a lot from our ranger guide.
In order to get out of the site and back onto the ridge top we had to crawl through an ancient tunnel (built during the exodus), climb up more ladders, and climb a steep rock face that had hand-and-toe-holds.
[Hand-and-toe holds with chains]
Next, we headed over to the largest site in the Northwestern Hemisphere: Cliff Palace.
This pueblo has ~150 rooms and 23 kivas (subterranean rooms that were used for religious or ceremonial rituals)! The site was breathtaking! Even as I was standing there looking at it, I couldn’t believe it was real!
[I LOVE IT!]
Access in and out of this site was a little easier. We had to hike down a steep staircase and paved path to get into the site.
The tour took us across the site where we learned even more about the Ancestral Puebloans.
The trip out consisted of two small ladders, but it was still steep!
[T-Shaped doors - Chacoan Design]
[One of the many Kivas]
The rest of the day we spent visiting other sites and hiking around the park.
[Spruce Tree House]
[Hike to the Petroglyphs]
[Petroglyphs, which tell the story of the great Exodus]
[Square Tower Site]
[Pit House - the Ancestral Puebloans lived in these small, subterranean structures on top of the mesa's before moving into the cliffs]
[Reconstructed Pit House]
The next day (July 2nd), Josh and I got up early, ate a delicious breakfast, and then headed to the Western side of the park.
Today, we went and saw the SECOND largest site in the Northwestern Hemisphere: Long House.
[Granary located high up in the cliffs above the dwellings]
[Small hand print below the Granary]
After exploring Long House we took a tram ride around the area. It was nice and very relaxing. We were told about all the fires that had happened in the park since it was founded and how it will take over 300 years for the landscape to completely re-grow. We also learned that there is somewhere between 5,000-10,000 archaeological sites (including the 600 cliff dwellings) within the park boundaries! It's amazing that so many people lived here and that this area was used for so long!
One of the stops on our tour took us to the Step House.
[Petroglyphs at Step House]
This concluded our time exploring Mesa Verde. We stayed in the park for another night and saw more ruins in the area before heading to New Mexico. Stay tuned for Part III!
To be honest, I was really bummed that we were done with Mesa Verde. It was everything I thought it would be and I didn't want to leave BUT I was excited to move on to see some new locations!