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Mesa Verde 2Yet another picture of my favorite vacation place and that is Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. You get good exercise hiking to the many ruins and when you get there it has a definite spiritual quality. I enjoy just sitting at the ruins and taking it all in.

Here we are ending day eleven of our trip heading home. The were a few sites I had picked for visits today but my wife just isn’t feeling up to it. She has really not done well this entire trip.  Maybe the elevation along with all her many usual ailments was too much for her. So we called it quits this morning. Maybe a future trip back to Denver to see some of the sites but that is not likely.

Since all we will be doing from here out is interstate driving I will end our 0n-the-road reports here with a story about our breakfast at Denny’s last Saturday morning. As we were leaving Mesa Verde on our way to Canyonlands Utah we stopped for breakfast at Denny’s in Cortez (there were no local places to try) for breakfast.  While we were there a number of men came in separately who most of the staff evidently knew. They were given a number of hugs and “How you doing honey” (at least that is what I could lipread). All of these about half-dozen men had several things in common.

They all had facial hair, one was like Wild Bill Cody (handle bar mustache and goatee). Others were adorned with more hair. All but one had his beard appropriately trimmed.   The only untrimmed one looked like the mountain man played by Will Geer in the movie Jeremiah Johnsonwho always called the star “pilgrim”.  I have watched that movie so many times I can quote most of the lines.  I think I am getting a little off story here so let me back up.

All of these gentlemen had big metal belt buckles, and I mean big!  I postulated that they wanted to make sure their pants wouldn’t fall down. I don’t know why they must have been worried?  The other thing was that they all had their heads covered with a cowboy hat. They never took their hats off the entire time they were there. I would almost be willing to bet that the hat was the first thing on in the morning and the last thing off at night; that is if they even took it off then! But I can’t see wearing a hat to bed??

I guess these guys are what is known as Colorado cowboys. At least they all tried to look the part. We left before they did so I didn’t see if they rode in on trucks or horses. But I didn’t see any horses so I assume they all had heavy-duty pickups with dust and dents all over them. It would just be so disappointing if they didn’t.  I will always remember our time in Colorado….

When we left Mesa Verde yesterday we headed northwest into Utah to visit Canyonlands National Park.  Canyonland is a very different place but also much like the Grand Canyon in its majesty. Here are some pictures:

Have to have one last picture of Mesa Verde that I took just the evening before we left. It is a sun drenched view of the Cliff Palace. I will dream of that place in the days and years ahead.

Here are a couple from the Canyonlands:

Today we head north to catch I70 east to Denver. We will be visiting a new museum of Colorado history there and then who know what.  The rest of this vacation is a freestyle one :)

Today is a somewhat leisurely day for us. It is our last day at Mesa Verde so I thought I would give you an evaluation of our time here.   This has been one of my favorite vacations for quite a while. Five days in one spot is a record for me. We are usually in the  different-hotel-a-day mode.

Being without a TV for all this time has proved to be a boon. It is amazing how creative I have been while I have been here. Without the TV zombie things come to me frequently and if I hurry and write them down they become future posts, things to do, or journal entries. They have come quite frequently while sitting out on the deck and enjoying the view. I think I have ideas for about a month’s worth of posts!


Getting on to Mesa Verde itself. Since we spent one day here about three years ago I had a good idea of what to expect. About two months before our trip I got on to the Mesa Verde website and reserved a Kiva Room for the week. The Kiva Rooms are newly remodeled rooms in a Southwestern theme. While the Lodge itself is somewhat new, the buildings that make up the sleeping rooms are probably 50 or 60 years old and from the outside they are showing their age and are in need of replacement. But the inside of our upscale room is very nice and the view is fantastic. We have a small deck of about three feet by 12 feet and we have spent quite a few hours out on it

The weather here has been good. It is in the upper 80s during the day and down into the low 50s during the night. With the wind which seems to blow here all the time and the low humidity it is actually quite comfortable to me. It has rained a few nights but been mostly clear skies during the day.

The park itself is fantastic. There are about a dozen major dwellings that are visitable if you have the stamina. We managed to get through two of the less strenuous ones before Yvonne’s energy gave out. The others are viewable from lookout platforms at usually less than a thousand feet away. There are also many other sites along the roads for the smaller dwellings. I think we saw at least thirty or so of those during our time here.

One of the things that I experienced the last time but to a much greater degree is the magic of the sites. It is inspiring to be able to walk on the same stones that our ancestors walked up to 1500 years ago. If it is quiet, for me it is alway quiet, and without many other people around it is almost as if I can sense their presence. I had that feeling several times during this week. It is a very welcomed feeling that I have only had a few other times in my life.

The low point of our stay here is the Far View Terrace. It is the main eating place for the park. We had several meals there. The quality of the food left a lot to be desired. I had a piece of pizza there one night for dinner that I am sure was at least 8 hours old and maybe even from the day before! It was hardly edible. While there were a few exceptions most of the other items proved to have been cooked hours before they were served. Luckily we had brought a pretty good supply of  lunchmeat and such with us so we ate most of our lunches and a couple of dinners from that stock.

What the Terrace lacked in quality was more than made up by the Metate Room which is an upscale restaurant in the lodge. The chef there has won several national awards and the food is simply fantastic. But it does come at a pretty high cost. We ate there last night and the tab came to about $90. We could have spent less without the wine and dessert but choose to  go all the way  at least once while we are here :)

Tomorrow morning we will be leaving Mesa Verde for the rest of our trip. I hope it is at least half as enjoyable as it has been so far.  I will remember our time here for the rest of my life.

For the last hundred years or more the average person went to work for a given number of hours and then went home to his family. He was paid for his efforts and used that money to provide food and shelter. The number of hours demanded for a day’s work has varied over the years but the idea of working for someone else has remained a constant. We tend to think that this is a normal kind of thing. But for many in history that was really not the case.

The ancient ruins here at Mesa Verde got me to thinking about this. Native Americans for the most part don’t buy into the 9 til 5 mentality now nor have they ever. At first, 500AD, the native Americans around here were hunter/gatherers. They have unearthed numbers pit houses where they lived. They later, 1200AD, became cliff dwellers and usual grew crops above their homes. How they managed to live in such arid conditions is still beyond me. There are no major sources of water in the area so even gathering water had to have been a chore for them. It is reported they they dammed up gullies to gather the water from the melting snow and also got some water through cracks in the sandstone walls.  About 1300AD they simply left and went south. A severe drought is postulated as being the cause.

We will be eating dinner tonight at the Metate Room here at the lodge. It has a world famous chef with world famous prices so we reserved only one night for enjoying the cuisine there. Tomorrow will be our last day here and then it is on to Monument Valley in Utah and then back to Denver. From there who knows? I will give you a synopsis post about our stay here at Mesa Verde.  Most of it has been good, maybe even great, but there is room for improvements that I will also mention.

Here are the pictures for today:

Here is a picture of the Cliff Palace. It is probably the best known one here. I plan on going back there during the late afternoon hour to get some more pictures when the sun is giving its best performance.

Here is a picture of me and my new Chevy Sonic. She has been doing very well for us on this trip. Even though she is a sub-compact she still has more than enough room for even my wife’s things. Of course we brought twice as much as we actually needed :)

Being as I recently saw that the person famous for this quote from the L.A. riots died the quote has been on my mind.  It seems that  just getting along is a hard thing to do now days. Politics puts one set of beliefs at war with another set. Each thinks that they are wholly right and the other is at the worst evil.  How does this relate to my visit here to Mesa Verde? I have been reading quite a bit about the people who inhabited these ruins over eight-hundred years ago and it seems that they very much just got along with each other.

Here and there is evidence of some group conflict but for the most part each community seems to have been very homogeneous. There didn’t appear to be any significant power struggles so commonly found today. When did we lose the ability to just get along with each other? Can we ever hope to get it back?

Ok, now on to the report of the day.

We hiked to another ruin today. This one is called the Step House. It is one of the less visited one as it is not as big as the others. That made it perfect for me. It was a rather strenuous one for this senior citizen and a very challenging one for my wife. She made it along the wall clinging paths to the house but I was beginning to have my doubts if we could make it back. But of course we did as I am writing the post from our lodge room and an emergency room and my wife is taking a serious nap on the bed behind me. :)

The Step House was actually occupied by two different groups the first were the “basket weavers” from 500 – 700 and then the “pottery makers” from 1000 – 1200. Since we were the only ones there for about a half hour we spent much time with the national park ranger there. He gave us quite a tour.  I got to the ruins about 15 minutes before my wife. She told me to go ahead and spend some time there alone and that is what I did. I spent several minutes just imagining what life would have been for those who lived there many years ago. It seemed like a peaceful life to me but also, compare to ours, it was a challenging one. As was common with almost all the ruins here they were built under cliffs in the butte. They farmed the flat land above the butte for their food.

Here are a couple of picture for today.

No, the Spruce Tree House is not something up in a tree. It is one of the pueblo ruins found here at Mesa Verde. We made the trek down to it this morning about 9:00am shortly after it opened. We were hoping that it would not be so crowded then and that proved right. But within twenty minutes the hordes came :)

First here are a few picture I took of it.

 

This is indeed a mystical place. To walk on the same stones as Native Americans did over eight-hundred years ago. is thought provoking.  As I sat there looking over these ancient rooms for an instant I forgot about everyone else around me and imagined myself there when these rooms were filled with residents. One of the advantages of being deaf, and I like to remember there “are” some advantages, is that I don’t have to block out the noises of the modern day world. It was only when someone stepped into my view did I snap out of that mystic mood.

Tomorrow we will try our luck at another site. There are about a dozen of them here in the park.  The one we visited today is the easiest one to get to. The one tomorrow will be more difficult but I am resolved to make it there. But, I am having doubts about Yvonne’s doing the same. But we will see.  The emotions are spurting out of me about this place but I will save some of that the rest of the posts this week. I am certainly glad we made this trip again…

Ok, call me a fool if you want but I was up at 5:30am this morning taking pictures of the sun rise. This was a trial run for later in the week when I get serious about it with a tripod and more patience with adjusting F-stops and speeds.

We are now settled down in our lodge room at Mesa Verde National Park. The photo below is looking out our room window. We plan to spend many hours out on our deck admiring it.

The room and especially the view is everything I expected it to be. We spend the day at the visitor center and just vegging  out in the room. Tomorrow we will venture to go down to one of the ruins. We are trying the least physical one first and then going from there. It is about 70 degrees right now at early evening going down to about 50 degrees tonight. I think this will be one restful sleep. Gotta quit now and go back to the deck and watch as the sun goes down. The colors continue to change by the minute.

More tomorrow…

Here we are settled in for the night at Cortez Colorado. We check in to the Mesa Verde National Park lodge tomorrow for our five-day R&R and spiritual regeneration. We spent today traversing the Rocky Mountains. It was an interesting trip down mainly two lane roads for over two hundred miles. We crossed the continental divide at Wolf’s Pass. It was 56 degrees there and 87 when we turned off I25 south of Pueblo. That was quite a shock to get out of the car with that temperature change.

One of the things we encountered during this leg of the trip was the junky ranches on the way. The ranch consisted of a small house surrounded by farm equipment both new and abandoned; several old cars; and mounds of baled hay. Here is a picture of one of them. It is hard to find the house in this picture. I wonder what the lady of the house thinks about this. Is she disturbed by all the junk around her home? Does she wished for at least a few flowers?

Tomorrow we settle down in our National park lodge home. Will I survive in such a placid environment? We will see.