Last night we chose a hotel in Cortez, Colorado, so we were only about 20 minutes away from today's destination, Mesa Verde. I had read about the cliff dwellings a couple of years ago, and since then, had always thought that they would be really neat to see. When you arrive at the entrance to Mesa Verde, you still have 23 miles to drive up the mountain to get to the actual cliff dwellings. From the road, we could see one major cliff, so wondered if it was where we were driving, but it wasn't.
This is the first major cliff that you see. It's really interesting how some of the rock has fallen away and part of the rock remains. But this first high cliff does not contain any of the cliff dwellings.
We continued driving to the top the mountan
up a road that was very curvy, and the views were breath-taking. When we were at the top of the mountain we were at about 8500 feet.
First we started at the visitor's center, where we saw lots of Pueblo artifacts and a short film on the cave dwellings. For 3 generations, which was only about 100 years, Native Americans lived in the cliffs, possibly to guard their store of food. We took a self-guided tour through the Spruce Tree House, and a guided tour through the Cliff Palace dwelling.
You can see how the roof in the back of the dwelling is covered in layers of soot, which indicates that they burned fires in the back of the dwellings. Imagining how smoky the rooms must have been was amazing. The circular rooms in the front are called Kivas. They were thought to have been cerimonial rooms, but current findings are indicating that they were just the room where the family gathered and slept. Why these people left these dwellings, or where they went is unknown. We had a great guide, and we learned a lot. Climbing into and out of the dwellings was not easy, as these dwellings were not meant to be found by others at the time.
Then we drove on to the Four Corners Monument which is owned by the Navajo Nation. The monument is a little platform where people stand in line to get their picture taken where the four states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico meet. One family that we were speaking to (who happened to be from Salisbury, MD) told us that they had heard that the surveying equipment at the time wasn't too good and that the monument is actually in the wrong spot!
But we were glad that we drove there.
This area of the US is really desolate. Then we drove through a reservation, and it is really sad how people were given land where not even grass will grow.
We continued on to our hotel for the night. We had chosen Moab, Utah, because it was a town that looked large enough for a hotel near Arches National Park which is our next destination.
As we drove into Utah, the landscape was beautiful. Here the dirt seems to be a reddish clay. It was beautiful to see the red clay cliffs with the Rocky Mountains in the background. A few times as we were driving, a little prairie dog would run across the road. They're fast little creatures, but don't seem to be very savvy when it comes to cars.
We got to our inn around 9:00. This Inn has an outdoor pool, so we swam until after 10:00.
We ended traveling 265 miles today, and so far we have been in 12 states: Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico (just across the border), Arizona, and Utah!