Wednesday, August 31, 2011
We came to Colorado a week early to combine some vacation with the conference I'm attending. Our friends here offered a number of suggestions for exploration, including a place they haven't visited because it is tucked away in what is known as the Four Corners of Colorado, far to the southwest. It is where the states of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado meet and the landscape is high desert.
Mesa Verde is a national park and the name means "green table" in Spanish. High atop this mesa Pueblo natives -- as many of 5,000-- lived for centuries, until about 1300 AD. They had a complex farming culture and in the last century of habitation they built cliff dwellings. One, called Cliff Palace, is the largest extant cliff dwelling in North America.
So, often we went with a AAA triptik and a GPS to guide us the 800 kilometres to Mesa Verde! The final 25 kilometres are the climb to the top of the 8,000 foot mesa along a rather harrowing road of constant switchbacks and dizzying drops to the valleys below. Have I ever mentioned I don't like heights?
Speaking of which, the Balcony House tour requires a climb up a 32 foot ladder (see previous comment about heights) and a squeeze through a tiny rock tunnel, narrower than my shoulders.
Even though life for these people was short (30-40 years) and half of the children didn't make it past five, there are many ceremonial and religious structures called kivas -- essentially their churches. It fascinated me that they would devote so much enerfgy to places for worship when life was nasty, brutish, and short. Perhaps the fleeting nature of life prompted them to do so.
Have any of you been to Mesa Verde? Or heard of it? Or want to go there! It was one of the most interesting experiences we have ever had.