Yesterday, I visited Mesa Verde National Park. Home of numerous cliff dwellings of the Ancient Pueblo Ancestors. A people that lived in and around the area from 600 AD till about 1300AD after which they moved on. The cliff dwellings started up around 1200AD but I’ll get to all of that in a sec.
The morning was cool and dry in Saguche, Colorado when I left for Mesa Verde. The GPS assured me I’d be at the park by just after one. Colorado has not disappointed for scenery. The high mountain valleys are pretty spectacular.
I headed South down US 285 which is almost all high ranch land. The morning was cool enough I was wearing my overpants and had my trusty Columbia Titanium windbreaker on under my mesh jacket. I was warm enough but there was still a bit of edge to the temperature that I ended up turning on the heated grips (50%) to keep my hands comfy. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what time of year, you end up using them.
I took a hard right at Center onto US 112 which took me up and through the Rio Grande National Forrest. Very scenic and the air was very fresh. What was a little cold became a bit uncomfortable.
Enough that I didn’t mind getting stuck at a couple of construction spots because it gave me time to warm up in the morning sun.
Coming down the back side of the mountain was a big plus as it was a pretty steep descent, enough so I had to pop my ears a couple of times.
I met a nice couple riding a Triumph Tiger just outside Durango. They were heading back the way I had just come from. I probably should have taken their picture but as you can see, I’m better with the scenery than with the humans…
After Durango you’re onto US 160 and more curvy canyon riding. My Helmet cam by this tie had run out of power. I really need to get extra batteries for the thing. US 160 takes you right to the front door of Mesa Verde National Park.
This is the view from the Visitor Center and we’re still pretty low here.
Needles to say, the people who lived in this area could climb…
Because the cliff dwellings are sacred and ancient sites any access is on a Ranger guided tour. The US Park Service constantly impresses me in their mandate to promote, preserve and to educate. The tour was $4.00 and I got the last spot on the 5:30pm tour to the Cliff Palace. The tour was itself an hour long and involved a decent amount of physical activity to get yourself down to and then up from the ruins but I’ll get to that in a minute.
All the shots you see here are pretty much untouched. I’ve got both my Canon cameras set to RAW plus .jpg format so I can just pull the jpegs and post them because I don’t really have a lot of time as I travel to give the pictures the final attention they need to make them the best they can be. I’ll try to post up my adjusted favorites in a separate post after I get back home. So bear with me here.
Putting the Mesa in Mesa Verde. This is the first butte you see coming into the park and you ride up and around it. The cliff dwelling sites are an hour’s drive into the park and you’re not allowed to go over 45mph. Which is fine as the road is high, narrow and for huge chunks does not have the benefit of guard rails.
After grabbing some lunch I made my way round the Mesa Loop. I’m becoming a big fan of these one way loop roads in the National Parks as it keeps traffic issues to a minimum, at least for those of us on two wheels. The first stop on the loop was the Pit House. Around 600AD the Ancient Pueblo People lived on top of the Mesas, hunting, gathering and farming. They’d dig a pit and thin build a low structure over top of it. As far as pit style construction goes, they didn’t skimp on size.
This next shot is of Sun Palace. These dwellings are extremely hard to spot. You literally drive over top of this place and it’s only thanks to a sign pointing the right way to the short trail head, that you have any opportunity to view the dwellings at all.
Cliff Palace from the other side of the Mesa. Even though it’s one of the largest cluster of buildings, you can see how hard it is to spot.
Cliff Palace from the overlook staging area.
There’s more to come here but I’m going to have to break this post into two. I’ll post more up later…