Day 8


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tour Mesa Verde National Park
A World Heritage site, Mesa Verde has been named “Number 1 Historic Monument in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler and “One of the 50 Places to Visit in a lifetime” by National Geographic. Ancestral Puebloans called Mesa Verde and the surrounding region home from 550-1300 A.D. During that time, they built more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park in 1906 to protect these dwellings, and it is the first and only national park designated specifically for the preservation of human culture – we are here to touch that past.

8 am check out of hotel – prepare to bus to Mesa Verde
Up early. Pack, chug some coffee, meet our group in the lobby. Load luggage and ourselves onto the bus for the trip to Mesa Verde. To fuel us we’ve a boxed-breakfast to eat on the way to the park. Colorado-made yogurt, fresh juice, LARGE blueberry muffin, nicely put together by Absolute Bakery & Cafe. Nice and clear but chilly this time of day.

8:30 am drive to Mesa Verde for guided tour
Driving to the park we are surrounded by spectacular mountains, mesas, and canyons of the Mesa Verde region – home to Native American communities for 14 centuries. Ancestral Puebloans had a thriving civilization and built hundred-room cities into the Mesa Verde cliffs.

The story begins for us in the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center where archival materials are stored and exhibited. The earliest people, called “Basketmaker” (AD 550) created finely crafted baskets, farmed, hunted and gathered. They made tools from stone, wood and bone and built Pit houses clustered as small villages on mesa tops in cliff alcoves. By AD 750, the “Pueblo Period”, houses of adobe and poles were built above ground, one against the other in long, curving rows. By AD 1000 architectural skills advanced to stone masonry allowing thick double coursed stone to rise 2 or 3 stories high and units of 50 rooms + were joined. Between 1150 and 1300, thousands of people lived on Mesa Verde in compact villages carefully shaped and finely built with plastered walls. The cliff dwellings, built from 1190 to 1270, had no standard plan. They were built to fit available space. By 1300 Mesa Verde’s population migrated south leaving the area deserted.

Ranger Mike Petrose, an area expert, guides us by foot and coach. Following the Mesa Top Loop Road (6 miles) we easily see 600 years of development. At a high windy vantage point we view a vast canyon, valley, and distant mountains just as early peoples must have. Most cliff dwellings in the Mesa Verde preserve are unexcavated and closed to the public.

We visit Spruce Tree House, one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings. It is reached by walking a ½ mile winding paved trail through native plants inhabited by many birds. The winding 100 foot descent and ascent is well worth the effort. The native American ranger discusses history and culture while pointing out important features: kivas, towers, art. The enormous effort to create this city is unimaginable. This up-close view of the ancient’s achievements fills one with respect and amazement.

Other treasures nearby: Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Crow Canyon. You can hike or mountain bike to numerous ancient sites or venture into the communities of Cortez, Dolores or Mancos for art galleries, museums, farm-to table cuisine, local brews and shopping. Many choices for stays: hotels, cabins, camp sites.

noon drive to Durango Airport
We’ve worked up a powerful hunger on our adventure through the Mesa. A Spruce Tree Terrace Cafeteria box lunch to enjoy goes with us on the drive off the Mesa to the airport. Pleasant ride with many visual reminders of our visit/stay. Our southwestern Colorado ramble has been swift, informative and leaves us wanting more. We packed in as much as we could but there is so much more to experience.

2:30 pm fly Durango to OAK
Smooth flight home with stopover in Phoenix. Weary but home at 7 pm.


10 pm in our own bed at home
Finally! With great memories.
Right to bed – we’ll unpack/regroup tomorrow.


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