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Published: August 17th 2006
We toured cliff palace, the largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde
Day 10 - August 14, 2006
The campground didn't have shower facilities, so we didn't check out any of the other facilities. Which probably was just as well, because it was freezing! Showering in an RV does take some getting used to. Because the holding tank only holds 30 gallons, you use water sparingly. In other words, wet, lather, then turn water back on to rinse. It makes a 10-minute shower at home an absolute luxury.
Getting on the road that morning took a while. However, we want you to know that dumping the tanks did not require a hose-stretcher or even a Y-connector. We found a Sonic (drive-in fast food place) and we got an early lunch there, after having filled up the RV at the neighboring gas station (where Scott effectively scraped the back end of the RV on both entering and exiting the parking lot). We left Alamosa and headed west on Hwy 160.
We arrived at Mesa Verde National Park around 4pm. We proceeded to the Far View Visitor Center and bought tickets to the Cliff Palace dwellings. This is the hundred-year anniversary of the Park. This is the only national park dedicated to man's
achievement, architecture. Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, was built around 1190 and abandonded around 1275, when the Pueblo people moved south and west. There are about 600 such dwelling places in the park. Directly across from Cliff Palace is their grain storage, only accessible by hand and toe holds. If you start out on the wrong foot and hand combination, you could find yourself at the top, unable to pull yourself over the ledge into the storage area. (I guess this was the precursor to the "glass ceiling".)
We descended into the valley via a rough, uneven set of concrete and stone steps. It was surprisingly rough going, especially since I had a water bottle in one hand and my camera in the other. It was done single file. There was also one 12-foot ladder to ascend. Once down, our park ranger, Donal (who goes by Don), told us some of the history of Cliff Palace.
Getting back out is another adventure. Some of it is a simple path of stone steps, but some of it is a little more challenging to those of us who are claustrophobic and
acrophobic. First, there are some
New Dwelling Inhabitants?
We gathered under an alcove to listen to the park ranger describe what life was like during the time Cliff Palace was occupied
closed-in stone steps, some of which are so steep that one is almost required to use both hands and feet to climb. Then there are the ladders. The last few feet of the final ladder became very difficult for me, almost inducing a panic attack (for which Robert declared that I was embarrassing him.) Of course, that wasn't the first time, so I wasn't overly concerned with his opinion. (Besides, isn't it in a parent's job description to embarrass one's kids?)
Five-eights of the park was destroyed by fire (even over-running the fire watch tower at Park Point), so we took some compelling shots of "ghost trees". We also enjoyed a spectacular sunset.
There are only about ten mountain lions in the park. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one's view, we didn't see any. We did see wild turkeys, rabbits and white-throated swifts.
We again checked in late to the KOA RV park in Cortez (slot 25), but were glad to get to bed.
Sign for the day: "Prevent Resource Damage" with a large bootprint seen in Mesa Verde. I'm going to make several copies of this sign for my kids. It's what I tell them
Mesa Verde has suffered greatly from forest fires in recent years. These trees at Park Point stand in evidence of one of those fires
all the time: "Stay on the right path, and you wil avoid a lot of problems, especially serious ones." The sign, however, says it in a language they can understand, and much more succinctly. (Why do parents preach long, ineffective sermons at their kids?)
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