Saturday, December 28, 2013


Cortez, Colorado to Moab, Utah via Mesa Verde | 125 miles

Any day that starts with a wild west roundup has got to be a good one, right?

"Turn around!" I said, as we were driving out of Cortez this morning. Some real, live cowboys were herding cattle right through town.

Yee haw.

We were on a short drive to Mesa Verde National Park, home of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the country. I'd always wanted to visit these curious cliff dwellings, but it was happenstance, not planning, that put them right in our path. Happy happenstance.

About 1400 years ago, a group of Native Americans made their home on top of Mesa Verde (mesa is the Spanish word for table, an elevated area of land with steep sides). In the 1200s, they moved from the top of the mesa into alcoves in the sheer stone walls where they built elaborate homes out of adobe, some as large as 150 rooms. Fascinating stuff.

The road up to the mesa is a wee bit unnerving, winding a climbing for miles but rewarding your effort with amazing vistas.

On the walk to Spruce Tree House, the only dwelling open in the winter, we could see the houses from across a ravine.

This pueblo has about 130 rooms and 8 kivas, round, underground ceremonial rooms. The scale of the buildings was much smaller than they appeared from a distance, their size appealing to our boater's economy of space.

The early ancestral Puebloans were basket weavers, and some of their work is on display in the museum. Later tribes were potters, making beautiful pots to hold grain and water. They grew grain and fruit on the mesa top and collected water that seeped through the stone, and, in one case, from a natural spring inside the alcove. From my vantage point all these centuries later, this life looks romantic and lovely. I wonder if it was more of the hardscrabble variety. The real mystery is why they left. Nobody is sure.

Exploring a kiva.
More dwellings are visible from the mesa top. Their view of us from over there must be magnificent.

 Our drive north into Utah took us by some odd formations.

We ended our day in Moab near Arches National Park.

With one little preview of what is coming tomorrow, Wilson Arch.

Home for the night.

Tomorrow, we're off to Salt Lake City.

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