When we left Utah and crossed into Colorado, it was amazing how how quickly the landscape changed from looking like southern Utah to looking like Colorado: More distant snow-capped mountains, less red rock and desert, more trees and greenness.
We didn’t get a very early start because of the balloon activities on our last day in Moab, and we were heading to some BLM land near the small town of Delores. When we got there, the gates were locked with a sign saying they wouldn’t open until the end of May. Time to look up a plan B. I found a campground at the Mesa Verde National Park and Tom found some free BLM camping near there, so that’s where we headed.
We unhitched the car at the park’s visitor center, and while I checked it out, Tom checked out the free sites down the road. He only found one available and it was rutted and not level. My vote was for the park. It looked like there were all kinds of hikes and lots of cliff dwellings to see. But I surprised myself because there was still snow on the ground which normally would have made me say “let’s pass.”
At the time it was sunny and warm, so we decided to stay five nights. After we got checked in and set up, we discovered that most of the trails don’t open until May 19th. And worst of all – no internet! It was a bit challenging to stay so long without being connected. We survived!
I was still feeling under the weather, so the first day we drove the loop that was open. We did stop at the many pullouts where you could see into the pit houses.
There were a lot of overlooks where we could see the many different cliff dwellings. There were more of them than we had ever seen – and larger as well.
And the scenery was spectacular.
To actually tour the dwellings, you have to buy tickets and only one of the three that allows tours was open, so we got our tickets for the one below the following day.
The next day was beautiful and sunny but when the time came for the tour, I backed out. My lungs were still too sick to handle the stairs and ladders involved, so I napped in the car while Tom took the tour.
Tom was amazed at how uniform and smooth the rocks they used to build were. They didn’t just stack rocks, but put a lot of effort into chipping them into shape. It was very detailed work – and obviously well done since they’ve been there for eight centuries!
The “they” that built them were the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (formerly known as Anasazi) who were abundant in the area before the 1300’s. Very abundant in fact. We read a sign that said the population had increased two-thousand percent! There were more people who lived there then than now. Pretty amazing stuff we learned.
I decided to lay low another day and spent my time on the computer while Tom did a nice long rim hike near our campsite. He called from the top of the mesa and told me to take a picture of him waving. On the left is my view of him on the top of the hill (note the white patches of snow). On the right is his view down to our camp spot.
Afterwards he did our laundry at the campground and then went into the town of Mancos to check out the local brewery. I just wasn’t being any fun, and he was going a little stir crazy.
On Monday I needed to make a trip to the post office in town, so we decided to go for a drive since the weather was going to be rainy. We drove to the visitor’s center at Canyons of the Ancients . Tom read there was some hiking to some ruins, but they didn’t seem to be very popular. The museum at the visitor’s center though was one of the best we’ve seen. They had a full scale replica of a pit house and great information on the archeology discovery done in the four corners area. They had microscopes where you could view pottery slices or yucca plants and what I liked best is that they offered several theories (not just one or two) on how early humans came and went from this area – because the actual truth just isn’t known.
From there we took a long drive out to the very large Lowry Pueblo Ruins in Pleasant View. They aren’t as popular as other ruins in the area, but it was nice because we could get up close.
Then we took another lonely drive through mega-sized hay fields to Hovenweep National Monument. It had been recommended by our friend Judy who saw that we were in the area (gotta love friend-finder!). We watched a film at the visitor’s center about all the ruins in the canyons and then took a hike around the canyon rims to see them. Even though it had started to rain, I think this was my favorite spot of our time here. They had some cliff-dwellings built into the canyon sides, but mostly they built two or three story structures on top of the boulders. The workmanship was amazing.
Our time here passed quickly and now we’re moving over to Durango – and to good internet I hope!
Peace & Love, Joy