Posted by: Cross Country Couple | September 12, 2008

Day 31 … Mesa Verde National Park

Although we had decided to avoid sleeping in the car for the rest of the trip, we spent last night in Hotel Corolla.  We arrived at the park just after 8:00 AM and drove 15 miles in to the park to the Visitor’s Center.  After speaking with the Ranger, we decided to buy tickets to two pueblo tours.  Tickets were $3 per person per tour.  Our first tour of the day was at the Balcony House.  This tour involved all participants climbing a huge ladder on a cliff’s edge and eventually crawling through a tiny 12’ long tunnel.  We did our best to eat a quick bowl of cereal before starting the tour.  Lucky for us, there were only 5 other people on the tour plus our Tour Guide.  The tour began with a gentle walk down a cement pathway to a 32’ homemade wooden ladder on the edge of the cliff.  At the top of the canyon, we were officially in the middle of an 800 year old pueblo.  The tour taught us all about the formation of the caves, the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans, and the general history of Mesa Verde.  The tour finished with another ladder leading up to a few foot holes in the cliff face… very scary.

 

The 32' ladder into the Balcony House cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

The 32' ladder into the Balcony House cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

 

A Kiva is an underground religious ceremonial room.  Many of the Kivas did not have the traditional wood and clay roofs on them.

A Kiva is an underground religious ceremonial room. Many of the Kivas did not have the traditional wood and clay roofs on them.

 

The Balcony House cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

The Balcony House cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

 

Matt climbing the exit ladder at the Balcony House cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park.

Matt climbing the exit ladder at the Balcony House cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park.

 

Our next stop of the day was at the famous Cliff Palace pueblo.  This dwelling was special because of its size.  It originally had 151 rooms and 23 Kivas, underground ceremonial rooms.  This time there were probably 30 people on the tour and our guide seemed a little nervous. 

 

 

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

 

 

Close-up of the pueblos in the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Close-up of the pueblos in the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Cliff Palace hosts 151 rooms and 23 Kivas, and was the main dwelling for many Ancestral Puebloans.

Cliff Palace hosts 151 rooms and 23 Kivas, and was the main dwelling for many Ancestral Puebloans.

Danielle and Matt toward the end of the Cliff Palace tour.

Danielle and Matt toward the end of the Cliff Palace tour.

Matt climbing the homemade wooden ladders up to the top of Cliff Palace.

Matt climbing the homemade wooden ladders up to the top of Cliff Palace.

Next, we made our way to another park of the park to do a self guided tour and explore another cliff dwelling.  Before making our way down to the pueblo, we took some time to check out the museum.  At the Step House cliff dwelling, we were able to climb inside one of the Kivas and get a better understanding of the lives of the Ancestral Puebloan people. 

Step House cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Step House cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

 

 

 

Danielle and Matt inside one of the covered Kivas.

Danielle and Matt inside one of the covered Kivas.

A huge lizard we saw on our way out of the Step House in Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

A huge lizard we saw on our way out of the Step House in Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

After visiting the pueblos, we made our way towards the Rocky Mountain National Park just north of Denver, CO.  The trip would take just over 8 hours of driving.  As Danielle slept in the passenger seat, Matt would drive for a few hours, pull over to nap, and then drive a bit further before napping again.

Sunset in Colorado.

Sunset in Colorado.

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