October 21, 2017 Mesa Verde, CO Day 2

The wind howled and shook the trailer all night. It was hard to sleep. It got down to 31 degrees last night and was 35 when I got up. We too our time getting ready to let it warm up a bit. The mountain tops in the nearby range, were snow-covered after the cool temps last night.

By 10:30 we were on our way. The entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is about ¼ mile from the campground.

The Chapin Mesa Road to the ruins was about 20 miles of treacherous turns, steep drop-offs, and white- knuckle switchbacks.

Bob did an amazing job of keeping his wits about him as we made the climb.

The views of the valley were amazing with each turn.

There were lots of pull-off areas to let faster traffic pass. They must know that some people may need to take a break, pull-off, and catch their breath. On one such pull-off, we saw a bluebird. What a treat!

After about 6 miles, we came upon a tunnel. How cool!

At the start of our drive the temperature had risen to 46 degrees, but as we continued to climb, the temp dropped to 38 degrees at an elevation of 8376 ft. After the tunnel, we came upon the Far View Lodge.

This is our GPS picture of the road we were on.

Once we got to the top of the mesa, we could see many examples of forest fires from years past. There were even signs naming the fires and the year that it occurred.

We hadn’t seen too many other cars on our drive up, but when we got to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, we found out that’s where everyone was.

We arrived just in time to catch the movie about Mesa Verde and the people who lived there. It was very informative and answered some of the questions we had. Behind the museum, we could view the Spruce Tree House. It was awesome!

We followed the Cliff Palace Loop to Cliff Palace. 

This site and the Spruce Tree House were closed for tours. Cliff Palace has some structural problems with its foundation making it unsafe and the alcove containing Spruce Tree House has become unstable causing numerous rock falls. The other tours that were available were hard to get tickets for or closed for the season. The canyon where the Cliff Palace was built was beautiful.

Next on the Loop Road was Hemenway House.

A little further along the bluff was Balcony House, but it was located on the bluff we were standing on so we drove to the Soda Canyon Overlooks to get a better view of Balcony House.

We could see the people on the 1:00 tour climbing a 32’ ladder into the ruins.

The people on the tour gathered in the main room of the Balcony House.

We finished walking the loop to the Soda Canyon Overlook where I had a great view of Soda Canyon.

We drove the Mesa Top Loop to get to the Pit House, built in 600 AD. These are the structures the people were living in on the top of the mesa before they moved to the cliffs. This is the foundation of the Pithouse. The wooden part of the structure that went over it was gone.

At Sun Point View, we were able to see 4 different sites from that overlook. It was like a whole city on the side of the cliff in Cliff Canyon.

Farther along the cliff, we could see the Oak Tree House, the Fire Temple, and New Fire House from another viewpoint.

The white mark on the wall was a remnant of something the scientists found. They determined that the insides of the structures were traditionally painted white with red symbols painted on them.

On the ride back, we saw a sign that said, “Don’t feed or approach the wild horses!” I was hoping to actually see some and sure enough, a brown horse was grazing on the Lodge lawn.

On the rest of the drive down the mountain, we had guard rails on the outside lanes to give us the feeling of security for a good portion of the trip. I took these pictures so Bob could see the roads that he had actually driven on. I know the road doesn’t looking that forbidding, but I had to close my eyes for some of the sections and wasn’t able to take the pictures.

On the way down, I caught some of the view I missed on the way up.

Bob said this was the place you could stop and clean out your shorts after the drive down.

We could see the straightaway below and thought we were almost done, but we were fooled.

We still had a few miles to go to get to the bottom. Bob spotted a 7-point buck just browsing on the hillside. What a treat!

We made it down all the way to the bottom about 2:30, but had to go into Cortez for gas for our 266-mile drive to Albuquerque tomorrow. The drive to Cortez was ablaze with golden trees as the sun enhanced their colors.

This magnificent mesa was close to the campground, but inside the park. We realized that it was one of the mountains we dove on today. You can see the road cut across it from the lower left side to the middle of the right side.

It was quite an accomplishment in driving today and Bob gets all the credit. I was so glad I finally got to visit Mesa Verde after all these years. It is one more thing to cross off my “bucket list”. We got back to the campground about 3:00 and it was toasty inside the trailer. It was warm today if you were in the sun and out of the wind. The sun warmed things up without a cloud in the sky. Auggie spent some time outside just warming himself in the sun.

We had an indoor meal since it got chilly fast when the sun dropped below the mountains.  We will have to disconnect the water hose, so it doesn’t freeze tonight. It is supposed to get down to 26 degrees.  We are looking forward to some warmer weather as we make our way home.  



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