Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwellers at Mesa Verde

The Mesa Verde park is located south of Cortez, Colorado in the southwest part of Colorado. Here is a short paragraph describing the park better than I could:

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.  Some great information is located at this website:

View from the visitor's parking lot looking across the canyon at the Spruce Tree House dwellings.
You notice the text above mentioned "600 cliff dwellings"? That's a lot of ground to cover and, due to it being late October, half the park was closed for winter. We got to see this Spruce Tree House area and the Far View area (which will be in another post).

There are so many mysteries regarding these people....where did they come from, why did they live in cliff dwellings, where did they go, why did they leave? A couple of ideas as to why they left were: lack of wood due to the amount they used year after year for fires, etc.; a 30-year drought...that would certainly hurt crops; soil exhaustion...after years of planing the same crop over and over, the soil became undernourished. Whatever the cause(s), off the went...south to be part of the Zuni and Hopi Indians in Arizona and New Mexico.

There is a trail that leads down to this dwelling so we were able to walk through the ruins and talk to some very knowledgeable park rangers.

View from the path across the canyon

Some of the areas were roped off. This park has so many visitors yearly the damage would be terrible.

These walls were built right up to the cliff behind.

These circular areas were called Kivas. It would have a roof over it and they would use it for either ceremonies or as a social gathering.

The walls go back another 50 feet into the cave.

Each "clan" had it's own Kiva. There were 8 of them at this site.

This is a partial view of the inside of a Kiva. There was a small opening in the roof with a ladder leading to the below ground. We thought it might be funny if this is where the husbands went to do some male-bonding.

Hey, how's that cowboy get in the photo?

Rather than post dozens of photos, which tell the story so much better, I put over 50 of them here for your enjoyment. I encourage you to view's really an incredible place. Kim and I "pestered" the rangers with question after question to find out more about the people that lived here. We spent hours looking at this site. Pretty captivating stuff.

This was one of Kim's lifetime come here and walk around the dwellings. You should've seen her a kid on Christmas morning.

We'll post some terrific photos of the Visitor's Center and the Far View site next posts....too much for one post.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Four Corners - Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona

Early in the morning we headed out to Four Corners from Monument Valley. The 95 miles were, as always in the desert, very varied and wonderful vistas....including a herd of goats that wanted to own the road for a while.

Once we got to Four Corners, we went through an entrance where there was a charge to get in to see this spot. This is Navajo land so they can do what they want with the property, including charge admission. We went in, not many people were there, and took a few quick photos, then bugged out to Cortez, Colorado where we will visit Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellers.

Four sided area with the actual corner in the middle.

Pretty cool to stand in four states at once...the only place in the United States where this can be done.

Next stop: Mesa Verde, Colorado.

All the photos are also posted here:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley is a place we've always dreamed of seeing and it did not disappoint.

Looking north from the Visitor's Center.
The park is governed and maintained by the Navajo Nation so hikes, walks, trails are very restricted. They would prefer to have the land kept as it has been for years. This is understandable as it's sacred to them.

There is a 17 mile road that visitors can drive along to get closer to the monuments themselves. It's a rough dirt road but well worth the time and effort.

Every "rock" formation had a name. Some were from the Navajo and some were based on imagination...what it looked like to the early explorers.

The red in the rock was even more pronounced at sunrise and sunset....morning was cold so we bundled up and took some photos from the van. Sunset was a bit better becuase we had the sun at our backs and it highlighted the bluffs.


This is a great photo that shows the deterioration of wind and rain erosion. The bluff to the left is the start, then it becomes a spire in the middle and ends up going to a smaller and smaller bluff to the far right and ends up as desert dirt.
The red dirt was very fine so it got all over our van, coach and shoes. This was a nice one-day visit but so difficult to show the vistas with photos. These rocks were HUGE!

We've posted more photos here should you want to view them.

Next stop: Road to Four Corners and Four Corners itself.

Kim and Steve

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shay) is in the northeast part of Arizona and considered a center of the Navajo people. We found it interesting that the rangers and people at the visitor's center only talked about the place as being Navajo...nothing about the geology or how it was formed. But, you can see, there is a geological story here someplace.

There is a south road (where these photos were taken) and a north road. There are turnouts as well as side roads that lead down to the edge where you can look over into the canyon (very carefully).

They have jeep tours that go along the valley floor but we only stayed an afternoon and the next day until 2pm so we only viewed from the rim.

One of the highlights is the old buildings where peoples that pre-dated the Navajo lived. Here is a series of photos that start from the rim and then zoom in. Kim LOVED these! (More of these are upcoming when we get to Mesa Verde).
The buildings are between the trees across the valley.

...a bit closer...

...really zoomed in on the center buildings...they look like minature models.

We stayed at Cottonwood Park at the entrance. A free place surrounded by gorgeous fall colored cottonwood trees. We got rained on but a beautiful full rainbow came out for our enjoyment.

This was a spectacular canyon to view but, unfortunately, we had to go through the town of Chinle, which had some serious poverty-stricken homes along the road leading up to the park entrance. We weren't sure if we were on the right road. Very depressing. We read where the Navajo lives in what is considered poverty up to 50% of their people...yet they continue to live there. It's there land and their home I guess. No judgements,  just the place was a bit sad and seemed lacking in hope.

We posted all the photos here:

The next day, as it rained on us, we headed northwest to Monument Valley.

Kim and Steve