Friday, May 6, 2011

Mesa Verde National Park

The highlight of our first week in Cortez was a couple of trips to Mesa Verde National Park with friends Sandy and John. The park is located just 10 miles east of town, so day trips were quick and easy.

Our first trip was a visit to Spruce Tree House, the third largest of 600 cliff dwellings located in the park. Seven to eight centuries ago, this place was home to about 100 Anasazi people. Today, it's a very interesting place to enjoy a hike.

We started our tour in the museum, which featured several displays of Anasazi life. This beaded vest was lovely.

Although the Anasazi was a small farming community, many of its members were talented leatherworkers, jewelers and weavers. This rug was hundreds of years old, but still gorgeous.

A short, paved path led us to an up close look at Spruce Tree House. From this courtyard, we could see the remains of a three-story wall that is believed to front about 20 rooms. The ladder protruding above the floor leads to a kiva. Kivas were used for ceremonies, work spaces and as social gathering areas.

Looking at centuries-old ruins, I came to appreciate the modern conveniences of our 40-foot rolling home. It looks like Paul agrees!

The small rooms that once stood in this cliff near Spruce Tree House were used for storage.

With the house behind us, we walked on to the Petroglyph Point Trail. The trail guide book advised hikers to allow two to three hours for this three-mile loop. That seemed like a lot of time, but we soon discovered how time-consuming this trail could be. We spent much of our time hiking up and down and up and down and over some mighty big rocks.

Midway through the hike we reached Pictograph Point, the largest and best known panel of petroglyphs in Mesa Verde. The panel is actually misnamed. You see, pictographs are painted on rock whereas these are carved into the rock. And, that makes them petroglyphs!

We spotted lots of interesting formations along the trail. It's amazing what millions of years of wind, rain and erosion can do.

John tried on one interesting formation for size.

The payoff for any good hike is a fantastic view, and this hike did not disappoint. The sweeping view of the canyon was magnificent.

Along the way, we found some perfectly picturesque spots to snap a portrait...

...or two. We could not have asked for a more picture perfect day at Mesa Verde.

The destination on our second trip into the park was a two-mile hike along the Point Lookout Trail. Unlike our previous adventure, this hike was along a smooth trail. The first half-mile or so was pretty steep. John is looking back from the trail toward the car. It was a long way down!

The rest of the trail evened out and provided some outstanding views along the way.

The Point Lookout Trail lived up to its name, indeed. When we reached the turnaround at the point we were treated to one heck of a view.

Thanks, John and Sandy for a couple of fun visits to this wonderful park. We'll happily hike with you two anytime!


Jim and Sandie said...

Beautiful views. Thanks for the tour and for the great happy hour last night.

Sue and Doug said...

great views and lovely photos today!! the first shot of the four of you..that one is a keeper!!

Randy and Terry said...

We visited Mesa Verde in April 2009 and it was a highlight of our trip. Those cliff dwellings are breath-taking.