|Day 15 - Mesa Verde National Park, CO
||[Aug. 21st, 2004|10:00 pm]
Trip Odometer: 3980 mi|
37°18’N, 108°25’W (no change)
This morning we went to the “Quieter Side” of Mesa Verde – Wetherill Mesa. This side has had substantially less development – immediately obvious given the 15 miles of road (past the visitor’s center) that was some of the most fun driving I’ve had so far on the trip (lots and lots of tight switchbacks near cliffs). Wethereill Mesa is also a little odd in how you visit it – you park your car in the lot, then you take a tram to Long House (the guided tour on this side of the park) which also stops at a few other places.
The Long House hike was okay. It’d have been better without the large numbers of obnoxious kids on it (People who can’t control their kids while camping are really beginning to grate on me, despite the fact that I sort of wish I had gotten to do more camping when I was younger with my family – er, any outside of scouting that is).
The Long House tour was interesting because we got to go to the back of the house and see the spring that made life in these places even vaguely possible – the water seeps out of the sandstone cliffs (probably about 10 years after the rainfall that caused it). We also had some spectacular canyon views from here. As far as actual information that was imparted about the culture, it wasn’t that much new material – mostly it went over the sorts of rooms they lived in and where the religious ceremonies took place (I bet you never knew that a sipupu was the spiratual entrance to the Kiva, did you?)
At the end of the tour we took the tram on to Badger House which was the collective name for a bunch of different ruins from a time before the cliff dwellings. It wasn’t very interesting to me, overall, probably because not much was left save the bottom rows of bricks on the walls.
Here’s where the “wonderful” tram system on this side of Mesa Verde breaks down. The tram picks you back up from badger house, but then stops (and waits) at a number of overlooks before finally stopping and waiting at the beginning of badger house again, before returning you. It’s about a 45 minute round trip, including wait-for-the-tram time. We could have walked back from Badger house in about a third of the time if we had realized it was going to be that silly (indeed, we beat the tram back from the “beginning of badger house” stop. Oh, and the tram drivers seem to like driving the things as fast as they can go around the curves, so at least the kids had fun pretending they were on a roller coaster.
We drove back to the visitor’s center and had lunch, then proceeded onto the park museum and “Spruce Tree House.” Spruce Tree was a house that was in amazing shape (and still is) where you could do a self-guided tour. It includes a complete Kiva that you can enter and walk around in. It’s an entirely eerie experience, made all the more odd that it rained while we were there (the most rain I’d seen yet during the waking hours anywhere on the trip).
We spent some time in the museum, which had a great many cliff dweller artifacts (and others from Native Americans in the four corners area, but we were pretty exhausted by this time and didn’t spend a lot of time here before heading back to camp for showers and a small spaghetti dinner.
The ranger program was about a wide variety of ancient and modern Native American art that had been created by the Ancient Puebloans and their descendents (notably the Hopi and other pueblo tribes). It also spoke some about the problems that modern Indians face maintaining their traditions in a modern world. It wasn’t very long, but it was still quite enjoyable.
I think this is my favorite park so far, though its in tough competition with Yellowstone.