Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mesa Verde

Talk about a misconception! I’ve always thought Mesa Verde was misnamed. After all, cliff dwellings are in the desert and the desert isn’t green. Now that I’ve actually seen Mesa Verde National Park, I understand the name.


There’s a lot of green among the cliff dwellings, and I don’t mean the greenbacks Aramark rakes in from their overpriced concessions in the park (although the Navaho taco was quite tasty).

I should have realized that since the Anasazi were farmers,  they set up their villages near water.


The cliff dwellings are akin to modern-day apartment complexes, with multiple levels and lots of families living under one roof, er ledge. This is Cliff Palace, the park’s biggest cliff dwelling.



The park comprises 80 square miles and there are more than a dozen dwellings available to visitors. This one, called Spruce Tree House, is accessible from a steep 1/2 mile paved trail. Most of the other sites can be seen only with a guided tour and a fair amount of strenuous climbing. Needless to say Spruce Tree House is the only site we got close to.


Between 1150 and 1300, it is believed that thousands of people lived on Mesa Verde. The farming at Spruce Tree house was done on the plateau above the cliff, that’s known because examples of the ancient corn commonly farmed by these folks have been found there.


If you’re wondering how they got the harvested crops down to their homes, check out the sculpture in front of the visitor’s center. This depicts an Anasazi man descending the cliff with a big basket of corn on his back. I don’t think I would have lasted very long as an Anasazi farmer.

From here we’re on to Utah to see several national parks and maybe some state parks as well.


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