Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 49 - Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Today was another short driving day from Moab, UT, to Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. For the first time we are actually camped inside of the park boundaries. I think the only difference is that we don't have to go through an entrance gate in the morning to tour the park. After the very hot temperatures for the last couple of weeks, the mid-80s here at the campground feels very refreshing. The campground is at 7800'. When I had checked online for tour reservations, the website indicated that everything was sold out. But when I stopped at the tour desk, he asked how many. He said that he can always fit in one more person.

So I went on the Cliff Palace tour. Cliff Palace is the iconic site when someone talks about the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. The tour was listed as "strenuous" which is why Bridget opted not to go. I think the only thing strenuous was the exit route where you needed to ascend about 100' via steep stone steps and wooden ladders. The first picture shows the overall cliff dwellings at this site. The second photo shows the detail of some of the rooms right next to the ceiling of the alcove.

Some of the walls near the front of the alcove were restored by the ranchers who found the dwellings. In this photo, you can see the reddish patina of the original plaster. This is not the reconstructed section. There was a large sandstone block under this section that the park service thought needed to be reinforced. They developed a plan to put in a steel beam and when they excavated under the block, they discovered three support walls built under the block. Apparently, the original builders thought that it needed to be supported as well. The support walls were estimated to be built around 1200 AD.

There are 21 of these pits structures at this site. Logs were placed on each of the block wall "posts" (I don't remember the actual term) then more logs are placed on those until you get a log dome over the pit. This was then plastered. The entrance was through the hole in the center via a ladder. A fire pit is off center in the middle of the floor. After all, you don't want to burn your ladder.

This is the only view we got on the tour of the inside of one of the structures. This is looking up through where the floor would have been to the second floor. You can see more of the red tinted plaster.
It was very hard to take a picture of the steps in and out of the site. The steps were basically carved into a vertical crack in the rock and were about two feet wide. At the top of the steps were three ladders each about fifteen feet long. The elevation of Cliff Palace is around 7000' and I was feeling the lack of oxygen after the climb.


  1. Nice photos and good perspective. Am enjoying the tale of your journey. Ours begins mid Aug, not sure I can replicate your travel tales. See you then.

    1. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you before you take off on your next adventure.

  2. How nice to stay right in the park. 7800' and mid 80s temps sounds mighty good compared to what you have had. We so enjoyed Mesa Verde despite having been there years ago. Amazing ruins, and such an assortment all in the same area!