Mesa Verde National Park
The air was warm at Mesa Verde National Park. Much warmer than normal for this time of year. Despite that, all of the attractions that were normally closed during the winter remained closed. We didn’t realize that would be the case, but it’s understandable. We also didn’t realize that we were visiting on one of the free weekends. Score! I would have loved to see more of the park while we were there, but what we did get to see was amazing, and you can’t beat free.
The only cliff dwelling opened for our visit was the Spruce Tree House. We arrived just in time for a guided tour. If you ever have the opportunity for a guided tour here, or at any national park, take it. Wandering around the site on our own would have been fine, but I learned a lot more about the structures and the people who build them than I would have if we had gone alone. Our tour leader, park ranger Shawn Duffy, provided a highly entertaining description of life for the people who lived here.
From there, it was an easy walk down to the Spruce Tree House.
Our tour leader spoke about the practical technology the builders of this society implemented, their potential reasons for moving into the canyons, as well as their probably reasons for leaving the dwellings. All fascinating stuff! He liked to point out that the ‘mystery’ about who these people were was mostly a marketing tool to generate interest as it’s fairly well understood that the modern Hopi are descendants of this culture.
As we toured the site, I tried to imagine what life would have been like for the inhabitants. Climbing the cliffs to reach the farm land above. Gathering wood for fires to keep warm. Retrieving water from the nearby springs. How much of the say was spent working?
I had heard the word Kiva before, but I didn’t know what one was until this trip. The picture below is a Kiva that no longer has a roof. The small hole in the center is a sipapu, a hole that represents a portal from which their ancestors entered this world.
The park does allow visitors to enter one of the kivas. I’m assuming that this one was rebuilt for the purpose of giving people an idea of what it’s like in one. The air was cool – many degrees cooler than the outside – and still inside the kiva. Thanks to its natural thermal regulation, it would be a great escape from both the chill of the winter air as well the summer heat.
The pictures below are from the mesa top loop. We visited a few of the more primitive archaeological sites on the loop, and I took some pictures of the canyon and other cliff settlements.