Wednesday, September 26, 2012

American Southwest Trip: Day 5 I- Mesa Verde National Park, Co

     This was the fifth day that we traveled on the road. I didn't miss home at all. Actually, I was very excited and expected to see more new things and places. Staring from this day to the rest of our trip, we were going to visit national parks. Our journey for the day was to visit Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. 
     According to my husband's research and plan, there was not a lot of things to see in the park. Also, it was not too far away from our hotel. Since we had more time for the day, we would take our time to drive to the park. (My thought: it should have more things to do in the park because it is in the scale of the national parks. Well, we would see and play it by ear.)

Our driving distance
It was a Sunday morning. There was hardly any
cars on the road. I spots this scene. My husband
told me " These birds are vultures There might be
some dead animals which attracted these birds."
(After visiting the museum in the national park, I
learned they are called turkey vultures. They are
a common species in this region.) 
This was the second new animal I learned about on 
my trip. They were called Tibetan Yaks.  
Indian Tepees on the road side. 
The national park entrance : we got the free park map
here. Internet Free map:  
Park Introduction: 
     "Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a
      spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral 
      Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 
      years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park 
      protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, 
      including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some
      of the most notable and best preserved in the United
The view after we enter the park.
It looked like that we had to climb
up the hill.   
Entering the tunnel 
We were at a lookout area on the top of the mountain.
The elevation was 8, 572 ft (2,613 m) high. 
The sky looked a little bit hazy. On the introduction 
board, it claimed that "one of the grandest and extensive 
views in the country." in 1906. Visitors could see the 
Shiprock in New Mexico which was posted in my 
day 3: Four Corners article. Nowadays any forms of 
pollution have decreased its visibility.  
A fire lookout tower: according to
the park information, the most hazard
disaster is fire which has damaged
2,300 acres's of land and wildlife in
Bushes surrounding the fire lookout towel were odd.
The top of the trees were bare branches but the
bottom had green leaves. After we took a close look,
the bare branches were actually a separat plant growing 

in conjuntion with the greenish bushes. 
Before we visited this park, we knew that we needed
to make reservations in order to visit some sites. So,
the first thing arriving in the park was to sign up for the
tours in the visitor center. 
It was our turned to make the reservation after waiting
in line. The clerk saw my camera and knew that I was
going to take some descend photos. He was very helpful
and friendly to explain and arrange the tours for us. 

So he scheduled Balcony House first and the Cliff
Palace the second because of the sun light issue. We
were warned about having to climb a 32 ft. ladders.
Yes, we should be able to do so.  

                        After talking to the clerk, we learned the other part 
                          of the park to the west was closed after Labor Day. 
                         So, we only could sign up for two guided tours. After 
                          consulting with the clerk, we also found out there 
                           were more things to do. We had to adjust our time 
                        and plan to make our day more interesting in the park.
This was our first tour which was scheduled
at 11am. Cliff Palace was at 3 pm. The
guided tour was about an hour each.  
While we drove to the place that we were to met with 
the ranger, we saw a fire burned area. Did the fire in
the year of 2000 damage this area?  
This was our group and our ranger "Joe". 
It was a steep stair. Also there was a gate which
required a key to enter the area.  
We learned that most the construction
in the park were built by the Civilian
Conservation Corp during the Great
Depression period. 
The ranger Joe pointed to the small water drip puddle
supported 40 people and wild lives in the area 800 years
ago. It was just hard for me to imagine this kind of
lifestyle if I was born in that period of time.   
This was the 32 ft. ladder. It looked a little bit scary.
The description from the official website:
"This one-hour, ranger-guided tour involves climbing
a 32 ft. ladder, crawling through a 12ft.-long tunnel, and
climbing up a 60ft (20m) open rock face with two 10ft
(3m) ladders to exit the site." I was the one at the end.
I just wished no one fell on me, especial the lady who
was very scared and was in front of me.    
Was this a 12 ft long tunnel which was
my husband main concern for crawling
the tunnel. He worried about bending
his knees.   
After we crawled through the tunnel, we arrived at the dwelling
area. It was not that hard to crawl. Actually, I almost
could walk in side the tunnel. Ranger Joe explained to us
that the Pueblo people used Juniper to build their
houses and used its barks for baby diapers. Everything
they used was biodegradable and environmental friendly.    
I peeked through this small view finder to see people
who arrived at another section while I was waiting for
my turn to climb a short ladder. 
Comparing to the 32 ft ladder, this one was a piece
of cake. Well, it was nice to have a piece cake there.
However, any food or drink except water was not
allowed at any archaeological sites in this park. 
The scene after the short ladder
This is called a kiva which was for religious rituals.
The design of the kiva was more complex than what
we saw on this picture. It has a ventilation shaft and
other clever and functional designst into it.  
The view from the Balcony House. It was cool and
the sun didn't shine into the cave. Now I understood
why the clerk arranged this tour in the morning first.
Thank him for his thoughtful heart. 
The view of the main Balcony House
We were wrong on the prior tunnel
which was not the 12 ft. long tunnel.
This one in the picture was the one.
I hoped I could go through the tunnel. 
The ancient Puebloans must be skinny
and short. It was a little bit hard for me
to crawl inside especially carrying a 

SLR camera.   
The straight up 10 ft. (3m) ladder was
constructed by the CCC. My husband
said this was better than going up the
32ft ladder. You made the judgement. 
Looking back the ladder that we climbed.
How adventure we were!
     After our first guided tour, we had about 3 hours before our second guided tour. We decided to visit the Mesa Top Loop. There were many archaeological sites which were open to visitors without any restriction or tour fee required. I posted a few pictures here that I thought was different than others.
I admired this well equipped photographer.
This was on the Sun Temple site which was a great
place for photo taking according to one of the rangers
who we talked to. 
I was curious about the inside of the temple. There
was a big rock nearby. It allowed visitors to see the
entire compound.  
Chapin Mesa Museum and Spruce Tree House: 
During our 13 year trips, there was always someone's
back in my photos. I appreciate him who took care of
and carried my bags, water, and other stuffs.
The bird eye view of the Spruce Tree House which 
was next to the museum and a self guiding tour. 

Spruce Tree House: 
"This one-hour tour involves a 100ft (30m) descent and ascent on a winding path. Walking distance is 1/2-mile (1km) round trip. Tours begin at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum."
The trail to the site
Even though it was a self guiding tour, there were
rangers standing by to answer people's questions and
watching people to prevent the site from being damaged.    
The view from the trail looking up
We were a little hungery so we picked up a hot dog 
and split it before we headed to our second guided 

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