Day 24 – Mesa Verde (Beth)

We rose earlier than normal today and drove the half an hour to Mesa Verde National Park.  Once in the Park, it was 15 miles of windy mountain road until you reach the visitor’s center where they sell tickets for guided tours of several different ruins sites.  We thought there wouldn’t be much of a line since we arrived earlier, but the line was already a decent size.  While in line, we met a few other bikers and got to chatting about where we’d all traveled to on our bikes, etc.

What I do love about bikers is there’s a kindred spirit between everyone.  As soon as you own a motorcycle, anyone who has ever owned a bike or owns one now just starts talking to you like you’re already friends.  Well, I don’t know about friends.  I guess the better way to put it is there’s instant mutual respect that usually lends itself to a friendly conversation.

So the bikers we’re talking to realize that all the souvenirs are in another building and they high tail it out of there.  We go tickets for 2 different tours: Balcony House and Cliff Palace.  I’ll fill you in reader’s digest style on what this whole National Park is about in case you aren’t familiar with it already.

Way back (if you want details and dates, I refer you to Ryan’s future post), there were these group of Pueblo Indians that lived on the mesa tops.  Now, this is desert land we’re talking about, and these people farmed here, successfully!  They lived this way for about 800 years, but then, mysteriously, some of them moved into alcoves and cliffs and built some rather elaborate dwellings.  These dwellings couldn’t be reached on foot, but by climbing rocks.  You could even see some hand and foot hold trails leading to the different areas.  In the dwellings, some rooms were storehouses, some living quarters, and some more religious spaces.  The religious spaces are called kivas (KIH-vuhs).  The kivas’ roofs were actually at floor level, and they dug down to make the room.  They got down there through a square-shaped hole in the center of the roof and climbed down a ladder, which landed them near the fire pit.  There was a separate tunnel on the side of the room leading outside for ventilation and airflow.

Some theories people have for them moving to the cliffs all of a sudden were either defensive purposes, conservation of resources, or temperature shielding.  Fascinating.

We did Balcony House, lunch, and then Cliff Palace.  After the tours, there was a site you could look around by yourself, so we hiked to that one.  They had a kiva set up to where you could climb down in it, roof and all and let me tell you, that was interesting.  Temperatures were much cooler down there.

Entrance to Mesa Verde

Can you make out the ruins in the background?

Cliff Palace

Balcony House

A Kiva

This is what an entrance to a kiva would look like.

Here’s an example of the inside of a kiva with a roof on it.

After exploring all the sites, we left go head back to Durango.  We checked out a few stores and grabbed some fantastic food at in Irish Restaurant called “The Irish Embassy.”   Okay, if you’re ever in Durango, go to this place and order “The Irishman’s Cure.”  Oh my goodness, so good!

After dinner, just a little more roaming, but not for long.  It had been a long day.

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