On to Mesa Verde National Park...a park where you can easily find a camp site if you don’t require electricity or water. And there are free showers near the camp store. As soon as we find our campsite in the Apache Loop, we’re off along Chapin Mesa to see Balcony House. On the way we stop by Far View House. Far View is on an elevated area where the two mesas split and the view is forever in all directions.
The rangers tell us that the tours go on all day but that timing will make the hikes easier: east facing in the afternoon, west facing is fine for morning. The ruins can be toured only with a ranger-guide so we meet Ranger David Night Eagle - a blue eyed descendant of The Lakota to tour Balcony House. He is partly comedian-entertainer and partly knowledgeable park ranger. His name translates to “owl”.
He warns that a fear of heights could make it impossible. The narrow ledge he describes gives me pause, but he adds that he typically leans out over the protective fence to display its safety.
It turns out to be an amazing construction - easy to imagine people living here in the coolness of the cave. There is a seep spring in the back of the cave that still provides water. We’re asked not to touch walls or anything else without permission. If we faint, we must just lower ourselves to the ground without grabbing anything for support. We see hand and toe holds used by the people to climb in and out of the dwelling. We are allowed to grip the ladder edges as we climb. They are in the style of the time, but not original.
At the conclusion of the tour he reveals that the item he has been carrying over his shoulder in the insulated bag is one of many flutes that he has made. He plays for us...not for us...but for the ancient ones whose spirits continue to visit this place.
[Video and photo credit: Alex]