Monday, October 22, 2018


[September 13]
The destination now is Canyonlands National Park, but on the way we see the opportunity to visit  yet another part of the Canyons of the Ancients.  The land encompassing the national monument is huge (176,000 acres) and has been inhabited by people for 10,000 years!  The ruins here occupy 76,000 sites, but we'll stop by to see two.  Hovenweep (means "deserted valley") is an amazing collection of buildings in a shallow valley -  and, well, a beautiful place.  It is hot - in the 90s, but the hike is easy.
The masonry here is as beautiful as in the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.  Some buildings have perfectly square corners on one side and beautifully rounded turns on the other, a D shaped building.

It is thought that these buildings date from about 1200-1300.  They may represent building styles and skills shared across the miles.  

Archaeologists' findings show extensive trade routes (copper and sea shells, for example).

I guess I remain ready to be surprised by the all that was accomplished here - and by the size of the civilization because I wasn't paying attention when this ancient history was taught in school?  One of the rangers mentions that in the Four Corners region the population exceeded (2x) that of London in the 10th - 11th centuries.

Here at Hovenweep there are buildings standing as they were constructed along the curve of massive boulders and still hanging on 700 years later.

As we head north to see the Lowry Ruins we notice that several of the back roads are marked closed with a red danger warning sign.  The ranger tells us only that it involves a "threat to personal safety."

But it seems so very peaceful out here in the desert.

At the Lowry site we are happy to find that we can enter one of the big kivas and descend in to peek through the doorways.  Now this is a peaceful place.  Another kiva is open to the air though it once must have been similarly enclosed.  The uses/meaning of the stones in the floor aren't explained.  Any guesses?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Moving Along the Road to Ruins

[September 12, 20180]
As we again realize the absence of easy connectivity and relax into the enjoyment and amazement of exploring by camper van Quiggy, blog dates diverge from real time.

Our second day at Mesa Verde begins with a tour of Cliff Palace.  The sun bleached photo shows the expansive nature of the cliff house - with a tour group of 50 at the bottom left for size comparison. 

We learn that the construction may have occurred over years - and that the masonry skills varied by builders.  Or maybe it is the styles that vary.  Some corners are precisely and beautifully square.  Some walls flow in shape to match a cave wall or  the curve of a heavy boulder.  It's thought that the Ancestral Puebloans lived here from about 600 - 1300; and we hear many reasons why they may have moved on.  The best insight may be as told by their descendants: it was time to move on. They also say that the ancestors still return here to visit, which is why i'm including my sun-ray- draped photo.  It seems appropriately ghostly.

After the tour we drive the mesa loop peering over the cliff edge at other dwellings that are not open for park visitors.  Binoculars are helpful for getting a view across the valley and inside the buildings.  Rangers tell us that some of the people lived on the mesa tops where the farming work was done. 

All of the cliff dwellings we visit have storage areas constructed to be safe from rodents and other hungry visitors, so the traffic up and down the cliff edges must have been steady. The food storage areas are usually in an upper level room - often tucked into a ledge above the living areas.

The tower makes it possible to almost reach the storage area. 

Our evening tour is Long House.  Like Cliff Palace it seems designed for a sizable group - and the tour group is also sizable.  We follow an earlier recommendation to bring along our bikes to ride the 5 mile loop to see other ruins on the mesa top after we drag ourselves back up and over the cliff edge.

By the time we complete the bike ride and tour we feel the value of spending time high in the Rockies before coming to Mesa Verde.  This elevation is >7,000 feet.  Those extra RBCs are working well distributing Oas needed.

The first people must have been incredibly fit farmers, climbers, builders, and artists.