~Monday, October 12, 2020~
Our final day in the Durango region where we thought the best way to top it all off was to spend a day at Mesa Verde National Park about 45 minutes away. Jeff had some reservations about going since all tours inside the park and visitor centers were closed due to COVID. Ugh…..can’t wait for this to be over already. I feel sorry for the people who are coming to these breathtaking national parks for the first time and can’t take full advantage of the experience. For us, this was a trip down memory lane when we brought our kiddos here about 10 years ago where in three days, we packed in visiting nearly every cliff dwelling, pithouse, and pueblo village we could. It was such a wonderful experience with the ranger-led walks to the cliff dwellings to get a closer look at the layout and construction of what makes these sites so unique.
Going back really was not a question since it is so close to Durango. We arrived later in the day because we thought the lighting would be better up until sunset. Once you arrive at the park entrance, it’s still about a 25 minute drive to where the majority of the sites are. Jeff and I decided our first stop would be the “crown jewel” of the park…..Cliff Palace.
It is the largest cliff dwelling in North America where the Ancestral Pueblo people decided to inhabit in 1200 A.D. This dwelling was not discovered until around the late 1800’s when two cowboys from nearby Mancos came upon it while herding cattle. Amazing!!
We tried to pack in as much as we could into our 2-½ hours in the park, visiting many pithouses, pueblo villages and mesa top sites.
At least we were able to walk up to those. Many of these sites have modern roof/wall structures over them for preservation. The most interesting thing to me is in a span of 600 years, how the Ancestral Puebloans went from such modest dwellings, such as the pithouses built on the mesa tops, to a more complex, architectural style as the cliff dwellings display. Time to go as the sunset kicked us out of the park. We would have otherwise lingered to see more.