Cliff Palace, Step House, Long House and more

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July 9 – 12

For the next few days we are in Mesa Verde, Colorado. Mesa Verde is only about 60 miles from Durango so this a short transition.

We’re staying in the park at Morefield Campground on the Ute Loop with a full hookup.

 

MorefieldCampsite

There are only 15 full hookups in the campground so I’m glad we made our reservations several months early. All of the full hookups are 30 amp (we need 50) so we need to watch our power consumption. The campground has wifi but little cellphone coverage.

After getting settled, we drive over to Far Point Lodge (only 11 miles but about 25 minutes due to the twisty road). This is where we meet our tour tomorrow. While there enjoy a nice dinner at the Metate Room one then head back to the camper.

The next day we’re up early and on our way back to Far Point. At 8 a.m. we meet our guide ‘Alfie’ and board the bus for the 700 Year Tour.

Tour bus
A comfortable ride to travel through 700 years of history

Alfie is a retired teacher from Miami and a fantastic guide.  Our tour takes us along the Mesa Top Loop where we stop to view several pit houses. Alfie highlights how construction changed as we move forward in time.

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As we continue on the loop we have a view of Cliff Palace across the canyon.

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After completing the Mesa Top Loop we turn onto the Cliff Palace Loop and stop for our ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace. The tour descends quite a few steps both metal and uneven stone. There are also four ladders that we must negotiate. Cliff Palace is the largest Cliff dwelling in North America. Archeologists estimate that about 100 to 120 people lived here. The site contains living rooms (rooms with a hearth), courtyards and work areas, storage rooms, kivas (large, circular, partly subterranean rooms thought to have been used for ceremonies or social gatherings although other uses are possible), and towers. Built around 1200 AD Cliff Palace was one of the last sites built and occupied in Mesa Verde. By 1300 AD most of the Ancient Puebloans had abandoned the area.

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Later in the evening as we are cooking dinner we lose power. At first we think it’s because we have both ac’s and the microwave running. Further investigation reveals that we’re not the only ones without power. The power stays off for about 30 minutes so our dinner is a bit later than originally planned.

The following day we strike out on our own stopping at the Park Point Overlook ( the highest point in the park) before driving the Wetherill Mesa Road. Here are a couple of views from the overlook.

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The road ends at the Wetherill Mesa kiosk where we park the truck and follow the one mile round trip hiking trail to Step House. Mesa Verde has suffered from a number of fires and we see evidence along the trail.

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Step House is unique in that it presents architecture from two different occupations, the first between 500 and 600 AD and the second in the 1200s.

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After visiting Step House we return to the kiosk for a snack and to cool off before venturing out on the Badger House Community trail. Along the trail we stop to view 3 of the 4 sites before cutting over to the service road and from there to the Long House overlook trail. Long House is roughly the same size as Cliff Palace with around 150 rooms and 21 kivas. Like Balcony House, Long House requires a tour ticket available only at the Visitor Center or Museum – neither of which is convenient to the campground.

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From the overlook we hike back to the kiosk, retrieve the truck and head back to Far Point Terrace for dinner. When we arrive back at the camper we are greeted by two very hot shelties. We’re not sure why but at some point during the day our circuit breaker tripped leaving the dogs without ac. Bill resets the breaker and turns on only one ac unit. We also open some windows to let in the cool evening breeze. Luckily both dogs are ok.

For our last full day here we decide to just enjoy the peace and solitude of the campground. With our awning out and attached sunshade it’s really quite pleasant sitting in the shade.

As we’re having breakfast before closing up the camper on departure day we have some visitors. We’ve seen them before but never this close. Perhaps they’re coming over to wish us safe travels.

MorefieldVisitor

MorefieldVisitors

One thing that surprised us about Mesa Verde was the lack of crowds. The only crowded places were the Visitor Center and Cliff Palace. We expected a crowd at the Metate Room (and made reservations) but found the restaurant mainly empty. Same with the Terrace Lounge. Perhaps we just hit a slow week for the park.

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