Cliff Dwellings.

Mesa Verde National Park Travel Blog

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Cliff Palace administrative center of the native Americans. 11 ladders and 151 steps during the 2 hour tour.
DAY 21
Mesa Verde, Colorado - 78 with thunderstorms and rain

Today was one of the high lights of the trip for me. My sister and I went on a guided tour of the largest cliff dwelling in the park, known as Cliff Palace which has 150 rooms and was constructed by the Anasazi type of Native American in or around 1200 CE. Unfortunately, due to National Park warnings, neither of my parents decided to go on this "hike."

Something I realized is that the National Park over-emphasizes the difficulty of their guided tours. I believe this is because that over the years, people have over-estimated their levels of physical fitness and then needed to be evacuated from a hike. The tour of Cliff Palace was described as "extremely strenuous" mostly because of the 250 uneven stone steps and 11 ladders needed to enter and leave the archaeologic site.
65% original construction with 35% reconstruction by the National Park service and archaeologists.
In all, it was only a 2 mile hike and mostly flat, but the ladders and steps - combined with the altitude - were the clinchers for people who aren't certain they could handle it.

The Cliff Palace was amazing. Unlike what most people believe, it was not only built as a way to escape from aggressive Indian tribes nearby. Instead, because of the lack of soot on the rock ledge above, there were not the constant fires for cooking and heat. Instead, most evidence points to the idea that this was a communal meeting center for political power. The large number of underground meeting rooms - known as Kivas - also indicates that there was constant, small-group discussions held here. The lack of soot from fires means that it wasn't used year-round.

After this, my sister and I took a 4 mile walk along the valley rim to outlooks at other cliff dwellings.
Suitable for framing.
I think that she ended up seeing enough "old things" but she's really physically fit and enjoyed the exercise. At the end of our day, we stopped at Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling - one that was inhabited year-round (as you can see by the soot) - and hiked down to it. It was a really refreshing day!

What's interesting about Mesa Verde, is that in the early 20th century when cliff dwellings were becoming more popular due to increased auto travel in the US, several sites were totally reconstructed in Utah because the powers that be thought no one in their right mind would go to Mesa Verde in Colorado. Some of the sites were 100% reconstructed from rubble in Utah.

In Mesa Verde, the most reconstructed site is Cliff Palace where it's 65% original construction and 35% reconstruction, and Spruce Tree House is 95% original construction! (reconstruction = picking up existing pieces of wall/structure and putting them back where they fell from - it is NOT making something from nothing.
A kiva. A subterranean "hole" that had a thatched and brick roof. It wasn't a sweat lodge as some suspected, but instead a private meeting room for administration, planning, counseling, etc.
If the piece is really missing, then it's missing for good). Oddly enough, none ever really visited the sites in Utah and many were abandoned or closed down.

Tonight, we all walked over to the store for some ice cream. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Tomorrow we'll head out towards the Grand Canyon, our last National Park of the trip!
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Cliff Palace administrative center…
Cliff Palace administrative cente…
65% original construction with 35%…
65% original construction with 35…
Suitable for framing.
Suitable for framing.
A kiva.  A subterranean hole tha…
A kiva. A subterranean "hole" th…
Looking back on the Cliff Palace.
Looking back on the Cliff Palace.
Inside a grain storage tower that …
Inside a grain storage tower that…
Some of the 151 steps.
Some of the 151 steps.
One of 11 ladders.
One of 11 ladders.
A fortification for storing grain,…
A fortification for storing grain…
This is Spruce Tree House up close…
This is Spruce Tree House up clos…
And lots of tourists.
And lots of tourists.
Actual archaeologists.
Actual archaeologists.
95% original construction - 800+ y…
95% original construction - 800+ …
Mesa Verde National Park
photo by: lonlee2