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Lake Cowichan view from our dock.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Touring Mesa Verde

Saturday, Oct 8th

This was supposed to be a stay at home day to catch up on laundry and cleaning, but with the weather deteriorating for Sunday, Ray and I decided to do the car tour of the Cliff Palace Loop and Mesa Top Loop today instead. We left Freya at home in the coach with the air conditioning on. There were lots of old cliff dwellings to see, some quite substantial and others just piles of stones. All through the drive and short walks to viewpoints Ray is cataloging where he will go back for sunrise/sunset pictures this week as the sun is supposed to be back out by Monday. The weather stayed warm and slightly overcast which was great for Ray's picture taking.

Mesa Verde Visitor's Centre
They have guided tours of the four main cliff dwellings, the Cliff Place, Balcony House, the Spruce Tree House and the Long House. The only one we could have managed as there were only a few short ladders was the Cliff Palace, but unfortunately it was closed September 26th for the season. The Balcony House requires you to go up a 100 feet on a series of ladders and steep stairs ... too much for me let alone Ray. Spruce Tree House is closed for now as there is a 7 ton boulder that looks like it will fall into the house. That will be a shame as it is the most accessible structure for people to walk through. The Long House has a 2 1/2 mile round trip trail to get to it, so again too strenuous for us. Ray's limit is about 1 1/2 miles or so. You really can see most everything from the road and viewpoints anyways. There are some structures you can get up close and personal to as well.

Here we go!

Cliff Palace House  "It is the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park and an architectual masterpiece by any standard.  It is the largest cliff dwelling in North America." It sits in an alcove about 215 wide by about 90 feet deep and 60 feet high. The Cliff Palace includes about 150 rooms, 75 constructed open areas, and 21 kivas. Construction was between 1190 to 1280 AD. They estimate that this was inhabited by about 100-120 people.

Absolutely amazing. This exhibit was closed for work on September 25th.  The southern end of the palace structure was built on unstable ground.  Park staff have closed the area for visitor safety and the work required to support the structure can begin.

"Far View was one of the most densely populated parts of the mesa from A.D. 900 to about A.D. 1300. Nearly 50 villages have been identified within a half square mile area, and were home to hundreds of people. Today, several excavated and stabilized sites are linked by a trail system within a short walking distance. These surface sites include Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Far View Reservoir, Megalithic House, and Far View Tower."

Pipe Shrine House
In behind is the Far View House with the Pipe Shrine House in front.

Fire Temple House - See the steps in the rock to access second level

Fire Temple with the Dance Plaza above and  the New Fire Temple below.

Oak Tree House 

Spruce Tree House - "Spruce Tree House is the third largest and best preserved cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park. The vegetation here is well-watered by a nearby natural seep spring."
The alcove is 216 feet long and 89 feet deep. There is 120 rooms, 10 associated ledge rooms, 8 kivas and 2 towers. Estimated peak population was 60-90, about 19 households.
*** Unfortunately you can no longer get up and close as a large naturally forming arch within one of several cracks that exist in the cliff above Spruce Tree House is feared to fall as it is unsupported. They are waiting for a geographic survey report so they can make repairs. It was one of the most visited as it is located right at the museum and had the shortest distance down a paved path to visit it. 

Square Tower House - Ruins of house carved into adobe cliffs by ancient Pueblo; 28-ft. tower is park's tallest structure.

Sun Temple Archaeological site of a ceremonial structure thought to be an ancient Pueblo astronomy observatory.

Sunset House 

Montezuma's Viewpoint

The fall colours are fabulous. Ray will try and get some sunrise/sunset pictures of the hillsides later this week.
After several hours of me driving us around it was time to go into Cortez, about 10 miles away for lunch at a brewpub I had Googled. It was really an eclectic place. We were quite fascinated with all of the artwork on the walls. The beer was pretty good and the food was excellent. Ray had a trout and I had beef dip from their homemade shaved prime rib. The place was fairly empty as we came in well after the lunch rush. When we finally got back home Freya was sure happy to see us so off to the dog park we went.

Sunday, Oct 9th

The rain did appear, without the thunder thankfully. Other than a quick run into downtown Cortez to pick up some Turkey Thighs for our Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow I spent the day cleaning and doing laundry. Ray of course was busy editing his pictures. We were definitely in need of a rest day as we have been going pretty strong since we left BC to beat the weather. By 2:30 pm the skies had lightened and blue sky appeared. The temps rose to about 65 degrees. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon. Now Ray's dilemma... try for sunset shots or is their too much cloud still!


  1. Great pics! Love that kind of stuff.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Happy Thanksgiving. I am sure you will have a wonderful dinner at Chris and Angela's.

  2. Great photos! This looks like an amazing trip. Thanks for the share, love reading your blog!