Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The 700 Years Tour at Mesa Verde

Early early in the morning we are up and ready to grab a bite of breakfast at the Far View Lodge and to take the 700 years tour. When we called for reservations at the Far View Lodge, the desk clerk asked if we would like to sign up for the 700 Years of Culture tour, and since Sparkle had told us that the tours fill up early, we signed up.

The light in Mesa Verde is beautiful at eight in the morning, and we were shocked when thirty-something people around our age (I guess we are all out exploring America!) got on the bus. Somehow, for $45, I had thought it would be a tour of five to seven people. I didn’t think so many people would pay so much for a tour!

The guide, Dave, and the bus driver, Leiter, were both local men, living in Cortez, men who double as guides a couple days a week to liven up their retirement. Dave’s depth of knowledge and investigative spirit was impressive; clearly he has a passion for the Ancestral Puebloans, and reads everything he can get his hands on. He has read all the latest studies and speculation, and as a farming man, he had some of his own down-to-earth speculations which he shared with us. It was all good stuff.

First, we went to look at early pit dwellings:

And then we headed off to visit some of the more and less famous cliff dwellings:

Does this remind you of anything? (Hint: see previous post)

Look at the terrain – so similar to other places where similar dwellings have evolved . . . (Hint Hint: Les Eyzies de Tayak) There are cliff dwellings in almost every conceivable concavity.

From pit dwellings to small family dwellings, to multiple family dwellings, small villages . . .

This is the Cliff Palace, a multiple family dwelling:

And then, the old legend goes, they just disappeared . . . or did they? Dave, the guide, tells us that the Apaches and Navajos won’t come any where near the Mesa, that the mesa is full of old spirits, not their spirits. The Hopi, however, a little further South, have no fear; the customs and dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans are familiar to them.

It’s kind of like conspiracy theories. We all love a good scary story.

“And then, they all just disappeared!”

But Dave thinks they didn’t disappear, that maybe they just moved on. Maybe too many years of drought, or maybe the soil they were farming gave out. Maybe they heard life was easier a few miles down the road and just picked up and moved a little on down the road . . . which seems to me to be a more logical, if less romantic, possibility.

Anyway, one of the things I really liked was that these ancient peoples, whoever they were, built their dwellings in locations and styles similar to the pre-France people of . . .umm . . . err. . . France.

I need to add a footnote here. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but it happened to me. Once I got to Grand Canyon, activities that I normally do without batting an eye began to be harder. I am a walker and a hiker, but any time I had to hike uphill in the Grand Canyon, I was huffing and puffing like a geezer. “Oh no! Oh no!” I was thinking to myself, “I must have some terrible respiratory condition! I’m suddenly getting old!”

Not so. As it turns out, I am just sensitive to high altitude. I should have known. I drove through Colorado once, and my eyes turned bright red, tiny little capillaries in my eyes burst.

At 8000 feet, in Mesa Verde, I could function, but sometimes found myself huffing and puffing. As soon as we descended a couple thousand feet, I was fine. Leiter, the bus driver, told me that many athletic teams train at high altitude so that when they perform, at a lower altitude, they will exceed themselves. It is such a relief to be able to move fast now, and not puff. I always took it for granted before. Not now.

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May 9, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest

So here we segue back to the Petrified Forest, and it may not seem logical in a linear, chronological sense, like time-as-pearls-strung-together-on-a-string sort of thing, but in terms of like things, the next chronological entry is going to be on 700 years of culture, the Ancestral Puebloans who used to be called the Anasazi, but before I go there, I want to show you some petroglyphs.

(I’m putting in a lot of links in case you are as big a petroglyph nerd as I am, and want to read more)

I always imagine the problems with being early man. Imagine they are smart, and spend a lot of their days figuring things out, most important being 1. What are we going to eat? 2. How are we going to keep dry/warm? 3. How do we protect ourselves from our enemies? They have the same problems we have, only on a much more basic level, and with fewer resources.

Have you ever thought about how easy it is to get information now? (The hard part being sifting through so you get the most reliable, most relevant information). Imagine a world where you have to figure it out for yourself, every day.

Early civilizations fascinate me. I am always interested in little tiny things that can be very important, like how did they fasten skins together to keep themselves warm? How do you poke a hole in a sharp bone so you can use it as a needle? How do you make a button, or make strips that can be used to tie clothing together?

How do you fasten a spear head onto a spear, or an arrowhead onto an arrow?

Early man was a problem solver, and I am fascinated by petroglyphs, which are either early attempts at documentation, or early attempts at communication, or maybe both? The first petroglyphs and cave paintings I ever visited were the Font de Gaume Caves near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, and they took my breath away. I didn’t even hesitate because it was a cave, I wanted to see them so badly.

I want you to look at this photo of a fairly early dwelling in Les Eyzies de Tayac-Sireuil and hold it in your mind before we move on:

Later, living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most fun day trips ever was to a rock formation called Graffiti Rock, which had no protection, so very old petroglyphs mingled with modern carvings, but some of the older carvings were so interesting, so intriguing.

Coming across petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest was a delight.

Here is part of what the national parks website has to say about petroglyphs found in the Petrified Forest:

In 1977 a spiral petroglyph at Chaco Canyon National Monument was discovered which displayed a precise interaction with sunlight at the time of summer solstice by means of a narrow shaft of sunlight that moved down a shadowed rock face to bisect the center of a large spiral petroglyph. Subsequent observations found that on winter solstice and equinoxes there were intriguing interactions of sunlit shafts with the large spiral and a smaller spiral nearby. No other example of a sunlight interaction with prehistoric or historic petroglyphs was known at this time. However, there was a tradition of Pueblo sun watching in historic times, particularly of the varying sunrise and sunset positions throughout the year, to set the dates for ceremonies.

As a result of the Chaco Canyon find, Bob Preston initiated a research project to determine whether other petroglyph sites in the Southwest functioned as solar “observatories.” Over the last 16 years he has identified about 120 examples of similar solstice events at more than 50 petroglyph sites in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah. Evidence indicates that the phenomenon may have been spread over as much as a 1000-km region. These findings show clearly that certain petroglyphs were used by early pueblo cultures to function as calendrical markers for the winter and summer solstices. Petrified Forest National Park contains the greatest known concentration of solar calendars, with 16 of the sites being in or immediately adjacent to the park, and has been key to understanding their nature.

Shadows and sunlit images are found to move across petroglyphs due to other rocks being in the path of the sun’s rays. As the sun’s path across the sky changes throughout the year, the positions of the shadows and sunlit images change on the petroglyph panels. In many cases the petroglyphs have been placed on the rock faces in just the right position so that specific interactions occur on the solstices. The most common types of petroglyphs on which solsitial interactions have been identified are spirals and circles. The key to determining that these were intended and not by chance is that interactions are seen from site to site, and occur on the solstices more frequently than on other days of the year. These consistent interactions may involve a point of sunlight or shadow piercing the center or tracing the edge of a spiral or circular petroglyph; or shadow lines may suddenly appear or disappear at the center or edges of the petroglyph; or they may move up to the center or edge and then retreat. It is not uncommon for a single petroglyph to display multiple interactions of this type, either on the same solstice or on each of the solstices. In fact, at one site, there are five circular and spiral petroglyphs that show 15 interactions on the both solstices.

An intriguing question is whether types of petroglyph images were involved with specific dates. In several cases similar sunlight and shadow interactions occur on spiral and circular petroglyphs on the equinox, and distinctive interactions occur with other petroglyphs on the solstices and other dates. Clearly much of the puzzle remains to be unraveled.

There was a WEALTH of petroglyphs. I’m just going to show you a few of those we found:

This one makes me laugh; it looks so much like our modern day stork-who-brings-babies (LOL, where did that legend/story start anyway??)

LOL, these feet are larger than life, or else they were made by giants!

Early people in widely separated parts of the world carved and painted on rock, probably for a number of reasons, maybe keeping track of solar activity and seasons, maybe magical/religious thinking for a good hunt or nostalgia for a good hunt, maybe just someone who, like today’s blogger, just has to document in some way . . . 😉

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, France, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Saudi Arabia, Technical Issue | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mesa Verde, Colorado and the Far View Lodge

Google Maps is pretty good; I use it on my computer, on my iPad and most of all, on my iPhone. I love that when I tell it to get me from Grand Canyon Village to Mesa Verde, Colorado, it gives me a variety of routes, with the exact mileage and estimated travel time for each. It is very accurate, and also gets us through small towns where you might have to change roads a time or two. You just make sure the pulsing blue ball is following the bright blue road. Piece of cake!

Most of the drive today is through the very large northwestern part of Arizona that is the Navajo Nation, and where they actually ARE on daylight savings time, so your phones change time when you cross into the Navajo Nation territory.

We make a stop at a place I’ve always wanted to visit – Four Corners. There, people can have their photo taken in four states – Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona – all at once.

There is actually a line.

Just about every time we cross a state line, we go to the Welcome Center, and almost every state still has them, thanks be to God. We think it is a great luxury, while states are struggling to build and repair infrastructure, and give people decent healthcare, struggling to meet their budgets, they still find a way to welcome the stranger. We always get good local maps there, and, even better, good local insights and information. We stop in Cortez and pick up some invaluable literature on the Ancestral Puebloans (used to be called the Anasazi) to read up on before our tour the next morning.

The drive up to Mesa Verde is long and it just goes up and up. I am fit, but I had a little trouble with the altitude in Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde is even higher, 8,000 feet. I can do fine with normal things, but any incline and I find myself huffing and puffing like a pack-a-day person.

Far View Lodge is lovely.

And from our room, we have the most expansive view ever. We can see for miles. We can see mountains, and in front, we have deer grazing. AdventureMan spots a gorgeous bluebird, one of the prettiest I have ever seen.

I don’t know what happened to my photos of dinner at Metate Restaurant; dinner was spectacular. AdventureMan had the sweet-hot chili port tenderloin, and I had the wild platter, with a tiny elk steak, a quail and a piece of boar sausage. It was a fabulous dinner, and I was sure I had photographed it, but . . . no photos! Hmmm . . . . maybe a couple of glasses of wine addled my memory . . . ?

The lodge is lovely, but old. Although renovated, sound carried amazingly, and during the night, I can hear the gentleman next door struggling to breathe. He is gasping for breath, at this altitude. He is up often during the night, trying to breathe. How often do you hear the person next door breathing at night?

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Health Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments