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:
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 . . .
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.
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?