Days 85–86: The Green Table

Day 85: I actually got to sleep in on a Saturday. It was…weird. I was still up by 7, but no one else in the house was so I had a quiet and pleasant morning. Plans at this point were still very up in the air about whether or not we’d be going to Mesa Verde. Vince and Graham had a late night, which meant they’d have a late morning. Also, we hadn’t planned specifically any hikes to do or sites to camp at or what time we’d be leaving (ya know, all that good stuff when you go camping). They did eventually get up, and soon enough we had our weekend planned.

Corinne, Gregory, and I took one car, while Vince and and Graham took another. They’d be heading to Durango for the night to meet up with Amy and Anna, while the three of us wanted to stay by Mesa Verde (especially for sunset). We found a campsite pretty easily on BLM land about 2 minutes from the park (we also came across a rattle snake a little later in the day! While it was kind of scary, it was also really exciting to see my first rattler — because naturally I went running over when Gregory said there was one nearby).

After we got settled, we headed back to the park. Our chosen destination was Weatherill Mesa, the farthest into the park. It might’ve been because we were tired and antsy, but the drive out there took forever. I never thought it would end. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I needed to not be in a car. So when we finally got to the parking lot I eagerly jumped out. We went with the intention of going to Step House (because it was the only self-guided cliff dwelling you could visit). It was maybe a mile (if that) round trip, and we got to see some decently in tact buildings. I took on the role of “information reader/guide,” meaning I read the information packet to everyone at each stop. It helped me pay attention and [maybe] retain some of the information learned. Like the Natives who lived there built pit houses — houses set into the ground halfway and covered with wood. And that people lived off hunting, gather, and some farming, which is known by food scraps found at the site (because things don’t degrade well in the desert).

Left: Pit house; Right: View of most of the site

The self-guided tour didn’t take long, so we asked a ranger what else there was to do. He pointed us in the direction of the Badger House Community Trail, another self-guided-ish tour of four “top sites” aka not cave dwellings. He also informed us that the guided tour were only $4. What a shock! We were expecting $20 tours! So we planned for a guided tour the next day.

The second hike of the day definitely did not feel like a hike, first off. You can tell the park is designed more as a historic site for tourists. There aren’t many trails, and many of those that are in existence are easy and/or partly paved. But we did it because we got to see some neat sites. The layout takes you “through history” in a sense, where each site you visit was built in a different developmental time for the natives living there. I was also able to resume my job as information reader, which kept me entertained.

The drive out of the park did not take nearly as long as the drive back in. We all went back to the campsite, where Vince and Graham grabbed their things to go to Durango. Corinne, Gregory, and I had a quick dinner before heading AGAIN to the park, this time to watch the sunset. We really pushed it though. The trail we chose, Knife Edge Trail, was close to the entrance and in the campgrounds, at an unmarked parking lot. We did find it with about 10 minutes before the sunset, so we sped down the trail. The last couple hundred feet we ran along the trail until we found a suitable place to stop and watch the sunset. We made it just in time, with about two solid minutes of watching the sun dip below the horizon. It was beautiful. Magical. Everything you could wish for. We sat at the edge of the park looking out a miles of land. The view stretched so far we could see the La Sals in the distance.

Day 86: It’s so hard to sleep in when camping. Good thing I brought my book. Graham and Vince drove back from Durango to meet us for breakfast, and brought us doughnuts because they’re awesome. Our plan for today was to get tickets for a guided tour of Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Visitor’s Center, the earliest tour time we could get was 1:30. Which meant we had to wait. So we did a hike! A very rushed hike. Petroglyph Point Trail, the only petroglyphs in the park, is a 2.5–3 mile hike. By the time we got to the trail head, we had about two hours, maybe a little more. We don’t plan things well if you haven’t guessed. Somehow, though, we did the whole trail in our allotted time, and saw the petroglyphs. And by somehow I mean we SPED along. There was so much uphill. So many pretty views that we didn’t have time to really enjoy. So it’s now a reason to go back.

We did make it back in time for our tour of the Cliff Palace. There was a pretty cool dad and his 6 year old daughter who we had a lot of fun with while we walked places. And the tour guide was pretty awesome. She was very relaxed, sort of let us do our own thing, but gave us information and answered questions. It wasn’t too structured, which was nice for many of the people I’m sure. We learned that it was home to around 100 people, and that it was probably an important gathering place for Natives considering it was so large.

Left: The cliff it’s in; Right; views
The whole shabang
Left: towers on towers; Right: art inside the tower

After our tour we came back home to Moab. Such a busy weekend meant Milt’s (as always) and then early bedtimes.

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