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Mesa Verde National Park

2018-09-02 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 15 – Mesa Verde National Park

The gray skies blew away so we decided to go on another hike.  This time we started out just adjacent to the campground.  The route was called Point Lookout Trail, and it is 2.0 miles round trip, and we will climb up, then down, 400 vertical feet…

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This is the entrance road we drove to get to the campground yesteday…

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It was fun to watch the Airstreams getting small and smaller… But we were finally done and back to The Villa.

This evening we had a joint dinner at a nearby pavilion.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-01 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 14 – Mesa Verde National Park

Today we spent more time exploring Mesa Verde… We started at the Chapin Mesa Museum, adjacent to the park headquarters.  The museum had the usual exhibits about the flora and fauna of the park, plus some history and archaeological data.  And a Gift Shop…  Most interesting were miniature dioramas, or models, of the typical pueblo life during the various periods of occupancy, from 650 to 1300.  These beautiful models were built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the 1930s…

What interested me more were the buildings at the museum and the park headquarters.  The scale and massing was lovely, and the buildings were clustered as if they composed a small village… They were built with volcanic stone blocks, left un-plastered…

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Did you notice the vigas?  They are done very well.  And they are real!

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They are not simply stuck onto the exterior as decoration.  They form the structure for the floor or roof above, and they extend through the wall as part of the structural connection.  Another thing: they are Juniper.  Juniper is naturally rot and disease-resistant.  While the vigas in the park buildings are 85-90 years old, the vigas in the Pueblo are 500 years old, and very few of them show any evidence of rot…

Except for these…

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Still, not bad for 85-90 years.  Today’s tract houses in Santa Fe use Douglas Fir or Southern Pine for their fake vigas, and they show rot beginning in year one…!

After the museum we set out on a “hike”  We are not generally hikers – we are walkers.  This was a well-marked trail.  It descends into Spruce Canyon, and goes down, and down, and down… About 586 vertical feet.  The loop is almost 3 miles.  But we were up to it.  Being in the canyon is a little surreal, seeing the bushes, trees, rocks, and other feats of nature…

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We did discover this gruesome evidence of wildlife…

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Of course, after we walked down we had to walk up again.  While the descent was gradual, the ascent was very short and steep… And we made it!

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Walking back to the truck we heard thunder all the way.  But there was no rain…

We again admired some of the park buildings… This is the original 1930s restroom building:

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Nice proportions, authentic wood lintel, posts, and capitals, excellent stonework…

Next door they built a new restroom building containing facilities accessible to the disabled…

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Nice proportions, excellent stonework… Nicely proportioned lintels, posts and capitals, but note:  They are steel!  Clearly, this building pays homage to the historical architecture, but it uses modern materials when duplicating the historic materials would compromise the integrity of a modern building.  Well done, Architect, whoever you are…!

As we approached our next destination in the truck it started to rain… We stopped at Park Point, the highest point in the park, at 8,572 feet elevation.  This is about 700 feet above the campground…

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It was lightly raining, but we couldn’t help but notice this white gravel on the ground.  Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was hail!

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Views are amazing, in all directions…

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We could see all the way to Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, plus, of course, Colorado…

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This is “The Sleeping Ute”, a mountaintop in Utah that is supposed to resemble a sleeping Indian…

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This is “Knife Edge mountain, which is our next stop…

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Our next view overlook is called “Knife Edge”…

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So we then headed back to The Villa… And we were in for a surprise:  It had hailed at the campground, too!

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The hail was small – no damage to The Villa.  It lasted about an hour on the ground…  Later that evening we had another “Fandango” to meet other caravaners.  We were hosts, so we had 8 people inside the Villa…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-31 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 13 – Traveling to Mesa Verde National Park

We pulled out of Durango and drove to Mesa Verde National Park, so designated in 1906, one of the very first fourteen National Parks, back before Park Service was created in 1917;  Mesa Verde was designated to “preserve the works of man,” the first national park of its kind.  The other first National Parks were all created to preserve natural wonders…

It was a short drive – only 35 miles – but that is the horizontal distance.  We also climbed up over 1,000 feet vertically, as the campground was at the top of this mesa…! (Not the top of the rock, just to the mesa behind it…

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We are “dry camping” here – no water, sewer, or electrical hook-ups.  Thus, there was a plethora of solar panels and generators present around all the Airstreams…

We had little set-up to do, and we soon set out for a 5 hour bus tour of the Mesa Verde Park.

We saw some splendid scenery – the bus tour drove us around the mesa-top and we saw many archaeological remains.  Native peoples – the Ancients, or Indians, or Puebloans (pick your terms – I’ll call them Indians, as the locals prefer to be called…) – settled in this area about AD650 and continued to live here until the early 1300s, when they all moved, over about a 20 year period, to Taos, Sante Fe, and the other 17 Pueblos in New Mexico along the Rio Grande River.  No one knows for sure why they left, but the obvious reason was to find more fertile land with a reliable water source.

We saw several various structures used by the Indians across the centuries… And I have thousands of photos to prove it…

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We saw some cliff dwellings from a distance.  But the pay-off for the day was seeing the Cliff Palace, the largest, and best preserved, of the cliff dwellings.

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On December 18th, 1888, two cowboys, Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason, were riding across the mesa top looking for stray cattle. At the edge of the pinyon and juniper forest they came upon a vast canyon.  It looked like this…

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Today, it has been restored and reassembled where possible.  Basically, they put back up the blocks that had fallen, and they stabilized the ruins.

We assembled for the tour at a platform that offered a closer view…

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We were able to get even closer by descending from the mesa about 150 vertical feet into the canyon, climbing down stone steps built by the National Park Service.  (Indians used ladders and hand- and foot-holds and climbed up the face of the canyon…)

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Once we were at the level of the pueblo, we heard a ranger talk about the history and give us archaeological information.  There are 150 rooms, including 19 kivas, or subterranean dwellings with religious significance.  The 150 rooms extend back into the cliff over 90 feet…

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We proceeded to walk along the base and see the pueblo up close…

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Yes – even here there are vigas… more on the vigas tomorrow…

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After our final ranger talk, we had to get back up to the mesa again, up 150 feet!  We started out on steps, then had to climb three ladders…

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Finally we reached the top…

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Back at the Villa, we had some visitors…

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We returned to the campground, had dinner, and went to bed before it got dark, so we didn’t have to use out batteries… (This dry camping is relatively new to us…)

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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