August 18-19, 2012
|Square Tower House|
M and I arrived at Mesa Verde National Park after our failed hike Black Canyon of Gunnison NP. We did not plan to visit Mesa Verde because it was too far south from our original plans and we thought we wouldn't have enough time to do it. However, after rearranging and combining Arches/Canyonlands into one day and not staying overnight at Gunnison, we managed to squeeze Mesa Verde into our itinerary and it proved to be worthy of the extra drive.
Upon arriving, we were overjoyed to know that Mesa Verde had restaurants, hotels, a convenience store, showers, a gas station, laundry facilities, and non-pit toilet bathrooms! These were unexpected but welcoming perks especially since we had not showered after our Utah and Gunnison hikes. After staring wide eyed at the free showers(!), we washed up, bought snacks and beer (Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewery), and meandered to our campsite.
We were lucky enough to snag a tent site that was not too far from the bathrooms and had an empty lot next to it. The added bonus of the lot also meant that deer frequented our site but we didn't mind it. We woke up early the next day and drove 25 miles through the park to get to the free self guided tour of Spruce Tree House. Unbeknownst to us and our tight schedule for the day, tours didn't open until 9 am. Since it was only 7:30 am, we drove to the other sites and toured pit houses / cliff dwellings before heading back to the Spruce Tree House (will do another entry on this tour at a later time).
With so many amenities and gorgeous vistas from long canyon-side drives, Mesa Verde was a fortuitous stop in our national park journey. We will have to visit it again to see more ruins and stop at some local breweries.
|Entrance to Mesa Verde|
|Deer near our campsite|
|Large roomy campsite with extra lot next to us|
|Lightning struck this patch from a passing storm|
|Up close of the fire|
|Driving to the ruins. Mesa Verde is huge!|
|Far View Visitors Center|
|Road carved along the lush canyon walls|
|Dead trees from a previous fire|
|Switchbacks on North Rim Road|
|Road and lush vegetation|
|North Rim Road|
|Sunrise over fields of dead trees from Chapin 5 Fire in 1996|
|Fields and fields of dead trees made for an eerie yet beautiful drive. Chapin 5 Fire 1996|
|Sunrise over the canyons where the Ancestral Puebloans lived. They built their homes on cliffsides high above the valley.|
|Square Tower House along Mesa Top Loop Road.|