Tuesday, November 24, 2015

THANKFUL FOR AMERICA'S OPEN SPACES - An "Eyes Wide Open" Finish of MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

A final trek (FINALLY - yes, life gets in the way of blogs sometimes) through THE largest cliff dwelling in North America, which sits in Mesa Verde National Park.  The park is nearing their snowy season now, if not already into it.  Living in the desert SW tends to skew my view of the weather in the rest of the country.  The park is always open, but access to some of the areas is limited during the winter months.
December 18th will mark the 127th year since Richard Weatherill and Charlie Mason, ranchers in the SW corner of Colorado, stumbled upon these magnificent ruins.  Riding atop this mesa, searching for stray cattle during a blizzard, they were met by an astonishing sight across the canyon pictured... 
Three stories high, a magnificent stone city was hidden under a massive rock overhang.  The cattle search was quickly abandoned while the men climbed down, and then up, to explore their discovery for several hours. 
This is Cliff Palace - 150 rooms, 23 kivas and, speculated, home to over a hundred people, it is thought that Cliff Palace was probably a social and "administrative" site of pretty great ceremonial importance in its heyday.  The centerpiece of Mesa Verde, it is one of the finest examples of late prehistoric cliff dwellings in the American Southwest.  Much restoration has been done over the years to preserve it, this is one of the ticketed/guided tours within the park. 
Much controversy surrounds the legacy of Wetherill and Mason, and little credit seems to be given (depending on the story teller) the men in the actual discovery of Cliff Palace.  In the years following their discovery, Wetherill collected thousands of artifacts from this and other area ruins.  However, most all of Wetherill's artifacts ended up in museums, where they could be studied by professional archaeologists and viewed by the public...and MORE sadly, squirreled away in huge, dark storerooms WITHIN these museums, not to be seen by anyone in the public, since acquisition.

The same cannot be said of countless other priceless artifacts stolen by visitors over the years, which ended up in private collections.  To protect the site from further looting and degradation, Congress named Mesa Verde a National Park in 1906.
These canyon walls are literally dotted with ruin after ruin, if you keep your eyes wide open, and take the time to look.  Some are nothing more than small storage spaces, or single family dwellings...some a little larger...you just have to look.  This was in the canyon walls opposite the massive dwelling, and sitting under the mesa top where Cliff Palace was originally spotted from.
 Today, this Park protects some 5,000 known archaeological sites, which includes 600 cliff dwellings.
The House of Many Windows, in the same general vicinity.  These, and the "afore-blogged" dwellings are all on the Chapin Mesa, and open year-round, whether viewing from a distance, or taking an up-close and personal tour.  Go in with eyes wide open - you never know where you might spot something a little more spectacular than just beautiful scenery.
On the opposite side of the park, but all within a little less than 20 miles by car, sits Wetherill Mesa - home to beautiful tourist lodging, and even more ancient treasures.  This side of the Park is only open from May to September, weather permitting.  We ran into a hell of a thunderstorm that day, that stopped us from hiking the last ruin, due to waiting out the rain and hitting there at closing time.  If you go, plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time.  It was actually a blessing in disguise for me to have missed it, as my cowboy boots had just about had it by this tree. 
 Like I said, they're everywhere....
EVERYWHERE!  One of the greatest gifts we have as Americans is the freedom to travel as we please. To get out and discover this great land of ours - the history and treasures it holds - and to LEARN - even the women!  Thankful, as I look at these photos, for a lifetime of being allowed to soak up everything I can!
A parting shot of the ruins of Hemenway House - yep, eyes wide open (go back up a few photos and look, but they are in the center of the mesa, under the large shaded overhang).  Want to explore for yourself...

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours...may it be SAFE, happy, and spent with someone you love!

8 comments:

Maywyn Studio said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful hiking adventures.

Jackie said...

Another beautiful informative post! What an amazing land we have to travel. Happy thanksgiving my friend, may your turkey be moist and your giblets be merry!

oldgreymareprimitives said...

wonderful info- so interesting
hope all the kiddos will be home or you'll be with them...
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours <3

Laurie said...

Lord, Tanya....you visit some of the most beautiful places. I loved the cliff dwellings. But I wonder what drove the people out. Was it modern advancements?

Dorthe said...

Tanya, amazing to see , again, and with a fantastic history from years back, in your country. For how long were people living in these dwellings , I wonder, --is it dangerous to climp there, or did they actually make roads .... so much to learn and see, when one is a lucky woman, living near to such "adventures "
Dear Tanya, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family !!
Hugs,Dorthe

Quinn said...

Did you find yourself imagining taking up residence in one of the less-known structures? I always wonder how long I could remain undiscovered.
Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Amazing! There really is so much to see and do in each state and in every small town. The great outdoors, historical sites and buildings. I much prefer that to anything the big cities have to offer.

Vicki Boster said...

Tanya-- this is such an incredible place. We visited there a few years ago and I had almost forgotten the amazing sights. Your photos are wonderful-- my pictures of the cliff dwellings can not compare to your stunning photos!!
Love
Vicki