Cortez, CO

Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument

May 5-12, 2015

Are we in Mesa Verde? Is this Verde? Yes. Yes it is. We arrived excited about checking out Durango CO, why? Why not? Any town named Durango deserves a good touring in my book. OK, I don’t actually have “a book” but the expression still applies. Durango turned out to be a quaint college town tucked away at the base of the Colorado Mountains. Brewery. Check. I like this place already. I’m easy to please. We walked the town and felt a vibe similar to Athens, GA. Durango was about an hour drive from our temporary parking pad so we headed back to where the 50-amp plug was, aka home.

Bird's eye view of Durango, Colorado

Bird’s eye view of Durango, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park was literally right across the street from our campground so the next morning we drove the park and enjoyed all the cliff dwellings. That is what Mesa Verde is famous for after all. We immersed ourselves in Native American history as we toured Balcony Cliff House and Spruce Grove Cliff House. Cliff Palace is also a large complex that was amazing to see in person. There is something about homes perched precariously on the sides of cliffs that bring back a feeling of true oneness with nature. So close to falling to your death, it brings about a heightened awareness that leads to taking everything in that much more than say walking through Durango. One is not better in my mind just different. Unfortunately, on our visit Cliff Palace was closed for restoration, as it is literally sliding off the cliff and needs to be reinforced! There were so many scattered cliff dwellings in the park that by mid-afternoon I had lost count and they all started to blend together. It is one cliff looking at another cliff down the valley to a different cliff. Amazing! We left the park thinking what could be any more interesting that?

Tomorrow we would find our answer. We decided to drive the hour and a half to check out Aztec Ruins National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historic Park, which is also a World Heritage Site. Chaco Canyon was on my list of native sites built to reflect the stars above and the canyon did not disappoint. In fact we both compared it to Machu Picchu! If you are ever in the area visit this site. Dwellings, dwellings everywhere. The park is comparatively small but it is just full of huge pueblo dwellings. Kivas are littered throughout the grounds along with the occasional pictograph and petroglyph. Chaco was once a meeting ground where various tribes would come together for special ceremonies and trade. It was kind of a metropolitan city for the native tribes before the white man came in and started stealing land. It really is a remarkable place and the deeper you look into the myth of the location the more bizarre the tales become. Giants, sorcerers, space beings, and cannibalism come to mind when I think of this place but then I realize that my mind has been a little warped from extended travel and obsessive information gathering. The kind of sacred information that can be found when looking at ancients’ sites is only limited by our western beliefs of these people. An open mind intertwined with a willingness to talk to the elders is all that is needed to find out things that our history books would never spill the beans on. Our schools would not be allowed to tell us the real stories of our past because some tales are beyond what most can comprehend.

After hiking around Chaco we headed back to the RV to watch the snow start falling all around us. Um…it’s May 8th. WTF!

Luckily the winter wonderland didn’t stick and we were once again heading out to discover more historical places around us. We of course stood in four states at once at the Four Corners Monument. This stop was short as we were on our way to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This canyon is still on a living Native American reservation and we once again enjoyed our conversations with the locals as much as our cliff dwelling tours. At this point I must admit I was starting to get a little desensitized to all the amazing history around me.

So we decided to take it easy on our last day in the area. We got out the bikes and had a nice ride around Mesa Verde pretending that the place was still pumping with the natives. We biked until hunger set in then we headed back home for a relaxing last afternoon in this magical place. History in books is great but experiencing it in a non-rushed, hands-on way is worth its weight in gold. Luckily for us it was all free with the National Parks Pass!