Vail Travel: Mesa Verde’s cliffs of history
Special to the Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Rediscovered by cowboys of the American West in 1888, Mesa Verde offers a rare glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. The park boasts over 4,700 archeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings.
This spring our family visited this historic site and spectacular park. I only knew of Mesa Verde because my husband is a history buff and brought it up every time we visited Durango.
We booked a night at the park for the beginning of May. The big weekend finally arrived. After a stop in Durango we headed to Mesa Verde on a very rainy and foggy day. We stopped on the way for breakfast at a great little bakery in Mancos. A half order of huevos rancheros was bigger than my head, and the bakery offered books for sale for what was sure to be a quiet evening.
We had booked a tour for 1 p.m. and arrived at the park around 12:40. The woman at the gate seemed a little stressed that we only had 20 minutes to get to our tour. I had no idea the lodge and tour center was almost a half hour drive in to the park.
We pulled in right on time with our 9-month old daughter. The fog really clouded the views and we weren’t sure that our daughter would be able to handle a four-hour tour, so we postponed until the next day, a wise decision. Instead of taking the lengthy tour we ended up touring a couple of sites on our own and had the opportunity to ask the rangers about the different sites and tours.
Turns out that some of the smaller tours add up to the big one. It was a much better option for us, to break it up. We toured the Cliff Palace that afternoon. It was a bit chilly but really incredible history and views, and Ranger Tim was full of interesting information.
All site artifacts were returned to the burial grounds except for ones that made their way to Sweden from one of the original excavation teams, which happened to be Swedish.
I have always loved traveling Europe because of the rich history and had not thought of my own country as a place to find this history until now. It is amazing that the Pueblo people flourished here 1,4000 years ago, building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls;
That evening we enjoyed dinner at the park’s restaurant , The Metate Room. The views were spectacular and we sampled unique local flavors. The next day we took a short hike over to the Spruce Tree House. We didn’t have time to extend this hike, which was one our waitress had recommended, but it made me have a realization: My husband and I have very different interests, and here was somewhere where those interests coincided – a place where history, nature and hiking come together.
The lodging at the park was quite nice. We stayed at the Far View Lodge in the park in a Kiva room. Though not the most luxurious accommodations I found the room very charming, with character and, most importantly, it was clean.
I appreciated the hardwood floors and the fact that there was no TV, but instead a deck with spectacular views.
We will be back and will make sure to have more time to enjoy all the sites and hikes.