decided to visit our dear friends Brad and Laura in
Durango. They had told us that highway US550 was closed
due to a rock slide, so we plotted a path that skirted around
the problem area. The path took us by Mesa Verde National
Park so we decided to spend the night there and then tour a
small fraction of the ruins the following day.
The photos below are what we saw.
to the campground went up to the top of a high mesa.
From a pull-out on the road we got a nice view of the Cortez, CO
area to the northwest.
Mancos, the steep escarpments of the mesa were visible.
There were a number of fires on the
mesa in the recent past leaving many dead juniper trees in their
I had seen plenty of Fantastically Fat Asses (FFA) earlier in
the morning so this sight was a pleasant surprise. Not
necessarily outstanding in the global scheme of things, but in
the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
limited time available so Kathleen chose to visit the Balcony
House ruin. Balcony House had some "challenging" portions
that required reasonable physical strength and normal body
proportions. The cliff dwellings were in the formation
just below the caprock.
base of the ruins was a seep-spring that served as one of the
water sources for the cliff dwelling.
was a 100' hand-crafted ladder that had to be ascended to get to
masses ascend the ladder. It was a bit scary, but mostly
because of the large amount of meat on the ladder at the same
time that was causing it to flop around.
and I were in the first group to reach the ruins so we had a
mostly-unobstructed view of the first portion of the ruins.
natives that built these dwellings had highly motivated to lug
all the rock and mortar up the cliff to build the walls.
The general dogma is that they were afraid of being attacked and
therefore sought the safety of the cliffs to thwart
attacks. This pueblo had a captive seep-spring within the
dwelling so theoretically it could hold out until the food
supply ran out.
ruins, we got a view of the masses ascending the ladder.
We suspect that the fellow in the red shirt will have to turn
of the ruins have been refurbished as part of the conservation
section of the ruins had twin kivas, both visible in the photo
of the rock alcove provided shelter from the elements.
Inner walls were built all the way to the roof. Notice the
door that has been closed off.
of the interior walls had collapsed and were subject to
steel reinforcements on the walls to prevent further
kivas were deep and when the pueblo was occupied it was covered
with a timber, brush and clay roof.
wall on the floor of the kiva is an air diffuser. The air
vents are the square holes close to the kiva walls. Air
comes down the shaft and is directed into the main chamber of
the kiva and then diffused by the low wall to improve
temperature control in the room.
down into kiva's air shaft.
second portion of the pueblo was actually quite large. The
tour guide estimated that there were 30-40 people that resided
in the pueblo.
passage was only 18" wide which required me to scrunch my
shoulders together. We were sure that there were other
members in the group that would not fit and had to descend the
ladder and go back the way we came. This tunnel was the
method used to provide defensibility for the pueblo. Any
intruder coming through this passed would get smashed in head
with a rock before they could enter the main pueblo.
from the tunnel ended in another steep ladder followed by Moki
steps cut into the stone walls. Kathleen was behind me and
shot the photo above.
cliff face was quite steep and the ladder would take climbers
visible in the trees above the Square Tower House.
alcove had structures of some kind. How the occupants got
to the second level is a mystery.
believe this is Cliff Palace pueblo, the biggest ruin in Mesa
remarkable thing about this particular ruin is that every square
inch of horizontal area has been utilized for dwellings.
Note the square tower at the top center of the photo. How
did they access that?
alcove had some substantial retaining walls that were built to
increase the liveable space. A lot of material was moved to
create this set of dwellings.
portions of these walls had collapsed.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014
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For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.