Friday, July 20: Mesa Verde
Christmas in July
When we woke up, we found that a few things in the tent were slightly damp, but that we had survived the storm relatively intact. We had a pancake breakfast at the campground cafe, then we packed up our stuff.
We took the fly off to help it dry, and then tipped the tent on its side so that the bottom could dry. We hung the tent footprint on a bush. In the dry mountain air (we’re up around 7,000 feet), they didn’t take too long to dry, so we waited and then packed up a dry tent.
We drove to the visitor’s center, where we got tickets for the tour of Balcony House. This is described as the most rigorous one, with stairs down the cliff, tall ladders into the ruins, a tunnel out, and a combination of ladders and steps in the rock to get out of the canyon. This would be the most fun for Mike.
After the climb at Mooney Falls in Havasu, I thought that this wouldn’t be nearly so bad, and that all of the warnings would be worse than the reality, but I *was* wondering what it would be like.
It was around 11, and Michael hadn’t had much of his breakfast, so he was hungry. We had an early “lunch”, although rather on the small side (one slice of pizza each for Mike and I, and a parfait for Amy). Then we drove to the Far View ruins (which are relatively near the visitor’s center on top of the mesa) and walked around those for about 45 minutes.
Finally it was time to go to Balcony House. Our ranger was an old Navajo, who had an interesting spin on things. He started out with lots of warnings, but as expected, they were much worse than the reality. I don’t know if my fear of heights is improving through repeated exposure, but the ladders and steps did not bother me at all (probably to the dismay of Mike).
This was the neatest ruin that I’ve seen yet. I don’t know if it was the state of the ruins or because we were walking through them through real passages, but for the first time I could get a sense of actually living there; it seemed feasible to me, and I could imagine people doing so.
After the tour, we drove to the visitor’s center on that mesa, looked at the artifacts, and saw the movie. Michael was hungry again, so we got him a chili-dog. Amy and I just got an ice cream.
He wasn’t interested in seeing the nearby Spruce Tree House, so we left him with his food, and Amy and I descended the trail that dropped down one side of the valley, across the floor, and to Spruce Tree House.
After we had viewed it, I went up the trail and refilled water bottles. Amy was slower coming up. I found Mike and we went back down the trail to find Amy. I kept expecting to find her around each bend, but I didn’t. Eventually, I got so far down that I figured she would have had to gotten at least that far, so we must have missed her.
We turned around and went back up the trail. Nearer the top, we ran across her coming out of a side trail. She had been up to visit a “dam” that looked like it was holding back the head of the valley. The area behind was filled with dirt/sand. It was obviously of more recent construction.
I asked at the visitor’s center, but I didn’t get a clear answer. It wasn’t clear when it was built or for what purpose (e.g. was it a water dam whose “lake” filled in? Is it just a retaining wall to keep stuff from filling in the valley?)
It was now around 5, so it was time to head to the lodge and check in. I was a bit nervous about doing so. If the package was there, then things were good. If they were not, then I wasn’t sure what to do.
We got to the lodge, and while we waited for a clerk, I noticed a big box beside the counter. I checked, and it was to me.
We checked in, got the boxes (it turns out that there were about 4-5 of them), and went up to our room. Michael was beside himself (I had ordered a camera for Mike as well as some other stuff). Before we carried luggage in, we had to open the boxes. It was like Christmas in July!
After the excitement died down, we brought in some luggage, and then went down to the lodge restaurant for a nice dinner. As an added bonus, there were 2-3 deer just outside the restaurant window.
Ironically, we wanted to see the campfire program at the camp ground, which was on mountain lions. Michael was actually excited about that, which was unusual. Unfortunately, we had to end dinner somewhat quickly and race to the campground (20-30 minutes away) to get there in time.
We arrived just as it was starting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on mountain lions--it was on a different topic. We were all disappointed, particularly Mike, who just walked off and played with his camera. Amy and I sat through the talk, which was on the history of the national park system. It was not one that we would have driven all this way for.
Then it was time to drive back to the lodge, upload camera flashes, charge batteries, and hit the sack late (around 11). Unfortunately, the A/C didn’t seem to work right. It would start out working, but then it would stop. I set the thermostat to 60, but when it kicked off, the temperature was nowhere near 60. We opened the windows, but it was still a bit warm. It was somewhat annoying to pay extra for the premium “kiva” room, which has A/C, only to find that it didn’t work.