September 29, 2008 — Today we headed for the Mesa Verde to see the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings. The drive up surprised us — after showing our National Park pass (good investment!), we still had to drive 15 miles up a steep winding canyon before we got to the museum and Spruce Tree House.
The guide book recommends people visit the Museum first and then to see a Cliff Dwelling. The way it is set up is that you can do a self guided tour of the Spruce Tree House or you can go on a guided tour of either the Cliff Palace or the Balcony House. You also can
drive around and stop at various pit houses. The pit houses were above ground and were occupied earlier than the Cliff Dwellings, though they are built with same concepts. We chose to do the self-guide tour and we did it BEFORE the museum because we were just too anxious to finally see one of these dwellings up close. Between the walk down, walking around the dwelling and then the walk back up and then sitting overlooking the Spruce House, we spent about two hours at the Spruce Tree House. This is the third largest cliff dwelling and was constructed between 1200 and 1276 A.D.. The dwelling contains about 114 rooms and eight kivas (kee-vahs), or ceremonial chambers — all built into the natural cave. They think 100 people lived here. It’s called
Spruce Tree House because when a couple ranchers found it, there was a large Douglas spruce growing in front of the dwelling and the men used it to climb down into it. Inexplicably, another early explorer cut it down.
We did visit the museum after we left the Spruce Tree House and then we had a delicious Green Chile Chicken Taco Salad for lunch. From there we drove the rest of the Mesa Top Loop, stopping to take a look at the various pit houses and villages.
Next time we come back, I’d like to take the guided tour of the Cliff Palace — we did see if from the road and I’d like to take the 2 hour round-trip walk to see the Petroglyphs.
Coming back down from the top of the canyon was just as exciting as driving up. Can you believe that the road down was twenty miles long?
We are still in Cortez, Colorado tonight and have already decided to stay here again tomorrow night. Don’t forget that you can click on any image if you want to see a larger image!