I’m sad to say that It’s been about four years since I last updated this blog. Grad school and working life has taken its toll. However…it’s back!
So, going back to July of 2013 – after our weeklong travels through the Big 5 of Utah, we made our way to the southwest corner of Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The weather, while still very warm, was noticeably cooler than what we experienced in Utah. After showering about two times during that hot, dry and sweaty week however, this was exactly what we needed.
Colorado, the “colorful” state, greeted us with this sign against a plain golden backdrop…
After entering the park, we toured around the Morefield campground and found ourselves a nice spot with plenty of shade, sun, and privacy. The campground is pretty basic, but nice.
The next day we got breakfast at the park’s restaurant. I guess the pancakes and sausage patties were ok…? Not sure by the look on Joy’s face.
The Mesa Verde museum is a must see to learn a bit more about the historical and cultural aspects of the sites, if not to read the interesting captions. At least they talked to actual Pueblo people to get their input, I guess.
“Too fragile for actual use.” Great historical/cultural description right there.
In order to see the historical sites like the cliff dwellings, you usually have to reserve a tour in advance and go with a guide, so we got on board with an afternoon tour group. It’s only about an hour long, but you get a chance to go up to the sites and view the buildings up close. Tour guides explain how particular ancestral Pueblo communities developed over time, how the buildings were arranged, different parts of the homes and the courtyards, etc. etc.
At one point during the tour, Joy asked our tour guide a question. The guide replied that she didn’t know because the archaeologists that had studied the area hadn’t figured it out. “Why don’t they just ask the people that used to live in this area,” Joy whispered to me. Good question.
Here’s the one main thing that’s a bit strange about the tours and the park itself: it’s run by the U.S. National Park system. Okay, that’s obvious and goes without saying, but it also points out that this park (and historical site) could actually be administered and run by the descendants of the people that used to live here – in this case, the Ute people that live right across the street from Mesa Verde National Park on a reservation. And if you go to enough National Parks, it’s pretty obvious that various tribes had to be removed from the area in order to create the National Parks – which is pretty shameful, to say the least. It seems that there could be a better way to run the National Parks in which local tribes could work in partnership with the U.S. Government. Such working partnerships could provide better educational opportunities for visitors, more agency over sensitive historic and cultural sites for tribes, and a stronger sense of respect for those that once lived on those lands for generations.
The Ute reservation actually offers its own cliff dwellings tours and other guided tours on the res that visitors can check out. Had we known this in advance and had more time to spend in the area, I would have much rather gone on a tour led by those who have direct ties with the history and culture of the area (examples here and here…).
On a trivial / unrelated note; We did go across the street to visit the res to get FRY BREAD! I haven’t had an Indian taco since, like…2001. And we got one with honey and powdered sugar for dessert. So damn good. I wish I were eating a taco right now, as I type.
We did speak briefly with someone from the Ute res that lived/worked in the area. When asked how she felt about the National Park Service running the Mesa Verde Park, she was…not too pleased, to say the least. However, she did point us to the cultural sites tours that are offered on the Ute res.
After spending about 24 hours (an evening and a day) at Mesa Verde National Park, we were ready to move on. The skies were darkening overhead as we drove along some amazingly gorgeous high mountain roads to Ouray, towards the Blue Lakes of Mount Sneffles.