The drive to Cortez Co from Ouray was STUNNING. So much beauty around every bend. I was snapping pictures continuously! We avoided route 550 because it’s so treaturous, and opted to go 62 to 145. This route also had plenty of scary moments!
We’ve run into a few disappointments here in Cortez. First, we found out that “Four Corners” (where Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico meet) is closed – thank you Covid. Then today, I found out that the cliff dweller tours at Mesa Verde are also closed. This was a big pick for both Howie and me but we’re going to drive into the park and hopefully see the dwellings from scenic overlooks.
I’m picking up where I left writing last night and I am SO HAPPY to tell you that we were definitely able to see the cliff dwellings today. We had wonderful sunny weather and we actually saw a fox, deer, coyote and I am definitely certain that I saw a moose on the way back into Cortez. It was in the brush about halfway up a slight mountain side but when we turned around to see it again, it was gone! But the big prize for the day was seeing some wild horses – so beautiful! Sadly, the only picture I was able to capture of the wildlife was the coyote…..here he is!
Our first stop was at the visitor center where I got my passport book stamped. I also picked up two kits; one for making a basket and one for making a clay pot. Both replicate what the Pueblo people may have made. (I’ll be sure to share these once I get them finished.) There was a bronze statue out front of an “ancient person”. They are now called Ancestral Pueblo people and were quite the climbers which is what the statue depicts.
Even more stunning scenery as we drove about 23 miles from the park entrance to the cliff dwellings.
It’s really difficult to imagine living the lifestyle of a cliff dweller – it couldn’t have been easy. But our understanding is that they were a civilization of community and cheerfulness. Their primary food source was corn, beans and squash supplemented by deer, rabbit and squirrels. They were great planners and would store and stockpile a 3-5 years supply of dried corn. Autumn was a time of harvest and men would be gathering crops or spreading them on rooftops to dry. Women would be grinding corn or making pottery while the kids played and old men would be telling stories.
Everyone has probably heard of the famous cliff dwellers, but what might not be as widely known is their ancestors lived in pit houses. The pit house were dug into the ground, had four corner posts that supported a roof. These ancient people would build city on top of city before moving to the cliffs. They dwelled in the cliffs from about 1200 AD – 1300 AD, then over 1 or 2 generations, they just left. It’s not really known why, but theories include they had exhausted the land of it’s nutrients and game, there was a mighty drought, or there were political differences.
The pit houses had a vented fireplace to help circulate air and there were anti-chambers used for storage. A small hole in the floor may have had important symbolic meaning.
This is a very interesting historical area and we recommend a visit if you should ever decide to hit the HAPPY TRAILS!