Music: Palace In The Cliffs by Ah*Nee*Mah from the album "The Spirit of Mesa Verde"
New state! We have two stops in Colorado: one near Denver (later on), and this one – in the southwest corner of the state, about one-half mile from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park.
We had never actually heard of Mesa Verde before we started doing research on this area. What originally brought us to this spot was the desire to visit Sandi (an old friend of Travis’). She lives in Durango; a small city located in the beautiful Animas River Valley. Durango isn’t too far from the New Mexico border, but we were surprised at how quickly desert flat land and dry creek beds give way to snow capped mountains, trees and rivers once the “Welcome to Colorado,” sign is spotted.
We got to spend a day in Durango with Sandi and her boyfriend, Thomas. Luckily, we just happened to plan our visit on the day “Taste of Durango” was going on, so got to sample food from the many restaurants in town. That was followed by a nice hike beside the first flowing river we’ve seen in weeks. We ended our day with a scenic drive and a nice dinner. Thank you so much, Sandi and Thomas for giving us some of our first great memories of Colorado!
The rest of our time at this stop was spent at Mesa Verde. It’s one of those places that we really weren’t expecting much from, but it turned out to be both beautiful and interesting. In addition to the beautiful views afforded throughout the park, there are ancient cliff dwellings unlike any we saw in Arizona or New Mexico (up close, anyway).
At Mesa Verde, not only were we able to see dwellings that were large and impressive, but we actually got to climb into them. We think Balcony House is the most fun to tour (depending on your idea of fun). It’s located high on the side of a cliff. To tour it, you go to the top of the cliff and climb down 100 feet on steep metal stairs. At the bottom of the steps, you’re on a cliff edge, just below the dwelling. A 32 foot ladder takes you up to main floor. From there, you can take an 800 year old path to other rooms and look around until you get up enough courage to take the exit – which isn’t the same way you came in.
The way out of Balcony House is through an 18 inch, 12 foot long tunnel that must be traveled on hands and knees; that is, unless you have wide shoulders, in which case you can lie sideways and shimmy your way through. No rest past the tunnel, because to get back to the top of the cliff means climbing two ten foot ladders and a series of steps carved into the sheer mountain face. Heights, confined spaces, getting stuck beneath a crying three year old and his parents while hanging on a ladder attached to the side of a cliff – it’s all part of the adventure! It was great.
Our last destination for this stop we actually hit on the way out of town. Four corners – the only place in the United States where four states meet. We dipped our toes into Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all at once. Now we’re on to Utah, but we’ll be back to Colorado again in a little over a week. We’re looking forward to it and more high adventure!