Mesa Verde NP, CO
Miles Today: 129.6
Total Miles: 11,669.6
Days on the Road: 198
See Pa Poo
It's an all-out National Park blitz between here and Los Angeles; we plan to visit as many as nine parks in the next two weeks. Some of them, of course, we'll just breeze through, hit the loop road, take some photos, and be on our way. Today it was Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a very wild park, mostly inaccessible except on multi-day excursions. so, we drove the rim road, looked down into the canyon, went on a 2 mile hike, and watched the video. You gotta at least watch the video. Total time: about 3 hours.
A few hours later, we're at Mesa Verde. This one deserves a bit of scrutiny. A huge collection of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde is one of the very few places in the U.S. that reminds you that we self-involved whiteys weren't the first ones here. People were, in fact, building complex villages right into the rock faces hundreds of years ago. They settled and farmed these harsh deserts long before folks in metal helmets came along and conquistadored them.
The people who built these places were the lucky ones; their descendants live on in relative peace, and still build similar villages in New Mexico and Arizona. Other natives, like the Navajo, were pushed onto reservations, huge expanses of the most inhospitable land you can imagine, now littered with beer bottles thrown from car windows. (This photo, with the bottles highlighted, was typical of a 100 yard stretch.) Because really, if you lived here, what would you do? We'd be drinking like monkeys too.
But Mesa Verde isn't about that, it's about the buildings. We went on a guided tour of the Cliff Palace, which was fascinating despite our weird Ranger Guide. It's not at all unusual to find Park Rangers to be quite odd, so we've gotten used to it. They know so much about one thing, and spend so much of their time exclusively surrounded by that one thing, that a degree of cockiness is inevitable. This guy had at least two degrees.
We spent the night in the park, looking at the stars and keeping a vigil for mountain lions. We also spent considerable time fretfully staring at the temperature gauge in the poor Badunkadunk, imagining the horrible things that nearly 300° oil does to an engine.
Leaving Mesa Verde, we headed across the scorched earth towards Four Corners, the "Only Place in North America Where Four States Meet," our kind of ridiculous tourist trap. The spot is on Navajo land, so we were happy to throw them a few bucks, though if they really want to draw in the tourists, they'll need to spruce up the place a bit. We stood with one foot in each of four states, and now can cross off New Mexico and Arizona, since we were in approximately 3 square feet of each. We gotta tell ya, New Mexico is a bit cooler.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.