Road Trip! Sunday, September 11, 2011-Mesa Verde

I am standing on four states.  At the same time.

Jonathan and I are in Four Corners, Colorado?  I’m not sure because we are standing on the exact spot where Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet. To avoid confusion, the sign says “Four Corners, USA”.   A lot of people would ask why we care whether we are standing on this spot.  That’s a good question.  Let me know if you have an answer.  But we’re not the only ones here.  There is actually a small entrance fee ($3 per person that goes to the Navajos), but there is still a small crowd at this…”attraction”?  I don’t know what to call it.  Let’s just say, been there, done that, don’t want to do it again.  But in case you do, be prepared for a lot of empty highway and a LOOOONG drive.  just look at these pictures.  You really, REALLY have to want to do this.

We started out today in Moab, Utah, and the drive to Four Corners was incredibly dull for the most part.  All I can say is, we achieved obscurity, especially on Highway 262, which is east of Mexican Hat and north of Montezuma Creek.  Need I say more?

We head from there to Mesa Verde, and I didn’t know what to expect here, but it’s an awesome park filled with Indian Cliff Dwellings.  You begin the drive into the park on Knife Edge Road, and it’s a fantastic drive that takes you up to nearly 9000 feet and affords overlooks that are breathtaking.  You can see 100 miles from the Park point fire tower, which provides a 360 degree view across the vast plains and mesas all the way to Arizona and New Mexico.

Then we head to the cliff dwellings, which are essentially early condominiums built into the sandstone walls of box canyons by the Anasazi Indians in about 1100 AD.  Who says America doesn’t have any historic structures?  It seems the Indians farmed the plateau on top of the cliffs because the 9 foot topsoil allowed for good crop production, even with only 18 inches of rain a year.  When I ask why they didn’t simply build on top, I’m told they did, but those buildings have long since eroded to nothing, victims of the elements, while the cliff dwellings remain.

The homes here are built from adobe and are stacked as high as three stories.  the individual rooms are very small (6 X 8′) for the most part, but there are communal rooms called kivas where religious and community meetings were held which are a little larger.  Access was probably via ladders, and, though I hate to get stuck in rush hour traffic, I also don’t relish the idea of going to work up a three hundred foot cliff, which is what these guys and gals did every day.

I ask why they sought refuge in the cliffs and don’t get a completely coherent answer from the Park Rangers, no shock to anyone who’s been reading this from the beginning, but it’s obvious they had enemies, because these positions are highly defensible and certainly not an easy way to live, at least not without elevators and cable TV.  I’ll wager they moved into these digs because they were scared of something, and eventually their civilization was extinguished because you can’t live in isolation for very long.  They actually vacated the area around 1400.

I wonder what their lives were like.  I’d like to think they lived in close communion with their gods and nature.  It’s easy to think of how simple life would be living like this, where every move you make is designed for survival and every mode of social intercourse was with your closest 100 friends and family, which is an average size for one of these cities.  I wonder if they wanted to find greener grass, if they were fulfilled, or more likely found contentment in the everyday things like the beauty and mystery of nature that surrounded them.

They tried to move to the high ground.  They tried to grow crops in an arid land at 7000 feet.  They tried to live on the sides of the bluffs.  But in the end they became extinct.  What will become of us?  What do the Anastazi have to say to us?  Do these old cities hold clues for our own survival?  The wind whispers an answer, but I’m not smart enough to listen.

I liked this park.  It’s an easy one to travel through.  You can see almost everything from the road and the trails are well marked.  Go and enjoy.

Tonight we stay at the Aneth lodge in Cortez, CO.  It smells bad.  ‘Nuff said.  Don’t stay here, even for the $55 we’re paying.  It’s not worth it.

Tomorrow we see the Denver Broncos play the Oakland Raiders.  50 yard line seats, but upper bowl.  See ya’!

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