The 4 corners and Mesa Verde
Trip Start Jul 26, 2010
27Trip End Aug 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
Through the 4 Corners - Mesa Verde
We were sorry to leave the luxury of our hotel, but not sorry to see the back of Kayenta. We took the long and straight road towards Teec Nos Pos (No, I am not making that up), then veered north east towards Cortez. It was an early start with no events to report at breakfast. "What?", I can hear you say. Loads of Italians around, but all very civilised! Bright sun blinded us for the first 30 miles or so, but as we climbed up into the mountains, the scenery changed to a flat high plain characterised by water eroded rock formations, quite different from the sandstone in Monument Valley. We shot past the 4 Corners Monument, the only place in the US where 4 states meet – Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Through Cortez and on to the entry gate to Mesa Verde National Park – a two and a half hour drive, before we hit the entrance and then another 40 minutes to reach the Visitors' Centre up a steep climb onto the top of the mesa itself
We’d read up about what we wanted to do and the guided tours offered the best insight into the Ancient Puebloan culture. Our guide book warned us that the tours were often heavily booked in peak season, but we had no trouble booking the Balcony House and Cliff Palace tours. The mesa top is quite flat and the deeply rutted canyons provide the only relief from a plain of juniper and pinyon pine. The Mesa Verde tourist site is spread across the top of the mesa, with some distance between individual features. The Balcony House tour is at the farthest southerly point of the park and is regarded as the most strenuous; that means steep climbs up steps, narrow squeezes down passageways and one 12 feet crawl down a tunnel. What we hadn’t appreciated was that the mesa rises to above 8000 feet and at that altitude strenuous effort takes its toll. We were game to try.
Both tours offered similar fare; views of 12/13th century settlements abandoned long ago by various Indian tribes, in varying stages of disrepair. They are unique, however, and are a World Heritage site. The climbing and scrambling wasn’t really a problem; our first guide was informative and thorough. The second seemed to be going through the motions. I’ve attached a few photos to give you a flavour of what is to be seen
We rounded the day off with a self-guide tour of another complex, Spruce Tree House, which had the advantage of allowing tourists to wander freely along the entrance to the settlements. And then it was back down into Cortez for a homely dinner in a local diner – excellent food and value. Our motel wasn’t quite up to the standard of the Hampton, but as Super 8s go, it is ideal for our purposes.
Tomorrow, one more tour around Mesa Verde, then up the highway to Moab.