Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mesa Verde road trip, Day 3: Square Tower House and other cliff dwellings

After our hike on Friday, we drove Mesa Top Loop, parking at the more interesting overlooks. We had stopped at a few of the pit houses the evening before (before they started building in the caves in the canyon, the Anasazi had built pit houses on top of the mesa), and didn't find them nearly as interesting, so this time we skipped those in favor of the more impressive cliff dwellings.

The first we stopped to see what Square Tower House. You walk to the overlook and look down... and the cliff dwelling is laid out far below you. The cave this one is built in is more like an overhang, as the ceiling soars far above the tops of the buildings.

Square Tower House at Mesa Verde

The high ceiling of this cave is probably why they were able to build the tall tower. It looks like it was four stories high, and is the tallest ruin in the park.

Square Tower House at Mesa  Verde

Next we stopped at Oak Tree House.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

I think Oak Tree House is interesting because of how far back it goes into the cave. You can just barely catch a glimpse of the ruins back there. The sign said that some of the buildings in the inner alcove are as high as four stories.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

Here I am at the observation point for Oak Tree House, with the canyon stretched out behind me.

Oak Tree House at Mesa  Verde

The canyon is full of smaller ruins, too. The Anasazi built cliff dwellings in just about every opening, no matter how small. If it was large enough to fit a building with one or two rooms, they built there.

Check out this one. You can just barely see a small ruin on the ledge above the rest, over on the right hand side — probably storage rooms.

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

More small ruins on ledges:

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

Below is a view of the canyon, with Oak Tree House just to the right of the center. On the mesa above it, you can see the results of one of several fires that has swept through Mesa Verde National Park in the last decade.

Just imagine this canyon once teeming with life. There were people living throughout the canyons. Picture men tending crops on the top of the mesas, women on the terraced floors in front of the dwellings, preparing food or making pottery while the children played.

Cliff dwellings at Mesa  Verde

What I wouldn't give to see what this view of the canyon looked like 750 years ago!

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2 Comments:

At July 9, 2010 at 11:32 AM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

I so want to see the Anasazi ruins in person one day, dont know why, it just really appeals to me.
Is it a really long hike in to see them?

 
At July 10, 2010 at 12:28 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

You won't be disappointed -- they are amazing! For the Cliff Palace and Balcony House tours, you park practically right over the dwellings, so it's not far at all, but it's a lot of up and down. For the Cliff Palace tour, the stairs are made of stone and are somewhat uneven, and they get narrow at times -- there is one place where you almost have to turn sideways to squeeze between two big rocks -- but it's not difficult. The climb to get back out involves lots of 10-foot ladders but isn't terribly difficult either. Read my post on Balcony House for more on that tour -- that one involved much more climbing, but I'm glad I did it.

Spruce Tree House does have a short hike to get to it -- 1/2 mile? -- but it's mostly paved trails now -- they just did that to make it more accessible. Most of the overlooks in this post were accessible by short hikes on paved trails, as well.

Of course, there are plenty of hikes throughout the park, but most aren't difficult. There was one we decided not to do that would have given us a view of Balcony House. It was about a mile round trip, supposedly pretty easy and flat, but we ran out of time.

The guided tours are definitely the most impressive, and I highly recommend going if you ever have a chance!

 

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