May 31 – Cortez, Colorado – Part 1

We are getting good at prepping to leave our campsite. We were on the road by 9 AM without rushing or having to push the other person. It’s almost automatic now.

Traveling from Monticello to Cortez was totally different scenery than we have seen in the past 4 months. Even Brenda commented that we could now see ranches and houses and farm fields – no mountains (except in the far distance) and no desert. There are even big trees.

Arrived at Sundance RV Park by 10:30 AM and checked in. Nice park with paved roads, gravel sites and great wifi. Enough space between sites to feel comfortable sitting outside and no dust. Even a grass site for the dogs. Nervous about getting satellite service because of all the trees but we found the sweet spot and we still get to use our DVR.

Stopped by the Welcome Center for Colorado and gathered information for our next two months in the state.

Cortez is a small town, many restaurants and even a Wal-Mart (which we haven’t seen in quite a while).

Weather is sunny and warm, about 85 degrees.

Wednesday we were ready to hit the next NP. Mesa Verde was about 9 miles away and we were warned to get there early if we wanted tickets for the tours. Mesa Verde means Green Table in local language. Even though it is in the desert it had fertile ground to grow crops and trees, therefore “green”.

Got there about 10 and the lines were 40 people deep, I guess these tickets (only cost $4) are hot. After some deliberation, Brenda decided she didn’t want to go on any of the three house tours (that’s what the tickets were for) so I chose two and got my tickets (today was all sold out) for tomorrow at 10 and 12.

The rest of the day was a driving tour of the park. The park is divided into two mesas. Each with a long (25 miles) road to get to the end look out points.

We did tour the Wetherill Mesa first and took the self-guided tour of Step House (Modified Basket-maker era 600 AD). There was a trail (one mile round trip) and quite a few steps up and down (100 foot drop).

We then walked to the Badger House Community (homes on top of the Mesa). Saw two of the four structures that were being preserved. It is amazing that the NPS built those buildings on top of the structures to save them.

On the way back we did stop at the Park Point Overlook which is the highest point (8572 feet) in the park and this is also the fire tower to watch for forest fires. I guess they have had numerous forest fires in the past that have destroyed 1000’s of acres. You can still see the burned trees and the new undergrowth.


Mesa Verde NP was established to protect the ancient Pueblo culture that lived here 800 years ago. I am so glad, because it is hard to comprehend today how those people lived in such meager housing.

Thursday was my day to tour some of the Pueblo houses in Mesa Verde NP. I arrived early and enjoyed the nice morning, weather was about 60. They have these tours every half hour. Our group was ready at 10 AM (about 30 people). First tour was Balcony House (one of the houses had a balcony). It was the tougher of the tours (0.4 mile, 32 foot ladder, 5 other ladders (shorter), a 12 foot long tunnel only 24 inches high and an elevation change along the trail of 100 feet).

So impressive to see the remaining walls and structures left after 800 years.
Learned about Kivas (underground structures in each village, covered with stick and mud roof and you entered through the smoke hole in the center). These were used for religious ceremonies and social events. Even today they are an important ceremonial structure.

Oh in case I didn’t mention it, these people left this area, whether for drought or enemies and ventured south to more fertile land (Rio Grande River) and still are in existence today.

The tour guide’s theme for the Balcony House (each have their own theme) was survival. People needed water, food and shelter. Believe it or not this area on top of the Mesa was very fertile and they could easily grow crops. Water (despite being in the desert) was available thru the rock (which was permeable) and percolated slowly into their alcoves in the rock. Shelter at first was just the alcove but as time went on and they became more permanent and successful at growing food they were able to build their structures. Not all at once, but they continued to add on to what they had.

The next tour was at noon. I (or at least Brenda) had made me a lunch and I ate that between tours. This tour was the Cliff Palace and our tour guide was an older woman and her theme was Past, Present and Future. Glad they had different themes or I would have had to listen to the same stories.


She talked about the development of the culture in the past and what the national park service is doing about protecting these structures today and what they hope to do in the future with what they have. This tour was only a 0.4 mile, 100 foot elevation change and 4 ladders.

Each tour was an hour long.

I stopped at the Museum and was able to watch the movie which reinforced what I had learned on the tours.

Drove another scenic drive and was able to see other structures at different lookouts. Saw Spruce Tree Terrace,

Sun Temple,

Oak Tree House

and others. I was amazed at how many different Puebloan structures there are within the Mesa Verde NP (more than I could see). But worth the trip, hiking and exploring!

More to come!

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: