Mesa Verde RV Resort ($34.19/night with Good Sam’s) was our location for day trips out to see the pithouses and pueblos of Mesa Verde (Green Table), Hovenweep (Deserted Valley), and Canyon of the Ancients. The Four Corners National Monument on the Navajo Nation Reservation is where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. We stopped there on the way to Mesa Verde. Four Corners has permanent stalls where local Native American Artisans sell their work. Worth a stop!
When we arrived in Mesa Verde there had been a late snow and it snowed in the higher elevations during our visit. At 7,500 feet above sea level there was about two feet of snow. Thank goodness the roads were kept clear and we weren’t slowed down too much for our capers.
We headed south to Hovenweep National Monument for our first adventure. The roads to get there were scenic and passed through ranches and open range (no fencing). We were delayed a tad when a herd of cattle claimed the road. We patiently waited for them to move on before we could drive through. There were dozens of calves and cows just hanging out in the road, in no hurry to move.
There was no snow at Hovenweep but it was windy and cold. The trails to get to the dwellings were well laid out and not too strenuous. Hovenweep has fine examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry. The visitors center has trail maps and water available and runs a great historical film that is worth the few minutes to view. Hovenweep is now one of my favorite places. Go with the right mindset and you can have a spiritual experience. Modern descendants of these groups believe that their ancestors still live there and it’s a sacred place. Treat it accordingly.
Hunter-gatherers (Paleo-Indians) inhabited the Cajon Mesa on the Great Sage Plain from 8,000-6,000 BC until 200 AD. They were followed by the Basketmaker (50 AD to 750 AD)and Pueblo Era Natives (750 AD to 1350 AD). Experts believe that Hovenweep was deserted due to increased populations and a 23 year regional drought. Currently badgers, large cats and bears have taken over some of the caves at Hovenweep.
The following homes to the ancients are found in Little Ruin Canyon and consists of the following: Stronghold House, Twin Towers, Rim Rock House, Eroded Boulder House, Tower Point and Hovenweep Castle. The Park Service employs Hopi masons to make repairs. These masons are torn about making repairs because there belief is that everything returns to the earth.
Up next: Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. We only got to Lowry Pueblo due to the weather and it was quite the trip down muddy and snowy dirt roads. The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is 176,600 acres of mostly wilderness. It has 6,355 recorded sites of ancestral Puebloan culture in the Chaco Canyon area. Lowry Pueblo is one of three ruins open to the public. Please visit the visitors center prior to visiting the pueblos. They have great exhibits and dioramas. One of my favorite exhibits allows you to listen to phrases in the different Native American languages. Exquisite.
The Lowry Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark, consisting of 8 kivas, one of which is the largest kiva I have ever seen. The pueblo has 40 rooms and some were three stories high. Based upon the size of the largest kiva, the Lowry Pueblo may have been a regional center for religious ceremonies and gatherings.
I hope you are enjoying the adventure. Stay tuned for Part II Mesa Verde!