100 Days of National Parks: Day 63 – Storm Shadow – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Rising up above the valley floor outside of Cortez Colorado onto the towering bluff of Mesa Verde, it’s easy to get distracted by the view of the southern Rockies to the northeast. The towering snow-covered peaks beckon, trying to pull wanderers like myself deeper into their midst. Climbing up the winding road into Mesa Verde at sunrise, I found my gaze continuously drawn to the amazing sunrise, and the looming shadow of a late spring storm descending on the mountains. It was one of the most spectacular vistas I’ve ever come across, and as a result, I arrived at my intended destination far later than I’d planned.

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Storm Shadow

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Rising up above the valley floor outside of Cortez Colorado onto the towering bluff of Mesa Verde, it’s easy to get distracted by the view of the southern Rockies to the northeast.  The towering snow-covered peaks beckon, trying to pull wanderers like myself deeper into their midst.  Climbing up the winding road into Mesa Verde at sunrise, I found my gaze continuously drawn to the amazing sunrise, and the looming shadow of a late spring storm descending on the mountains.  It was one of the most spectacular vistas I’ve ever come across, and as a result, I arrived at my intended destination far later than I’d planned.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 63 – Storm Shadow – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 40 – In the Kiva, Mesa Verde National Park

Descending into one of the remaining Kivas in Mesa Verde National Park is a surreal experience. For someone who’s as claustrophobic as I am, climbing down a ladder into a room barely 4 or 5 paces across with only one way out can be rather nerve-racking. Breathing in the stale air and feeling the cool stones of the rock walls, worn smooth by thousands of hands feeling at the edges of the darkness just like me, it’s hard to imagine an entire community relying on these small underground rooms for homes or social and ceremonial gatherings.

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In the Kiva

 

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Descending into one of the remaining Kivas in Mesa Verde National Park is a surreal experience.  For someone who’s as claustrophobic as I am, climbing down a ladder into a room barely 4 or 5 paces across with only one way out can be rather nerve-racking.  Breathing in the stale air and feeling the cool stones of the rock walls, worn smooth by thousands of hands feeling at the edges of the darkness just like me, it’s hard to imagine an entire community relying on these small underground rooms for homes or social and ceremonial gatherings.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 40 – In the Kiva, Mesa Verde National Park”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 19 – Cliff Palace Ruins, Mesa Verde

Walking through the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, it’s impossible not to feel transported to a different era, and to marvel at the mystery of the Ancestral Puebloan people and their mysterious disappearance centuries ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by ruins and abandoned places, relics of a bygone age that time has long since forgotten. There’s so much memory in these vestiges of civilization, so much that we can learn about the way people lived before us. I love to wander through old buildings, to think about what the world was like back then, to imagine what it will look like when we’re gone. It’s a morbid fascination, but one that I’ve carried with me since childhood.

Mesa Verde is probably one of the triggers for that fascination. I recall taking trips with my family to visit the Anasazi sites here and at Canyon De Chelly to the south. I have indistinct memories of climbing into Kivas and up replica wooden ladders leading to more cliffside ruins. I find when I return to these places as an adult, those memories never fully line up with the reality of what I see, and I find myself questioning the nature of memory itself, and how fleeting and misleading it can be. The permanence of these ruins is so diametrically opposed to the immaterial nature of our memories, which makes their preservation all the more necessary to our understanding of where we came from.

Cliff Palace Ruins

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Walking through the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, it’s impossible not to feel transported to a different era, and to marvel at the mystery of the Ancestral Puebloan people and their mysterious disappearance centuries ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by ruins and abandoned places, relics of a bygone age that time has long since forgotten.  There’s so much memory in these vestiges of civilization, so much that we can learn about the way people lived before us.  I love to wander through old buildings, to think about what the world was like back then, to imagine what it will look like when we’re gone.  It’s a morbid fascination, but one that I’ve carried with me since childhood.

Mesa Verde is probably one of the triggers for that fascination.  I recall taking trips with my family to visit the Anasazi sites here and at Canyon De Chelly to the south.  I have indistinct memories of climbing into Kivas and up replica wooden ladders leading to more cliffside ruins.  I find when I return to these places as an adult, those memories never fully line up with the reality of what I see, and I find myself questioning the nature of memory itself, and how fleeting and misleading it can be.  The permanence of these ruins is so diametrically opposed to the immaterial nature of our memories, which makes their preservation all the more necessary to our understanding of where we came from.