After Moab, we backtracked a bit to explore Mesa Verde. It didn’t feel right to move on without visiting the ancient cliff dwellings, just two hours away. We stayed in the National Park campground, nestled in the mountains just a few miles from the entrance. It offered many unexpected amenities including a gas station, convenience store, gift shop, showers, laundry, full hook-ups and wifi.
It was a slow haul up a steep, winding road but it was worth the few minutes of dizzying curves. The landscape was a gentle embrace, refreshing our senses after our stay in the dusty red rock terrain of Utah. The mountains were on fire with orange and red as fall kissed the mountainside. The ground was thick with growth, but there were few trees, due to the wildfires that burned the park over a decade ago. The hauntingly beautiful skeletons of twisting trunks and branches were all that remained. Scorched and naked, they stood reaching out to the skies from the Mesa tops, dancing for rain with the spirits of the ancient Pueblo people who once thrived there.
The masterfully crafted stone houses stood hidden in plain sight, peeking out from the alcoves. A seamless integration with the natural structures of the cliffside. We took a tour through the Balcony House, to better envision the lives of the cliff dwelling people. Our guide was an elderly park ranger, who spoke passionately about the rich culture and history alive within the walls. He painted a picture of family and community. Farmers growing crops on the Mesa tops, mothers weaving baskets and grinding corn as they watched the children play. The shelters they constructed were ingenious and truly a work of art. The stone retained heat in frigid winters and kept cool in scorching summers. For 700 years they lived with no enemies and no leaders, just thousands of people living in harmony with the land and the spirits.
You can tell a lot about a person upon entering their home. What kind of person they are, what they value, how they live. I could feel their energy coursing through the walls, a pulse through the veins of stone and earth. The kind that lingers long after the physical body is gone, the mark of living and loving and growing as a community. It leaves a lasting impression, on the land and on the heart. I only hope to live such and honest and humble existence.
We said goodbye to Mesa Verde and set out towards the Grand Canyon. We stopped overnight in Winslow, AZ, just long enough for a photo op, and a nights rest. We continued on to Flagstaff where we explored the town a bit, but mostly avoided the rain and hail, bundled up in our camper.
Today we will drive for an hour or so to The Grand Canyon, where we will dry camp for a few days. The forecast says it will be rainy, but we are hoping there will be enough clear sky to take in the view. We’re willing to roll the dice.
Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing?
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