Road Trip to Utah - part 2

After checking out of the Econo Lodge in Cortez, we backtracked the scenic 14 miles on Highway 160 to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. I had been to the park a couple of times previously, but my traveling buddy had not and I wanted my friend to see and experience it. Usually, I'm not big on going somewhere and seeing the same thing more than once - there's just too much of the wide, wide world to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil. However, Mesa Verde is different. I want to go back every time I find myself in this part of the country. Maybe it's some kind of subconscious connection or maybe I just like standing on the edge of the canyon wall wondering what it was like to live in the crevices of the cliffs. It's an awesome setting. It's peaceful.

The little orange spot you see
in the middle right is me,
enjoying peace and quiet on
the canyon rim.
Mesa Verde, Spanish for "Green Table,"  is where Ancestral Pueblo people made their home for over 700 years, from AD 550 to 1300. The Anasazi (Navajo word meaning 'ancient ones') and their descendants lived and flourished there, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Why they built their homes in that manner is not known for sure; perhaps protection from enemies or shelter from harsh weather. Archeologists estimate there were about 2,000 people living in the communities. Then, for some unknown reason, within a space of 50 - 75 years, they all moved away and were lost to history. There are over 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, located within the park.

The Anasazi used nature to their advantage by building their dwellings beneath the overhanging cliffs. Their basic construction material was sandstone that they shaped into rectangular blocks about the size of a loaf of bread. The mortar between the blocks was a mix of mud and water. Walls of thick, double-coursed stone often rose two or three stories high and were joined together into units of 50 rooms or more. The rooms averaged about six feet by eight feet, enough space for two or three people. Isolated rooms in the rear and on the upper levels were generally used for storing crops. Underground kivas, (ceremonial chambers) were built in front of the rooms.  The kiva roofs created courtyards where many daily routines took place.

Cliff ruins
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and my friend was very impressed and glad we took this little detour on our way to Utah. Our timing (mid-May) couldn't have been better as the weather was chilly, but not cold, clear air with beautiful blue skies and it was just before the high tourist season started so we had a lot of the sites and almost all of the short hikes we took all to ourselves. We ended up staying almost a full day and enjoyed every second. It was an amazing experience I'll not forget.

Shortly before the sun slipped behind the cliffs, we left the park and returned to Cortez via Hwy 160. After a quick bite to eat at Wendy's, we caught Hwy 491 going north and 2 hours later we arrived at the Bowen Motel in Moab, Utah. We actually stopped at several other motels in town, but didn't want to pay their outrageous prices. The Bowen was a bit older, but well-maintained, clean and a little cheaper than the other places so we settled in for the night.

We were surprised by how expensive the rooms in Moab were, but I guess it's a "destination" and there aren't that many rooms available. Neither of us are cheapskates, but it does bother me to pay more than twice the price we paid for a room the night before and it's not as nice. Supply and demand, I guess. However, the front desk person was nice and the room was clean so what the heck, it's only money. (Did I really just say that?)

We spent time that evening going over maps and brochures we had picked up and a Utah visitors book I had purchased from Barnes and Noble before we left on the trip. We decided to get an early start to hike a remote trail the next day so with that in mind, we made calls to our respective spouses to let them know we were still alive and turned in for the night - after I gave Mike my extra blanket and turned down the A/C to "meat locker" temp of course!

Parking lot of the Bowen Motel in Moab, UT

(go to part 1 here.)