We’re in Mesa Verde National Park—Mesa Verde which means green table. It’s the most green we’ve seen since we left Hot Springs.
Mesa Verde, established in 1906, was the first national park meant to protect archeological resources, the cliff dwellings of the ancient Puebloans. Yep, I’ve been to several other parks with the same theme but this park is green. There’s no dust but still the unrelenting sun. I’m practically drinking sunscreen; my skin is like the lizards I see darting through the bushes.
With less than 20 miles of trail, it’s not a hiking park. We could do all the trails in two days but they aren’t giving any patches for the Mesa Verde 20M.
We hiked up to Prater Ridge to walk a 7.8-mile loop. Once we got to the top of the mesa, we could see the world. It was green and full of flowers we couldn’t name. Compared to where we had been for several days, it was a green Eden, though I’m sure it’s still considered a desert.
I recognized pinion pines and junipers, though neither gave much shade. The picture on top if of Lenny sitting in a natural amphitheater, waiting for the rock concert to start.
We saw evidence of coyotes. Coyotes are almost everywhere now. They’re very adaptable. If people adapt to their environments, as Puebloans did, we praise them. If animals adapt and take over, like coyotes or pigeons, we call them pests. But visitors don’t come here to hike.
We visited Spruce Tree House, one of over 60 Puebloan sites in the park. To the expert, each site is different. To me, the cliff dwellings look like a fairy city with a castle, round tower and numerous other buildings. Unlike the other sites on the Navajo Reservations, here we could get close to the ruins. That’s the big different. For this site, the park built a gentle ramp. We didn’t have to climb the sides of the canyon or use hand and toe holds, like the ancient people.
Lots of people came here from the late 1800s to look at the ruins and take souvenirs. One of them, Swedish scientist Baron Gustaf E. A. Nordenskiöld, first explored and photographed the sites. He took a bunch of stuff home. A large collection of Puebloan artifacts is now in the Helsinki Museum in Finland.