Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Western Trip – Cortez and Mesa Verde

Our plan was to go from Moab, UT to Durango, CO but when we couldn’t get into the campground we wanted for another day, we opted to spend the night in Cortez, CO and go to Mesa Verde NP which we had missed last year. 

The drive from Moab was a little surprising as I expected 120 miles of desert but was surprised at the amount of agriculture, especially when we got into CO.

We also passed another arch along the road soon after leaving Moab.

We booked a night at the Cortez KOA and were met with very friendly people and a nicely landscaped and well maintained campground.  The one thing that was a first for us was that the camping spots were one big gravel area.

This is our spot and I’m standing in the road but it’s hard to tell.

I assume it yields no mud in wet weather (a plus) but plenty of dust when it’s dry (a minus).  Gravel here is very different than the crushed limestone common at home - this stuff would be considered decorative.

After getting set up, we headed up to Mesa Verde NP (8 miles east) for a short visit.

The park was established in 1906 And consists of 81.4 square miles of the Mesa Verde (Green Table) and is the largest archaeological preserve in the US.  As we were making the 20 mile drive from the entrance back to park headquarters and the hub of the park attractions, I was astounded by the views of the valley and the engineering and construction it took to build the road.  It was a mixture of The Road To The Sun in Glacier NP and the million dollar highway from Silverton to Ouray, CO.

According to the ranger there are 600+ dwelling sites in the park with Spruce Tree House being the most accessible.  It is located just below the park headquarters and has a paved path down to it.  

Bev and Pat made the trip but after what a similar walk in Canyonlands did to my knees, I opted out.  The first shot shows the mesa above the dwelling.

This is as much as I could get from the top.

I didn’t have the long lens, but Bev and Pat are in the center of this shot (pink jacket).

These are some shots Pat took from the site.

The dwelling was several rooms deep.

This is Bev descending into a Kiva.

Most of the other dwellings require an even more strenuous walk and we decided this would do it for us.  If you’ve never read about the Anasazi, Wikipedia provides a quick summary.

The desert in bloom.

Photos best if enlarged by clicking on them.

As of yesterday afternoon, we are back at Almost Heaven South and the 5300 mile trip is in the books, but I will continue to post our adventures in order unless something important happens around here.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


9/13/2013 event date


  1. Those dwellings look eerily vacant. How interesting to think of those that lived there.

  2. I think dwellings like that are just amazing!

  3. I believe I've mentioned how much I love this park - I really want to go back one day. Your photos are great and so happy you got in before the shutdown. Hope that hindered your adventures! Safe travels to you and Bev

  4. Larry, Nice photos at Mesa Verde! Love the quality of the construction of the Anasazi cliff dwellings. On your next trip, you'll have to visit the spectacular construction evident at Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwester New Mexico. See you soon! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  5. I really want to visit Mesa Verde... what a neat place to explore. Great photos Larry!

  6. Love the desert flower and the dwellings are amazing. All your pics are great, but I esp. like the sky shot -- second one above Spruce Tree sign. Glad you had a great trip and arrived home safely! Looking forward to more photos!

  7. Never been to an all-gravel campground? You either have lead a too-sheltered camping life or just been lucky.

  8. I don't think I'd like the all-gravel campground; it wouldn't feel right sitting around in the evening. It looks like this was a great visit to Colorado.

  9. I have seen those dwellings too, and they are amazing. Welcome home!


  10. Mesa Verde is one of the places that is on our 'to visit' list. There are so many places on it now that I feel we need to travel full time.

  11. So jealous, I hope to take a trip like yours shortly after we retire.


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