Sarah So and Patrick Chiang | Grand Circle Day 4-Mesa Verde National Park

Grand Circle Day 4-Mesa Verde National Park

April 04, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

***Chinese Version at the bottom***

Four Corners
Day 4 from Monument Valley to Four Corners, the point where the four states meet, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico. There is a landmark that marks the corners of the four states. Take US-163 South, then US-160 East. There are some stalls built here for vendors selling souvenirs. Other than that, true wilderness, nothing here. After we bought a few key chains we moved on to the next stop Mesa Verde National Park. 

Getting to Mesa Verde
Pass the Colorado border. Take US-160 East/US-491 North. Two hours later the road started going up into the mountains. After passing the entrance to the park, there is a 30 minute drive through curving hairpin mountain roads. The view is gorgeous here, but there is no pullout to stop. Luckily we booked hotel room inside the park. Otherwise, it would be difficult to drive through in the darkness to exit the park. 

Tickets for Touring the Ruins
First thing is to get the tickets for the guided tour of the two main ruins, Cliff Palace and Balcony House. It was nearly 2 pm, we had lunch buffet at the restaurant in the park. Then we headed to the trailhead for Cliff Palace. From the top of the cliff we can see a large ruin tucked into the middle of the cliff. Park Ranger took a group of about 20 people down a steep road down to the ruin. Along the way the Ranger explained the history of the ruins. 

Why build in the middle of a cliff
Build approximately 800 to 1000 year ago, the natives made use of the rocks fallen naturally from the eroded cliff to build stone dwellings. Above the cliff the top of the mesa is very dry due to desert climate. It lacks water resources. The small amount of rain seep through the porous rock and gather into waterholes. The water also erode the rocks and break them up. The fallen rocks become the natural material for building houses.

Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace has about 100 rooms. Historians estimated about 100 to 200 families who lived here. There are rooms for living, storing, and meeting places. There are area for preparing food and cooking. Most rooms are very small, less than 100 sq. ft. The natives were a little shorter than modern day people. Their main diet is corn. The ruins were estimated to have been abandoned about 800 years ago. From studying the tree rings, there were droughts for years and dried up the water sources. The natives were forced to leave. Since then the ruins were preserved in the dry desert far away from human touch. The tour lasted about an hour and we were guided back to the top of the cliff.

Balcony House
The next tour is a similar ruin Balcony House. One special thing is that there is a low wall along the edge of the cliff dwelling to prevent things being blown out of the cliff. Or may be to prevent small children from falling off the cliff. The vertical drop of the cliff isn't something to kid about. For this tour the return route is through a 30 feet ladder on the face of the cliff. If you are afraid of heights, you need to think twice about joining this tour. 

Sun Temple and other viewpoints
Other viewpoints include a group of buildings on the top of the mesa. There are other smaller cliff dwellings spread out along different parts of the canyon walls. There is one that has a tower 3 to 4 stories high.

Far View Lodge
By now the sun is about to set, we returned to the hotel, Far View Lodge. The hotel is built on the top of the mountain and you can see very very far away. The room looks quite new and comfortable. We returned to the same restaurant for dinner. In recent years many of the National Parks restaurants are catering to the more mature visitors offering higher quality and more expensive food. Even if you are in the middle of nowhere here, you can enjoy steak dinner or salmon or pop a bottle of wine. Then we returned to our room and do the usual recharging batteries and downloading pictures. When it got dark, I went out to the balcony and practice photographing the night sky, but did not get good shots. The day time temperature is quite high but as night falls it cools down very quickly. Better go sleep because we have a long way to go tomorrow.

***Chinese Version below***

Four Corners
第四日由Monument Valley 去Four Corners, 四個州的交界線,Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico. 這𥚃有個地標劃上四個州的角落分界,走US-163 South,然後US-160 East,有賣紀念品的攤販,除此之外,四野茫茫,什麼都沒有,買了幾個鎖龥扣之後,向下一站Mesa Verde進發。

Getting to Mesa Verde
越過州界進入Colorado, 走US-160 East/US-491 North,又兩小時之後,開始進入山中,通過入口處有段半小時的車路上山,彎彎曲曲都是緊密的髮夾彎,風景秀麗,可惜沒有停車的地方,好彩訂了公園內的酒店,否則晩上出公園去酒店天黑走這麼遠山路會很麻煩。

Tickets for Touring the Ruins
到了山上第一件事去旅客中心買票參觀兩個廢墟,Cliff Palace and Balcony House. 差不多已經下午二點,去餐廳吃個自助任食午餐,先去Cliff Palace,從懸崖頂可以遠遠望見一個大廢墟建在山崖壁上,Park Ranger帶領我們約二十人走過一條斜路沿崖邊下去石廢墟,一邊講解歷史。

Why build in the middle of a cliff

Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace 約有一百多個房間,估計有一百至二百戶人家住在這裡,有住的房間,儲物室,聚會的地方,準備食物和煮食的地方,大多數房間少於一百方尺,當時土人身形比較矮細,主要糧食是粟米,這些廢墟約八百年前被棄置,估計當時連續幾年旱災,令水源斷絕,土人被迫遷徙,從此石居被乾旱的天氣和人跡罕至的地理環境所保存下來,聽完約一小時的介紹,再回到山崖之上。

Balcony House
下一個景點是相似的廢墟Balcony House,它有個特點,石居在山崖邊緣有一道矮牆,估計是防止雜物被風吹出山崖外面,又或者防止小孩不小心掉下山崖,直上直下的峭壁可不能不小心,此處回山上要爬一條約三十尺長梯,畏高者買票之前要注意。

Sun Temple and other viewpoints
之後駕車到其他景點,山崖上有Sun Temple, 一個石建築群,另有其他小型山崖廢墟,其中有個高塔至少三四層樓高。

Far View Lodge
走完一轉太陽下山了,回到酒店剛好日落,酒店叫Far View,在山上真的可以看到很遠很遠的山景,房間頗新,又寛敞舒適,幾好,在同一間餐廳晩餐,近年NP的餐廳和酒店迎合退休人士,做得比較高水準,但很貴,即使在這荒䉑之地,可以鋸牛扒,食三文魚,開枝紅酒,回酒店休息,每日例牌充電,下載相片,到天黑出露台影星,不過冇乜收穫,日間天氣很熱但一到天黑就泠了,明天要走很多路,睡吧!


Back to Day 3-Canyon De Chelly
and Monument Valley
Day 4-Four Corners
and Mesa Verde
Next to Day 5-Arches



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