Two lengthy travel days on Friday and Saturday, April 20th and 21st, with an overnight at each stop. First day we traveled to Elk City/Clinton KOA near Elk City, Oklahoma. The following day to High Desert RV Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both stops were very nice. In the evening at Elk City, we had a chance to hike to Foss Lake nearby and enjoyed photographing a flock of about 25 Cedar Waxwings. If you haven’t noticed by now, one of our favorite pastimes is birding and adding new birds to our life list. High Desert RV Park was a time to restock some essentials. There is so much to see in New Mexico, but it will have to be next time around.
On to “Green Table” which means “Mesa Verde” National Park. We arrived Sunday, April 22nd at Mesa Verde RV Resort, Mancos, Colorado. As soon as we had set up, we were off to the Mesa Verde Visitor Center only ½ mile away. Dave Nighteagle was very helpful explaining in full detail The Balcony House Tour. The Balcony House Tour was the only tour open at this time of the season. The tour provides a look at the builders known as Ancestral Pueblo people, 13th -century cliff dwellers. There was some apprehension on our part, from fear of heights, crawling through very small dark tunnels and physical exertion at 6,700 feet above sea level. Dave explained, as our palms became sweaty, a guide would take us to the entrance and let us in, locking the gate behind us. A short hike to the 32-foot, 3 story ladder, a 12” opening into a tunnel and finally ending with two 12’ ladders and a climb on the cliff face over the canyon. You have the option to chicken out at the 32-foot ladder and wait at the locked entrance until the guide opens it for the next tour. He also stressed that once you start the 32-foot ladder climb there would be no turning back. We bought the tickets for the 1:00 p.m. tour the next day saying to ourselves “If we don’t go, it’s a donation to the park.”
The next morning, we started out early on the 15-mile ride from the entrance to The Balcony House. The road was an uphill climb with switch backs and scenic overlooks along the way. One stop many people miss was the Far View Sites where many villages have been identified from A.D. 900 to A.D. 1300. These homes were on top of the Mesa.
The Pueblo people around A.D. 1200 chose to build their homes in cliff-side alcoves. Our question was “Why?” We arrived at The Balcony House for the tour about a ½ hour early. We mustered up the courage to start the tour after listening to the tour guide describe the adventure. Down the hill we walked, along the side of the cliff, and began the climb up the ladder. We are glad we did, learned about their way of life and wouldn’t have wanted to miss it!
After the tour, we headed to Soda Canyon Overlook to view Balcony House from the other side of the canyon. This link will download and then you can open in Word The Balcony House Route of the Tour. Balcony House Route of Tour
Next stop was Cliff Palace, which was not open at this time of the season, but the site is visible just a short hike to an overlook on Mesa Top Loop. This is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. It contains more than 150 rooms with a population around 100.
Our last stop was the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum which contains wonderful artifacts from the Pueblo people. Some of our favorites were the sandals they wore and ropes for climbing that they made from the yucca plants.
We topped off our adventure with a delicious dinner at a cute little authentic Mexican restaurant called La Casita.
Monday, April 23 we took a little trip to Four Corners Monument, San Juan County, New Mexico. It is the only place in the United States where you can stand in four states at the same time. The area States where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona connect.
Next stop was McPhee Recreation Complex located on the south shore of the McPhee Reservoir near the town of Dolores, Colorado. The reservoir is the second largest in Colorado with 50 miles of shoreline.
We departed Tuesday, April 24th, but not without stopping for some goodies to hold us over at Absolute Bakery & Café located in Mancos, Colorado, known for their homemade cinnamon rolls.