Eco-Friendly, Family, Travel

Road Trip 2016: Mesa Verde National Park

Seeing how 2016 is quickly coming to a close, I’d better finish out blogging about our road trip from April, yeah? Thanks, NaBloPoMo, for giving me no more excuses.

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We left Durango bright and early in the morning to make the quick 35 minute drive to Mesa Verde National Park. When I was doing my research on this park, I was really rather bummed that we wouldn’t be able to do the Ranger-led tours through the different cliff dwellings. They required everyone to be able to scale the ladders safely, and you can’t backpack any young kids. Even though I’m 99% sure Bear Shark would have been steady and agile enough to climb ladders, I knew the Park Rangers wouldn’t allow it.

The Big Kid, looking at ancient symbols at the Visitor Center

The Big Kid, looking at ancient symbols at the Visitor Center

Instead, we asked the very helpful Rangers at the visitor center what we could do as a family to still enjoy the park. She asked how long we had to visit, which was about 5-6 hours, and then drew us a nice driving route where we could stop at the vista points and explore. The Ranger also gave my boys Junior Ranger activity books, and if they filled them out, they could earn badges. It was a nice way to talk about what we were seeing.

Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center

Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center

First of all, KUDOS to our National Parks services. Whether nature conveniently created these beautiful views that could be seen along the path or our amazing park designers found these amazing views and created accessible routes, they’ve really made National Parks enjoyable for all. Secondly, the cliff dwellings… holy cow! These were made in the 1200’s by Ancient Puebloans, and they are a feat of engineering. Human ingenuity continually impresses me.

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Our driving route took us to views of Spruce Tree House, Cliff Palace and Square Tower House. A short hike took us to Soda Canyon, with dwellings along either side, and we got pretty good at spotting them even before we pulled over at the vista points and trailheads.

Me and the Big Kid, overlooking Soda Canyon

Me and the Big Kid, overlooking Soda Canyon

Standing at the lookout for Soda Canyon, it was so peaceful. We watched large birds flying from one end to the other. I had a moment there, wondering what the sounds would have been like 800-something years ago with people living in these dwellings and able to see each other from the other side.

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Tree damaged by fires

The short hikes were also nice to get a sense of history while communing with nature. We saw where fires had ravaged the land and new growth that followed. After some cloudy cold days in Durango, the sun was warming our skin at the park without it feeling Texas-hot. We needed to soak that in before we continued our trip back through dusty New Mexico.

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Pit House A.D. 600

A couple more stops along our path included a Pithouse and a Sun Temple. So cool to see those up close and try to imagine how people used them for gathering around fires and gathering for worship.

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Peeking through a window at the Sun Temple

On our way back to the Visitor Center, the boys turned in their activity books. Upon verification of completion, the Park Ranger sworn them in as Junior Rangers. They were so excited to get badges. We also bought them National Parks Passports to stamp at each Park visit. I have my own from 2002, purchased at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which is a National Monument.

Boys with their new Junior Ranger badges

Boys with their new Junior Ranger badges

With the kids pooped out from hiking and exploring the park all day, we got back in the car mid-afternoon and started our drive to Albuquerque.

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