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Monday, March 23, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado 1997

I hope you don't mind one more post about Colorado (see our Salute to Colorado at the link). This trip from 1997 was Letty and Tim's first trip to the state...way over at the other end near the Four Corners.  Enjoy...

After driving across a third of the country, I was worried we'd be shut out at our destination. As much as we celebrate the ADA, the fact remains that a majority of our natural resources are still inaccessible. This happened to us at the Grand Canyon (great views from the rim is about it) and what was now worrying me as we approached Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of Colorado.

Mesa Verde is home to many dwellings of the mysterious and ancient Anasazi people. For a brief time in their history, the Anasazi moved into spectacular multi-storied houses perched in cliff side niches. These remnants of an ancient and pre-European America are what draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the park each year.

As it turns out, we needn't have worried, many of the best sites in Mesa Verde are available to people in chairs..with the one big exception to this being the most popular site in the park, the Cliff Palace and Balcony House cliff dwelling, which requires scaling a cliff-top ladder.
The accessible visitor center and gift shop is 15 miles past the entrance gate (this is the second visitor center, Far View Visitor center being the first). From here, an access trail leads to the magnificent Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling. The trail into the lush canyon is mostly flat and smooth. There are a few drops on the side of it that will make your heart beat a little faster but are easily avoided. You will definitely have an adventure here in a chair.

When at the dwelling itself, you are allowed to explore quite a lot of it with little being out of bounds. We could explore in our chair as well an anybody around us with the one exception of the sweat lodge pit where the only access is a ladder.

This was all very fun and interesting for us and our 9 year old son, but what really stopped us in our tracks was the conversation we had with the ranger on the site. I asked him why the natives are not here anymore when we were surrounded by native American country.
"They still come here. They still feel this is theirs." Then he told us many of the ancient community members are buried in the adjacent rubbish mound. Come here at night, he said, and we'd likely see the ghosts that roam these ruins. That brought it home to us. Here is not an abandoned ancient ruin. Here is a place where people still come and visit their long lost relatives to feel an attachment and ownership. Suddenly I had a slight feeling of trespassing.

(As an aside, the surrounding areas still in Indian Reservations hold many more such cliff dwellings. Trips can be arranged with some local tribes although most are inaccessible to wheelers.)

Our base camp for this trip for this trip was the wonderful A Bed and Breakfast on Maple Street (800-665-3906) in nearby Cortez. Though not up to all ADA standards, it does have access to one room downstairs with a big, adjacent bathroom. It also has easy access to the common living room and dining room where you feast on a hearty home-cooked country breakfast for less than $90 per night double-occupancy. It also has a spa to soak your tired muscles after a day in Mesa Verde.

Copyright 1998 - Darryl Musick

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