August 1, 2022
The 17-mile drive out of Chaco Canyon is excruciating. Roads in the park are paved, but for five miles it is one of the worst roads I have ever driven, and I have driven some rough roads searching for trout. Five miles an hour was my average speed for those five miles. It took an hour and 15 minutes to drive the 17 miles. Even then the paved road was really bumpy. There had been reports of bad storms for our three-night stay, but we had near perfect weather. If bad storms come, you could be trapped in the canyon. There are several areas that could wash across the road, making it unpassable, especially if you are pulling a trailer. There is a wash that the road crosses. A sign instructs you not to cross if there is ANY water. There was a little water when we came in, and thankfully no water going out.
The road passes through Indian land, Navajo I think. This treasure of a park is beautiful and accessible. You can walk up to the ruins, around and above them. The campground couldn’t be any more pleasant, right up against the canyon walls with some ruins at the bottom. If that road was paved all the way in, tour busses would be lined up, putting at risk a delicate environment that is sacred to many Indian tribes. Although torture driving in and out, it is well worth it!
We stopped at a Safeway in Aztec to resupply. The parking lot was packed on a Monday. It turned out to be the best Safeway I have ever been in. They had everything we needed and all the employees were nice and helpful. We barely got everything in the refrigerator, but we did. Then back on the road, crossing a big mountain and down into the town of Mancos, Colorado. We needed a mouse trap. We had a pack rat get into the trailer in Chaco Canyon. I think I chased him out, but he came back in.
We stopped at a Family Dollar that also was one of the best I have been in, and also very nice help, who walked us right to the mouse traps. We drove on to the Mesa Verde Visitor’s Center. Unlike Chaco Canyon, you can’t walk to or through the ruins, you must sign up for a guided trip. A ranger told us everything was booked. Martha got right on her phone, searching for an opening and found two, one to Cliff Palace and one to Balcony House, two of the best sites. There are nearly 5,000 archeological sites in the 54,000 acres of Mesa Verde.
tarting c. 7500 BC Mesa Verde was seasonally inhabited by a group of nomadic Paleo-Indians known as the Foothills Mountain Complex. The variety of projectile points found in the region indicates they were influenced by surrounding areas, including the Great Basin, the San Juan Basin, and the Rio Grande Valley. Later, Archaicpeople established semi-permanent rock shelters in and around the mesa. By 1000 BC, the Basketmaker cultureemerged from the local Archaic population, and by 750 AD the Ancestral Puebloans had developed from the Basketmaker culture.
The Mesa Verdeans survived using a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa’s first pueblos sometime after 650, and by the end of the 12th century, they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known. By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico, including the Rio Chama, the Albuquerque Basin, the Pajarito Plateau, and the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa_Verde_National_Park
We drove up a steep mountain to Morefield Campground, where you can drive around and select your spot. After 3 trips around, we picked a nice, shady spot.