Friday, August 30, 2013

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park

A picture of the Cliff Palace in a roadside brochure is what made me want to visit Mesa Verde National Park in the first place.  I was entranced, and I knew at some point in my life I had to visit the site.  When my Sister-in-law Krista mentioned she wanted to go on a trip, Mesa Verde popped into my head.  What was going to be a sister trip turned into a sibling trip, and thus a tradition was born!

This is our experience with the Cliff Palace tour.  Out of the cliff dwellings I visited--Balcony House, Cliff Palace, and Spruce Tree House--this was the most monitored/controlled.  

You mainly stay with the group, and much of the area is roped off.  I would get as close to the rope as possible so I could see all the nooks and crannies, wishing to go further, relishing in the cool dip in temperature the deeper I got.

This is the largest cliff dwelling in the park with 150 rooms with ladders you must go down and then up at the beginning and end of the tour.  It's not that bad.  Only with a tour can you visit the site, but the price is only $3 per person.

(Photos by Robbie, Sarah, and Michael Stufflebeam)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

 From arriving in Mesa Verde, sleeping that night, and the next day we had about 16 hours to work with.  I planned the whole trip (because I'm kinda obsessed with researching and putting schedules together) and had a list of things I wanted us to do: Cliff Palace, Balcony House, Spruce Tree House, which are cliff dwellings, the Petroglyph Point Trail and the Mesa Top Loop Road, where you can overlook the cliff dwellings and see other Ancestral Puebloan structures.  

How could we fit those all in considering that the Balcony House and Cliff Palace are guided tours set to a specific time?

We could only do one tour due to the limited time, and after reading reviews and blogs it seemed like the Petroglyph Point trail was the most interesting.  After scheduling an afternoon Cliff Palace tour, and an early morning Balcony House tour, we had a few hours to do the Petroglyph tour right off.

There is only one set of Petroglyphs in the entire Mesa Verde park, and the Petroglyph Point trail is the only way to see them.  It took us about two hours at 2.4 round trip miles, but that's because we had a lot of fun taking in the sites and climbing over rocks.

You get there by going to the museum and then down to the Spruce Tree House, taking a right.  Make sure to sign in and then out when you're finished.  The rangers keep track of the names for safety. 

 There is a booklet you can take on the trail (free or 50 cents to keep), which is a nice way to keep track of where you are, but most of the numbers refer to plants and trees.  This number was letting us know that what we were looking at was a shrub.

 The Petroglyphs the trail is named after.

 This scared me a bit.  There are arrows that tell you where to step, which are actual ancient steps that were used originally.  I freaked out a bit, being scared of heights, afraid of falling backwards, but my brothers went first and pulled me up.

 The view from the top was absolutely amazing and quite serene.

The museum, which is one of the places you can sign in and out for the trail, the other being at the start of the trail head just past Spruce Tree House, so the rangers don't come looking for you.  We signed in at the trail head and out at the museum.

Back to the Spruce Tree house.  What is amazing is standing right above the house, because you can't tell it's there, hidden so perfectly.

This trail was the part of the trip we couldn't stop talking about.  We all loved it.

It was amazing, so much fun, but it's not easy by no means.  You drop in altitude in the beginning and make that up in quick ascension towards the end.  There was an elderly couple that turned around towards the beginning of the trail because they got overwhelmed.  But if you're able I highly recommend it!  The Petroglyphs were a little underwhelming, but the fun of navigating the rocks and the spectacular views made up for it.    

(Photos taken by Sarah, Robbie, and Michael Stufflebeam)