On September 21, 2020, we headed out of Santa Fe bound for Arches National Park in Utah. The sun, shrouded in wispy clouds, rose from behind the mountains as we headed north on US 84. Every 10 or 20 miles we encountered a different landscape: scrub desert replaced with verdant rolling pastures, the mountains in the distance a beautiful constant. A couple of hours into the drive we were almost to the Colorado border and there was little sign of civilization, cell service was spotty, and it was getting well past breakfast time. We took a chance at the tiny roadside "Fina's Diner" in Chama NM, and we were rewarded with hearty biscuit breakfast sandwiches to go.
Crossing over into Colorado we had a close encounter with a doe and her fawn - fortunately the road was clear and we made it past them without incident. Off in the distance we spied a majestic peak that looked oddly familiar. As Richard remarked to Nancy that it looked important, we drove past a sign announcing that Mesa Verde National Park was just ahead. Of all the National Parks, this was the one that Nancy had been drawn to the most, sensing it would be a particularly spiritual place for her. Ironically, we had taken it off of our list of destinations because we'd read that, with COVID restrictions, the cliff dwellings would be closed and we'd not be able to fully experience it. We didn't even realize it was right on our route, yet here it was, calling us up - and we listened.
Mesa Verde was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the archaeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for 700 years starting in the first century. The park has over 5,000 archaeological sites, including 600 beautifully preserved cliff dwellings. We showed our "Senior Pass" at the base of the winding road that led us up to the "Mesa Top Loop". On the way we enjoyed breathtaking views of Montezuma Valley below.
Once at the top we stopped at the Ranger Station and downloaded a beautifully produced audio tour narrated by a descendant of the Pueblo people. It guided us through the several sites along the Mesa Top Loop, with fabulous lookout views of the more spectacular cliff dwellings, including the amazing "Cliff Palace". We were really glad we'd stumbled upon this beautiful and sacred place. What were we thinking taking this off our list in the first place?
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Nancy McCabe &