Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mesa Verde

I didn't sleep that well.  I toss and turn quite a bit at night, and there wasn't a lot of room for other positions.  Laying on my back seemed best.  I think it minimized the surface area pointing toward the nearby side wall of the popup, plus I didn't want to use up too much blanket -- you use more when you sleep on your side.   I was just barely warm enough, and I was ready go get up.

We got up at 7:00am and went for the quick protien bar breakfast so we could get on with the trip.  Word had it it is 20 miles from the campsite to Cliff Palace.   We wanted as early a start as we could get.

It's about half that distance to the visitors center.  It's a few miles from the park entrance itself to the campground, truth be told.  

We dropped by the visitors center where we would have to pick up tour tickets for guided tours of Balcony House and Clifff Palace.  Those and Spruce House were the only three open to tours, and Spruce House is an un-tickted, self-guided tour.

The lady ringing us up got the tickets mixed up at first ... I think we had two tours on the same day, or two tours of the same cliff dwelling, but a supervisor came over and straightened it out.   There's a little museum and gift shop in the visitors center -- honestly, if you have a chance to see Edge of the Cedars museum and you're interested at all in Puebloan history, do it.   But we needed to move off to our tour, still another 10 miles down the road.

Our tour started at 9:30 am.  We showed up at the parking lot, and down the trail about 100 feet there was a tourist souvenier booth set up with a lot of Native American Flute music (which I love, and have quite a bit of already) and water, and park-related trinkets ... which we passed right by.   We were still filling water bottles from the 2.5 gallon water container in the trunk and getting by fine.  

We meandered down the trail to where the people for the tour were collecting, and our guide -- a wonderful, entertaining, funny, and yet serious (with the discipline, rules, and reverence) Park Ranger whom I'll put up for an award any day ... "Ranger Jo", who I think is Jo Schrock - has to be.  Not every Park Ranger can be a Ranger Jo.  But she sure sets a standard to which they can all strive.

The K-r seemed to be working again before the tour. I took a few shots with it, but it started acting up again after several shots and I had time to take it back to the car and come back.

Ranger Jo gave us a fine tour -- you almost forget that you don't really get to go into any of the dwellings ... of Cliff Palace. 

Some of the walls had been restored, apparently, by a Sweedish archaeoligist (Gustaf Nordenskiöld) and his crews back in the 1920's, but the rest of it was still in remarkable shape, and it was very easy to imagine anient Puebloans wandering through the place, grinding grains, baking breads, having ceremonies.  Ranger Jo had stories to tell, a few from a friend and former Ranger who was Hopi herself.

One story was on the question of why the Anasazi left in the late 1200's.   They had no written language.  Nobody knows for sure why.  But her friend, when asked, said simply, "it was time".

The elders probably decided at some point, and that's probably all they told the people.  It is time.  They believed in signs, if you listen to Puebloan lore.  It may have been as simple as the cliff rock shifting that spooked them.  Or it could have been climate change that limited their ability to grow the crops they needed to sustain the community.  Tree ring data shows a long, severe drought that coincides with their departure.  Or ... there was apparently an influx of people in the few hundred years leading to the end.  Overpopulation could have been a problem.  Wood from cedars was more and more scarce as they used them for structures and firewood.  And an influx of people may have caused political problems that tore the community apart.

Bottom line is we don't know.  They left, and among their descendants are the Taos, Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi.

After the tour we drove around the rim of the canyons looking in the cliffs at various other ruins.  We went into a shed built over an excavated pit house to demonstrate how most of the people on the mesa actually lived.  We found a picnic area and had peanut butter sandwiches.  And then we headed into town to look for a new heater.

I half hoped we could find a place that would take ours on a return, return it to the company, and that way we wouldn't have to shell out another $100 on a heater.  Neither of us wanted to spend another cold night like last night, though, so ... whatever it took.

The Walmart in Cortez did not have the Little Buddy heaters in yet ... we were a bit early.  But they sent us down to Big R, a farm and ranch supply, where we did find one which we had to out and out buy.  So we did.  And on the way back to the campsite we stopped at Mesa Verde Pottery on the East side of town and browsed about.  Lots of jewelry in there, sculptures, and clay things. We ended up buying three clay pots and I think I bought Vicki a neclace or something... but I can't remember what.

We headed back into the park, and I figured we had time to hit the museum over by Spruce Tree House ... Wow!   This is a nice museum as well.  We sat through a film on Mesa Verde and really took our time going through it.  They had hand tools and stone tools and twine, clothing, art, pottery, miniatures of villiages and houses, examples of the grains they grew.  Quite impressive.

It's also a little town, in a way, up there.  It has its own post office ... I think perhaps for the rangers and there are a couple of pueblo houses there where some people actually live ... clothes lines, satellite dishes ... we got a post card to mail to Trenton as well.

Back to camp to make dinner, take a shower, and hit the sack.

We drove to the store where I got some ice and a little beer, since we'd thrown most of what we had brought into Ray and Donna's cooler the previous night.  No biggie.  It wasn't that much.

It was the first shower I'd had since leaving Olathe the previous monday morning.  I had had a few river baths in the Colorado river, washed my hair a couple of times in bathrooms, and used large body wipes that Vicki had bought to use when facilities weren't available.

A shower was very nice.

Vicki whipped up a chicken and rice meal to which she added canned chicken and some mixed veggies.  It was pretty good.   Iced down some beer and had one.

We lit the new heater and turned in for the night.

After a couple of hours, it went out.

Same thing.  Couldn't seem to light it.  This one, too.  The gas was blowing the flame away from the base of the pilot.   I aired the popup out again, and tried again.  Still the same thing.

So I pushed the end of the lighter down to right where the gas was coming out.  It lit.   So we cracked the windows a bit more.

At that point I knew there was probably nothing wrong with the other heater.  Oh well.  Live and learn.

It turns out, I think, that the first night we used it I was so paranoid about carbon monoxide that I left the windows zipped down significantly.   The night we used in Moab, it was on low all night.  The carbon monoxide meter never got off of zero at any time ... so I had more confidence and closed up the windows more the last two nights.  Well, this starved the popup of oxygen, and there is a safety oxygen meter on the heater that shuts it off if oxygen starts to run too low.  So apparently, we need to keep a significant amount of ventillation going for just that.   The rest of that night, and for the rest of the trip, we left the windows open like we had the first night, and never had a problem again.

Oh, and I tested the first heater.  It works fine.

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