Location: Mesa Verde National Park, Southwestern Colorado
|The largest ancient Puebloan settlement ever unearthed
After a most pleasant night spent in the San Juan Mountains, I drove off to Mesa Verde National Park. This is a very unique National Park because it is the only one that preserves man-made wonders as opposed to natural features. It is also an international world heritage site and international it was! The ranger who gave us a tour was from Switzerland and there were Germans, Italians, and French people with me on the tour! Not to mention there were probably all 50 states represented in license plates.
Of all the parks I'm touring, this is probably the most tourist-y. This wasn't surprising, but nevertheless it was unfortunate. I first toured the famous "Cliff Palace", pictured above, with about 30 other people.
|Spruce House Settlement
Most pictures of Mesa Verde National Park are of the Cliff Palace but there are literally hundreds of archaeological sites to see. Most sites require you to hike with a ranger guide, but the tours are only 3$. The picture above is of Spruce House which can be hiked on a self-guided trail. The roads throughout the park provide good chances to see nearly every major settlement.
|Square Tower House
While there are a few good hikes in the park, hiking is pretty restricted. This is a great park for auto-touring and learning history though! The "Park Point" lookout is also one of the greatest viewpoints in America. You can see 4 states from the top! I could see several mountain ranges in Utah, New Mexico's "Shiprock, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and a couple of mountains in Arizona! On clear days, you can see for 160 miles. I've never seen anything like it.
So, the first leg of my grand adventure is complete! The American Southwest has some of the greatest examples of natural geological wonders as well as marvelous ancient ruins. I now begin the Rocky Mountain leg of my trip as I make my way through Colorado and Wyoming. Wish me luck!