Hank and Marilyn Coast to Coast 2017 travel blog

Stone house in Mesa Verde

A small kiva in Mesa Verde

One of the famous cliff dwellings at MV

Large kiva in Chaco

Fajada Butte at Chaco


Yesterday was close to miserable. Today was wonderful. Let us explain.

Yesterday we had camped in Mesa Verde National Park. The campsite was not level. We are still adjusting the air mattress. The temperature dropped 30 degrees during the night. We slept poorly and awoke grouchy. UGH! And the forecast was for rain. Ever vigilant and desperate, Hank found us a motel for the end of the day. We packed our camp and visited the Park.

And the Park made the day not miserable. Mesa Verde is know for its cliff dwellings. But they only date from the 13th and 14th centuries. MV had been occupied since the first century! First simple pit homes, then surface homes with rock walls. A thriving agricultural community existed, because MV had extraordinary water supplies. Only after a millennium did the inhabitants move to the cliff dwellings for unknown reasons. And then they left, probably due to extended drought (climate change) before the Spanish arrived. There is enough there to justify a three day visit; we had only one day that started poorly. And the rain came as we completed the tour we chose for the day. As we left the mesa it was engulfed in thunder clouds. We chose wisely by going to the motel.

Today (what a difference) has been wonderful. Of course, we had nine hours of sleep in a comfortable bed with climate control. So we faced the day with energy and enthusiasm. We drove 2 hours to our next site, Chaco Culture Heritage Site. We drove over 20 miles on graded dirt road to get there. Hooray for our Subaru!!

What we found was spectacular! (Have we used that word before??) 100 miles from the nearest motel was a canyon community that thrived from 800-1200 CE. The Hovenweep and Mesa Verde people perhaps came from Chaco Canyon. We found the largest kiva in these area is located here, able to seat 200 people. A kiva is a ceremonial center still present in Hopi and Zuni cultures. There are smaller kivas in MV. Also stone buildings here rose 4-6 floors up. Quite amazing feats! We are glad that we went down a dusty dirt road to find this gem. Alas, travel took so much of our time we had only 4 hours to explore. (Perhaps we should have arranged to stay at the campground and given ourselves 2-3 days to explore. This is a common observation on this trip.) Hopefully there is much to learn about Chaco on the Internet. Chaco is also an International Heritage Site. Very significant.

An amazing aspect of the culture at Chaco is its awareness of nature's rhythms and directions. The large kiva is a striking example. It has windows aligned so that the light of the sunrise and moon rise at the equinox and the two solstices shines through to illuminate a holy spot in the kiva. The kiva is laid out on a north-south and east-west axis. Directly north across the canyon the windows point to an older kiva, and up the wall to the top of the mesa is another aligned kiva. On top of Fajada Butte is an astrological arrangement of rocks similar to Stonehenge and other sites around the world. The ancients were surely in tune with nature and its rhythms.

Speaking of time, we realized today that we have been gone from home for a month today!

So many things have been experienced this month. In no particular order, some of them are:

seeing the Milky Way, waking in the middle of the night and seeing a canopy of stars overhead, coyotes waking us when camping in the Rockies, seeing a big horn sheep eating grass on the side of the road, straight highways that go on to the horizon, the clouds are always changing, cloud shadows on the terrain, the solar eclipse, landscape that would be right at home in Middle Earth, Prairie Sunflowers, shopping at Bass Pro Shop and Walmart for needed supplies, taking the "scenic" route where we drove for miles without seeing another car, driving 1,000 miles a week, temperature extremes, laughter in the middle of the night, driving in a free range area and being surrounded by cattle as they ambled home (literally turning left into a ranch entrance), the dog herding competition at the Nebraska State Fair and then seeing the real thing on the road (2 dogs were herding sheep down the road), being at the start of the Colorado River at the Continental Divide in the Rockies and seeing it grow when we've crossed it numerous times on our journey.

There was also a time of sadness and reflection. We had originally planned to travel with friends, Ross and Joan Grimm Fraser. Joan had a degree in geology and was excited about sharing her passion with us on the trip. Sadly, Joan passed in 2016. Our mantra for this part of trip has been, "Where's a good geologist when you need one?" Joan and Ross have been missed.

Having visited the Ancients, we will begin tomorrow to explore contemporary Indian cultures. Arizona is divided into many reservations which we will cross. We plan to visit the Navajo Museum tomorrow morning to start our day. May our eyes be opened.



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