After a restless night in the Great Basin Mountains, NV we found ourselves awake well before the sun looked to be coming up.  We dropped our tent in the cold pre-dawn darkness and hot-tailed it across Utah to Cortez, Co.  After such an immense day on the road we were relieved to check ourselves into the Best Western in Cortez for a few hours of R&R. Next morning we drove the windy road up into Mesa Verde Nat. Park. We found out later in the day from a ranger that they had seen a lot of bears in the area that summer, possibly more active due to the drought making them go further for water. As I consider the bears we had seen in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and compare that to the arid, dry terrain we are in at present, I am still amazed at the idea that bears can live in such a dramatic range of environments.
We did a tour of the Cliff Palace and checked out Spruce Tree House and the Balcony. Fascinating to think that this civilization was so much more advanced than anything else in North America at this time (circa 12th and 13th centuries). Perhaps even more incredible was how difficult it is to access these communities. They are way up high in the canyon walls, with death-defying access paths on the vertical cliff faces. Wow. Adding to the amazement was the mystery of why everyone just up and left after only a couple hundred years living in these cliff dwellings. They put so much work into establishing these places, then over what was apparently only a few decades they all left. Huh? It was also cool to see how the civilization developed on the mesa tops prior to moving to the cliffs. They have archeological digs of various settlements ranging in date from 700 AD to 1100 AD, around they time they starting moving to the cliffs. I can't imagine spending a long bitter winter trapped on the side of the cliff, let along raising a small child or children in such a small space. Certainly a vastly difference experience to the modern world.


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