Friday, April 4, 2014

Mesa Verde Springs Alive!

As much as winter wants to keep a grasp on the Four Corners area, spring's persistence wins out eventually; winter at Mesa Verde is no exception.  With this write up, I'll still give a few glimpses at the amazing ruin sites, but they don't truly change with the seasons. 

This time I'm going to focus more on Mesa Verde's landscape, wildlife and plants; the awakening from a deep slumber to a bright new season. With every visit to the park, there are certain viewing areas that we just cannot pass by; the views are spectacular and we want to see the changes.  From the entrance to Far View is a 15 mile trek; the valleys of Mancos and Montezuma stretch as far as the eye can see.

Mancos Valley; while there is snow up on the mountains in the distance, the valley below is beginning to get signs of greenery.

Montezuma Valley; Sleeping Ute Mountain in the distance has shed his wintery coat of snow; will the warmth of spring give him cause to rise this year?


Snow covered mountains, stark landscape and suddenly greenery announcing that spring is here; also keep an eye out for alcoves in the rock face and perhaps a ruin site might be hidden there...or not.

Finally at Far View, you look south and there is Shiprock down New Mexico way; the ever present haze is there, but not so bad the day I took this photo.  I recently read an article in the local paper that the haze is actually caused by all the petroleum rigs in that area.  There are plans to try and do something about the pollution before Shiprock becomes totally shrouded.

Stopping at the museum, we decided to do a few shots of Spruce Tree House from the overlook; the spirits there don't seem to mind as one showed up in another of my photos.

A spirit orb in the upper middle window.

Another one of our favorite sites to visit is Square Tower House; mainly because its location on the cliff face always makes us did they get up and down from there!?!  There is an alcove nearby with broken up ruins inside; the canyon views are always breath taking.

One of the enjoyments I had was two horses posing for me.  The April 2nd edition of our local paper reprinted an article about the horses; feral, "trespassing" horses that have been deemed a nuisance.  They are aggressive toward the elk herds in Mesa Verde, especially when competing for spots at the watering holes.  These horses are not protected under the "Wild Horse and Burro Act"; personally I'm not exactly sure why "feral" and "wild" are not the same thing.  Measures have been made to keep the horses from coming into the National Park, and to stay on Ute Tribal land.  I do hope they allow a small number to remain though as they add so much personality to the landscape; what is the southwest without the horse?

Along the route of Oak Tree House, Sunset House and The Fire Temple; Roy and I enjoy wandering through the wooden areas. Not only do we get those canyon views that aren't seen from the ruin overlooks, but there are interesting finds of the natural kind such as Yucca growing out from between rocks, or Desert Phlox growing out of the dry and dusty ground.    Those tiny flowers of the Phlox are a sure sign that spring has taken hold and told winter to hit the road.

Oak Tree House

Sunset House
Fire Temple


The Cliff Palace is pretty amazing; but we make sure to search for other amazing formations that Mother Nature created herself.   Have to give credit where credit is due; that woman is awesomely talented!  By the way, if you happen to be standing at one of the many overlooks and this truly foul odor assails your, it's not the person standing next to you.  See that bush with the wide oval leaves and star like flowers; say hello to the Utah Serviceberry. This bush was very useful to the Native American as the berries could be eaten and the strong twigs made into bows.  The smell is a defense mechanism; but birds, deer, elk and the human figured that out right away.

Cliff Palace
Another of our favorite spots is the House of Many Windows; there is a ledge area off to the right of the overlook where you can crawl out to the edge and get the best photos of, not just the ruins, but the canyons. 

House of Many Windows

While we enjoy stopping at the overlooks, we always make sure to simply drive the park one last time before heading to either a restaurant for a good meal; or home to fall asleep in our bed in contented exhaustion.  That one final drive gives us the option to see something that we might have missed out on, and Mesa Verde has not disappointed yet.  Near the museum were some rather large cactus bushes (Colorado Buckhorn Cholla) I hadn't truly looked at before.  Funny, they reminded me of those monstrous plants from the 1951 science fiction movie, "Day of the Triffids".  Suddenly though, there was a little song in the air; a lone warbler sitting on a leafless branch heralding the coming of spring.  Nice ending to a nice day.

Mary Cokenour

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