The day we visited Mesa Verde in February of 2012, it was a spur of the moment event. We were actually on our way to visit Roy's family in Farmington, New Mexico, but Mesa Verde decided to call and offer an invite we couldn't resist. The clouds in the sky warned of a storm to come as they moved along the top of the mesas, white snow intensified the red of the sandstone; it looked mysterious and wondrous at the same time. Next thing we knew, we exited Route 160, showed our National Park pass at the guard booth, and up the steep incline we began. Yes, we do this type of spontaneous adventuring; that's why we always have bottled water, bags of snacks, cameras, charged cellphones and a full tank of gas at all times. Many of the areas you will recognize from when I did a post of Mesa Verde in the fall season; cloudy skies and snow give them a whole new look. This gave us the eventual idea to go back each season and take photos to record the changes.
We stopped at the first viewing area which is of the Mancos Valley; the Rocky Mountains in the distance were snowed covered and majestic; then again, when aren't the Rockies majestic?
The Mancos Valley
Past the Park Place Lookout, there will be a smaller viewing area of Montezuma Valley; usually you can see "forever" from here, but not on this stormy day.
At that time, the Visitor Center was still at Far View which is 15 miles within the Park; now it has been rebuilt and sits at the entrance to the Park which is much more convenient. Even though it was closed, there was a very good reason to stop in the area; the view of Shiprock in the distance. Even though we were in Colorado, just off Route 160, there was Shiprock which is located in New Mexico; to the ancient Puebloans that had lived in Mesa Verde, this must have been a beacon for them.
|Canyon at Square Tower House Ruins|
|Canyon at the Sun Temple Ruins|
Even though you're probably there to see the ruins, make sure to take a good look at the surrounding canyons. Gorgeous in good weather, and just as breath taking blanketed in snowfall; the landscaping near the display areas of Pueblo homes and Kivas is amazing; yucca plants normally in the desert pushing their green points up through the snow.
Ruins, Ruins, Ruins is what you must be chanting by now; patience grasshopper as you must appreciate on the outside what surrounds the inside. Within the landscapes of Mesa Verde are the ancient ruins of a long gone people; as beautiful as the area is, the cold and snow of winter are harsh to live within. Now, some of the ruins of Mesa Verde...
The Sun Temple
The Fire Temple
Oak Tree House
...and the set of ruins that is most publicized, The Cliff Palace. During the winter months, the Cliff Palace is closed for the guided tours, but you are still able to view it from the upper roadway.
We did make it to Farmington to spend time with his family; leaving after dinner, the snow began falling there. It got heavier as we traveled along the La Plata Highway and landed right in the middle of "white out" conditions by the time we reached Route 160 again. Luckily, we ended up behind a snowplow and followed it down the mountains and into the Mancos Valley which was much clearer.
I was able to get this one night time shot as we passed by Mesa Verde; not the best of the best, but I love the eerie nature of it. I posted it on Facebook, and our friend, Jeffrey, wrote this about it, "Twilight falls on the dusty windswept plains. The fear in this place is a palpable thing as a mournful howl fills the night air. The mists roll in and a frosty chill settles."