Mesa Verde National Park is a series of Native American communities that were built in 1200AD in southern Colorado. The amazingly well-preserved ruins are built into the rocky overhangs of cliffs. I saw some pictures and thought “Huh. That looks cool. Maybe this will be educational for the boys.” I didn’t realize visiting Mesa Verde would leave us all so moved and humbled.
Our first stop was called Spruce Tree House where we got an introduction to how the structures were built and some of the common elements, including the kivas—round rooms built into the ground with seating and room for worship and socializing.
From there, we drove to an overlook to view Cliff House, one of the best preserved ruins that remain. Seeing the building from further away gave us an appreciation for how well the structure is integrated with the mountainside.
Our final stop was a tour described as “strenuous” and not for the faint of heart. Balconey House is only accessible by tour with a ranger, and involves climbing two ladders, including one that’s 32-feet tall, squeezing through small tunnels, and standing precariously close to the Cliffside with no railing. Dave described it as the “Indiana Jones tour” and said many people change their mind when they see the ladder.
It was a tight squeeze and a bit nerve-wracking, but being able to walk inside the ruins, peer inside rooms, and see evidence to people living and working there, like the soot on the ceiling and the handprint in the clay, made it worth every skipped heartbeat.
But what really made the tour special was Dave. Dave is part Native American, part Caucasion, and he spoke with such a tenderness for the ruins, the land around us, and the people who lived there before, that we were all captured by his stories and his life lessons. He was able to bring the ancient people who lived there to life for us in our imaginations and left us with the message that “people are people” and we have different ways of doing things, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other.
I wasn’t sure how much of Dave’s talk really sunk in with the boys, but a few days later, when we asked the boys what some of the highlights of the trip were so far, they both said “that really good tour guide.”
Huh, pretty cool.