Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 26 (Saturday June 6) Mesa Verde National Park to Buena Vista Colorado

It was pretty cold last night (around 40) so we were up early moving around to get warm. I know, I know, no sympathy from everyone back south dealing with oppressive heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. But the other reason we got up early was that I finally made it to Mesa Verde after a 9 month delay and an 8400 mile drive. Last September I was supposed to come out here (via airplane, sans dog) on a trip with the Sierra Club. But there were 3 hurricanes and tropical storms offshore, all of which looked like they were heading toward Orlando, so I didn't really want to leave my wife and dog to fend for themselves. Then this job I really wanted with the Nature Conservancy was posted with applications due the end of that week and I didn't have a resume or anything ready, so I stayed home and dealt with all that. Obviously I didn't get that job and the storms didn't really turn into anything too destructive other than rain (TS Fran) and I just used the tickets to visit my friend Brandon in Phoenix for a long weekend. So, anyway, I'm finally here and it was Saturday so I wanted to get down to see everything before the crowds. Although we did take a few minutes to enjoy the Saturday Pancake Breakfast first since I've been wanting pancakes this entire trip.

Mesa Verde is a really great intersection of geography, history, and archaeology. These cliff dwellings are from the Ancestral Puebloans' "classical period" around 1,000 years ago. By about 1300 ad the area was deserted, at least by anyone who left much of a trace. Jared Diamond talks about this area in his book "Collapse," which is a great read about the fall of various civilizations around the world. In his study, the root cause in just about every civilization seems to be that an area that is good for an advanced civilization to rise will eventually lead to overpopulation which will lead to overuse of those resources which then run out. One other important observation he makes is that most people think it takes a very long time for civilizations to collapse, but typically it can peak and collapse over a generation or two. I'm pretty confident that we're starting to see that play out on a global scale now, but that's not important today. Today is about admiring these glimpses into the past, to simpler people in simpler times that still knew a little something about construction. Enough for it to last 1,000 years or so.

Of course, I have to come back at some point to hike down in and around all these, but even looking down upon them from overlooks with binoculars was amazing. I remember seeing pictures of these when I was a kid and being mesmerized. It was one of those few times in my life when seeing something in person after having seen pictures and read about it and thought about it for years actually lived up to expectations.

The pictures of the cliff dwelling are of Cliff Palace, by the way. The ones on the surface are of the "Far View Sites." Most of the other sites were too far away to get good pictures or were too far of a hike before my 2-minute window expired and the baying started. He's going to have a real rude awakening here in a couple more weeks when *gulp* the beagle will have to be alone for more than 10 minutes at a time or 30 minutes per day.

This was my last "must see" stop and it was completely worth it. Hopefully I'll have a chance to come back some day and really get in there. But, this is "Max's Big Adventure" after all, and the first rule has been "Will it be enjoyable for Max?" Not that I haven't snuck off from time to time, but leaving him in the car in the middle of the desert probably isn't a great idea. So, anyway, a great day. This afternoon just drove upstate towards Denver to visit my friends Brent and Lisa tomorrow, then it's "East Bound and Down" as the song goes.

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