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Journeys Through America is a nonprofit organization providing educational material for all school-aged children across the country. The program will form partnerships with local school districts to provide children with a new, interactive, educational experience integrating the history of America and its National Parks. Journeys Through America's goal is to foster a fun and adventurous learning environment that will promote altruistic growth within our children and our greater community.

Mesa Verde National Park

By Dec 14th 2010 No Comments »

Our trip was ending and we had finally entered the gates of our last national park for the summer. Mesa Verde National Park welcomed us with open arms and we embraced the opportunity to explore our last park for the season whole-heartedly.

It was our 26th National Park and 49th out of 392 National Park Service Units.  2 and 1/2 months later, it was hard to believe our trip was finally winding down, it was bittersweet and slightly exciting at the same time and it was obvious that our emotions, both positive and downbeat, were amplified by all that we had to process.

This was my second trip to Mesa Verde National Park. My first time visiting the park was when I was in 7th grade – it had been my first trip to Colorado and the first time seeing such unimaginable and impressive artifacts of our past ancestors. The second time around I felt just as I had when I was 13 years old – awe-struck and mesmerized by what was preserved within the park’s boundaries.

Mesa Verde National Park protects and preserves over 80 square miles of some of the most impressive archaeological sites found in North America…most notably are the Cliff Dwellings – which are houses and small villages built within caves or under rock outcroppings along the cliff walls.   It’s truly amazing to see the incredible ancient craftsmanship found at the park – especially knowing that the means they had for accomplishing such great tasks is far more outdated than you would think conceivable – for those who have seen the Pyramids in Egypt or the Colosseum in Rome, I would imagine they evoke the same emotions.

Essentially the park is two separate mesas branching off from the main road, which runs from the park’s main entrance to the Far View Visitor Center and then a few miles beyond where you reach your traditional ‘fork in the road.’  The eastern mesa, or Chapin Mesa as it’s called, is the most popular and heavily visited of the two historic mesas.  To the West is Weatherill Mesa, named after the Weatherill ranchers who explored the area during the early years of the ancient ruins’ discovery.

When we arrived at the park we headed straight for the visitor’s center.  At the visitor’s center you are able to book your spot on one of the many tours of the cliff dwellings. Because we were arriving post-labor day, the Weatherill Mesa was closed for the season, limiting our explorations to the Chapin Mesa dwellings.  With little hesitation, we booked our tours for the afternoon and were off to explore the park…

The remainder of our day was spent taking guided tours of two very popular cliff dwellings – Balcony House and Cliff Palace. The groups were smaller since the season had slowed down tremendously with kids being back at school and so the experience was much more intimate.  The rangers were attentive to detail and divulged as much information as they could about the history and storied past of Mesa Verde.  Coincidently, the two tours we went on were the same that I had embarked on eleven years ago – nothing had changed and everything seemed to be preserved in time – the only thing that seemed different was the size of the canyons that the dwellings were nestled into… this time around they were not as scary – but of course everything seems enormous when your 13.

We left Chapin Mesa towards sundown and headed for the park’s campground. As we drove north towards the entrance we spotted a group of wild horses just to our left – either saying ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye,’ depending on which tone you choose. It was reminiscent of the otter playfully swimming in Snake River during the magnificent sunrise at Grand Teton National Park – again, it was as though all the forces of nature had combined to create a beautiful moment…and a moment in time that will forever mark the end of an incredible journey.

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