Cliff Palace

I’m writing this post on Sunday morning but I’m not sure when it will get uploaded. We have to go to the Campstore for Internet and the connection is really, really slow in the evening. These pictures are from Thursday. You have to get tickets to tour the three largest cliff dwellings – Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House. (They were all fantastic but I think that my favorite may be Spruce Tree House – which doesn’t need a ticket.) We got our tickets Wednesday night for tours on Thursday and Friday.

The Ciemian Kiva was here at Cliff Palace. They couldn’t spell Ciemian, so they just called it Kiva C.

I had read that there were some walls in the cliff dwellings without mortar. They were constructed this way. There is some debate as to whether it was planned to allow for ventilation when drying crops or just temporary walls – either way they have lasted more than 600 years.

We’ve had all kinds of different rangers doing the tours and the programs here at Mesa Verde – not all of them were the more stereotypical young person who just loves being around nature . . . the average age of all the rangers here has been a bit higher than you might expect.

We had a little time between tours to allow for a lunch break and a brief nap.


Spruce Tree House

Today is Saturday and we have spent four days in Mesa Verde National Park. We aren’t scheduled to leave here until next Tuesday . . . this will be our longest stay in any Park, according to Alan (who generally has a good memory for these things!) We have already been exploring the Park, including taking several of the Ranger-lead tours of the cliff dwellings. We opted to visit Spruce Tree House and hike the Spruce Canyon and Petroglyph Point trails today.

Here is a picture of Alan in a “rock sandwich” on the trail:

There were a lot of carved and constructed stairs on the trail. We listened to a Ranger program about the Civilian Conservation Corp. last night and they talked about the role of the CCC “boys” in doing all of this work, including building the trails with some very nice stone work:

The Spruce Canyon Trail was deserted. We came out in the picnic are on the Chapin Mesa which looked like it used to be a campground. Now many of the old buildings are being used as Ranger housing.

We had the best view of the Spruce Tree House from the Petroglyph Point trail although the cloud cover had already rolled in (we got rain tonight again):

The best thing about Spruce Tree House is that the Park Service reconstructed one of the Kiva roofs and they let you go down into the ceremonial room. By now, we have seen dozen of Kiva’s but they all were without their roofs.

It was a long hike to the Petroglyphs . . .

The last part of the trail back was short and we were able to spot a couple of cliff dwellings that were off the beaten path. This was kind of cool because you would just look up and there they would be – tucked into a crevice.

I have other pictures to post from our tours of the other major cliff dwellings and we are planning on more hiking. We leave here on Wednesday for Blanding and Natural Bridges National Monument.

National Parks/Monuments Visited on this Trip: 7

Miles Hiked Today: 7

Total Miles Hiked this Trip: 98

Neck Springs Trail

For our last day at Canyonlands National Park, we hiked the Neck Springs Trail. It wasn’t too long and we were hoping for a cooler day but it was still hot!

I didn’t really get any interesting photos except of this mini arch . . . it is only a foot across.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we leave here for Mesa Verde National Park. We will be there for eight nights and the Park’s website says they don’t have any cell service so it may be a while until I post again! Stay tuned . . .

Miles Hiked on Monday: 5.5

Total Miles Hiked on this Trip: 91

Dead Horse Point State Park

We opted to stay in nearby Dead Horse Point State Park instead of in the primitive campground at Canyonlands National Park. It turned out to be a great campground and Park – we enjoyed mountain biking on their trails and they have a great Visitor Center.

It was only a short drive back to Canyonlands and one day we spent checking out the vistas.

There were even a few arches.

I think the views from Dead Horse Point State Park were a bit nicer though since you can see the Colorado River:


We put up our hummingbird feeder at Dead Horse Point State Park for the first time. It didn’t even take three hours for us to have multiple hummingbirds. At one point, there were seven hummingbirds in the air around the feeder! One would try and bully the others for a while but the sheer numbers of hummingbirds trying to get to the feeder would overwhelm him.

Killer Hike

We decided our first hike in Canyonlands National Park would be the Syncline Loop around Upheaval Dome. When we got to the trailhead, it said it wasn’t recommended in July or August but we decided to go ahead anyway. It turned out to be a fantastic, although extremely tough, hike along a deserted trail. We didn’t see anyone all day which was a very nice change over our hikes at Arches National Park. We even got to see a couple more Desert Bighorn Sheep but they didn’t stand still long enough to get a picture.

After we had started down into the canyon a mile or so we stopped to look into one of the small pools. As we were looking around, we noticed that this big rock was right there all shattered with clear scuff marks where it had fallen. It was kind of interesting because the small rock shards were still there so it must not have been that long since it had fallen.

We knew there was a big elevation change on this hike – 1300 feet. We came down it in a very short distance scrambling over rocks. Here is Alan sitting right on the trail:

See the marker to the left of Alan – they had to add this since you really couldn’t see the rock cairns over head if you were coming up the trail. We didn’t avoid a climb taking the trail in this direction – we just got it at the other end!

This is the view looking down the trail:

We took the Crater branch off of the loop to have lunch in the center (but I’m putting that hike into the same category as Dark Angel – not much bang for your buck after a long hot hike!) There used to be some controversy about what caused the very round and symmetrical upheaval but recently discovered evidence has supposedly resolved the issue – it was a meteor. And by the way, there is any dome . . . don’t know why they call it an Upheaval Dome!

We had to take a lot of breaks hiking back out of the crater. Most of the time, I was too hot and tired to bother getting out the camera but this one spot was a great place to hang out:

I was wishing we were closer to the top at this point but we still had a couple of miles to go. We made it back to the car an hour or so later . . . without any water left! We each had over 100 ounces but that wasn’t enough for a 90+ degree day. Another lesson learned – probably one that we will need before we get back home after a summer of hiking in the high desert.

Miles Hiked on Saturday: 11.5

Total Miles Hiked on this Trip: 85.5

National Parks Visited Today: 1

Total National Parks/Monuments Visited on this Trip: 6

Chipmunks Everywhere!



When we got to Double O Arch, there was a side trail off to Dark Angel. We figured another arch that would be worth the mile hike but it just wasn’t so! There was this large monolith but it turns out you could see it from a lot of places in the Park . . . you didn’t need to hike a mile out there. It was a lot less crowded than Double O Arch though, so we hung out for a while and enjoyed the quiet.

There have been chipmunks at all of the major landmarks at all of the National Parks we have visited on this trip. It was clear why when we saw a girl chasing one down to feed it.

This little guy kept watching to see if we were going to leave him any remnants of our lunch:


On occasion we see some unusual things while travelling, but this is really one of the most unexpected . . .

This guy was carrying a duck:

At first, when we saw him from a distance coming onto the trail, we thought he was carrying his pet dog or cat but it was clearly a duck. I asked him how far he was going and he said to the top. Another family on the trail behind us asked him about the duck and he said something about shooting photos for a book. Also, he was about to climb a trail in 90+ degree heat wearing long black pants!

I wish we had gotten a photo of the duck – if you ever see a picture of a duck on or near Delicate Arch, please email me!