librarian + adventurer


Mesa Verde National Park

May 5-7

Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park
Site: 116
Amenities: Bathrooms, running water, picnic tables, laundry, showers, fire rings, wifi, camp store, all you can eat pancake breakfast(!), tent-only loops

Logan and I headed south early Friday morning; we were on the road before 7:00. It takes about 6.5 hours to get to Mesa Verde from Denver, and our goal was to arrive by 4 pm (which we actually met!). We took 285 south, and were constantly in awe with our surroundings. When we came up on Buena Vista (our first time there), we decided to stop early for gas because we needed to get out and enjoy the views.

Click on images to enlarge

We switched drivers in Buena Vista and I took over until I got over Wolf Creek Pass. Right after Wolf Creek Pass there's a waterfall. I pulled over to the side of the road and did a u-turn so we could visit Treasure Falls. With all the snowmelt right now, the waterfall was HUGE! I was giddy running around the trail, partially because we had been in the car for like 5 hours, but mostly because I love waterfalls.

We rolled into the park around 3pm and headed straight to the visitors center. We bought our tickets for Balcony House and then shopped around the store and looked at their archival collection (library school, ftw!). From there we headed to our campsite. The campground has a store and the staff were so nice - they gave us tips for sunset hikes and the best spots still open in the tent-only loop!

We got a new tent! After that looooong night in Monument Valley, I bought a 4-person tent. It was like a CASTLE! We had so much room & could actually sit inside of the tent to set up our sleeping areas. We were starving (having not eaten anything but sour patch watermelons the whole drive), so we cooked dinner really early. 

Gnocchi, marinara, and steamed broccoli - it's gettin' fancy in our camp kitchen!

After dinner, we relaxed in the tent for an hour or so before headed to hike the Knife Edge Trail for sunset. The hike was absolutely gorgeous and it was perfect timing for building a fire and drinking some wine. 

We were exhausted from the drive, so we went to bed pretty early. Logan crashed almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, but it took me a little longer (I'm always a little anxious on that first night). We slept in till 9:00 and then hiked the Point Lookout Trail. From that hike, we took off down the road through the park to explore as much as possible before our tour of Balcony House.

A great look at a Kiva, with the deflection stone and fresh air chute in plain view.

A series of fires ripped through the park almost a decade ago. While it's been a while, it takes almost 100 years to regrow a mature piƱon-juniper woodland. It was crazy to spend time in super lush, green areas on our hikes and then drive through this landscape.

Our first cliff dwelling! You have no idea how cool it is to see these in person. People actually lived here and these houses have stayed around for almost 1,000 years and the design was so good that some parts of them are still structurally sound (but, to quote David Nighteagle, why would you trust your life to something built in 1200 AD?). The "windows" you can see on this house aren't actually windows at all, they're the doors used to get in and out of each individual room in the dwelling. It was estimated that the Ancient Puebloans were only 5'1" tall on average, so they built these small openings to climb in and out of. Each opening also had a door, either stone or animal hide, that could close it off for protection from both enemies and the elements (it gets cold here in the winter). 

The dwelling with the full context of the cliff. The Pueblo Indians did not use ladders, just hand and foot holds carved into the cliff. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!

We made it to the Balcony House Tour in time to take a quick power nap before it started. THIS TOUR WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Please, please, please follow the link above to read about it. Right after we finished the tour (like, literally I made it through the gate 2 seconds before), it started POURING down rain. We are not easily discouraged, though, so we continued our adventures and visited a few more sites!

Some of the sites, mostly the pit-houses, were kept safe from the elements (like this rain), by being housed in these types of facilities. 

Below are pictures of Cliff Palace, pretty aptly named if I do say so myself. The dwelling is HUGE, and these pictures don't do it justice at all. It contained 150 rooms and would have been home to over 100 people, which is significantly bigger than 75% of the other dwellings in the park (that 75% contain only 1-2 rooms). The tours for this particular dwelling weren't open when we were there, but now we just have a reason to come back!

We were slowing down and getting hungry, so we headed back to camp to cook dinner. We bought some extra firewood (and wine) at the camp store. The wood they were selling was so great - it caught so quickly and burned really evenly without a lot of help. We cooked dinner on the fire so that we didn't have to get the camp stove back out - IT WAS DELICIOUS! I feel like every time we try a new recipe while camping we love it and make it a staple in our camping menu. 

We stayed up late, talking and laughing and reminiscing on the last five years of our relationship. I love this man and our adventures and everything we've gone through together. From surviving BoCo Virginia to two summers where we spent a total of 6 months away from each other, to a cross-country move and getting a kitty-cat, I love Logan and the life we've created together.

We finally went to bed around midnight because it started raining again (and snowing, a little!). Our tent performed amazingly in the wind and rain, and I was so toasty warm that I woke up sweating at like 2:45 am!

We woke up at 6:30 on Sunday, only to decide that it was too cold and go back to sleep for an hour. At 7:30 we started packing up so we could begin the long trek home - but not until we got our ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKE BREAKFAST! 

Truth time - we took these pictures on our way out, not our way in!

Mesa Verde has quickly taken a place as one of my favorite national parks (second only to Rocky Mountain). It was such an interesting park and I feel like I learned so much about Colorado and Native American culture and it was a beautiful place to spend a weekend.