Red Rock Country Road Trip Part 3

Having left Moab and stopped by Canyonlands National Park again, I head to Cortez, CO, to visit Mesa Verde National Park staying over at Days Inn ($131, 2nghts).


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Ancestral Puebloans made Mesa Verde their home from c600 AD to c1,300 AD. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished there, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. Then, in the late 1,200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.


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Mesa Verde NP preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture (nearly 5,000 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings). Using nature to advantage, Ancestral Puebloans built their dwellings beneath the overhanging cliffs. Their basic construction material was sandstone that they shaped into rectangular blocks about the size of a loaf of bread. The mortar between the blocks was a mix of dirt and water.


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Most of the cliff dwellings were built from the late 1190s to late 1270s. They range in size from one-room houses to villages of more than 150 rooms – Cliff Palace. By about 1,300 Mesa Verde was deserted. Several theories offer reasons for their migration. We do know that the last quarter of the 1,200s saw drought and crop failures. Maybe after hundreds of years of intensive use the land and its resources were depleted.


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From Cortez, CO to Camp Verde, AZ was more than 300 miles of pretty much traffic-free, quality roads, through some spectacular scenery. Days Inn ($77, 1nght) is good for Sunday night. Would’ve been nice to have spent an additional day or two in Arizona to enjoy the hiking around Sedona but having visited the Grand Canyon previously and with plenty of National Parks still to visit in Utah…


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