Mesa Verde National Park

Just over an hour's drive from the motel I'm staying in in Farmington, NM across the Colorado state line, lies a small national park that I'd never heard of. Mesa Verde means Green Table. So I was sort of expecting to see a big flat topped mountain covered in flora. And that was one of the first things I saw.

But I wasn't prepared to drive up to it and see all of the fall colors covering miles and miles of mountains.

It quickly became clear that there was a theme to this park. Dwellings. People lived in the rocks.

And I loved the big, dark vertical markings in the rock that seemed to be stained on somehow rather than part of the make up of the rock. 

This park was not a rugged, outdoorsy park. This was not for camping and hiking. This park was more about driving to a site, parking, walking a few feet down the designated path to the designated viewing area, getting back in the car and driving a few miles to the next one.  So I couldn't go see most of the stuff because of the whole no dogs on the trails situation. It was very popular with the older and invalid crowd. It was quite busy, actually and I don't think I had a moment to myself all day, outside of my car.

River was remarkably calm. I was so proud of him. And at one point, when we ventured onto an empty trail to get a good view of the Cliff Palace, we walked around the corner and stumbled into a throng of people, one of which was a bowlegged rancher sauntering in our direction. I calmly said, 'let's go back this way' before River could react to this archetypal trigger. I left the leash loose so River could follow along with my change of direction in his own time. As we walked back up toward the direction of the car, River sniffed a few plants but never got more than six feet from me. Without being asked, he fell in line right at my right heel. He never does that. Not even usually when I ask him to! And I'd literally spent two years trying to get him to do that, using two ineffective methods. But now, not only did he fall into a heel, but he looked up at me with a big tongue flapping grin as he walked right along with me. It lasted almost a full thirty seconds and it was awesome. And then another bush....
The park started at about 7000 feet elevation and climbed to over 8200. The part I visited took two giant loops around the rims of canyons. I couldn't get much of a sense of the depth of the canyons from the car, but there were times I could sneak a park and get a quick look in.

This is definitely one to come back to again. Especially when I don't have River.  We had a great time today.

 There was a whole section of the forest that was completely dead.

 And then back to lush foliage again


There is a whole other road that I didn't get to today. It looked longer and more winding and then there was another loop around canyon rims. I wonder if there is more camping and hiking and nature exploring along that route. A good reason to go back again.

No burgers today.



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