Great American Southwest Road Trip Pt 3 - Ruins and Native American Ancestors

One of the reasons I am so fascinated by the southwestern American states is the testament in the land itself to ancient cultures. To people who lived here and worked here and grew food here, who looked out at these same arresting views, shivered in the same winds, baked in the same relentless sun.

I learned long ago about the Anasazi people. Now they are officially called "Ancestral Puebloans," a more inclusive name since these people were indeed ancestors to many modern tribes, not just the Navajo whose language gives us the words Anasazi that in fact means ancient enemy.
I still think it is a beautiful and haunting word though.

Ever since writing a paper about the mysterious Anasazi when I was 19 years old in community college, I have wanted to visit the sites of their cliffside dwellings. My time had come.

This is Mesa Verde, in the southwest corner of Colorado, high on the Colorado Plateau where life thrived for the Ancestral Puebloans over a thousand years ago. We got to tour some of the ancient houses.
This is Spruce Treehouse, tucked into an overhanging cliff so that it needs very little restoration.
These walls were built almost a thousand years ago.

We learned a lot about subterranean kivas. This round ceremonial site would have had a roof on it of beams and boughs, with a little ladder to climb down...
 Just like we did!
Inside the kivas, the temperature remained an even 50 degrees, cool in the summers and needing just a little fire in winter for the people to stay warm, tell their stories, laugh, pray, sing together here inside the protective belly of mama earth.
Here is a view of Spruce Tree House from the top of the trail. Looks like a perfect place to live.
I loved learning that the ancestral people would clamber straight up the sides of the rocks, rather than up a switch-backy trail like we took. They either had barefeet or sandals, and were quite comfortable roaming on cliffsides.
Checking out pine nuts on the way down to Balcony House, thinking about what the ancient people ate and how they worked and lived on the land. The Colorado Plateau was actually a fairly bountiful place to live.
Balcony House was the next cliffside ruin that we toured. Considered the most strenuous tour in Mesa Verde National Park, we had to climb up cliffside ladders and through tunnels. You can't really tell, but that cliff behind the ladder just tumbles down, down, down.
Emily was worried, being afraid of heights, but she was a real champ.
(Plus the dudes down below got a nice show ;)
This dwelling was seriously breathtaking, situated on the side of this amazing cliff looking out over the vast canyon.
I mean, how's that for a view out your front door?
Going through one of the tunnels. There were some tiny, narrow spaces. A German dude behind us got kinda stuck. He was very good-natured about it all.

Here's Darin in front of the original balcony. I love the thought of taking my morning coffee on that balcony outside the little window, then going out to gather nuts and seeds and grind them with my girlfriends.

Emily goes through a tiny doorway. These dwellings were protected from outsiders. No one got in or out without passing through a specific and secure entryway like this. 

Proud to be out here in the wild air with the remnants of ancient life around us on the wind, tools and rooms around our feet, knowing the people of our earth a little more clearly.

Next day we headed across northern New Mexico and down a crraaazy bumpy dirt road to the Chaco Canyon Cultural Site. Home to an enormous hub of ancestral life even earlier than the folks up at Mesa Verde, with distinct and advanced architectural elements of an urban center.
 What a beautiful day to explore! Bella and I hung out all day.
Once again, the ancient ones chose a gorgeous place to live and come together.
 Something old, something new.
Cactus lands.
Walls, windows, eternal sky.
Who looked out here, what fires, what songs, what triumphant returns did he witness?
Pueblo Bonito is one of the grandest ruins of them all, a Great House built in the mid 800s; it was the heart of the Chacoan world.

Pueblo Bonito has enormous kivas, triple the size of those at Mesa Verde. Here families and communities gathered with other families and communities in great bonding ceremonies.

I will leave you with a page from our scrapbook.

Thank you for reading and looking, if you've gotten this far.
I appreciate you all obliging me in letting me tell the stories of my wanderings; it helps me to remember and to turn the memories into lasting realities of my heart.


great photos. love that place.
i got to go there once as a kid. got the bestest wierdest feeling there. i wanted to live there. i was trying to convince my folks to live there with me. needless to say we didn't relocate.

thanks for sharing your adventures.

i noticed the template is changed, and the text is now easier to read.

yay. YAY!
bellisimama said…
oh man, great, great, great pictures. i so need to go there. gorgeous.
Cel said…
Ah, this post was even better than I'd expected! You took some amazing photos! I am so happy for you, that you got to go and see that! I actually wrote a college paper on the Anasazi when I was 18 haha... Hopefully I get to go visit all these places too!
~Onreeone~ said…
I made it all the way to the end as I'm sure most do. What gorgeous photos of a magical place. Our ancestors had it going on. Great Blog and Beautiful Memories Made...Thank you for sharing them with us.
Courtney said…
I love that you've shared so much history along with your photos. It is truly fascinating so thank you!! What a magical place. It seems so surreal to me, I'd love to experience it first hand.
Tina Dawn said…
A fascinating read. I loved your photos. My hubby and I have been for a few visits with the Anasazi, I hadn't heard about the change in name, very interesting. I have always gotten such a lovely comforting feeling on those high cliffs. When you go out to gather the pine nuts with your girlfriends, I want to come along. I love pine nuts! Love T
marika said…
I remember crawling up those rocks as a kid! It really warms my heart to see a piece of the place I grew up. You're right that the Pueblo culture has quite a mystery to it.

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