Mesa Verde

Oh! Did we hit the weather! Driving to Mesa Verde, we had rain and small hail. As we were driving through the park, a fantastic thunderstorm made its slow way across the broad valley. John parked on a side road, and we sat there watching the lightning and listening to the crack of thunder. Streaks of lightning struck the earth repeatedly, but there were also circles in the clouds and wavy bolts. It was fantastic. John read that in the summer there can be up to 100 lightning strikes per day in that area.

Cloud for the lightning show
Cloud for the lightning show

They make a big deal about this national park being one that preserves an archaeological heritage. The Pueblo people (Puebloans) lived on the high plateau and in the cliffs. Some of the sites were closed for the season, and others were labeled as strenuous. I knew I wasn’t going when they said the tours involved climbing ladders. We saw the informational video, looked at all the exhibits, drove around the area, and went through the museum. I learned that a mesa is a high plateau, and this area is full of them. The 3-D map made it look like there had been mountains there, with canyons, and that all the tops had been cut off at the same level. No one knows why these ancient people carved out and constructed their homes in the cliffs, nor why they left.

3D map of Mesa Verde area
3D map of Mesa Verde area

The exhibit that I enjoyed the most showed a kneeling woman scooping up water with a ladle. The Puebloans used seep springs to bring water into their homes. They dug small shallow basins in the stone to catch the water they channeled there. This system worked year round! What they didn’t explain is what happened if you forgot to empty the basin. Did your blankets get soaked?

We are trying to eat at local restaurants rather than chains, and today we hit the jackpot for me. In the park eatery there were several American dishes and more Southwest things. I ordered a Navajo taco and watched the cook prepare Indian fry bread and top it with chili, lettuce, salsa, cheese, and sour cream. Because all that bread wouldn’t have been good for me, I left the outer circle. What a treat it was!

Navajo taco
Navajo taco

Back in Durango, we walked to Main Avenue (not Main Street) to see the stores there. A black cloud came toward us, and we had another lightning show. We sheltered in the train station for about 20 minutes until the hail and heavy rain subsided to sprinkles. I wanted to duck in a shop that had local crafts, and the first thing that caught my eye was a display of owls made from gourds. We began to chat with the owner and stood there talking non-stop for an hour. Her family has lived in Durango for four generations. She lived all over the world, got a PhD in archaeology, worked at Mesa Verde, and now makes jewelry and operates that store. She had friends in Setauket (near our NY home) who taught something in the scientific field at the university. She pegged my accent as from NC, but when we said West Tennessee, she asked where. I said north of Memphis. She said, “You must know Dyersburg.” That town is about 20 miles north of my hometown, and she had a friend who lives there, one she communicates with regularly via the internet.

The best story came after she asked how John and I met. She met her husband because of skiing. She had been on the slopes and gotten drenched. Students offered to help her, so they took her to their fraternity house. They were all football players, so they went in the room of the smallest fellow and loaned her his dry clothes. She walked down the stairs as he walked up and did a double take at seeing his clothes on a woman. She talked as if he had been the love of her life, but she never said what happened to him.

We walked the main street, ate a light supper at a café, and walked down to the tracks to see the train come in from the day’s excursion. John wanted to see the engine once more, running between the streets. I’m sure he would never get enough train watching for a lifetime, but I think he was satisfied with all he saw in Durango.

Durango engine returns in rain
Durango engine returns in rain

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