This past weekend, Andrea and I went down to Mesa Verde National Park. On Friday we drove from Denver to Cortez. Once we were in Cortez, we had dinner in a good little Mexican restaurant called Francesca's and then we wandered around Main Street for an hour or so before returning to the hotel to go to bed.
Saturday morning we got up early and went to the Cortez Farmer's Market for breakfast. We had breakfast burritos and got a small batch of peaches as well. We then drove out to Mesa Verde. Once we got to Mesa Verde, the first guided tour we took was through the Long House ruin on Wetherill Mesa. Following that tour, we took the tram around to the Kodak House Overlook and then the Long House Overlook.
At that point we drove back to the Far View Visitor Center and then drove out onto Chapin Mesa. We had lunch and then wandered through the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum before we had to go to our tour through Cliff Palace. Cliff Palace is the largest ruin at Mesa Verde and the architecture was amazing. The guide we had for the Cliff Palace tour was also great fun, cracking jokes and generally keeping the whole group entertained. I thought the Mother-In-Law House ruin across the canyon from Cliff Palace was the funniest name of the day. After the Cliff Palace tour, we went back and hiked through the Spruce Tree House, which is the best preserved ruin at Mesa Verde.
By this time the majority of the major ruins were closing so we drove through the Mesa Top Loop which is a series of overlooks and ruins detailing the evolution of the Anasazi architecture from pithouse to cliff dwelling covering a span of nearly 700 years. The Mesa Top Loop contained a number of impressive overlooks onto ruins such as Square Tower House, Sunset House, Cliff Palace, Oak Tree House, and Fire House.
After the Mesa Top Loop, we drove back through the Far View Community ruins on our way back to dinner. The Far View Complex is a well preserved set of mesa top pueblos and farming areas. The dam at Mummy Lake in the Far View Complex is marked as a National Historic Civil Engineering Monument for the A.D. 900 earth and sandstone dam and reservoir.
Dinner was at the Metate Lounge in the Far View Lodge. Andrea had a maple chile pork loin with roasted vegetables and I had the peppercorn crusted elk topped with a blackberry-chokecherry glaze with a carmelized onion, swiss cheese potato cake. The food was absolutely incredible and following dinner we drove back to Cortez and went to bed.
Sunday morning we got up and went to Hovenweep National Monument in Utah. Hovenweep is a series of well preserved, smaller ruins that were contemporary with the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. The setting of Hovenweep is incredible with the stark sandstone ruins and towers standing sentry above a series of small natural springs that provided the lifeblood for the Anasazi.
Following the stop at Hovenweep, we drove back towards Cortez, stopping at Guy Drew Vineyards on the way back where we sat and talked with Guy and his wife in their beautiful kitchen that doubled as their tasting room. At that point it was nearly one o'clock, so we began the eight and a half hour drive back to Denver.