Since it is the 100 year celebration of the National Parks we’ve really been hitting the parks this summer and came to Mesa Verde in late June. This is our second park this summer and our 3rd this year (Carlsbad 7/15, Sand Dunes 5/16).
It was a really magical place. Ancestral Puebloans lived in this area for several hundred years on top of the mesa before spending the last 80 years in the area in the cliffs – due to horrific ‘drouth’ (poetic form of drought lol) theAncestral Puebloans left the area for good to relocate to modern New Mexico and Arizona. I was surprised at how ‘active’ the park was. Generally, you think of parks as being look/no touching and well if you aren’t into outdoors stuff you can ride the tram/elevator/moving escalator or just sit in the visitors center. This park was still no-touch, but ALL of the activities were strenuous and physically demanding. Plus, even when you are in shape – it’s not like I practice climbing ladders – it was hard.
We hit up the Balcony House (SUPER TOUGH), Long House (THE BEST), and Cliff Palace (The most popular).
Cliff Palace was the 101 of Cliff Dwellings – nice way to dip your feet into the cliff dwellings and had the least physically demanding route/layout.
Balcony House – this was the most physically challenging cliff dwelling. We had to climb one 30 ft ladder, multiple 10ft ladders, crawl thru a 18 inch x 18 inch tunnel, and climb up the side of a boulder holding on to steel chains. It was quite the experience and I couldn’t imagine living in a place that required so much entry/exit dramatics. Seeing their little foot and hand notches all over the rocks was insane. I mean, the dude gives me shit when I try to take all the groceries from the car to the house in one trip, imagine trying to carry all your harvest stuff down with you…. I would have died. Of course, I think the name Balcony House comes from the fact that they built a little retaining wall to keep from falling off the side…. ‘balcony’.
And now everyone’s favorite the Long House – this required a little less than a mile walk into the dwelling. It was really hot on the mesa but thankfully there was a lovely breeze as we embarked on the hike.
It was just a beautiful place. So much to see. I would love to go back in the cooler months and be able to do more hiking around the area.
I mentioned in my other Sand Dunes post that we went to the Alligator Farm located about 15 minutes away. The history of this place revolves around the hot springs that are present and capable of supporting this sort of gator-friendly environment. They have over 300 gators there and lots of rescued reptiles that live happy lives.
One of the most hysterical things we learned is that earlier on the day we visited, the farm had run out of bananas. Apparently, the turtles were rioting in anger since they didn’t have any bananas to eat. It was hysterical – who knew little turtles had such big attitudes. The running joke for the rest of our visit was – ‘DO YOU HAVE AN UPDATE ON THE BANANAS?’ It was a great place and we got to see a lot of very amazing reptiles in the San Luis Valley!
Erwin and Lynne Young moved from Post, Texas to Alamosa, Colorado in September, 1974 with their four children, Mark, Mike, Sherri, and Jay. Erwin learned of the geothermal water resources available in the Valley and wanted to grow Tilapia, an African perch that requires warm water and is very good to eat.
In 1977 they purchased the 80 acre farm that is now Colorado Gators Reptile Park. It wasn’t until 1987 that they purchased 100 baby alligators to dispose of dead fish and the remains of filleted fish.
Those baby gators grew quickly in the warm geothermal water (87° F) and the locals wanted to see them, so we opened to the public in 1990. Soon we were in the spotlight of many media programs and articles. Individuals with overgrown alligators and other reptiles such as large pythons, tortoises, iguanas, and more started dropping them off with us.
We have become a sanctuary for unwanted exotic pets and we care for them as best we can. We display them for the public to understand the dangers in owning these pets and we take them to schools for educational programs.