Sunday, May 25, 2008


I'm in an internet cafe in Durango, where I'm waiting for John to arrive from Albuquerque. He'll drop off his rental car and we'll drive back to Mesa Verde. As it turns out, Durango is hopping, as the Ironman bicycle races are happening right outside the window. A strange combination of professional bicycle racers dressed in skin tight racing uniforms emblazoned with graphics and logos, and a parade of sequined, feathered and outrageously costumed riders, obviously not dressed for speed. Which is the more bizarre, I don't know.

After a few days of hail, snow and freezing wind, it's turned beautiful. Sunny and temperatures in the 70's. It's also Memorial Day weekend, so the park is very crowded. That's why I am so glad that I did get back to Wetherill Mesa yesterday, the last day the gates were closed. By the time I finished business in Cortez, and tore myself away from a very cool Indian marketplace at Far View (I bought a beautiful Puebloan bowl with a bat design directly from the woman who painted it) it was about 4:30 and the weather had begun to stabilize.

I was able to enjoy the drive up (and down) Wetherill much more this time, without the worrying tire pressure light. I thought, being the day before the road opened, that there would be a lot of park employees working on the mesa, but I passed no one on the long drive to the end, and when I reached the parking lot it was equally deserted. I decided to visit Step House. The trail, which starts right from the parking lot, was along a sandstone wall whose texture and color were beautiful to look at, and as it switched back afforded a view out to the horizon and the sandstone arch that sheltered Step House. I had decided that Long House was my favorite of the cliff dwellings, but I found myself being completely charmed with Step House. Large boulders of sandstone were intermingled with the walls of the dwelling, each of the textures equally beautiful. I was also surprised to see a large block of petroglyphs covering the side of one of the boulders. I sat with my back to the canyon and began a watercolor of the walls and windows. Every so often I would turn around and catch half a dozen turkey vultures circling by the opening. I was reluctant to leave, but wanted to revisit Long House, so finished the loop trail and got back in my car to drive past the DO NOT ENTER sign and down the tram road. Parking again at the trail head, I decided not to try to do any work, since the light was fading and I felt it was enough just to experience being in the dwelling by myself with no distractions. I walked the winding paved path through Juniper and Pinion Pine, making a bit of noise since it looked like good bear country. It smelled wonderful, as it does in most of the park, especially after a rain. At the top of the stairs I found some cactus blooming. Long House was quiet and peaceful, and felt very sheltered. I imagined the first inhabitants feeling that same sense of shelter. I found that the green pool from the spring at the back of the wall had gotten a little bigger due to the snow and rain, and I noticed the round holes the inhabitants had carved in the pool to collect the water. I dipped my hand in, wiping aside the green film of algae. The water underneath was clear, but when I put it to my face, it smelled sour. I decided not to drink it, but blessed myself with it. You never know....

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