Four Corners is the one spot in the United States where four states converge. Here, in seconds, you can step into Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona (or lay spread eagle on the ground and be in all four simultaneously, which I chose not to do.) We were leaving Canyon De Chelly in Arizona and heading to Mesa Verde National Park, in Colorado, so we had to pass right over it.
We were looking forward to continuing our exploration of the Anasazi, or Ancient Puebloan, culture at Mesa Verde. The park offers an amazing window into the people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 550 to 1300. There are over 5,000 known archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings. You can walk through some of the excavated sites, take tours of several cliff dwellings and generally bury yourself in this significant chapter in the story of prehistoric America. They left no written record, but the dwellings and remaining artifacts show a people adept at farming the tops of the mesas, hunting game, building dwellings to last the eons and artistic in their crafts of pottery, painting and basket making.
To reach the park you must drive a snake-like, switch-back filled, climb to the top of the mesa. (FYI: Mesas are larger tracts of elevated land, where the top is longer than the sides. Buttes are the tall, narrow formations, with sides that are longer than the top) We decided to camp at A&A Mesa Verde RV Park, right across from the Park’s entrance, rather than drag the RV up the incline. Hubby’s fear of heights, made that decision a no brainer. I drove the car the twenty or so miles up into the park and back. He avoided looking at the spectacular views.
We drove the park loops, explored all the sites, took a side trip to the Anasazi Heritage Center, and relaxed enjoying our view of the park from camp. I went back to the park on my own and took what the park ranger called the Indiana Jones tour of Balcony House. It involved climbing a 32- foot ladder to enter the site, crawling through a 18-inch wide tunnel and exiting by scaling a 60 foot exposed cliff, using two 10 foot ladders and a series of stone steps that had been carved by the original inhabitants. Not for the faint-hearted.
I am 5 foot 2, the average height of the Ancients, so I navigated the tunnel without a problem. Some of the “bigger” folk had to squeeze their way through. Besides being small of stature, it seems the harsh life on the mesa took its toll. Life expectancy was around 32, which means at age 14 or so you were marrying, having kids and entering “adulthood.” Having sated our interest in the wonders of the Anasazis, it is time to move on to the wonders of Utah: Arches, canyons and dinosaurs.