Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Visit to the Land of Enchantment

I'm just back from the Land of Enchantment, and Colorado too. New Mexico, of course, calls itself the 'land of enchantment' on its license plates and I'm not arguing. We started our trip in Santa Fe, where we found a wealth of Native American art, Southwestern history and food, with an unexpected but fun New Age-iness. The historic area, called the Plaza, was crowded. Locals and tourists strolled in the park munching kettle corn from a bag purchased at a cart on the corner. A fireman stood next to his parked fire engine playing bagpipes - when we asked our waitress why she shrugged, equally perplexed. Tattooed teenagers skateboarded down the streets. Shop windows glittered with every kind of squash blossom necklace, turquoise, and black-on-black pottery. Kachina dolls, menacing or cute, gazed out the display windows where they were joined by textiles, fossils, scarves. 
Ted studies the map outside the Georgia O'Keeffe museum.

We were offered an oxygen treatment but accepted only the brochure ("we take walk-ins!") advertising aromatherapy and foot reflexology while you breathe the O2. 

Actually that would have been therapeutic later, at elevation 8000 feet!

Enjoying the Riverwalk in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The first Native American declared a saint by the Vatican.

St. Francis of Assisi - I like the way he is sculpted with a hand caressing the wolf's fur.
 I was sorry to leave Santa Fe, because we had such a great time there. But as we drove toward Colorado the landscape was more beautiful with each mile. Eventually I just had to try to capture the mountains right through the windshield. The sign "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" was stating the obvious. Surely autumn must be the most colorful season, with the aspens golden against the mountains.

The drive from the Visitor Center at Mesa Verde National Park climbs steeply. We bought our tickets and hurried back to the car to begin the winding drive to Chapin Mesa. Every curve seemed to bring a more astonishing view. We learned later that the visibility that day was 110 miles. We could see to Shiprock and beyond clearly.

Waiting to begin our tour of Cliff Palace.
Imagine the skill required for stone masonry at the cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans. The people farmed the mesa top, ascending and descending at foot-and-toe holds chipped into the cliff face. A large population lived in these stone alcoves in the region until around 1300 A.D., when they mysteriously vanished. 
Or did they? Archeologists believe now that they migrated away and became the Pueblo people of the Southwest United States.

Every ranger we asked said the best hike in the Park was the Petroglyph Trail. The loop trail begins with a gentle grade up the side of the mesa through juniper and pine forests. As we neared the petroglyphs at the halfway point the trail became rockier. Rock scrambling uphill can be strenuous anyway, but at that altitude my heart was pounding as a gasped for breath a few times. It was worth it for the petroglyphs and incredible 180+ views.
This petroglyph of kissing birds was probably carved about 900 years ago. 
 When the trail rounded the point it rose to the mesa top, where it became flat and easy walking. We surprised 8 turkeys. They surprised us back by letting us walk to within a few feet of them before they scattered. The Cliff Dwellers of 900 years ago would have used their feathers for blankets and decapitated them in ceremonies as well as serving them for dinner - I doubt that they were so tame centuries ago!

The bird at the right seems to finally be taking alarm.
 The sky at sunset had an incredible rosy to violet glow. There are no clouds visible - the atmosphere itself is taking color from the sunset.

Mesa Verde was on Ted's 'bucket list' but instead of crossing it off, we know that we will return to this mystical, historic Park.


  1. Wow looks like a great place. Fantastic pictures.

  2. Looks like you had a fabulous holiday. Very interesting. Have a serene and easy Sunday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. what an absolutely gorgeous place
    retro rover


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