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Durango Vacation Journal Part 10

Ramp to a Tunnel, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

This beautiful and “easy-walking” ramp led Jerry and me to the visitor center at Mesa Verde National Park, home of 4,500 archeological sites; 600 of which are cliff dwellings. We examined the displays, read history notes, and perused the listings of the tours that are available. We decided to hike to the Spruce Tree House, and to engage in some of the road tours. (Many pictures in the linked article.)

It was about ten years ago that we first visited Mesa Verde, and even before we arrived at the visitor center today we saw there had been significant change and presumed the ravaged acres must have been the result of wildfires. Inside the visitor’s center, a large poster told of the devastating and extensive fires in recent years, and a few minutes ago when I checked for further information on these fires, I confirmed that during the last seven years, five raging wildfires have burned over fifty percent of the land at Mesa Verde. Fortunately, very few historic dwellings were damaged.


View Shirley Buxton’s map

Taken in (See more photos here)

The weather, as has been usual since we’ve been here in Colorado, was perfect–the skies strikingly beautiful. This circular rail leads to the main entrance of the visitor’s center. According to anthropologists and historians, Mesa Verde is the home of the Ancestral Puebloans, and the cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages here were built between A.D 450 and 1300.

Mesa Verde is a World Cultural Heritage Park, a designation granted by UNESCO to preserve and protect the cultural and national heritage of certain international sites. Mesa Verde has also been selected the #1 historic monument in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, and was chosen by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “50 places of a Lifetime–The World’s Greatest Destinations.”

The Ancestral Puebloans created a thriving populous civilization that eventually raised towers and built hundred-room cities into the cliffs of Mesa Verde. There are thousands of sites in the area, earning Mesa Verde Country® the honor of being North America’s richest archaeological area. Many sites are open to the public for visitation, and there are local museums and institutions dedicated to exploring and interpreting this culture and archaeology. The most famous of these is award-winning Mesa Verde National Park, but visiting others provides a deeper look into the fascinating culture of the Ancestral Pueblo People.

Information taken from Mesa Verde official web site.

It is an astonishing place, and when I view those dwellings and think of the scores of families who lived here, and the extreme difficulties under which they labored, I am impressed with their fortitude, grit and intelligence. I do not understand how they lived in such places. They had to carry their water up to the cliff dwellings, and they farmed on the mesas above their homes. It’s just incredible.

Take a look at this view of one of the cliff dwellings and you can imagine how difficult their life must have been.

Suddenly, they were gone. By about 1300 Mesa Verde was deserted. Several theories are extended, but despite significant study and intense investigation no one actually knows what happened to these people. The history of Mesa Verde and its people is exhaustive–much too entailed for examination within this blog. I believe you will find it a fascinating study if you choose to delve into the history of these marvelous people.


The hike to the Spruce Tree House was a quarter of a mile, and was a fairly steep descent. We took it slowly, and almost immediately I saw very large birds in a tree across the canyon. Everyone was pointing and taking pictures, and someone said they were eagles. I was excited, snapped lots of pictures, then a ranger came by and told us the birds were not eagles, but were turkey vultures. Oh, well, they’re big and pretty. We did well hiking up, too, but we should have taken water with us. It was rather hot.

This is astonishing, I thought, as I stood here and photographed the living place of a mysterious, long-vanished people. What happened to them? Where did they go? Why did they leave?


My devotional blog is here.Includes a 9/11 tribute





By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

8 replies on “Durango Vacation Journal Part 10”

Hi, Jayleigh. I understand exactly what you’re saying, for it’s bittersweet to visit these ruins. It’s an amazing place. I still have difficulty in understanding how they actually lived in those cliff houses, carrying water, taking care of babies, growing crops…it’s mind boggling.


Wow Shirley… those pictures are fantastic. It always makes me sad, kind of, to go to ruins like the last picture and just wonder how and why and when they left something so beautiful and that they worked so hard on.

Take care, sweet lady!


Can you believe, I lived there for six years and have never been to Durango or Mesa Verde?

I don’t know what I was thinking.:) It looks like a beautiful trip. I will have to make an extra effort to go next time I’m out there during good weather.

I’m lovin’ your journal.


Hello, Mervin. We’re only here a few more days–otherwise you and your wife could pack up your things and join Jerry and me here. I know you would love it.

I’m shouting amen to your apple box message. Climb it anytime you want on this site.


Sis. Buxton:

I have read a little about the Native Americans who chose to dwell on the cliffs. The intense labor and fortitude that was demonstrated by these Native American peoples in both the building and the keeping of their homes. When I turn and look at us today, how unhappy some would be should one part of their struggle to live touched our lives!

I shall stand upon my apple box for a moment.

I am very deeply convinced that these peoples completed and held as long as they did by a strange thing to many today. Commitment! They saw, they built, they struggled and they completed. Sad to me is the fact that many do not have either the desire or the grasp of the victories that can come to ones life. When they commit to something and keep that commitment.

I have descended form my apple box.

I so enjoy your photos and wish I was there to enjoy the real thing.



Good morning, Greg and thank you for the invitation. Never know when we might show up on your doorstep.

You are so right about the differing ways of life, and certainly it is the epitome of wisdom to know that we are not at all in control or invincible.

It’s probably because I’m a mother and the keeper of a house that the way of life of the cliff dwellers seems so difficult. I’m rather sure that we “modern people” have gone quite soft, and that had I grown up under such conditions I could more easily imagine coping with such life. I do admire the Puebloans–they were excellent builders and no doubt quite intelligent.

Bless you.
(do you have a new blog location?)


life is very fragile – those of us who feel in control and believe we have all the power will possibly find ourselves like these people from Mesa Verde – we shuld not think we are invincibel and that our way fo life is what God has ordained for all time and for all people.

That aside, by crikey you and your hubby go on some good trips Shirley, if you ever think of heading out to Australia, I’d love to show you some of our sites!




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