Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans

What a FUN round of golf! No wonder The Hideout in Monticello is such a highly rated Muni course in Utah - it is fun to play, it is incredibly well maintained and the views are beautiful -

The mechanical man attempts a round of golf with dismal results.

After this wonderful morning, we packed up, said good-bye to our little cat friend and were ready to tackle our LOOOOONG drive of 70 miles to Mesa Verde and our new ‘camping’ spot - which is really peaceful -

A great spot just outside Mesa Verde National Park.

A storm squall rolls into our neighborhood.

For the past several days we have been traveling “The Trail of the Ancients” (apropos, don’t you think???) and will continue along the Trail to Albuquerque.

No, not my trail..the trail of the Ancestral Puebloans.

This Trail encompasses sites in the Four Corners region that ‘exemplify’ the Native People who inhabited the area since about 200 BC and their ‘homes’ and communities. Some of the sites included on this trail which we have already written about include the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum and Pueblo and Natural Bridges National Monument (NM).
Since arriving at Mesa Verde we have traveled the Trail to see the Anasazi Heritage Center, the Escalante ruins, the Lowry Pueblo NM in Canyons of the Ancients NM, Hovenweep NM and Mesa Verde NP. We are overwhelmed with the sites and history - and could write volumes on what we have seen. It is interesting to have a little of the background on each of these sites - so I will try to give some information BUT keep it short?!?!? Gary’s pictures will also tell the tale.
The Anasazi Heritage Center and the Escalante Ruins - The Anasazi Heritage Center was an outgrowth of the largest archaeological research project ever carried out in the US. This work began after 1968, when the federal government authorized the damming of a river. The required environmental impact study resulted in archaeologists finding more than 1,600 sites! The Escalante ruins, a 20-room pueblo built around 1129 A.D. and occupied, except for two short periods, until the early 1200’s, were excavated and stabilized as part of this study to become part of the Center.

A view of the Escalante Pueblo outside Cortez, CO.

Back to the Anasazi in a minute - but on a lighter note - a fund raising project by the San Juan Mountains Assoc. had artists ‘decorate’ pumas for Public Art for Public Lands. This puma was done in the ‘style’ of the Puebloans of black on white and resided in front of the Center. I loved him and wanted to share -

Puma On Parade at the Anasazi Cultural Center.

Now, back to the Anasazi. Although the pueblo above was built in the early 1100’s, the Anasazi (a Navajo term given archaeologists, referring to the former inhabitants of abandoned cliff dwellings and pueblos), or ‘Pueblo ancestors’ (the two terms are now used interchangeably), emerged more than two millennia ago from a seminomadic hunter-gatherer tradition to practice agriculture and live in villages. From about 5,500 B.C. to 500 A.D., small scattered bands or family groups roamed the Southwest hunting small game and collecting edible plants, seeds, nuts and fruit. The acquisition of corn from southern Mexico shifted these people from nomadism to agriculture and was the genesis of the Anasazi culture.

As they progressed from a hunting society to an agricultural one, their architectural skills also changed as they became more tied to the land. They advanced from sheltering themselves in shallow pithouses under rock overhangs to building multistoried masonry pueblos.

Because of the many finely woven baskets found at their pithouse sites, the first Anasazi are referred to as Basketmakers. By 700 A.D. these early farmers were building above-ground attached masonry dwellings, or pueblos. Then the term Basketmaker is dropped in favor of Pueblo. SO -

Lowry Pueblo, part of Canyons of the Ancients NM - The Ancestral Puebloan people constructed this Pueblo around 1060 A.D. and inhabited it for about 165 years. Lowry began as a small village with a few rooms and a kiva. By the time the last families left Lowry and migrated to the south, the pueblo had grown to 40 rooms, eight kivas, and a Great Kiva. Access here was wonderful as we were able to walk the perimeter and enter several rooms.

The Lowry Pueblo.

The Kiva was a very important part of the life of the Ancestral Puebloan. It was a central gathering place for the family, storytelling and religious activities. It was always circular, below ground, had a place for a fire in the center and was entered through a hole in the roof via a ladder. (The ruins no longer have the roof in place - on occasion the roof has been replicated.) It appeared that each family would have a Kiva and there might be a larger one for the community. The picture below shows the Great Kiva of the Lowry Pueblo, which probably drew Ancestral Puebloans from several hundred square miles to conduct religious ceremonies. An interpretive sign quoted a Hopi woman who recently visited the site as saying that the two rock designs in the floor of the Kiva were the images of Summer and Winter. If you look at the rocks they do have the character of human figures.

The Great Kiva at the Lowry Pueblo.

Hovenweep NM - Here at Hovenweep (which means ‘deserted valley’ in the Ute language) most of the buildings still standing were constructed from 1230 to 1275 by the Ancestral Puebloan and are referred to as the Square Tower group. The stunning Square Tower and an intriguing collection of buildings are clustered along the rim of Little Ruin Canyon. Here we were able to walk the entire rim to view the sites.

The Twin Towers

Hovenweep Castle

Several of the Hovenweep Towers nestled around the canyon. Square Tower sits down in the canyon.

Mesa Verde - The real jewel in the crown of the Trail (at least so far). Cited as one of the world’s top cultural attractions, Mesa Verde was home to the Ancestral Puebloans for more than 700 years! Complete homes and entire villages have survived with many artifacts amazingly intact, providing a unique and thought provoking glimpse into America’s pre-European past. The cliff houses set in rock alcoves or tucked in cracks in the canyon walls do give a feeling of fantasy - a Disneyland of American archaeology!

Although hunter-gatherers certainly roamed these canyons for thousands of years, Mesa Verde was not permanently settled until around 600 A.D. At this time, numerous pithouse villages were home to extended families. By 750 A.D. they had begun building surface rooms of upright posts woven through with slender branches to form walls that were coated with mud. While cool in the summer, these structures provided inadequate protection from the sharp winds and deep snows of Colorado winters. So - small contiguous masonry rooms eventually took their place as living quarters. Mesa Verdeans lived in pueblos on top of the mesas until around 1200 A.D. when many people moved into the canyons to live in the cliff dwellings. By the mid-1200’s, these cliff dwellings housed about half the population of the Mesa. By 1300 these pueblos were vacant! The reason for the exodus is a mystery - but believed to be because after such a long habitation the natural resources were depleted AND a prolonged drought reeked havoc with the agricultural society (global warming in the 1300’s!!). One has the opportunity to see the full range of this historical period - from pithouses of 600 A.D. to cliff pueblos of 1300’s - here at Mesa Verde. Some - up close and personal!

Dwellings built in the alcoves along Mesa Top.

Sunset House.

A distant view of Cliff Palace-the largest cliff dwelling in the Southwest!

Getting closer.

Almost there.

More than 100 Puebloans occupied Cliff Palace.

Amazing to see this from such a close proximity.

As you can see, by the 1300’s the Kiva has advanced to a much more ‘finished’ ceremonial room. Now an air ‘intake’ is included to bring fresh air into the Kiva. However, to prevent the rush of air from blowing the fire out or blowing the ash around the floor of the Kiva, a rock panel is placed in front of the intake entrance. The fire pit is still in the middle of the room. In this picture, the ‘sipapu’ is also easily seen. This is the little round hole in the floor directly below the fire pit. Remember the bridge of the same name at Natural Bridges?? This is the ‘entrance’ by which the ancestors spirits are able to come and go. One can also see the benches and pilasters that held up the roofs. These Kivas were still covered with a roof, which had the entrance ‘hole’ using a ladder. However, these roofs have not endured the test of time;-(

Note the air intake hole at the rear of this Kiva.

We had to climb several of these ladders to get back out of the canyon from Cliff Palace.

Spruce Tree House, our next destination, is the third largest cliff dwelling among several hundred within park boundaries and was constructed between 1200 and 1276 by the Anasazi. This dwelling contains about 114 rooms and eight kivas and housed about 100 people. Again, one can actually hike to the dwelling and climb amongst the ruins;-)

Now we are headed down to explore the Spruce Tree House.

Three story apartments at the back of this section of Spruce Tree House.
(Notice ladder down into the covered Kiva.)

The ladders lead down to Kivas.

The round structure below ground level is a Kiva without its roof.
Look at the red and white 'paint' on the upper back wall.

These last several days have been awe-inspiring. Makes one wonder - why do we talk about history of thousands of years ago only existing in Europe?? As in the Coliseum, Parthenon, etc?? There are wonderful, amazing, overwhelming and ageless sites in our own back yard!! AND - our Federal Government has done the National Park system right. Just hope funding isn’t cut here too;-(

Well - hope the narrative hasn’t been too boring, but maybe a little helpful. AND - hope the pictures have given some feel of what we have been able to experience the last few days. AND - there is more of the Trail to come with a little Balloon Festival in between. But, now we have to pack up for another LOOOONG moving day - 36 miles!!

So - have a great week-end and we will talk to you again soon.

Overwhelmed - E & G from the Trail of the Ancients

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bridges & Needles

Well - this week-end has been spent in and around the cute little town of Monticello in the southeastern part of Utah. The town may be small but it is the entry way to some of the most beautiful scenery in two National Parks/Monuments - Natural Bridges NM and The Needles district of Canyonlands.

Before we pulled up stakes in Moab Friday morning, we again wore ourselves out with a 14 mile bike ride into more beautiful red-rock country. This made the 56 mile trip to Monticello tolerable, as we needed a little rest time;-)!! After finding a charming little RV park run by locals (Mountain View RV Park with a sweet little cat who liked to get to know the visitors and make itself at home!!) -

RV Park's cat made himself at home and took over Gary's chair!

-- we made our usual trek to the Visitor Center. We came away armed with brochures and returned to Magic to plot out our next two days.

Saturday we enjoyed our morning - watched a little college football, had the treat of cinnamon rolls and then were off on our adventures for the day.

Our first stop was the Edge of Cedars State Park and Museum. This museum is small, but well worth the visit. It is a world class research facility with the archaeological repository (it has an outstanding collection of prehistoric ceramics and other artifacts and a mural reproducing some of the region’s major pictographs) for all of Southeast Utah containing exhibits relating to the Anasazi, Navajo, and Ute Indians.

Just outside the museum is the Edge of the Cedars Pueblo - inhabited by the Anasazi Indians (ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians) between A.D. 850 and 950 and again between 1025 and 1125.

Remains of a Puebloan structure at Edge Of Cedars State Park

At its peak, their pueblo consisted of six residential complexes, including ten kivas (a circular room used for ceremonies) and one great kiva. One kiva has been excavated and restored and may be entered by means of a ladder descending through the roof -

Elizabeth checking out the Kiva.

Time to get moving to Natural Bridges National Monument, which sits high on Cedar Mesa at 6,500 feet above sea level.

Intermittent streams have cut two deep canyons and three massive bridges in sandstone formed from what was once the shore of an ancient sea. (Bridges are formed by rivers where the Arches such as those in Arches NP are formed by erosion.) Each of the three bridges has its own personality and age.

First on the trail is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (only Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon is bigger) and the ‘Mature’ bridge of the three.

Here is what Sipapu Bridge looks like from the overlook.
Let's go down and check it out.

Each of these bridges has had several names over time. When the park was expanded to also protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned Hopi names. In Hopi mythology, a “sipapu” is a gateway, or place of emergence, through which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this world. The trail to the canyon bottom below Sipapu is the steepest in the park with staircases and ladders to aid in the descent -

Yikes, maybe we should have stayed up top. I'm not so good with high places.

The shadow people are back, checking out Sipapu Bridge.

The ‘Young’ Kachina Bridge was next on our agenda. It is considered the youngest of the three because of the thickness of its span. White Canyon floodwaters still work to enlarge its span as do rock falls, such as one in 1992 when approximately 4,000 TONS of rock broke off the bridge!! It is named for the Kachina dancers that play a central role in Hopi religious tradition. (Notice who is in front of this ‘young’ bridge!)

On the left hand side here you can see the 4,000 tons of rock that fell 19 years ago..

A view from the backside of Sipapu Bridge.

Last, but by no means least, is the Ancient - Owachomo Bridge. The streams that made this bridge no longer erode it, but frost action and seeping moisture do. The bridge may now have a fatal crack;-( Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, and is named after a rock formation on one end of the bridge. (Notice who is in front of this ‘ancient’ bridge!)

A couple of old timers. The Owachoma Bridge and you know who.

Well - the hikes to all of these wonderful sights wore us out yet again. BUT - when the sun came up on Sunday, we were ready for more! So - off to The Needles district of Canyonlands. We, of course, took one of those scenic roads - Harts Draw Road - to get there. Along the way we enjoyed deer, lots of wild turkeys and the changing leaves of the Gambel Oak.

On the way into the Park, one has to stop at Newspaper Rock - perhaps a newspaper from over 2,000 years ago! This rock art panel is jam-packed with petroglyphs on the darkly patinated slab of sandstone from several Native American cultures - Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont, Anasazi, Ute, and Navajo.

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs.

And, finally, The Needles district of Canyonlands, named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. The area covers a lattice of canyons, flat-bottomed valleys called grabens, arches, and spectacular sandstone walls notched by rocky spires and columns. A 6 mile round-trip hike to Chesler Park took us along ridges into the canyons where we walked among the ‘needles’ -

Heading out on a 6 mile hike over, under, around and through the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.

Beautiful sights.

This grouping reminded Elizabeth of Russian stacking dolls.

The only arch we spotted on this hike.

This was the turnaround point on our hike.

Tomorrow is a golf day at the local muni course - the Hideout - rated the top muni course in the state!! Then we are on the move again.

So - more from Mesa Verde in a few days - E&G

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Here we go again

Autumn is upon Park City and the leaves are beginning to turn those wonderful, magical colors - therefore, it must be time for us to be on the road again.

Fall colors on the mountain - SO - C'mon..let's hit the road!

So - Magic is out of storage and we are on our way again. Our most immediate ‘activity destination’ is the Albuquerque Balloon Festival October 4th - but, we have a few miles to travel and activities to enjoy before we get there;-) It was appropriate, though, that the balloons in Park City were overhead as we pulled away from home Monday morning.

Must've known we were heading for the Albuquerque Balloon Fest.

First stop - Moab and the beautiful red rock and many arches it has to offer. Also, that wonderful little muni course with the gorgeous views that we love. It warranted at least two days -

Golf in Moab is always a treat.

Then it was time to get serious about our National Parks (NP’s) and hiking and biking. We intend to visit many of the NP’s preserving the history of our Native peoples - learning about their history, homes and writings. This process was started with a drive down Utah Scenic Byway 279 where we were able to see petroglyphs from the Formative Period (1 - 1275 AD). There were “paper doll cutouts”, horned anthropomorphs holding shields, as well as a wide variety of other animal and abstract images. My favorite was the bear with the little man with a bow and arrow at his nose!

Petroglyphs galore. The Puebloans were very prolific.

Of course, we also found one of our usual dirt roads off the beaten path that took us up a beautiful canyon.

Oh, good. Another dirt road to explore!

This trip we even managed to find a Chuckwagon Dinner complete with Cowboy music to enjoy at the end of our day -

A chuckwagon dinner and a show. Most of the audience were French.

Tuesday - almost did ourselves in!! The day began with an 8 mile loop bike ride just to the west of the Arches NP. The ride was a lot of FUN (it did include a little bit of the slick rock!!) - and the views of the NP were wonderful -

All right! Let's ride. (See the Arch above his elbow!)

Arches Nat'l Park is in the background.

We got an early start, so the shadows were long.

After a quick ‘clean-up’ and lunch, Canyonlands Island in the Sky called.

Off to explore Canyonlands.

There were many hikes to be had and we needed to get going. First up was the Rim Trail at the Grand View Point Overlook. Thousands of feet below was Monument Basin, Totem Pole and White Rim. It is hard to get a perspective from the pictures - but, we are 2,000 feet above the floor of the canyon and the monuments on the floor rise over 300 feet from the canyon floor!! It is sandstone layers of varying hardness that make up Canyonland’s visible rock. But the character of the land is largely shaped by underlying salt deposits, which, under tremendous pressure from the rock above, push upward, forming domes that fracture the surface creating these beautiful, interesting sites.

With deep gorges..

And gorgeous monuments!

There were short hikes to overlooks of the Colorado and Green Rivers, to Upheaval Dome (a mile-wide crater enclosed by rock strata upturned in concentric circles with a center rock spire - perhaps created by a meteorite) and Mesa Arch where we watched the sun cast long shadows as it set behind us.

Mesa Arch as sunset nears.

The LaSal Mountains are in the background (35 miles away!).

We had exhausted ourselves and headed back to Magic for a good night’s sleep;-)

It is great to be back on the road and enjoying all it has to offer. Hope you will stick with us and enjoy our travels -

Until next time - Elizabeth and Gary back in their Magic Bus