Mesa Verde is basically a big, free-standing mountain with its top lopped of, on and around which members of the Ancestral Pueblo cultures lived from around AD 550 to the late 1200s.
During the last few generations before they disappeared, the Ancestral Puebloans build impressive stone homes under alcoves eroded into the cliff sides.
These cliff dwellings survived surprisingly intact (and some have been partially restored).
There are hundreds of archaeological remains in the park, including cliff dwellings, rock art, storage areas, and the mesa-top homes build prior to the cliff-dwelling era.
I spent part of one summer after I graduated college in this part of Colorado on a volunteer project for an organization that studies, preserves, and educates about archaeological remains of the Ancestral Pueblo, so this area and this history holds a special place in my heart.
We visited a few of the cliff dwellings, both on guided and self-guided tours.
Saw gorgeous sunsets.
E and Z were sworn in as Junior Rangers.
(Self-portrait with heart-shaped rock.)
We took a nice, long hike and the boys tried out cliff-dwelling.
Bits of history everywhere.
The goal of the hike was this: pictographs.
Just stunningly beautiful. Is it art? A message? A story? A Map?
And the views!!
Another place I'd love to go back to and spend more time, especially in the back country.