There's nothing like a birthday party, especially when you reach that elusive century mark. Mesa Verde National Park will accomplish that feat next month and there will be quite the shindig for park visitors. The birthday celebration takes place June 29th-July 2nd and will feature special tours of the cliff dwellings, dances by Native American performers, art exhibits, and more.
Mesa Verde is an incredible park, one that challenges your imagination as you struggle to envision life 800 years ago. It was just about a year ago that I made my first visit to the park, and it was truly a memorable trip. Climbing up a wooden ladder into Balcony House was unforgettable.
Learning about how the Ancestral Puebloans who lived in these cliff dwellings and farmed on the surrounding plateaus was both fascinating and hard to fathom, for in some cases they would climb down to the canyon floor and then up the other canyon wall to reach their gardens. They also were masters at irrigating their gardens.
Visitors to Mesa Verde during the birthday celebration will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the park and learn about the cliff dwellers. Along with the usual tours to Balcony House, Cliff Palace, Spruce Tree House and Long House there will be special ranger-guided tours of Mug House and Oak Tree House.
I was fortunate enough to visit Mug Tree House during my visit last May, and it was indeed a special trip. While the park's main dwellings that are accessible to visitors have been restored, Mug House has had only minor stabilization work done to it. That much of the complex is still intact after all these centuries is a testament to the building skills of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Peering into the kivas and rooms, seeing the smoke stains that still cling to the sandstone alcove ceilings, gazing out over Rock Canyon, and simply standing in the quiet envisioning the sounds of laughing children and adults at work building fires or making pottery created an incredible sense of place.
To help with the celebration, ARAMARK, the park's main concessionaire, has put together some special packages. For instance, there will be all-day tours of the park that include visits to canyon overlooks along the Mesa Top Loop, stops at Spruce Tree House, the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum and Cliff Palace, and a Chuckwagon lunch buffet at the Far View Terrace. Tickets run $65 for those 13 and older, $48 for kids 5-12.
Or you can opt for the "Centennial Hiking Package," which includes two nights' lodging at Far View Lodge, tickets for a ranger-guided hike to either Mug House or Oak Tree House, dinner for two in the Metate Room, two centennial souvenir gifts, and two "Century Cocktails" with dinner. Cost is $370 for two.
Visitors who opt to stay in the park will be happy to know that ARAMARK has invested $400,000 in renovating Far View Lodge, a project long overdue. The work included upgrading lobby furniture and fixtures, new bathrooms and furniture, new bedding and 16 additional "Kiva" class rooms that come with what most other motel rooms these days offer: coffeemakers, hair dryers, handcrafted furniture, CD players/clock radios and either a king or two queen beds.
If you have a love of history, you won't go wrong by making a visit to Mesa Verde, either in time for the birthday bash or later in the year. After all, these dwellings have stood the test of time; they're not going to vanish overnight.