VIDEO: RV-ing with the Ancients at Mesa Verde National Park

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November 20, 2008

Airstream RV Blog #80 – Mesa Verde & Telluride from Sean Michael on Vimeo.
Traveling to historic places is obviously good for the mind. Nothing enhances one’s understanding of history like viewing what’s left of it.

But it’s also good for the soul. There’s something both sobering and magical about being amongst sites that were occupied by humans long ago. It provides perspective. It’s not just a matter of sociology and high-falutin’ book-learnin’; there’s a spiritual element, too. One can almost sense the presence of those who came before…

In Europe, people live their daily lives in the presence of history.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a walking tour of Stockholm, Sweden. As we strolled the city’s ancient streets, he pointed out items of interest. “Do you see that block of flats?” he said, gesturing to a nondescript structure. “That building is almost 1000 years old, and it’s still being used today.”

I was intrigued. “What is it today?” I asked.

“It’s still a block of flats,” he replied. “And people are still living there.”

A 1000-year old apartment building? Now that’s what I call “built to last.”

Here in America, we tend to worship the new. We like new cars, new houses, new clothes. When something begins to show a little age, we tear it down and build something new.

Want to visit some of the classic Las Vegas casinos? The places where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. made their legend? Alas, most of them have already been destroyed and replaced.

Sure, there are a few United States cities with roots stretching back more than a couple hundred years. But even Boston and Charleston are spring chickens by Old World standards. In most cities, even the “historic district” is filled with structures less than a century old.

But just when you think the entire country is one big shopping center, you come across a place like Mesa Verde National Park.

Travel to Mesa Verde, and you can step back in time. Here are Native American ruins some 600 years old. Built beneath towering cliffs, the design and surrounding landscape is spectacular.

Yes, they were originally apartment buildings.

No, they aren’t still be used for that purpose (although they’d be quite spacious by New York standards).

There’s also an element of spiritual mystery about Mesa Verde. We know why these places were built, since the cliffs offered excellent fortified protection.

But why were they abandoned? We have theories (climate change led to a shrinking water supply) but hard evidence is in short supply.

We’ve traveled some 30,000 miles so far on our long, long RV honeymoon. Of all the places we have visited, Mesa Verde is unique. Given its location, in a somewhat remote area of Colorado, it’s the type of place best explored by RV.

We left Mesa Verde with a better understanding of Native American history and culture. It whetted our appetite for more. In the words of another time traveler from the future… I’ll be back.

For more historic RV travels, check out our website:

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  2. Maek & Kay, thanks… We passed through Silver City this summer. We missed the site there, but I’m sure you got a good taste of the experience.

    Dennis, yes we went to the Anasazi Heritage Center too. The view was stunning! Of course, I thought the views around Mesa Verde were pretty special too.

  3. Dennis

    Well, Mesa Verde was,,,”All Right”. But did you look at Hovenweep while you were there? Talk about an ‘experience’! It’s perhaps forty or so miles from Mesa Verde. And of course the last National Monument that Mr. Clinton made, the Anasazi Heritage Center, outside of Cortez. The view those guy’s had was Stupendous! In Aztec, New Mexico, there are (or were) over four hundred sites per section. Quite a place to visit!

  4. Maek & Kay Ulm

    Have yet to get there but it is on our bucket list now.
    We have gone to a smaller site near Silver City ,New Mexico a few years ago and that was cool.

    Keep up the good work!!!

  5. Jim, I agree — Mesa Verde is a special place that really touches the spirit.

    Glen, thanks for the suggestions. We will research some of the places you mention, and who knows, maybe camp there as well. You make an interesting point about climate change. I usually steer clear of politics on the blog, but researchers and historians claim that “climate change” is the core reason the cliff dwellings were vacated some 600 years ago! The climate changed and their water supply dried up. One suspects that “change” is what the earth’s climate does, and has always done. We often tend to draw conclusions based upon brief snapshots of time, rather than the totality of 5 billion years of history.

  6. Glen Styles

    Dito on those spiritual feelings when visiting the sites of those people that were here before white man caused their demise. Yes I am being sarcastic. It is a wonder how the Al Gores of the world can claim the destruction of the world by our way of life should have been around to save the civilizations which have left signs that there was climate change long before fossils fuels and SUVs. Having visited over 220 nat park sites some others that leave you with the spiritual feelings are: Montezuma Castle, Az, Casa Grande Ruins, AZ, Tonto Nat Monument, AZ, Tizigot Nat Monument, AZ, Wupathki Nat Monument, AZ, Ocmulgee Nat Monument, GA, Effgy Mounds, IO, Poverty Point, LA, Russel Cave, AL . Now these sound like a lot but they only represent part of the ones that I can think of for now. Who needs to go across the water to see History . I’ve talked to long ,got to get on the road, visit more spiritual places before the good Lord takes me away.

  7. Grampa Jim

    My wife and I went there in 2003 and felt the very spirit of “Those Who Came Before”…..and I gotta tell ya…..if you go there and DON”T feel that very spirit,,,,you’re spiritually dead. Wonderful and exciting and emotional to be there.