After hours of driving I began to be concerned about the lack of signs for Mesa Verde. I began to wonder if I had made a wrong turn. We were seeing signs for Four Corners for miles away and it wasn’t even open. About 9 miles away we saw our first sign and I knew we were on the right track. I couldn’t help but escape the feeling that Mesa Verde is a forgotten park. As we drove into the park campground I noticed many of the sites were overgrown and the campground hadn’t changed much since I camped here 20 years ago. Of course, setting up camp in the rain didn’t do much to make the place seem cozy.
The next morning we started off trying to get gas at the park gas station only to discover that they were out! We were luck there was a place just outside the park where we could fill up. Once we were back in the park we headed to the visitor center which, again, was just like it was 20 years ago. I read in the paper that they are planning to open a new visitor center and they need it. This park is in need of a major upgrade. I realize we are there to look at 800 year old ruins but the facilities were not as nice as those we experienced at other parks.
Visiting the ruins was just as awe inspiring as it was when I visited before. I was glad I was still able to fit through that little tunnel. One major change I noticed is that the people who lived in Mesa Verde are now called the Ancestral Puebloans and not the Anasazi. I asked a ranger about this and she explained that the name Anasazi is a Navaho name and it is a bit negative. The Indians who are descendents of the cliff dwellers decided on the name Ancestral Puebloan to honor all the tribes who are descendents. On this visit I also got a better sense of how these dwellings were related. Mesa Verde was like a city and the different areas with dwellings were like villages. At one time, there were 5,000 people living in this area.
As we got into the car to leave the park, a huge storm blew in. There was bad lightning which was unnerving on the high mesa and hail which made driving on the curvy roads a bit more harrowing. During the 45 minute drive to Durango with storms and lightning swirling around us I made the decision I was done with camping in the rain. So, we camped at the Comfort Inn.