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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Mesa Verde National Park

Going back to the highway (No. 24 it is today) we drove west, crossing the continental divide again at Creek Pass (8200 ft.). There is a small town there by the name of Divide. From there Rt. 24 swings slightly north, then makes a big quarter circle and meets Rt. 50 at Salida. Three peaks, all higher than Pikes Peak (14,110 ft.) lie close together just west of the highway before it enters Salida. Rt. 50 west from Salida gradually descends from the high evergreen forests of the Rockies to the arid plateau of the southwest where the prevailing vegetation is sagebrush and cactus. The occasional trees were not more than 15 feet tall, thorny, and had hardly any leaves. We had our lunch along and we all kept a lookout for a shady spot where we could spread a blanket on the ground; there was no such thing. We had been following the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a spectacular gorge cut into the plateau which we could look down into occasionally as the highway turned to get around an off-shoot of the canyon. Between Gunnison and Montrose we finally spotted a small thorn tree between the road and the edge of the gorge. There wasn’t much shade and the ground was stony and dusty but it gave us a chance to stretch our legs and take more than a fleeting glance into the gorge. We found that, in the dry southwest, where everything either sticks, stings or stinks, picnicking along the roadside is not very practical.

The road south from Montrose to Durango is high and we passed thru such well-known mining towns as Ouray and Silverton. Silverton is 9300 ft. above sea level. From Durango we went west to the north entrance of Mesa Verde National Park where we found rooms for the night.

Mesa Verde means Green Table in Spanish. In the southwest of the U.S. a mesa refers to a flat piece of land separated from the surrounding territory by steep cliffs and canyons. Many of the cliff faces are full of cracks and caves made by soft parts of the rock eroding and falling down into the canyon. Early Indian tribes moving into this area found the caves ideal for protection from their enemies and the elements and constructed stone dwellings in them. The largest group of buildings discovered is a Mesa Verde and it is most accessible to tourists. As in all the national parks there are park rangers who give lectures and take groups thru the ruins explaining the history and lifestyle of the people who lived there. The buildings of Mesa Verde were small and inadequate by our standards and life in the cliffs was precarious, as is shown by the numerous skeletons uncovered with broken bones. Their fields of corn, squash and beans were on top of the mesa and it required the agility of a mountain goat to negotiate the paths leading up to them. Rain seeping down thru the mesa and caught in small basins hollowed out of the rock was their main supply of water. We were glad we hadn’t been cave dwellers.

Table of Contents
We Leave Boulder and Head South and West
On to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado

Last modified on 15 April 2021 17:59