So now it was time to “do” Mesa Verde National Park.
Obviously, I had survived the night.
Now, at Mesa Verde, you have to buy tickets to tour the major pueblo (cliff) dwellings. I’d gotten one the night before for Balcony House at 9:30am. The tours are ranger-guided.
I happened to arrive just at the same time as the ranger. She saw my feet and (in my opinion) started some subtle (but friendly) questioning. Bare feet were okay with her—she just wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.
In many ways, Mesa Verde is a larger, dried version of Hocking Hills. It has the same geologic forces working—water seeps through sandstone and weathers underlying layers away, making recess caves.
In fact, many of the recess caves at Mesa Verde—ones that have dwellings in them—are small than other recess caves in Hocking Hills.
So, what’s the difference? Why are there no dwellings in the recess caves in Hocking Hills?
One general difference is that the canyons in Mesa Verde are 600 feet deep (at least) not around 100 feet as in Hocking. That means that the caves are situated mid-air, so to speak. The only access (usually) is from the top. But that doesn’t explain the lack of dwellings in Hocking Hills.
Hocking Hills is too wet. Almost all the recess caves are situated behind/under waterfalls of one sort or another. Water continuously drips down the ceilings. It would be difficult to live under those conditions.
At Mesa Verde (around 18 inches of precipitation per year compared to around 40 for Ohio), the caves are dry—perfect for habituation. The bit of water that seeps through the sandstone from the mesa above conveniently collects in springs at the base of the recess cave. what more could you ask for?
Anyways, back to the tour. Here’s a picture of the approach to Balcony House.
And part of the structure, with a bit of a view of Soda Canyon behind.
One of the spiritual aspects of barefooting is the feeling of connectedness. My bare feet were treading the same ground, the same construction, as those cliff dwellers of 800 years ago.
It was also pretty cool to be using the same footholds to climb out when we were done. We had entered by a route created by the Park Service, but we exited by the original path, up footholds carved into the rock. Footholds that had been modified over time by the soles of innumerable people who had traversed them.
Bare feet just fit those footholds.
And here I am back at the top.
Afterwards, I decided to take the Soda Canyon Overlook trail that gave a view back at Balcony House. I almost forgot my telephoto lens, but I didn’t, and here’s the result.
One of the better parts of the trail was this lizard just sitting there—master of his domain.
Spruce Tree House is also in the area, so I stopped in there. No tour ticket required, but there really isn’t a tour, or direct access. I got to talking to one of the rangers there, and he said that people regularly (but still rather rarely) did tours barefoot. He said that somebody else had done so a few weeks previously.
From Spruce Tree House I took the Spruce Canyon trail. More beautiful scenery.
Returning up a side canyon is a view (aside from the vegetation) that could have been Hocking Hills.
Another typical sandstone formation. I sometimes felt I’d driven 1,500 miles away to see Ohio. And then I’d drop back to reality (partially reminded by chapped lips from the much drier air).
[Everybody warns you about the difference in elevation—Mesa Verde is at 7,000 feet—but I had no trouble with it.]
Anyways, I’m pulling up camp and heading elsewhere tomorrow.