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Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, CO, is different from all the other national parks I have visited up to now. It does not have dramatic scenery or breathtaking vistas. However, for the whole day today it has drawn me into the ancestral Puebloan architecture and their history of survival in one of the harshest environment of the American Southwest. They lived in Mesa Verde some 700 years from 550 to about 1300 before moving on further south. They left ruins of houses and sometimes of entire villages that archaeologists are still studying today.

I took over 200 photos, not all perfect mind you, and I hope the following will give you a taste of Mesa Verde if you haven’t been there yet.

We arrived at the Visitor and Research Center early to buy tickets for a ranger guided tour of the Balcony House.

New Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, opened in December 2012.

New Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, opened in December 2012.

Climbing ladder to reach Balcony House.

Climbing ladder to reach Balcony House.

A view of Balcony House.

A view of Balcony House.

Kiva, or ceremonial room, at Balcony House.

Kiva, or ceremonial room, at Balcony House.

Square Tower House, the tallest at Mesa Verde.

Square Tower House, the tallest at Mesa Verde.

A corner of Spruce Tree House.

A corner of Spruce Tree House.

Mesa Verde New Fire House.

Mesa Verde New Fire House.

Mesa Verde Far View House.

Mesa Verde Far View House, with kiva in foreground.

Miles driven to date: 7,370 miles.

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