Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado combines fun with the most significant archaeological site in the US. It was occupied from 1 AD to 1299 AD by some people called the Ancestral Puebloans who lived pretty happily on top of the mesa, with corn cereal for breakfast, squash for lunch and wild turkey for dinner. Towards the end of their time at Mesa Verde (1200-1276), the Ancestral Puebloans built their villages in the sides of high cliffs under sandstone rock overhangs.
Then the mystery - in 1299, just when they seemed to have the perfect lifestyle, these villages were abandoned and the Ancestral Puebloans moved south. The cliff houses were not rediscovered until 1888 when some cowboys were searching for lost cattle. We visited 3 major sites and a number of lesser ones. Cliff Palace is the best known site with hundreds of rooms. It has square buildings, round towers and the round underground chambers, called kivas, which were both used for living in cold weather, and religious purposes.
Balcony House required climbing a 30 foot (9m) ladder to enter, and crawling through a tunnel and climbing another ladder to exit. That was the best part for the junior rangers, who wanted to turn around and do it all again.
Spruce Tree House was not in a tree but had one growing outside. The junior rangers loved the reconstructed kiva at Spruce Tree where they could climb down the ladder and pretend to be Indians (= Native Americans or Ancestral Puebloans) plus stones where they could pretend to grind corn.
We woke up to the sound of rain and realised it was the first day of rain in the whole 2 weeks we've been on the road. The junior rangers have found a pool table in the games room and are currently playing pool with some Colorado kids while we do the laundry. We also met a family from Cowan - it's a small world.