We get up, eat, walk, and go to the store/gas area to take a shower. First shower in a week. Though sponge baths work just fine for quite long stretches of time, standing in a hot shower is one of the miracles and pleasures of life!
We then head toward The Long House Tour. It’s a 60 minute drive from the campground. This is on a completely different Mesa. So, a new community of dwellings. The drive is a slow, winding mountain road. Much of it along the knife crest of the ridges. The road plus an 8-12 foot shoulder is it! Steeply down on both sides. As we approach the end of the road we see a herd of wild horses. They are not afraid of the cars, but are cautious. I can see about 8 horses. Sherman’s lying down and doesn’t move as I try to act excited. A half mile past the horses is the parking area for The Long House and Step House.
We’re about 20 minutes before the tour, so another short walk. Then I setup Sherman in the van. I’ll be gone around 2 hours. No doggies on the trails in National Parks…
I head to the bathrooms and find they are locked. There are two chemical toilets closer to the Ranger/Information carport type building. I get in line to discover that one is locked and overflowing. The other is pretty full. Where’s Joe, the toilet contractor? A ranger walks by and apologizes. This area in the park opens much later than the other area. The water gets turned on and toilets unlocked in two days. Remember I said timing is everything? Big doubt…
When done with the toilet line, my group has gone on. I go to the desk to double check that they headed out. I’m told it’s too bad, but I missed my tour. I’m not having that since it was the toilet schism that has me standing here about 5 minutes late. I say I’ll just catch up. She’s not sure. I say it’ll be fine. I heard the basic safety spiel yesterday. I walk off after my group. I catch up with them at their first stop while the ranger talks about the variety of plants and trees here, the effect of the fire 20 years ago, the weather patterns. Turns out this mesa gets 80% of the lightning strike fires. Big storms come in and hit this Mesa first then sometimes loop around and hit the Mesa again. This double whammy has caused most of the fires in last 70 years.
The junipers and piñon that were burned are not being replaced by young trees. She said it was primarily that the seasons are warming. A ranger I asked later in the day said it was primary becomes these species of tree sprouts depend on being sheltered by adults trees. There are no more adult trees in the burn areas. In the areas not burned, there are a normal amount of young trees. The guess is that the burn areas will become a scrub brush and grass high desert plain.
We get to the gate to Long House. She gives us the short version of the safety spiel: “No liquids but water, don’t’ touch anything, don’t climb on the walls, stay on the trails. We’re going down steeply and back out steeply. If you have a problem, let me know.”
We head down the steep switchbacks to the cliff edge trail that leads to the community. This structures were built in about 30 years around 1200. So it’s a late period dwelling.
There are about 20 kivas. So 8-12 people per kiva means there were about 200 people living here.
One of the interesting things here is the various styles of masonry. Like people moved into the village and put up a structure in their style. The style means the type and size of bricks, is it plastered smooth, is the brickwork chinked in the motor seams? How accurate are the corners and walls… etc.
Another unusual cliff dwelling There are 4 pit houses — one has been partially reconstructed — on one end of the arbor and stone houses for 30-40 people on the other end of the arbor. No clue why the later people didn’t build over the top of the older dwellings as was usual.
I walk back to the van and get Sherman, who’s been there napping for 2 1/2 hours. We walk around the parking areas then head back. I stop at a couple spots to take a couple photos, but it’s time to move on.
I’m headed to the Anasazi Heritage Center in Delores. This is about 20 miles away. I get there about 4:30. They close at 5. I go in for a quick look to decide if it’s worth coming back in the morning. It is. Really good historical, archeological, scientific confluence with lots of hands-on exhibits. I go into Delores for gas and ask the owner where I can camp free in the area. He smiles and says the San Juan Notional Forest is 3 miles from town! Gives me a map and directions. On the way out the door he says, “Come back for coffee in the morning!”
We head up the hill to the Mesa top and in a couple miles to the first non-muddy dirt road. Down a little hill is a nice loop behind some Douglas Firs. We’re home!
There are jeep trails in the woods and a few trails. We walk a bit and discover where we can go for a longer walk in the morning. Back at the van we eat and go to sleep early.