Yes, I am on vacation. Yes I am blogging while on vacation. This particular trip was planned about two years ago. Southwest Colorado has always been something of a mystery when it came to planning a vacation. But the draw of Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon have been too great to ignore. Chaco Canyon will happen in two days – Mesa Verde was yesterday.
Arriving at Mesa Verde, you could feel the “old” in the air. Walking into the visitor’s center at the main gate, you can see Point Lookout looming up the way. The visitor’s center is full of the typical tourist stuff. I managed to come away with a good book on the Ancestral Puebloans which had a DVD companion packaged with it. From there, the trip took us to the gate to purchase our ticket into Mesa Verde, and on down the trail we drove.
Or I should say “up” the trail, as the winding road took us up and around Lookout Point, along several ridgelines before bringing us to the first of the Cliff Dwellings that can be visited – Spruce Tree House. Its named for the large number of spruce trees located around the dwelling. While walking down the trail to the cave dwellig, I spotted the entrance to a walking trail called “Petroglyph Point” and something said “you gotta see that.” I had two hours before I had to be on the Cliff Palace tour – and a round trip of under two miles meant I could do this easily.
I definitely wasn’t thinking things through when I set out from the Spruce Tree dwelling and back down to the start of the Petroglyph Point trail. This was not a paved sidewalk in suburban DFW I was going to be walking on. It was broken terrain, where I was going to need to take care of where I stepped. And I was walking this alone. Not the brightest thought in the world, looking back. I could have turned an ankle, broken a leg, fallen face-first into the various stones I was walking over, or even slipped off a few of the “staircases” and found myself hurtling downward to the base of the canyon. But something said I HAD to go. And I followed that voice to my two-plus hour excursion along a broken, ragged trail across the cliff face of the canyon.
The Start of the Trail
At first, I thought I was merely walking the trail to see a set of petroglyphs. Fifteen minutes into my walk, I halted after a particular steep climb to catch my breath. I could feel the touch of a hand on the back of my neck. At first I tried to be casual about it and dismiss the touch of the wind. But I have felt this touch before. I knew it was Crow. A scream from on high brought my attention skyward to see a crow freewheeling on the currents of the canyon. I lifted my camera and took a series of sports shots to try and catch the crow’s image. When I pulled the camera down, I felt the caress against my neck again. I sat very still, and listened. And heard the sound of the wind in the trees, another scream from the crow above, and the thought arrived in my mind: keep walking.
So I stood up and continued along the trail. Soon, I came to a VERY narrow passageway – and I nearly balked at going through. I’m not the skinnest guy in the world. But the voice told me to hold for a moment, and think of who I am, and where I want to be in my life going forward. I stopped for a few moments, brought to my thoughts where I am now in my life. All the changes that have happened over the last two years, and how those changed have changed me as a person. Then I switched gears and thought about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to really do with my life, and how those changes were just inches away from my fingertip touch. Then I made my way through the very narrow passage. When I made it to the other side, I realized that I had just participated in a ceremony of some sort – making my transition from one life to be born anew in the next. What that holds for me, I cannot say just yet — only that its happened, and this is very much on my mind.
A Second Passageway
After thirty more minutes on the trail, I came to a second passageway. This time, I heard no thoughts, I felt no reassuring touch on my neck and shoulder – so I stopped, opened my feelings and emotions to the environment around me – and I felt them. LOTS of them. The Spirits of the Land, or if you will, the Spirits of Place. They were literally everywhere. And not one of them was paying attention to the humans around them. After all, why should they? Its not like we are all that significant to them. They have been here far longer then we have. They would not perceive us as anything, until we threatened the environment that they protect. And all I was doing was walking along a rocky path to view some carvings on a nearby wall. I was literally nothing to them. So I drew a big breath, walked through the passage – taking care not to fall down the makeshift stone stairs that had been added here – and once again felt Crow’s reassuring touch. “Keep going” was the message. And I did.
I was now nearly two hours into my walk. The tour of the Cliff Palace certainly seemed an unlikely happeneing (it turned out that it was unlikely – I was physically drained when I finished the hike). But I continued on to the petroglyphs. I started this hike, I was damn sure going to see these petroglyphs! Twenty minutes later, after scrambling through three harrowing downward jaunts and two very hallenging upward climbs, I arrived at the petroglyphs. Through the first two-thirds of my hike, I had seen no one. It was only me on the hiking trail. Arriving at the petroglyphs, I encountered three families that were taking a break. The next upward climb involved some handhold/foothold pulls to get to the top of the Mesa for the journey back to the museum. I watied until they started their upward climb, and then I spent time looking at the petroglyphs. The symbology seemed a little simplistic to me, until I remembered – these folks were not exactly Picaso or Rembrandt. They were merely depicting what they knew on the wall in the closest approximation that they could make.
It was here that I realized my third mistake – I had taken no water with me whatsoever. Again, not the smartest thing in the entire world. When I made it to the top of the mesa, I was greeted by a cool wind that had not been there before. Apparently, someone was looking out for me enough to cool me off. The rest of the walk was over fairly flat land, which proved to be the area directly overhead from the Spruce Tree dwelling. When I arrived back at the museum, I knew I was far too spent to make the trek through the Cliff Palace cliff dwelling. Crow whispered that it wasn’t important – what I had just done was what had been needed.
Its hard to say what you will do when one of the Gods or Goddesses calls you to somewhere. A little more forethought, and I would not have left myself so vulnerable to my environment. Perhaps this was by design – to place me in a certain frame of thought as I approcahed that first passageway. Perhaps not, all I know is that I didn’t THINK about precautions and safety measures. IIt never entered my mind – and I am typically an overly cautious hiker. But now – I have something new on my plate. And I have some serious choices to make going forward. I know there are going to be many more meditative circles where I approach Crow and seek further advice. There’s a lot to think about. But when the Gods come calling – sometimes you don’t get the choice of packing a day-lunch for the trip…