Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bucket List Adventure into Change

   Making a bucket list seems to be a popular thing these days. I have my own like most people do, and as a couple, my hubby and I share quite a few of those items. One of them was experiencing Mesa Verde in southwest Colorado. I’d been there as a child, memories had faded into sketchy images, but Ron had never seen it. We had to go. Before any changes happen in our lives.
   Our life journey seems to be headed for Texas in the near future. Living too far away from our only child and her family is not working for us anymore. With two grandkids now, we are just too far away. Change is hard though. And the older one gets, the harder those changes are emotionally, practically and logistically. But to attain what one desires the most, change is usually inevitable.
   So back in June of this year, we decided to just pack up the camper and head down to the southwestern reaches of our state while we were still here. We had a few days, it probably wouldn't be enough, but let’s just do it. We like to be rather spontaneous with our adventures.

   Being spontaneous is great, but when your vehicle is feeling older than I do, pulling a camper over mountain passes takes a longggggggg time. But hey, it’s Colorado. It’s mountains. It’s God’s creation surrounding you. As the old poem of my childhood days says, “Take time to see”.  I did. Right out my side window for many miles.



   We finally made it about eight hours later. Found the campground, settled in and enjoyed relaxing for the rest of the evening.

   The next morning, packed up a picnic lunch, snacks for the day and we were off on an adventure of discovery. Of a life led by people long ago who took up residence in the dangerous cliffs of the area.

  Now, one stops to think, why did they want to live there? What possessed them to climb the steep terrain and start assembling rocks, making bricks out of mud using precious water to form and stack them into walls to create rooms? To take your family into parts unknown and live what had to be a very challenging lifestyle involving incredibly hard work.

   But that’s what life is most of the time. It’s work. We all face challenges from the winds of change almost on a daily basis.
   Growing up, the historical name I learned for the inhabitants of the dwellings has now somehow become politically incorrect. I’m going to be on a soapbox for a moment, so bear with me. I learned back in the day when my family visited this site that the Anasazi Indians took up residence in the cliffs. Now it is apparently an insult to this civilization to refer to them by that name.
   According to, the name Anasazi derives from the Navajo as “ancestors of enemies”. It may have first been applied to the ancient Pueblo ruins in the Mesa Verde region c.1889 by rancher and trader Richard Wetherill, who began exploration of the sites in the area. Since modern man considers this an insult, being referred to as an enemy, they now must be referred to as Ancient Puebloans. That’s harder to say than Anasazi. But all forest service literature, signage in the park, and language used by the rangers has adjusted to the change. Enemies are real, and whether they were an enemy to someone or not, really?  Changing history.

   As our journey took us into the park, fires from years back had left a very stark landscape on top of the mesa. Skeletal trees stand as a remembrance of what was once a forest, now only gray sentinels waiting to succumb to enough age that the wind would knock them down only to slowly rot back into the earth.

   The winding road took us along the rim of the canyon in areas. At our first glimpse of a ruin far below we were amazed at what we saw. We had earlier made our reservation to join the Ranger-led trek down into what is known as The Balcony House. Having really bad knees, I was a bit concerned about being able to make this hike. I was pleasantly surprised – no thrilled – that I did it! Being in shape at this age takes a bit more work than it used to, and in shape is NOT a term we use for our lives. But I felt much like Rocky Balboa on the top of those stairs when we finished the hike. I think I might have actually done a little happy dance.
   Our hike began on a trail leading through the pinion pines; our group of tourists led by a very informative and capable Ranger. It’s fun to take time to get to know them and how they came to their job. When we first moved to Colorado, I had dreamed of becoming a forest ranger. Even looked into the job but realized it was not a lifestyle that would work for our family.
 As we walked along, headed down metal stairs down to a paved path, I couldn’t help but think back to the people that made their life there over 700 years ago. They didn’t have the luxury of these developed paths.
   I touched the rock wall next to the trail wondering how many of these ancient people had touched
this very wall. What was their life like? Did they complain about the heat? The work to survive? Or did they just do what they had to do knowing there was little choice? I lean toward the latter. They were a lot tougher than any of us are today, no doubt.
   The tour led to a tall, double-wide ladder that took us up into the Balcony House. What a climb. Sure was glad the heat of the day hadn’t arrived yet.

   I’m a bit of a news/information hound. I guess that comes with being a writer. So I hung on every word the Ranger spoke. I found the stories fascinating since I love history. Most of it, of course, is guess work on the part of modern people trying to figure out how and why this civilization did what the evidence left behind. But isn’t that the fun of history?
   Learning how these structures were built was just as fascinating. In some areas, the stump of one of
Over 750 years old!
the supporting timbers could still be seen. A 750 year old log! Think about that. The method of building these was genius. Considering the tools, or lack thereof, available to them.
   Having a young, almost walking grandson now, made me think about the momma’s back then. Looking at the overhang of their dwelling, how on earth did they keep their toddlers from darting toward the edge? I just couldn’t spend a lot of time on that thought line. Those were the bravest women I can imagine.
A window into the past!
   After wandering around the ruins, asking questions, taking advantage of photo ops (and if you know us personally, you know we came out of there with a lot of photos), the adventure continued in the ONLY way out of the Balcony House. Think thin folks!!


  Whether the occupants designed this structure for protection from their own enemies or just had no other choice for a second way out, or perhaps when those that came along in the 1800’s to save the ruins back in the days of discovery, found themselves cut short of ledge so a tiny passageway was the only escape for touring through, I don’t know. The park service had attached metal grates to block passage for those that are not with a tour to protect the ruins (and make a few more bucks). But there was definitely little choice in our leaving the ruin. That’s what I love about adventure. One never knows what that next step will be.
   We squeezed our bodies through the escape only to find ourselves looking up another wooden ladder leading to an odd little path of steps carved out of the stone. Past more metal fencing and gates, we made our way to the top.

Yep. It was as unnerving as it looks.

   Did I mention the views from these cliff dwellings? As they say, location, location.
   We spent the day exploring more by car, hikes and a tram/bus ride that became one of the most harrowing rides of my life it seemed as this double vehicle bounced and swerved around the curves of the designated tour route. Okay, I’ve been on worse, but the seats made you slide all over the place enhancing the reactions from the road.
 Dropping our group and Ranger at the trailhead to hike down into the Long House, we gathered around to hear more facts and history as they determined it to be. Again, I worried how my knee would do. I’ve come to believe that the excitement of an adventure helps me to just ignore the concerns. This was again a fascinating tour. Learning about the lives of the people. How they gathered food, water, seeing the type of tools they made from rock and bone. How they adapted to life in these elements. Building the structures that meant their survival.
   How they changed to the environment they now lived in.

The residents would pull these weeds out
to access the water. No sense sharing
with weeds.
   Water is an essential source for survival and they had unique ways to collect that. Rock down there is porous sandstone, so when it rained or snow would melt, it would just percolate down through the sandstone, hit a layer of shale and emerge through the cracks at the back of their alcove on bedrock. They carved little channels leading to larger catch basins to collect the spring water enabling them to ladle it out for drinking and cooking. Clever. Survival.

  We did one more major hike that day down a self-guided tour of Step House. Worth your time. Interesting view into the past and how they lived.

     As I stood in some of these alcoves taking time to think, to imagine, to listen for the voices of the past whispering on the wind to try to hear what their daily struggles must have been. I was awed by the tenacity of these ancient people. It truly was a mesmerizing adventure. If you allowed it to be. It was a test of ability. A test of determination. A test of…change. Doing something different. To push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing.

Look around for surprises.

One of about 125 wild horses in the park

   Now we are facing major changes in our lives with the hoped for move to Texas to be with our family. The Anasaz….excuse me… The Ancient Puebloans had to move. Whatever their reasons, whether drought chased them to a more fertile area, or an enemy drove them off, or too many rocks fell on their heads, or they just died off completely; we’ll never know for sure. But we know why there is a need for change in our lives. I just WANT to move -near my kids.

   Aging makes you rethink many priorities in your life. Not that we’re THAT old, but we are starting down the back side of this journey if you consider 50 the half-way point. Things come along sometimes in life that you aren't expecting. Life can be happening in other places that you aren’t a part of. Things that you’re missing out on that you begin to realize are far more important than the place you love to live just because of scenery and adventures. Well, that and good friends and a church family. We both want and need the adventures of grandparenthood and we aren’t willing to settle for just an occasional few days a few times a year. Life is way too short. 

   So, we don’t know what our next adventure in life will be completely. We have an idea. We have a goal. We have a hope and a dream. Stay tuned for what reality will come. If I know God, which I do in my finite ability, He is going to have something really incredible for us. He did nearly 30 years ago when He set us out on an adventure with a full U-Haul truck towing a ’63 Chevy with a five year old child, a small dog, two cats, and no jobs. We headed west and it was the best thing we could have ever done for our family.
   Now it’s time to change to a new journey to new adventures. To a new life, with new friends, to new beginnings. With grandbabies!!!
   To change.
   Change is hard, seemingly impossible decisions need to be made, adjustments have to happen, but like the cliff dwellers of old, you do what you’ve got to do. What you need to do. To make life better.
   Change. The journey continues.
Ron and I in The Balcony House

More ladders

Wall art