(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).
Since fires had kept us from seeing cliff dwellings at Gila National Monument, we decided to take another detour off of the planned itinerary and headed to Mesa Verde National Park. We had to think hard about this decision because the visitor's center is 15 miles from the entrance, fifteen miles on a road that curves up, around and over just a few hills. What the heck! What's another mountain road?
The drive to the visitor's center turned out to be great. It was very scenic and there wasn't too much traffic to give us any problems going around turns in the road. Based upon the information we had, only the Spruce Tree House could be seen on a self-guided tour. All of the other ruins required a ranger led tour at $3.00 per person.
We decided to stick with just the Spruce Tree House, not because of any fee but because of the walking and climbing required for the other tours. (One tour required climbing five 8-10 foot ladders and another tour has the visitor crawling through a 12 foot tunnel and "climbing up a 60ft (20m) open rock face with two 10ft (3m) ladders to exit the site.")
We enjoyed our visit to the Spruce Tree House. The walk down, of course, was easy. There were two rangers stationed by the ruins, more than willing to answer any questions. It was possible to enter some of the rooms and I climbed down to a kiva. We spent quite a bit of time there before facing the hike back up, taking advantage of the benches along the way.