Seeking to get away from any crowds at Mesa Verde National Park, my friend and I had read about the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, adjacent to Mesa Verde. The writer of the article had described an intimate, personal adventure with ancient ruins of the cliff dwellers. So, we hired a Ute guide, Scotty Zane Jacket, and spent the better part of the day climbing ladders to narrow trails, looking at rock paintings and carvings, and going into the cliff ruins. Potsherds lay strewn around asking to be picked up and examined. The pottery pieces conveyed artistry and skill. I picked up pieces, thinking about the people that made them, and then put them back. At Mesa Verde, I know for sure that any pieces of pottery have years ago been packed up for preservation. The Utes trust their visitors, though over the years much has been stolen.
Here at Lion House and Tree House and other ruins, there is a palpable sense that the owners have left recently and may just possibly return sometime soon. This is making history accessible on a grand scale. Scotty does a good job of telling us the history, with a degree of detachment. The ancestral puebloans are a different tribe and while the Ute, the modern-day caretakers, seek to preserve and honor this special place, they don’t seem to have the deep feeling of connection that may have had if they were direct descendants.
This is facinating place, so far outside my usual haunts. If you plan to visit Mesa Verde, you may want to reconsider. For a little extra money, you can have a much deeper and grander adventure.
Have you visited the Ute Mountain Tribal Park? What did you think?