Moving On Up…

Views From The Top

At Ludgate Hill, stop  11, a few people from the top deck of the tour bus hop off and no one else hops on. Andy and I make our move upstairs.

I find a seat but Andy has to kneel beside me in the aisle. Peter, our tour guide doesn’t say anything, however… probably because he is taking up 2 seats himself! It’s just a matter of time though before more people hop off and we can sit side by side.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

For more than 1400 years a church or cathedral dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle has stood here on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London.

Saint Mellitus and Saint Augustine founded St. Paul’s in 604 AD after Pope Gregory the Great sent them on a mission to Britain. The earliest Cathedral buildings were relatively short-lived structures repeatedly damaged by fires and Viking attacks. It was the Cathedral begun around 1087 AD by Bishop Maurice, the chaplain to William the Conquerer, which would provide the longest standing home for Christian worship on this site for almost 600 years.

St. Paul’s was a Catholic church until the English Reformation. In the 1500s Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of Rome and the Crown took over religious rule.

Lightning struck the Cathedral spire in 1561 causing irreparable damage. Restoration that began in 1633 was never finished and left the building in serious disrepair once again by1650. Leading architects were consulted as to how best to restore the medieval structure until Christopher Wren’s proposal to add a dome was approved in 1666. A week later, the Great Fire of London destroyed what was left of St. Paul’s, leaving Wren with the task of designing and building a whole new cathedral. After 9 years of fastidious planning, construction began in 1675 and the last stone was laid in 1708, although the first service took place in 1697 celebrating the peace between England and France.  (

The iconic dome, built by Britain’s famous architect  Christopher  Wren, is 365 feet high and was the tallest building in London from 1710-1967. (

The funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were held at St. Paul’s. Both the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II were celebrated here. And of course in 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in this cathedral. (

The building below, the HQ of Midland Bank, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1935. The architect commissioned the sculpture William Reid Dick to add 2 statues to the structure, suggesting one be a boy with a goose. (

And why was this? Well, interestingly enough, Midland Bank is on Poultry Street, a name that commemorates an actual business from the Middle Ages. Yes, that’s right, domestic fowl were raised and roamed through here. (

Another interesting building we drive by is much newer and, instead of statues, the front of the structure itself is designed to  resemble the front of an ocean liner.

The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666 and celebrates the rebuilding of the City. It was built between 1671 and 1677 at the intersection of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill. (

The fire began in a baker’s house on Pudding Lane on Sunday September 2nd and finally extinguished on Wednesday September 5th, after destroying most of the City of London. Fortunately very few lives were lost. Unfortunately, however, lives were lost.

As part of the rebuilding of the City, it was decided to erect a permanent memorial of the Great Fire near the place where it began. Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke drew up plans for a Doric column containing a stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. (

The Monument is 202 feet high… the exact distance between it and the site where the fire began on Pudding Lane. (

As we approach the London Bridge, the modern building, nicknamed the Walkie Talkie, looms above.

As we cross the River Thames we get a great view of Tower Bridge, which I always thought was London Bridge.

I don’t even realize we are on London Bridge as I was expecting something more spectacular. It turns out several bridges named London Bridge have crossed the Thames in central London. The one we’re on opened to traffic in 1973. It replaced a 19th Century stone-arched Bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old stone-built medieval structure. This was preceded by a number of timber bridges, the first one built by the Romans. ( Fire was why London Bridge was always falling down.

Just beyond the bridge this brightly painted establishment pops into view.

Since 1884 the Shipwrights Arms has served pints on the corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street. Shipbuilders once frequented this pub with the interesting sculpture holding up a ledge. (

Peter told us the story behind the statue, but I can’t remember it nor can I find any information about it anywhere… yet.

There’s the Shard again, a 1,016 foot high (309.6 meters) 95 story skyscraper… the tallest building in Western Europe. (

Now we cross the River Thames again, but this time on the quaint Tower Bridge.

As we travel across the Tower Bridge, 3 modern buildings can be seen from left to right: the Crash Helmet, the Walkie Talkie, and the Gherkin.

A close-up of the Crash Helmet…

Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined drawbridge and suspension bridge. Two bridge towers support an upper level horizontal walkway on each side. (

As I continue reading this online entry, my confusion with the London Bridge is validated:

The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Because of this, Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (.80 km) upstream. (

More views of the Walkie Talkie and the Shard…

Just across the bridge is the Tower of London.

This fortress was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman conquest of England. It is a complex of several buildings set within 2 concentric circles of defensive walls and a moat. The White Tower was built by William the Conquerer in 1078 as a resented symbol of oppression. (

The Tower of London was a grand palace in its early years, serving as a royal residence. And although not it’s primary purpose, it was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, but especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. (

The Tower has served variously as an arsenal, a treasury, a zoological garden, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and currently as the home of the Crown Jewels of England. (

Just past the Tower of London we come across a remnant of the Roman Wall that once enclosed the city of London.

The Wall was originally built by the Romans in the late 2nd or early 3rd century around the current city of London. Londonium was settled and established around 43 AD as a major commercial center in Roman Britain ( Britannia) until its abandonment in the 5th century. The Wall, however remained and was maintained until the 18th century. (

In 1984 the Museum of London traced the path of the Roman Wall from Tower Hill to the Museum and marked 21 locations of remnants along the 2 mile walk. (

From Tower Hill Street we take Lower Thames Street to Victoria Embankment to Waterloo Bridge.

The Boomerang is another nicknamed modern building.

These little green huts, no larger than a horse and cart, stand on the public streets. Called cabmen’s shelters, there were 61 of these buildings around London between 1875 and 1914. (

By law, taxis could not leave the queue area while parked and waiting for passengers. This made it difficult for cabbies to get a hot meal and, in the days of horse-drawn cabs, stay out of inclement weather. With the help of other patrons, the Earl of Shaftesbury set up a charity called the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund to construct and run these small kitchens and sitting areas at major cab stands. An attendant cooked and sold food and non-alcoholic drinks. (

Crossing Waterloo Bridge…

The Cheese Grater… an appropriate name for the shape of this building…

The London Eye… Parliament… Big Ben…

Waterloo Train Station is the largest and busiest station in Britain. Opened in 1848 by the London & South Western Railway it was just called Central Station. In 1899 a complete rebuild begins for the next 22 years.

Below is a glimpse of the Victory Arch, unveiled in 1922, commemorating the railroad staff who died in World War I. (

A closer look at the Eye from York Road…

A cool building we pass near the Westminster Bridge…

The General Lying-In Hospital was one of the first maternity hospitals in Great Britain, opening in 1767 on Westminster Bridge Road. It closed in 1971.

A Lying-In Hospital is a maternity hospital, lying-in referring to the month long postpartum rest. (

But due to traffic congestion and the arrival of royal guests to the Queen’s garden party, we cannot cross the Westminster Bridge and take Lambeth Palace Road to Lambeth Bridge.

I really need to take a break here! With the help of date-and-time-stamped pictures, 2 maps of London, and online resources, I have pieced together our tour as best as I can.

Stay tuned for the rest of our tour!

Hop-On, Hop-Off

Or Just Stay Put…

Andy and I take a bus from Islington to Trafalgar Square to purchase tickets for an open-top bus tour of London. Here we are on the upper level of a double-decker leaving Islington.

How quaint… This store only sells brollies.

We get off the local bus at Covent Garden and walk through Leicester Square.

Located in the West End of London, Leicester Square was laid out in 1670 and boasts the largest LEGO store in the world. ( I took a picture of a replica of Big Ben in the window, but the glare from the glass ruined the shot. So, here’s one I found online taken in the evening:

A park lies in the center of the Square.

We head for Piccadilly Circus…

Circus comes from the Latin  word for circle referring to a roundabout intersection of roads. Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Coventry Street, Haymarket, and Piccadilly form circular junctions here.

Piccadilly comes from the name of a 17th century frilled collar called a piccadil. Robert Baker was a famous tailor who became rich making piccadils for wealthy patrons and nobility. In 1612 he built a mansion here. The locals, however, disliked Robert Baker and called his mansion Piccadil Hill behind his back. ( and

This is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain named after a Victorian philanthropist. The centerpiece statue is often mistaken for a replica of Eros, the Roman god of romantic love. The statue is actually Anteros, the brother of Eros. Anteros symbolizes selfless love in honor of the fountain’s namesake the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was a magnanimous individual. ( and

It’s mid-morning and we get to watch Yoda being “suspended” in air. The magic takes place under his long flowing robe. He still needs to put on his left-hand glove.

As we continue south toward Trafalgar, the steeples of Westminster Abbey tower over some trees in the distance.

Trafalgar Square is located in Central London in the city of Westminster. Its name commemorates the British naval victory over France and Spain in the Napoleonic Wars in 1805. Since the 13th century this site contained the King’s Mews. Mews is a British name for a row or courtyard of stables and carriage houses with living quarters above them. George IV moved the mews to Buckingham Palace in the 1820s.

Nelson’s Column stands in the center of Trafalgar Square to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar. It is 169 feet high and is guarded by 4 lion statues. (

The National Gallery is an art museum on the Square, founded in 1824.

More magical suspension… Don’t their arms get tired?

Saint Martin-in-the- Fields is an Anglican Church dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, once the patron saint of France. He is best known for using his military sword to cut his cloak in two in order to give one half to a beggar clad only in rags during winter. (

Below is an equestrian statue of George IV:

Since 1999 this pedestal below, called the Fourth Plinth, has displayed various exhibitions by various artists. The current artwork, entitled The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, is a sculpture of a lamassu, a mythological winged bull creature with the head of a man who stood guard over the city of Nineveh for over a thousand years. The Iraqi-American artist, Michael Rakowitz, has recreated the ancient Assyrian statue destroyed by Isis in 2015. The piece is constructed from 6,000 tin cans of date syrup, symbolizing the rebirth of the lamassu out of ordinary objects from everyday life. (

After purchasing tickets on The Original Tour line and walking around the Square…

…Andy and I wait for the bus at Stop 6 a few steps west of Trafalgar Square. When we purchased our tickets we are told that the tour buses arrive every 5-20 minutes. And we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more along with pairs and clusters of other folks. One tour bus company stops every 10 minutes, but we are all waiting for the The Original Tour. Guides nearby explain to us that traffic is especially busy today. Meanwhile we keep waiting and waiting and wondering and wondering and the gathering crowd keeps growing and growing. FINALLY the tour bus arrives! But there are no seats on the open-top level. We are just lucky to get seats together!

So, off we go past Trafalgar Square and onto the Strand where we drive past the Savoy.

The Savoy, which opened in1889, was the first luxury hotel in Britain. It introduced electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, and constant cold and hot running water.

But before he built this famous hotel, Richard D’Oyly Carte, an English theatrical and musical agent, built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to host a series of operas written and composed by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The Savoy Theatre was the first public building in the world to be entirely lit by electricity! Eight years later Carte used profits from producing this duo’s operas to build an opulent hotel next to it to attract foreign clientele as well as British visitors to London. (

Besides hosting and entertaining members of the Royal family, the Savoy has been the venue of choice for many famous personalities.

George Gershwin, Lena Horne, and Frank Sinatra were booked here as entertainers.

The Beatles, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, Barbara Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry Truman, and John Wayne have stayed here.

Winston Churchill often took his cabinet here for lunch. Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh met here. Artists Claude Monet and James Whistler stayed at the hotel and painted or drew views from their room of the River Thames. Richard Harris lived at the Savoy for the last several years of his life. While being carried out on a stretcher before he died, he joked, “It was the food.”

Other notable guests include: Julie Andrews, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Lionel Barrymore, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton,  Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, George Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Christian Dior, Errol Flynn, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Cary Grant, Jimi Hendrix, Audrey Hepburn, Elton John, Al Jolson, Sophia Loren, George Bernard Shaw, U2, H.G. Wells, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. (

Continuing along the Strand we pass Saint Clement Danes whose bells ring out nursery rhymes.

As we pass the side of the church, you can still see the shrapnel marks left behind from the bombs of WWII.

Twinings Tea Company

The original Twinings on the Strand has been here for over 300 years. In 1706 Thomas Twining opened Tom’s Coffee House in this same storefront. As an apprentice for an East India Company, he learned the trade business firsthand, importing goods from exotic locales, especially coffees and teas. Tom’s Coffee House specialized in serving and selling coffee to the male aristocracy, but his specialized tea blends also became quite popular, so popular in fact, that within a decade Thomas Twinings ceased serving coffee altogether and sold dry packaged teas. This allowed women to enjoy a cup of tea at home since coffee houses were male-only establishments. (

I was surprised to discover that tea was not always the national beverage of Britain. In the 1660s a Portuguese Queen first introduced tea to the country. Its popularity took over with the expansion of East Indian trade and merchants like Thomas Twinings. (

In 1837 Queen Victoria granted Twinings a royal warrant, assuring the company the honor of providing tea to the royal family ever since. (

Dragon statues, like this one, mark the boundaries around the city of London. (I cheated here with this picture. Do you notice there are no glaring reflections from the bus window? Remember we are sitting on the lower level of the tour bus. This picture was taken a day later while Andy and I were walking through the city.)

Here’s my original photo taken from the lower level of the bus:

Google Maps shows the boundary of the city of London and where the dragon statues are located.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is Sweeney Todd, not Roger, of the barber shop below.

You may be familiar with the Broadway musical and film named after this fictitious barber who pulled a lever on his victims while they sat in his barber chair, causing them to fall backward through a trap door into the basement of his shop. If the fall didn’t kill his victims by breaking their necks, Sweeney Todd would finish them off by slashing their throats with his straight razor. After robbing the victims, Todd and Mrs. Lovett would bake the bodies into pies and sell them to unsuspecting customers at Lovett’s pie shop.

The character of Sweeney Todd first appears on November 21, 1846 in the weekly publication The People’s Periodical and Family Library. For the next 17 weeks the serial continues until the story ends on March 20, 1847. Penny dreadful is the term applied to this type of popular serial literature in 19th century Britain. Each installment was cheap, probably costing no more than a penny, and the subject of the story was of a sensational and dreadful nature highlighting the exploits of detectives, criminals, or supernatural characters. (

So, there you have it…

Punch Tavern

If the gold logo on this tavern looks familiar, you may be thinking of the puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy. And you would be correct, as it takes its name from Punch Magazine which takes its name from the Punch and Judy puppets. (

In the 1840s the pub, the Crown and Sugar Loaf, was renamed the Punch Tavern because of the popularity of Punch Magazine and the fact that the magazine offices were nearby. (

Meanwhile, Andy and I keep hoping people from the upper level will get off the bus so we can make our way upstairs…

Mind the Gap


I arrive late morning at Heathrow Airport. Andy sends me a royal greeting and meets me at the airport.

My seat mate on British Airways gave me a cryptic piece of advice about getting around London and the UK. As I purchase my ticket for the Heathrow Express and board the train, I understand what he means.

Getting around London is easy… Taxis, trains, the tube, and buses…

We take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. (Yep, the same one as the bear…)

From here we take a taxi to Islington where Andy lives.

And there’s Dewey, the wonder dog, my Dewster…

I drop off my stuff…

…and we head out for a walk through Islington…

…along the canal.

Folks live in these houseboats and can “park” here for 2 weeks at a time.

Islington just off the top edge of this map where the blue circle encloses Upper Street and the canal.

Here’s the bigger map, though not a good picture, showing where Islington is in relation to the rest of the city.

We stop for a pint and some food to share… a charcuterie board and trifle chip at a pub called The Narrowboat.

The rest of my first day is a blur from jet lag. All I remember is that Andy took Dewey out and picked up some beer, wine, hummus, and nibbles from the local grocer and I fell asleep.

I can’t believe I am in London!

Hello… Goodbye

Next Stop… Jernigan Land and the Airport!

State Route 160 takes us through scenic countryside:

Fort Garland


La Veta

Then the big cities, like Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and finally the burbs of Denver catch up with us as we travel I-25 North.

Early afternoon we arrive at the friendliest and least crowded spot to park the RV for the next 11 days, The Campbell Campground, aka, Patty and Mike’s driveway. Jeff’s son, David, also lives in his own apartment there too.

Meanwhile, my bags are packed and I’m ready to fly to London to visit my son, Andy! After saying hello to everyone, I quickly say goodbye and Jeff drives me to the Denver International Airport. I am booked on a British Airways flight that leaves at 7:35 PM.

Nine hours later I arrive at Heathrow Airport.

Sludging Up and Up and Up… And Sliiiiiding Down

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Tucked away between the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo  Mountains is the San Luis Valley, home to huge sand dunes, among them the largest one in North America.

So, where did they come from? Most of the sand here comes from the San Juan Mountains, over 65 miles to the west.  Larger, rougher grains and pebbles are deposited from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Once upon a time, some 440,000 years ago, sand and sediments from both mountain ranges washed into a huge lake that covered the floor of San Luis Valley. As the lake evaporated, southwesterly winds pushed the sand grains into piles beneath the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and then washed them back toward the valley floor. As northeasterly storm winds continued to blast through the mountain passes, the sand dunes kept piling back on themselves creating the tallest dunes in North America. (National Park brochure)

Today wind and water keep the sand moving, continually forming dunes.

  park brochure 

Not far from the Visitor Center, the road into the Park ends and takes you to the Dunes Parking Area or the Park Campground which is tent camping only.

Since we intend to hike and explore the sand dunes, we opt for the Dunes Parking Area and are lucky to find a place to park.

Here’s a view from the parking area… the Sangre de Cristo Mountain peaks are covered with snow, the sand dunes loom into view, and the Medano Creek separates us from the beginning of our adventure.

We follow the hikers and cross the creek.

Once across Medano Creek there is no actual trail to follow. Some people rent sleds and sand boards and opt to just play in the dunes.


We take off our wet hiking boots and enjoy the cool grains of sand massaging our feet as we continue hiking.

Right before I snapped this photo, 3 young guys, using centrifugal force, ran as fast as they could along the edge of this sand slope. One of the trio, however, ran down and, before he could catch his momentum, he somersaulted to the bottom! (That’s Jeff in the red shirt witnessing the gymnastics.)

Yay! The tumbler is okay! He only had to climb back up the steep side of a sand dune. Jeff, thank goodness, has enough sense not to try this for himself, but you know he wishes he could!

The sand starts burning our feet and we stop to put on our socks and hiking boots. (And what a great opportunity to catch our breaths!)

Meanwhile, we keep sludging, not realizing that we are heading towards Star Dune, the tallest at 755 feet. (At one point we had a choice to go right or left and we decided to go west, to the left.)

We are just about to turn around and head back. We’re getting tired of climbing through sand, only to slide back again. Another vertical rise looms ahead. We rest and discuss our options, not knowing where or how far it is to the top of Star Dune.

Jeff is ready to turn back but he knows me too well. I consider my options: I’m tired from climbing up through sand; But, we’ve hiked so far; Will I be disappointed if we don’t continue?; What lies beyond this last painful sludge? How much farther?

So, we sludge up yet again and… there it is! The ridge to the top of Star Dune!

WE DID IT! And so did 2 nuns in full habit!

I take a few pics…

…and my Aunt Lynne from San Diego calls me to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day!

We head back.

So many sand dunes. So many choices. No trails.

Thank goodness we are sliding down and not scrambling up!

Jeff and I take a shortcut back to Medano Creek and skip down a sand dune. These are our tracks on the left.

We finally slide our way down to Medano Creek.

Not all visitors come to hike. Some just hang out on the creek beach for the day.

There’s even a tarp-lined path through the sand from the parking are to the creek for wheelchair access.

Wow! It took us about 3 hours, but we did it! And I’m so glad we did!

Leaving Mesa Verde

Cortez to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the view from the passenger seat of the RV with me!


The Animas River in Durango…


Pagosa Springs…

South Fork…

Crossing the Continental Divide…

The streams now flow in the opposite direction!

U.S. 160 – State Route 150…

And here we are!

The Great Sand Dunes Oasis campground… Be sure and check out the website link to Strange and Unusual!

This is the ultimate playhouse and makes me think of all 7 of my grandchildren, yes, even Emjay who is a teenager now!

So cool…

Tomorrow we hike the sand dunes!

Loose Ends

Last Visit to Mesa Verde

Today we return to Chapin Mesa and the Mesa Top Loop to visit the spots we skipped on Monday.

Mesa Top Sites

For hundreds of years people moved in and out of Mesa Verde. They farmed, hunted, gathered, and re-settled on the same landscape over and over again. The big take away here is the realization that each group of Ancestral Puebloans learned from their elders, adapted to the conditions of their time, and passed their knowledge and experiences onto the next generation. At least 5 villages were built here over several hundred years, each built on top of the previous one. (plaques)

Here are 2 diagrams, taken from plaques, that depict 3 different building sequences and architectural styles from 900 – 1100 A.D.

I can’t really make heads or tails out of these excavated sites but the Mesa Top brochure explains that the earliest village was built with post-and-adobe walls. The second village, superimposed on the first, was of single-course masonry. And the third was constructed with thicker double-course masonry. At least the diagrams  above make more sense now.

What’s amazing to me is the fact that families lived here for centuries on this mesa exposed to the elements. The closest water supply, according to the Mesa Top brochure, was a quarter mile away. Did good farmland keep them here? Or was it  just the tendency to live in the same place where others lived before?

Why did the Ancestral Puebloans leave and return? Could it be as simple as they stayed where their basic needs could be met and moved on when conditions became unfavorable? But something brought later generations back again and again…

Kivas were the religious and sacred centers of Pueblo communities. Today they are still used for religious and social activities. In the drawing below, taken from the brochure, you can see examples of 3 different kivas, one from each century.

The kiva excavated below was built about 1074 A.D. as part of the last village built on this site.

Sun Point Pueblo A.D. 1200s

This is one of the last mesa-top pueblos built at Mesa Verde. The plastered walls contained small niches and a tunnel was dug into the soil to connect the kiva with the round tower. (brochure)

According to plaques around the excavations, this small town village was inhabited for less than 2 generations before the people living here moved into the cliff dwellings.

Sun Point View again A.D. 1200-1300

Visible from this spot are a dozen cliff dwellings set in alcoves high up in the canyons. (Trust me, they’re there but hard to spot with the naked eye.) Between 1200 and 1300 A.D., half the population of Chapin Mesa lived here. (brochure)

Oak Tree House A.D. 1250

There are about 600 alcove sites in Mesa Verde National Park. About 90 percent contain fewer than 11 rooms. At least one-third are simply one room structures, probably storage rooms for a nearby cliff dwelling. There are only about a dozen cliff dwellings that contain 40 or more rooms, including Oak Tree House. (plaque)

Fire Temple and New Fire House A.D. 1250

According to the plaque and brochure, Fire Temple was probably not a place where people lived. Its open courtyard may have served as a dance plaza for the surrounding community near and far. Figures of rain clouds, cactus, humans, and animals were painted on the plaza wall.

New Fire House is a cliff dwelling that contains 22 rooms and 3 household kivas.

Look closely and you will notice a hand-and-toe hold trail chipped into the rock connecting the upper and lower alcoves.

Here’s a birds’ eye view of the canyon where the cliff dwellings are tucked inside the alcoves. Just below the horizon to the left is a mesa top structure called Sun Temple.

As we head toward Sun Temple we notice some spectacular flowers. We really need a bumper sticker that reads, WE BRAKE FOR FLOWERS!

The large white flowers are Tufted Evening Primrose, Oenothers Caespitosa and the small pink petals peeking through the leaves are Erodium Cicutarium, Filaree.

Sun Temple A.D. 1250

Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes led the excavation of this mesa top structure in 1915 and this is what he had to say about the discovery: “This building was constructed for worship, and its size is such that we may practically call it a temple.” The D-shaped floor plan consists of nearly 30 rooms within a thousand feet of finely masoned walls, four-feet-thick. However, a lack of roof beams or evidence of any household goods suggests that Sun Temple was never completed. Why? (brochure)


Sun Temple is unique among all the other structures in the Park. It was part of the community of cliff dwellings but unlike the few similar D-shaped buildings found in the region, it is the only one not built within a pueblo. Could it have social, ritual, or symbolic functions? (plaque)

Dr. Fewkes also speculated that the existence of a natural rock basin in the southwestern corner of the structure served as some kind of solar marker for celestial observations. (brochure)

I totally missed observing this, so here is a diagram and drawing from the brochure:

Just past Sun Temple is an overlook with a great view of Cliff Palace.

Mystery not only surrounds Sun Temple but also the disappearance of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in Mesa Verde for centuries. What prompted their final migration in the late 1200s?

Final thoughts…

I didn’t know what to expect visiting Mesa Verde National Park but this sacred place is not to be missed on a list of “Must See National Parks.” Long before Europeans explored North America, an ancient culture built elaborate stone communities and flourished here for almost a century. Archeologists named these peoples Anasazi from a Navajo word meaning “ancient foreigners.” Today we call them Ancestral Pueblo or Ancient Puebloans as a tribute to their modern day descendants.

Local ranchers discovered these cliff dwellings in the 1880s. Since then archeologists and historians have pieced together an evolving story of an incredible human culture adept at building, artistic in their crafts, and skillful at carving out a life in a difficult land.

If you stop and listen, these ancient rocks have so much to say!