The next part of our journey took us to Mesa Verde National Park, just outside of Cortez, CO. We took our time getting ready and we didn't get to the Far View Visitor Center until around noon. At this visitor center, you have to purchase tickets (at $3.00 each) in order to take guided tours of 3 of the largest cliff dwellings. We decided to try and visit both the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace. The earliest tickets that we could get were 2:30 and 4:00 so we had a little bit of time to kill. With this extra time we took the 6-mile Mesa Top Loop drive.
Ada was asleep and so at each of the viewpoints and stops Alison and I would switch off going to see the ruins and sitting in the car while Ada slept. There were a ton of Ancestral Puebloan pithouses, kivas, and villages along this route. It gave us just a small taste of what the national park actually contained (from the brochure: "The park includes over 4,500 archeological sites; only 600 are cliff dwellings [italics added]).
As mentioned earlier, the first tour that we went on was the Balcony House tour. This tour is the most strenuous of the guided tours, but Alison and I felt up to the task. Ada didn't exactly love the tours. There was a little too much standing around for her. She had to be in the backpack because we climbed several ladders and had to descend from the top of the cliff down into the cliff dwellings. She was able to crawl through a small tunnel all by herself though - and she really enjoyed it. We stayed a little behind the rest of the tour group so that everybody else could still hear the guide over Ada's fusses.
Immediately after the Balcony House tour we cruised over to the Cliff House for our second tour. We were a little tentative because of how Ada treated us on the previous tour. We lasted for about 25 minutes (the tours are 1-hour long) before we moved ahead of the rest of the group and made our way out. It was a long day in the sun for the poor little girl.
After the Cliff Palace tour we briefly stopped at the Chapin Mesa Museum and an overlook of the Spruce Tree House (another cliff dwelling, the only one that you can tour yourself - without a guide) before heading back to the hotel. Ada and I went swimming back at the hotel but the wind was kicking up and making it a little cold in the pool. Alison and I hung out in the hot tub after Ada went to bed instead. Another good day in Colorado.