14 Jul 2001 jfleck   » (Master)

Spent a good part of our vacation visiting Indian ruins while at the same time reading a fascinating book about the rise and fall of the prehistoric cultures of the Four Corners region. I'd always viewed Mesa Verde and its immediate precursor, Chaco Canyon, as pinnacles of cultural achievement. Instead, I've come to realize that it is more appropriate to view them as colossal failures. First at Chaco, then soon at Mesa Verde, a society grew too big too fast, overreached the available resources, and failed catastrophically.


We camped at Mesa Verde in a valley half scalded by a wildfire last summer, which was fascinating. It was the sort of low-intensity fire that was the normal course of events here in the west before we started suppressing them a century ago, and the oak trees and grasses were popping back up like nothing had happeneed. But elsewhere in the park, a second fire burned across a thickly forested mesa top that was choked with fuel (that's what happens when fire is removed from the ecosystem) and the results were very different. The landscape there was sterilized - ugliness.

We also spent three days in Ouray, in the southwestern Rocky Mountains. Stunning mountains, beautiful waterfalls, and hikes way too steep for this aging boy's bones. But there was a hot springs at our motel....

Most importantly, it was good to have time with Lissa and Nora and not a lot of distractions, a little more inward directed family time. That was good.

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