Monday, April 3, 2017

Mesa Verde: North Rim Morning

Point Lookout, from the northern end of Mesa Verde National Park.
Early April, and time to drive back up into Mesa Verde to go to work. The warm-season crowds have not yet arrived, just the Spring Break families that have livened up the place after the winter doldrums. The days continue to lengthen and some shrubs and grasses are sprouting a little bit of greenery.

From just inside the deserted (it's too early for a ranger to be on duty) entrance station I pull over into the parking lot that is designated for visitors towing trailers to drop them off before driving up the steep tight switchbacks. The parking lot is empty this early in the season. It's a good place to stop and photograph Point Lookout, the iconic northern tip of the Mesa Verde itself. There is a trail to the top of it, from Morefield Campground on the south side of it. The gentle side.

Mancos Valley Overlook, April 2. The La Plata Mountains in the distance.

After the first set of switchbacks you come to the Mancos Valley Overlook. Take it. Especially on a springtime morning like this, with the clouds clearing as the early sunlight lights them up.

Looking south onto the steep slopes of Mesa Verde, from the Mancos Valley Overlook.
Driving on a ways, I go through the tunnel and up some more switchbacks, pulling over at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, which allows one to gaze down the other side, down toward the town of Cortez.

Morning at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, with Sleeping Ute in the far distance.
There I make several photos, captivated by the sunlit lumps of the distant Sleeping Ute Mountain, still largely covered in snow.

Panorama from Montezuma Valley Overlook.
Then the road climbs toward Park Point, which is -- no surprise there -- the highest point in the park. On this cold April morning it also means rising into and out of fog. A veil dance.

Sunrise fog near Park Point, Mesa Verde.
After Far View, where the lodge has yet to open for the season, the highway descends back to 7,000 feet and the Park Headquarters and Museum. Time to park the vehicle and get ready for work. Time to greet more visitors and share what I've learned so far about this World Heritage Site in southwest Colorado.

Foggy turnout, Mesa Verde.

Into and out of the morning fog, Mesa Verde.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

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© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg