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Hovenweep National Park

By Richie Ann Ashcraft

Last week, we had to go back to my hometown of Cortez, Co. Although I lived there throughout my entire childhood, places change, so between family gatherings we went out exploring some of those new places that have been created in the past decade.

There are ruins of ancient Anasazi and Pueblans everywhere. When I was a kid, it wasn't uncommon to walk through a canyon or a field and stumble upon some type of site. It happened all the time, and it was something that I took for granted.

But, in the early 2000s, it was decided that perhaps some of those ruins should be protected and the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument was born. It's huge and encompasses a large portion of Montezuma County. It's a good thing too because the economy in that area relies heavily on tourism and giving the area park status provides some sort of protection and management for the ruins.

Growing up, all of our class trips were to Mesa Verde National Park. I went there every single year throughout elementary school, except that one time we went to Pizza Hut — which was awesome. Every single home has southwest decor tucked somewhere in it. Navajo blankets, kachinas, faux broken pottery ... My first summer job was at the Anasazi Heritage Center where I gave tours of the ruins in English and German (badly) and help curate the exhibits at the museum.

When I left the area in 1992, I didn't care if I EVER saw another ruin. I longed for modern architecture, non-turqoise jewelry, and any kind of home that wasn't made from stucco. I am not drawn to the Southwest style and to this day, there isn't a single Southwestern item in my house.

But, I took a 20-minute detour on the way home to Lowry Ruins near Pleasant View, Co.  I thought the boys might enjoy checking out a pueblo and maybe learn something.

I was surprised to see how much different the site is now than I remembered it. It now has interpretive signs and a partially covered metal roof. We walked up to the Great Kiva and I immediately launched into tour guide mode. Blah, blah, blah. Marty would read the signs and say something like "Yeah, like mom said."

I didn't realize that I was doing it until Marty mentioned this picture.

I was pleasantly surprised at how the boys actually listened to me. To make it more interesting, I started telling them what their lives as little boys would have been like if they had lived there. The idea of learning to hunt with bows and having the responsibility of providing for the village really intrigued them. They started running around shooting pretend bison with their super-charged bows and arrows.

The visit went so well, we decided to continue another 25 miles across the state border into Utah to visit Hovenweep National Park.

It was different too. There's a Visitor's Center now and a $6 charge to hike the full 2 1/2 mile loop around the ruins. We'd eaten ALOT at all those family gatherings and were more than happy to take a walk.

The boys remained pretty fascinated by the idea that people built, lived and then disappeared from these houses. They found the idea of defending the villiage using the canyon pretty interesting too.

But, mostly, Hovenweep gave us yet another great day to enjoy and explore the world as a family. Maybe I could stomach just one more trip to Mesa Verde just for them sometime in the near future.



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That’s a great picture of you and the boys!  Well, they’re all great.  The campground at Mesa Verde is HUGE, btw.  Just sayin’.

I love these kinds of trips. Everyone’s outside learning stuff and using their imaginations. Wonderful.

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