Almost all the way up on the mesa…
At the tail end of what has been a very dry winter, the snow storms, though light, have been coming more frequently.
NPS snow plow truck working the road at sunrise.
At Mesa Verde National Park, each snowfall of significance is tackled by the park’s Maintenance crew. The snow plows are rolling and scraping before dawn, working the 20-mile road that is the only way in and out.
Mancos Valley Overlook, as the snow storm winds down.
There is a park “roads hotline” that employees can call (especially those that live outside the park) to listen to a recorded message with the latest conditions and delays, if any. Sometimes they hold us at the entrance station until 8am so that the snow plow drivers have free rein to make several passes outbound and inbound without having to watch out for traffic.
Snow covered slopes of soft and highly erosive Mancos Shale.
The plows really just push aside any significant snow accumulation. The road remains snow packed and icy because the park doesn’t use salt on the roads. Some sand, but not much. You just have to be prepared with the right kind of vehicle and tires, and be experienced with driving on slippery roads. Or, if you’re a visitor and not an employee, you can wait until the sun comes out and melts the roads off. Since most storms keep right on going, it’s usually not long before the sun gets to do its thing. The afternoons look totally different than the early mornings.
Snowy sunrise at Geologic Overlook.
Both versions of the day — snowy and melted — are beautiful in their own way at Mesa Verde. In the morning you may have to content yourself with visiting the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum and looking down at Spruce Tree House, the best preserved of the major cliff dwellings. At the Museum they show the park movie, have a lot of splendid exhibits, a book store run by the Mesa Verde Museum Association, and of course friendly and well trained National Park Service Rangers.
Mancos Valley Overlook, afternoon.
But in the winter season, bring your own coffee and food until the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe is open for the day, with limited hours. It’s a short stroll from the Museum and the only food facility open in the park in the offseason.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado. The park’s official website is at: https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm.
See more of my photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.
© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg