The weather was disappointing today, cloudy and even a little rain. This killed any chances of finding great light for any of the pueblo sites. But, you have to work with what you have.
I visited some of the overlooks in the morning, especially the Farview sites on top of the mesa, then showed up at the Balcony House area in time for the ranger-led tour at 10am (which I'd reserved yesterday). Besides being able to actually visit the cliff dwellings, some of the interest in this tour comes from the way you get there. The stairs leading into the canyon are mundane enough, but after a short traverse, which includes a narrow squeeze between the canyon wall and a slab that has separated, you come to a double-wide 32 foot ladder. You climb the ladder, and there you are at Balcony House.
The tour group was fairly large, including a 4-th grade class. The 4-th graders were surprisingly well-behaved and also well-prepared. They had plenty of intelligent questions for the ranger. Finally, it was time to go. You exit Balcony House Anasazi-style, by crawling through a twelve-foot tunnel. Then there are more ladders and even some hand and toe holds carved into the rock. Some chains have been installed for protection in this section. I didn't realize at first that it was actually easier to not use the chains. After a brisk climb, you are back at the top.
I visited more overlooks, then headed to Cliff Palace for the 2pm tour. We got rained on a bit, but most of the group were not deterred. Here too there are ladders, but no tunnels. Cliff Palace is the signature site at Mesa Verde, and it was great to get a close look at it. The ranger on this tour also seemed more knowledgable that on the other tour.
Following Cliff Palace, I headed over to the museum. After a quick look, I walked down to Spring House, which is the other accessible cliff dwelling at this time of year (later, Long House on Weatherill Mesa will be open). They have rangers on duty there at all times when it's open. You just walk down the path whenever you feel like it.
I ended the day back at the Metate Room for another fine dinner.
I didn't do much birding today, and am still at 130 bird species and 11 mammal species during the trip.
Farview Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park, CO