Mesa Verde

I spent some time birding early today, beginning by watching the Spotted and Green-tailed Towhees from my balcony. A stroll around the lodge area produced some other species, then I drove over to the museum area. There I found a silent empidonax and a number of other birds. Then I found another empidonax dipping its tail. That one I know—Gray Flycatcher. It was not the only one of the day. Generally speaking it was fairly birdy, and I was happy with the results before I started down the trail to Petroglyph Point.

As usual, it was birdy around the beginning of the trail, but then tailed off. No matter, this was an interesting trail. It is an interpretive trail with 34 numbered stops. It is also a rugged trail, with tight squeezes between rocks (or rock and canyon wall). It's about 2.5 miles, and the sign suggests 2-3 hours. I caught up with a couple ahead of me as we neared the petroglyphs. We studied the panel together, and the key that is in the trail booklet.

Up to this point there had been some up and down, but little net elevation change. After the petroglyphs, the trail climbs to the mesa top for the return. We were not far from the petroglyphs when we found a challenge. Hand and toe holds led over the rock, the it wasn't clear how to make it work. I got there first, and had just figured out the way when the other guy commented that they must be joking (about where the trail goes). I responded “no”, and proceeded to demonstrate. There's a well-placed interpretative sign about halfway up, giving you an excuse to stop, catch your breath, and enjoy the view. Then it's more climbing to the top, and a lengthy but easy walk back.

After this warm-up, I was ready for another round. I headed back down to the trailhead, but this time took the right fork for the Spruce Canyon Trail. This is a 2.4 mile trail that descends to the canyon bottom. The park service claims it takes 2 hours, but I found it much shorter. Again there were birds at the beginning, but this time I kept hearing them as I descended next to a small stream. The trail immediately starts up again after reaching the bottom (there is a two-track that apparently goes to Spring House, but is off-limits). The walk up was quite birdy, and I spent 15 minutes or so working back and forth over one stretch. I added Lazuli Bunting and Orange-crowned Warbler to the trip list. There were numerous Black-throated Gray Warblers, MacGillivray's Warblers, Audubon's Warblers, and various other birds. Finally, I resumed my upward hike, reaching the top near the picnic area. After that it was 0.7 miles back to the museum and parking lot. This one took me only 1:30 to complete, even with the birding time (no more than 1:15 hiking time).

After lunch, I returned to the room for a bit. Since the room was being made up just as I arrived, I sat on the balcony for a while. The highlights included a Virginia's Warbler foraging for several minutes in the bushes just downslope. I noticed something else in one bush with the Virigina's. I figured it was probably a towhee or MacGillivray's, but was surprised when a chipmunk ran out. The rusty sides, the strong marking on the back, and the tail held down when running added up to Colorado Chipmunk, a lifer.

Dinner was at the Metate Room again.

So far, I have found 133 bird species and 12 mammal species during the trip.

Farview Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park, CO