Back for another day at Mesa Verde! We met Bruce and Sara at the Visitor Center and they drove us over to the “quieter side” of the national park, Wetherill Mesa. This side of the park does not open to the public until Memorial Day, but Bruce got a back country pass so he could show it to us. We hiked to Long House, the second largest complex of structures in the park. The hike was not too steep, but wound around until we reached the village nearly 800 year old cliff dwelling pueblos. The wind on the mesa blew continuously, which kept us from getting too hot. This set of structures was also built about 700 years ago, and you could see the skilled building skills these ancestral Puebloans had. Archaeologists have found lots of pottery and tools in this complex, plus many kivas. It was interesting to see the holes in the sandstone floor created by the long ago inhabitants to capture the spring water in the back of the alcove. This alcove is quite difficult to see until you come right upon it, and so the location may have been for defensive reasons. There was a large pile of ancient wooden timbers at this complex; each had been “plugged” and dendrochronology techniques used to determine its age. As we walked we noticed several species of songbirds, some ravens and hawks, a skinny snake, and one large plump coyote that looked quite well fed. After visiting Long House, we rode around the loop road that the tram usually takes, and stopped at Step House Overlook to see that set of dwellings. We took Bruce and Sara to a "thank you" late lunch in Cortez at the Main Street Brewery (are you surprised? didn’t think so!) They all said that burgers at the restaurant were excellent as was the vegetable pasta I ordered. Fred says his IPA micro brew was tasty too!