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October 8, 2013

Four Corners desert tells story of the Southwest

(Continued)

To get to Eagle's Nest, I've had to climb two sets of old wooden ladders and squat-walk along a slight indentation in the rock beneath the cliff. It's narrow, and the Anasazi weren't big on railings. I hugged the rock wall to my right and pretended that the left didn't exist.

As I sit in Eagle's Nest, my mind is never far from my perilous location. Mark, who'd made the climb rather effortlessly in his old cowboy boots, stands carelessly inches from the edge and points out aspects of the masonry and its significance. He indicates places where you can still see thousand-year-old fingerprints in the mortar.

This is not Mesa Verde National Park, the more commercialized Anasazi ruin. There are no paved walkways or helpful park rangers telling amusing stories about things that never happened. All around us, just lying about, are bits and pieces of ancient history: potsherds of various types, arrowheads, the shiny skulls of long dead animals.

I look out at the canyon below and try to imagine what must have gone into obtaining the daily necessities of food and water and think about how dangerous life must have been to make living in cliffs seem like a good idea. I'd polished off the water in my canteen some time ago, and I'm thirsty, but I'm not about to move. On the other hand, I doubt that obesity was much of a problem when dinner involved climbing up and down several ladders and walking miles and miles in search of prairie dogs.

According to Mark and Ricky, the Four Corners area is littered with sites like this. Because of the desert climate, a sparse population, and miles and miles of undeveloped government land, there are more archaeological sites in this condensed area than anywhere else in the United States and all but a few places in the world. Most are only partially excavated or not excavated at all, waiting for the archaeologists of the future, armed with technology not yet invented, to come along and fill in the holes in today's archaeological theories.

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