IN 1978, MY FAMILY and I took our first (and only) driving tour of the American West.
After days of driving and sightseeing, we spent the night in Cortez, Colorado and set out
the next morning to see a little-publicized attraction called “Mesa Verde”.
It turned out to be awe-inspiring.
We had expected to drive a mile or two and look up at ruins tucked into a mountain
alcove. Instead we drove some 15 miles on a flat tableland (called a “mesa” in Spanish)
that extended to the horizon. We finally reached the Visitor Center and found we looked
out over immense canyons washed out of the mesa by eons of erosion. We climbed
down and there, hanging in the side of the cliff, was the abandoned Anasazi city of Mesa
Verde containing about 217 abandoned stone “apartments” built into the immense alcove.
Life was simpler in those days, and my 10-year old son and I, along with other
tourists, walked the ruins (my wife wisely elected to view our activities from the Visitor
Center deck). Then he and I climbed an ancient wooden ladder up through a rock
chimney to the top of the mesa.
As I stood and gazed over the ruins, I suddenly realized that real people had once lived
here. The Anasazi had been born here, grew up, married, raised their children, tended
their crops on the floors of the canyons, defended against their enemies, grew old and
died here. What must their world have been like?
On the way home, I told my family “I’ll write a book about these people someday.”
I wrote the first draft, called Mesa Verde, later that year. Life intervened and I put the
book aside. In 2000, I took it up again and as I re-wrote it, I realized there was much
more to tell, and kept writing. The result is the 5-book Anasazi Quest series. (JG August