Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Montezuma Creek and Mesa Verde

 This Eagle Scout project was sustained effort by the entire family for several months solid. The collect, organizing, boxing, and loading was something we could all participate in. And everyone did it with a smile. It was exciting for each of us to imagine the people this was going to and how it might bless their lives. We grew to love them before even meeting them!
 Micah was getting really excited as we loaded up everything and were preparing to head to four corners.
 Building Youth Around the World rented a 17' U Haul. As we started to load it, we were glad we got a big truck!

Our basement looked like a food pantry for the months we were collecting food. Cans, boxes, and bags covered our craft table, ping pong table, pool table, and floor. It was quite a sight!

Lots of trips were made up and down the stairs as we carried everything to the U Haul. Whew!
 Above is a picture I snapped when Micah was making his video for the third grade class who donated a lot of food. He was showing them all the food that was going to Montezuma Creek. (Micah is mid-blink--sorry, buddy.)
 Here we are up top. Micah and Ian McCracken below. Ian was so wonderful to work with. He and Micah had a standing appointment each month to speak on the phone about progress made and what still needed to be done. We so appreciated all his time and guidance. Plus, he was the one instrumental in setting this up with his organization. He already had contacts in Montezuma Creek.

Ian and his family took the U Haul down for us. We had decided we would make a little family vacation out of this. Arches was a possibility, but we have done that as a family in the past. I'd learned of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and ever since then, it had turned into a bucket list item for me. So when I discovered how close it was to where we were going, I knew it was going to be perfect. Chad and I did our typical planning of all the hikes to do and sights to see. I became even more excited!
This park did not disappoint. We were surprised to learn that it is one of the least visited parks in the country. The ruins are just incredible. They are now just as they were 1,200 years ago when the Ancient Puebloans lived here (which used to be called Anasazi). The cliff dwellings were discovered by two brothers who happened upon them while gathering stray cattle. It is absolutely incredible to me that we are permitted to walk around through them and see them like this.
We all thought it was neat to be able to climb these different ladders as we entered and exited the dwellings.
There were kivas--many kivas. No one knows exactly what their purpose was. Our knowledge of this people is so limited. We don't know why they up and left when they did. Drought, war, famine?
The tour guides were informative and easy to talk to. I learned a lot. One thing I didn't know before was that many died from infections due to their teeth that had been so worn down from the sandstone they inadvertently ground into their food as they prepared it.

The Ancient Puebloans farmed extensively up on the mesas where the soil was deep and corn, squash, and beans grew so well.
I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a mother of young children up in these cliffs! How young would children have been when they were allowed to climb the ladders and footholds in the rock to get to the top of the mesa? Did deaths occur often from falls? Did babies and toddlers stay with their mothers in the dwellings until they were old enough to go up top? I would imagine these would have been very cold in the winter. In the summer, it would have been ideal because you are sheltered from the blazing sun.
At balcony house, we had to shimmy through one short tunnel that was just wide enough for me to get my rear through!

 Jumping forward a bit (because this is how my pictures loaded), here we are in Montezuma Creek! In the above photo, we have the McCracken family, Noumon, and us. We were happy Grandma and Grandpa (not pictured) were able to come with us to share in this experience.
 All hands on deck! We unloaded all the food from the trailer and decided how to set it out to make it easy for folks to pick up everything they needed.
 There was another boy there working on his Eagle. He had collected and assembled hygiene kits. How wonderful to be able to combine the efforts and make it even better for these people.
 We had hundreds of little toy cars from Tiny Tim's Foundation. I had asked Alton Thacker if we could take some of his toys down there. He responded enthusiastically! He told me he had come to this very place years before, dressed as Santa Claus, and handed out gifts.
 It was impressive to see all this food laid out. I couldn't help but think of all the people who donated to this cause. What a wonderful, heartwarming experience!
 Micah and Noumon:
 Our family in front of White Horse High School.
 Above is the entire group that helped get everything set up. We had the other Boy Scout's family, plus a family who lives in Montezuma Creek. They are the main contacts that Building Youth has there. Elsie Dee is the grandmother and also the elder of their tribe.
 Here are the younguns:

 You can see Micah's anticipation. He was really hoping for a great turnout so that many people would be blessed.
 Ian had asked Micah to prepare a speech to present to the people who came. He was understandably nervous, but did a great job! He had also been asked to decide how he wanted to food organized and distributed.
 What an awesome thing to see these people come through the line, and to be able to hand them much-needed necessities.

 There were a few individuals who only spoke Navajo. (They were the older generation.) We did our best to communicate with them as they came through the line.
 After getting their cereal, toy cars, and hygiene kits, they lined up at the U Haul to collect their boxes filled with good food.
 This little cutie enjoyed one of the toy cars!
 Folks were so laden with boxes and whatnot, they needed help getting everything to their cars. So we'd send out individuals to help them out.
 Grandma and Grandpa were helping a lot!
 Chad manned the U Haul.
 Matthew did a great job of scootching the boxes closer to Chad so he could hand them out.
 Because many residents live long distances from town, and some don't have transportation, we didn't get as many people out to the high school as we'd planned for. But thankfully, Montezuma Creek has a food pantry. We loaded up all the food that was not picked up (there was still a good amount!) and took it over for the food bank. While we drove through town, we got to see what some of the homes looked like. It was humbling.
 We know from what Ian told us that approximately 50% of the people do not have running water and electricity. I'm guessing that the homes right in town were among the nicer ones.

 We'd wanted to swing by four corners to get a picture and say "been there, done that," but Ian invited our group to have lunch at Twin Rocks Cafe, which was very generous of him. There were 20 of us!
After a VERY long wait, we got our food. It was delicious. We didn't have time to visit four corners, which was okay. We can save that for another time!
Rewind to the start of our trip. On our way down, we wanted to see the temple in Monticello. That temple is definitely out of the way. We got out of the car long enough to snap this:
Mesa Verde was awesome! So pretty--prettier and greener than I expected. We enjoyed a hike close to where we were camping. It gave a great view!
Some of the kids were really uneasy with how close we were to a steep drop-off.
We stayed at the top long enough to get this picture. It started to hail on us a little at one point, and then cleared up.
Grandma and Grandpa brought up their trailer. It is so nice to have so we can take a break from sun, wind, rain. They had a lot of fun playing games. We prepared and ate our meals here. All 9 of us!

Time around the campfire was so fun! We made pigs in a blanket with our roasting sticks over the fire. We also had cinnamon apples and s'mores. Mm-mm!

How cute is this?!

Well, we thought we had packed our tent. Come to find out, we'd packed everything EXCEPT the tent! Thankfully, we were able to find a way to work it so that everyone had a place to sleep in the trailer. Grandma and Grandpa were so kind as to let us invade their space. I don't think we could have fit one more body in here!
Beautiful Mesa Verde:
This was the first cliff dwelling we spotted, and it was incredible to see. How did they build these? And why did they choose this?

Group photo!

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