Hovenweep and a Credit Card weeps…

On Sunday we went to see Hovenweep National Monument, which wasn’t on our original itinerary but was conveniently located between Monticello (where we spent Saturday night) and Cortez (where we wanted to be on Sunday night; a good-sized town in which to find a dentist). We crossed from Utah to Colorado en route.


Hovenweep means “deserted valley” and is a collection of six pueblos (inhabited until, again, around 1300). Most are very remote and accessible only by 4WD, which we don’t have, but there’s a paved road to the largest one and a visitor centre. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get to “Cut-throat Castle” (and didn’t get any explanation of the name) but the Square Tower group, which we did visit, was great. Apparently there are lots and lots of remains of pueblos in this area (the “Great Sage Plain”, which stretches from here back across the border into Utah), most of them just sitting there in the middle of farmland.

The pueblos tend to be found near canyon heads, which could have something to do with water, with individual buildings perched on the edge of the canyon and often incorporating natural features such as huge boulders.


The structures of the Square Tower group date back to the late 1200s (so weren’t in use for that long before their inhabitants moved on). They’re commonly two-storey structures containing a number of separate rooms. The “twin towers” in the first photo contained a total of sixteen rooms, for example. There are original wooden beams in some of the structures, one of which we were told had been dated and the tree it came from was felled in the 1270s. I always find it helpful when putting these things into context to think what was going on back home at the same time. In the 1270s / 1280s we had Edward I on the throne, busy duffing up the Welsh and building castles….

The small holes in many of the walls may have been to do with ventilation, though many structures also had holes aligned for the summer and winter solstices; helpful information if you’re trying to grow corn, beans etc in such marginal conditions.

Monday’s first job was, of course, going to the dentist. We looked up the various dentists in town online on Sunday evening and picked out the most likely to leap into action to fix Mark before he starved to death. The people in the surgery were very friendly and helpful, and we only had to wait 15 minutes or so before Mark was ushered in to see the dentist.

He’s cut off the protruding metalwork, tidied everything up and applied new filling on top to cement it all together. The damage? $336. I could hear the credit card wincing in pain as it went into the machine. I’ve emailed the travel insurance company with the bad news…. Having researched typical prices for dental work in the USA online the night before, I think this really is the going rate. This would explain why the chap from the camp site told us as we were checking in on Sunday night that he needed a filling but is putting it off for as long as possible as it’s expensive…. He’ll have to hope nothing gets infected as you’d be remortgaging the house to pay for root canal work over here….

By the time we’d left the dentist and visited a huge Walmart in Cortez for supplies, it was late morning. I’d had hopes of being able to acquire a bottle of wine now that we’ve left the Mormon state (the supermarket in Green River hadn’t even had tea or coffee on the shelves; can’t be selling that evil caffeine you know….). No such luck. Apparently grocery stores in Colorado can sell beer up to 3.2% ABV (which you can also get in Utah), nothing stronger. Which I thought was quite ironic given that no-one seemed to be batting an eyelid at a complete aisle of bullets….

Mark had one of his comedy moments at lunchtime when he tipped the large pile of crumbs from his biscuits (yes, the biscuits that broke his tooth in the first place) into his mouth then realised that with half his mouth and tongue still numb, this may not have been the brightest move. The only way he could chew/swallow them was through comical contortions….


From Walmart we drove to Mesa Verde, which is just a few miles up the road. It had started snowing while we were at the dentist’s, and by the time we got to Mesa Verde they were only allowing 4WDs into the National Park, so we’ve had to put that one on hold until tomorrow, when the weather might hopefully have cleared. Instead, we drove to the Anasazi Heritage Centre at Dolores, which was free to enter and had all kinds of good stuff in it.

We got some good background information on the puebloans.


A basket dated to almost 7000 years old (i.e. before the basket makers)?


Also lots of pottery:




The snow has stopped now so hopefully the roads at Mesa Verde will be sufficiently clear for us to head up there tomorrow morning.