This is the one cliff dwelling which was still open for a self-guided tour (and was a reasonable walking distance from the parking lot. I don’t do hikes over a mile in length).
This was the first view I had of Step House:
To give you some orientation – my car is parked up on the mesa at the level of the trees at the top of the photo. From the parking lot I looked east and the dwelling was over the cliff, below me (at a lower level, not under my car). From the vantage point I took this picture from I would walk further away from the cliff (to my right/rear as seen from here) then double back and walk down a path constructed by the CCC back in the 1930’s and enter the dwelling from the left as seen from the front. I would exit from the right and take another path and series of switchbacks to get back up to the parking area. The total walking distance (both the entry and exit paths) was about a mile.
And here we go…. This was after I turned at the switchback and started taking the path down to the dwelling. The switchback is where I saw the Tarantula Hawk wasp shown in the first post of the day.
Then down these stairs:
And along more pathway to get to the dwelling:
Once I got to the dwelling there was a ranger there to answer questions about what I was seeing. My first question was, before the nice path that the Civilian Conservation Corps built, how did the people who lived here get in and out? He pointed out the original “steps” (which is why they call this Step House).
I know it looks like I was holding the camera crooked but keep in mind that the cliff roof curves out over the dwelling and over open space. I assure you, this is with the camera held straight. The sign at the bottom right of the photo shows that I am standing upright.
The first things I saw upon getting to the dwelling were two open pits and one pit house.
The pit house is like the one Casey, at Canyon de Chelly, had built a miniature of. It would have been completely enclosed and accessed by a ladder through the hole in the roof. The ranger told me that there was evidence of logs and other material in this pit which is why they surmised that it had been a pit house. The roof, as well as the walls on all three pits were reconstructed with the help of folks from National Geographic and a team of archeologists. The other structures in the dwelling are pretty much as they were found. There was actually some debris (collapsed walls, etc) which was cleared away and used to help shore up the paths built by the CCC. Some of the remaining walls may have been reinforced for safety, but other than that everything else is original.
This was after climbing the ladder and was looking back at the three pits. The ranger is at the left of the photo below:
And this ladder wasn’t all that long. The one I had to climb down on when I was visiting a cliff dwelling in New Mexico back in May was maybe three times longer and, while sturdy, was a little more intimidating. Other dwelling tours at this Park involve climbing multiple ladders, like this but longer, as well as crawling through tunnels and going through narrow holes and passageways. They also required longer hikes to get there, which is why I wouldn’t have done them anyway. Some of the dwellings at this Park are closed for the season, or for special functions or safety reasons.