Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The ruined world below and the ruined world above

with 21 comments

Burned Forest Above Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling 1229

I’d long wanted to see the ruins at Mesa Verde, and on September 26th I finally got my wish. This split-level picture shows in its lower third a group of cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Looming over those dwellings and cutting across the middle of the photograph are the massive layers of rock that served as protection for the people who lived beneath them. Blanketing the uppermost layer of rock are the much more recent ruins of a forest destroyed by fire, of which there have been half a dozen in the past 15 years alone.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2014 at 5:38 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Captivating juxtaposition…


    November 7, 2014 at 7:46 AM

  2. How long ago was the fire? Did you see any regeneration? I thought I saw touches of green that were probably pioneer species, which suggests a long road to recovery.


    November 7, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    • I’m sorry I don’t know which of the forest fires listed in the document linked to near the end of the text is responsible for the burned trees shown in today’s picture, so I don’t know how long it took for the new greenery to reach the stage you noticed. Tomorrow you’ll have a post entitled “From gray to green, or death and rebirth,” which includes a picture taken in a different part of the park showing plenty of new foliage rising around the gnarled trunks of dead trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

  3. So much to take in here….greenery, hole, ruins, ruination and, for some relief, a blue sky with clouds.

    Steve Gingold

    November 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    • There was a lot to take in, and many vantage points from which to do so. We ended up spending most of the day there, and of course I came away from the experience with plenty of pictures, many but not all of them showing ruins or ruination.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

  4. Love this shot! Your trip was visually satisfying I’d say!


    November 7, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    • Right you are, Dianne. At a picture a day, I could’ve kept this blog going for several of months with nothing but trip pictures. I’ll probably end up having showed at least a month’s worth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 2:00 PM

  5. I have always been fascinated by the ruins at Mesa Verde…Great photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    November 7, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    • I hadn’t expected a ruined forest above the Indian ruins, so I was happy with the juxtaposition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 5:28 PM

  6. I’ve been to Mesa Verde (unforgettable!) and, coincidentally, I read another post today that includes a watercolour painting of this wonderful place. (See http://pachofaunfinished.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/translators/).


    November 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    • Thanks for pointing out the coincidence of these two Mesa Verde posts today. I left a comment after yours on the other blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2014 at 7:18 PM

  7. I see mrsdaffodil already has alerted you to Kayti’s painting. It’s interesting that two visions of Mesa Verde appeared on the same day. I’ve never thought about the mesa being protection against fire for the people who lived there, but of course fire isn’t only a contemporary threat. Are those clumps of yellow broom snakeweed? They certainly look like it.


    November 8, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    • Wow, you have sharp eyes. I looked at the original image but even at that much larger size I can’t tell whether the clumps are broom snakeweed or perhaps just rounded shrubs with yellowing foliage. I don’t remember seeing broom snakeweed at Mesa Verde, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see it (there was so much to see!) and the USDA map shows it for Montezuma County, which includes Mesa Verde.

      Yes, it was a coincidence to find someone else’s blog post about Mesa Verde on the same day. Mathematicians take all the fun out of such things by pointing out that there are a great many blog posts each day (one estimate I found online is half a million), so the surprising thing would be if there were not duplicated subjects. I’d say it’s less likely that someone (Mrs. Daffodil) would happen to subscribe to both both of the blogs that posted about the same subject on the same day, especially since Mesa Verde is a subject that wouldn’t normally appear in a blog about nature photography in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2014 at 7:59 AM

  8. Beautiful and fascinating image…. The rise in forest fires is incredibly sad and disheartening. (EVERYWHERE.)


    November 9, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    • I was surprised to learn how many forest fires have struck Mesa Verde—all of them instigated by lighting. Once I saw the devastated forest above the ruins of the cliff dwellers, I knew had to photograph the combination.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2014 at 6:05 PM

  9. A both beautiful and depressing photo. Nature – and cultures – come and are destroyed again.


    November 13, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    • That’s the nature of life: creation and destruction. So has it always been, and so shall it always be.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 13, 2014 at 2:03 PM

  10. I remember this post. Which of the dwellings was this? We didn’t see them on this trip. Of course, like you said, you can’t see everything when visiting a space for the first time. We drove by (through) many prescribed burns on our trip. It made for a pretty hazy GC lookout.


    June 26, 2017 at 7:30 AM

    • I’m sorry to say that after two-and-a-half years I don’t remember the name of this dwelling—even assuming I knew it in the first place.

      I’m also sorry the haze from burns made your majestic views less majestic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2017 at 8:14 AM

  11. […] UPDATE: In 2014 I finally got to visit Mesa Verde. […]

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