The south exit from the Garden of the Gods is five minutes away from Manitou Springs, where we spent the next several hours of Day Five. West of the Garden on Highway 24 are the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
Built ages ago by the Anasazi tribe in southwest Colorado around the Four Corners area, the Dwellings were carefully lifted by their foundations and transplanted further northeast in the 1900s under the care and coordination of a well-meaning anthropologist who rightly noted that they’d been abandoned anyway.
This up-close, tactile experience allows visitors to enter the old dwellings through the windows or rear entrances as space and bodily limitations allow.
The Dwellings themselves contain no furniture, artifacts, or preserved 19th-century appliances, but they do provide a spacious view of the Rockies across the way.
Also in view are the Manitou Cliff Dwellings restaurant, dining area, offices, and something else. Frankly, I never did figure out what the structure at the upper right was — possibly a luxury resort or an authentic Native American mansion.
Once you reach the far end of the Dwellings, you’ll look back and notice that didn’t really take long at all, discounting the part where you had to wait for other patrons to move along before you could step inside and feel the simulation.
Mandatory pretty flowers add to the viewing experience and provide up to three seconds of additional aesthetic pleasure per admission dollar.
You’re likely to spend twice as long in the gift shop, a three-story, partly authentic structure (with a few additions here and there) assembled in a disjointed, sprawling manner, ostensibly in the Anasazi lifestyle preference. (Only the top third is pictured.) I found myself authentically separated from my family for a while and forced to search each floor in vain, only to locate them on the ground floor near the MCD pressed-penny machine, exactly where I should’ve known my wife would wind up. Pressed pennies are her thing.
The gift shop premises include a museum of expected relics, antiquities, and artwork from the Anasazi and other area tribes. Most disturbing display would be the skull collection.
Rare is the museum that will admit they’ve simply given up on interpreting their exhibit for you, as indicated on the window label. My pictographic interpretive skills are either rusty or nonexistent, but it’s my opinion that this piece depicts an Anasazi heroic-hunter story, the genre of choice for 80% of all pictographic tales in all nations ever. Alternatively, it could be part of a graphic-novel adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Notice the lollipop-shaped swirls and one or two undersized stick figures that may or may not be Oompa-Loompas.
Some of the gift shop walls have been preserved rather than drywalled over, used as knick-knack shelves to exhibit jewelry, gemstones, and dioramas. These miniature Manitou Cliff Dwellings are display items only, not intended for resale as sparse dollhouses or makeshift G. I. Joe hideouts.
In all our visit was under an hour, even allowing for the part where I got lost in the Anasazi maze. It’s a pleasant historical diversion with adequate shelter from the summer heat.
My wife approved.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]