Balcony House by Moonlight


Of course the entire interpretive staff at Mesa Verde National Park was thrilled to be called back to work on October 17th – but maybe even a little more excited than we may have been otherwise.

You see, just before the furlough had been called, a few of my coworkers had conspired to apply for a permit to visit Balcony House on the full moon. It was planned to be a last hurrah of sorts, as the full moon would rise just a few days before much of our remaining seasonal staff headed elsewhere for the winter. Before we knew it, nearly the entire crew had signed up.

But the shutdown meant that Balcony House was closed to everyone, including park staff, and we all held our breath as the days dragged by. Luckily for us, first thing in the morning on the 17th, the permit was submitted, and by the end of the day it had been approved.


I estimate that I give somewhere around 100 tours of Balcony House each season. 300+ tours later, I’m still touched by this place. Seeing it by moonlight was a special treat. As an east-facing site, the light from that huge moon reflected so brightly off the stone walls in those first darkened hours that the flashlights we had carried down the steep steps and ladders were rendered entirely unnecessary.

I was also surprised by the temperature in the site. While a frigid autumn wind whipped furiously above the mesa, as soon as we crawled through the tunnel and into the kiva courtyard the air stood still. Crisp, but not painful.

A popular theory concerning some of the stranger features of Balcony House is that it may have been a special ceremonial center. Sitting in the silence of that bright night, protected from the cold and disturbances of the greater world around us, I certainly felt safe enough to worship this special place.

If any pictures can do it justice, it’s these. They were taken by my boyfriend, Austin, with his Canon Rebel T3i:






Less than two weeks stand between now and the end of my season. Over the past few days many of my coworkers, neighbors, and friends have packed their bags and made the long winding drive out of the park. The housing area is quiet, and I am left feeling unsure.

I’m unsure whether or not I’ll return to Mesa Verde next season. I’m unsure if the Park Service is an avenue I will continue to pursue. I’m unsure where I’ll be this winter, next summer, next year. I’m unsure what I want to do with myself and my career.

But as I reclined under the light of a moonbeam, surrounded by people I love in that sacred place, I found myself sure of one thing: wherever I go, and whatever the opinion of certain members of the public, this place needs and deserves our protection. And shutdown or not, I am proud to have been a part of that.

The crew, motley as we may be.
The crew, motley as we may be.

10 thoughts on “Balcony House by Moonlight

  1. Awesome pictures. It’s good to know that some sacred places remain to remind us that nature, beauty and history give meaning and context to our brief passage through this universe.

  2. Wow, the shutdown ending the morning of the full moon is pretty incredible. What a blessing. Wishing you all the confidence in the world to handle this upcoming transition! Remember, you can’t always make the best decision, just a good enough decision 🙂

  3. You expressed exactly why I was so keen to go to Balcony House for the full moon, and that trip also being my last there for the season made it extra special.

  4. Mariana – “Carry on. It is not easy. But it is what we have to do – only we do not have to do it alone.” –Maya Angelou
    You gave us beautiful words, Austin gave us beautiful pictures of a special place. Thanks for sharing. –E

  5. As exquisite as this post and its photos are, my favorite lines revolve around the penultimate paragraph. Ambivalence and the unknown are our friends. From them we learn more than from any thousand moments of certainty. You will follow your gut, your heart, and find your direction; of this I am confident.

  6. Nana, again you make me cry….Am I too soft or am I converted to the spiritual site of the historical Indians? Your post would have been perfect if you guys had paid more attention to the sound of the flute…

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