With some persuasion, I was eventually sent to the “other” Mesa on one of my “Off” days to learn to
drive the tram. Wetherill Mesa is on the other side of the Mesa Verde National Park and is certainly the
area less travelled by the the hoard of summer visitors, although it is becoming increasingly popular.
It is however home to Long House which is the second largest cliff dwelling being only one room less
than Cliff Palace on the other Mesa which has 151 rooms.

Long House at Wetherill Mesa

As part of the recovery program post the major recession 3 purpose built trams were given to the
National Park Service and Aramark is the operator, hence we get to drive them. The Park Service’s
answer to the Bullet Train operates at a cracking 15mph along a purpose built tram road some 5
miles in length. The road is now begining to break up and is just wide enough for the single tram to
pass so we have a crossover point where the incoming tram has to wait until the outgoing arrives
and then we are clear to go back to the start along the narrow one way road.

The trams are bio-diesel, a two car design seating 30 in the back car and 17 in the front plus the
Park Ranger and the driver. These trams take the tourists out to the Long House tour every half hour
between 1000 and 1600 and then we run a couple of “sweepers” to collect people before a final run
at 1730 to close the park.

The National Park Service 15 mph Bullet Train

The rear car is a foot wider than the front

Driving one of these is a bit trialslike as on nearly every corner, of which there are many, its all about
front wheel position to keep the back car on the road, and to make it even more fun on each of these
corners there is an under road culvet which is marked by two big posts hammered into the dirt on
both sides of  the road acting as section markers or a skiers slalom gate !

Approaching the uphill right slalom gate

The wider rear car just goes through….. see lower mirror!

Usually the first morning run is straight forward dropping off all the passengers at the Long House
Trailhead and then a gentle 5 mile meander through the park looking at all the wildlife of which there
is plenty including a 50 strong herd of wild horses who came up onto the Mesa after the 2000 fire and
have been there ever since.

Wild and free

At the water hole

My favourite horse, not that I’m a horse person, is a gorgeous roan stallion who I call “Hot Chocolate”.
The old stallion died last winter so there a four younger ones looking to take over the job. HC tends to
be just on the outside of the herd and gets chased off on a regular basis by a rather scruffy battle
scarred black male who clearly doesn’t like him.

“Hot Chocolate”

Other wildlife includes a multitude of squirrels and chipmunks and birds a’plenty. A very young
Kestrel landed in front of the tram and rolled over a couple of times from the impact, he then flew into
a tree and immediately fell out! Second attempt at the tree was better but his balance was poor.
Clearly this was Day1 of flight training and the “first solo” wasn’t going too well. About an hour later
he was gone.

The baby Kestrel takes time out after crashing on his first solo

Other things flying in the park this week were the Medivac Chopper who was called when a woman,
with a history of seizures had one!  Of course no medical bracelet or necklace and she didn’t have
her medication with her. Within 40 mins of the attack the ambulance had her out of the area and on
the chopper, all for only $12,000 on top of her $3.00 tour ticket! As they say you can’t fix stupid and
she was lucky we had someone on hand to kickstart her after her heart stopped 4 times.

The chopper lands near the waiting ambulance

all aboard for a $12,000 ride

While I enjoy driving the tram the Tour Bus still remains my favorite task but it seems I’m getting type
cast over here!


What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.

  • No comments exist for this post.
Leave a comment

Submitted comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.


 Email (will not be published)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *