Sunday, November 29, 2009

Horse Trails East of Sand Canyon

Along the south and east edge of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Cortez, CO, there are many rock alcoves visible from the County Road G where access is blocked by private property.

The only access for hikers in this area is the Sand Canyon Trail. There are horse trails that lead to the area east of the main Sand Canyon Trail but for a hiker it is a fairly long trek.

The most distant Ancestral Pueblo ruins site that seems to still be in hiking range is located more or less behind the Kelly Place Bed and Breakfast, maybe 1.5 miles east of the Sand Canyon Trail Head. There are two possible routes to get to this relatively large site. The longer way is to follow the main Sand Canyon Trail about 3.3 miles to the small sign that says “Sand Canyon”, then turn east off the trail and follow the unmarked East Sand Canyon Trail past three side canyons until it intersects with the drill hole service road.

Follow the drill hole road past the Mad Dog Tower site a few hundred yards to a vague two track trail. Then continue east to the small pipe lines that shoot up to the top of the mesa. There is another horse trail a few hundred yards south along the pipelines that crosses the pipelines and leads another mile or so to this site.

On a previous hike it took me 2:30 hours to get to Mad Dog Tower using the main trails and it is another 0:30 minutes to get to this eastern site. The 3:00 hours assumes that there is no stopping at the 20 or more ruins sites along the way.

An alternate way is the Mouth of Sand Canyon route that is shorter, but includes scrambling down and up the side canyons near the lower end of Sand Canyon. Climbing in and out of these side canyons is feasible, but the route isn’t marked.

There is a good alcove site in the eastern side canyon with a lookout point ruin above the alcove. The upper end of the east side canyon is near the drill hole road and a few hundred yards south of the Mad Dog Tower. From the drill hole road, find the horse trails and continue east.

The horse trails that cross the area east of Mad Dog are well marked and look like they get a lot of use. The horses seem to have an access point in the private property that is not available to hikers. The main Sand Canyon Trail area is dominated by hikers and mountain bikers, but the eastern area is the domain of horse riders.

A few hundred yards south and east of Mad Dog Tower there is another circular structure that has a dead Juniper tree in the middle of it. I missed this site when I was hiking east from Mad Dog Tower on the previous hike. It is close to the horse trail but not very near the rock face where I was looking at the alcoves.

The horse trail passes around the upper end of a deep side canyon and several empty alcoves before arriving at the site. There is a trail up to the site on the left side that enters on the left end. It looks like there are remains of three separate structures with the largest at the right end. The large structure on the right still stands tall with details of the doorway construction still visible.

I followed the Mouth of Sand Canyon route both out and back and stopped at the mouth alcove ruins and the lookout ruin above it. With another short stop at the circular neighbor of Mad Dog Tower, it took me 3:00 hours to arrive at this site. My return hike without stops took 2:00 hours and my total hike was 5:15 hours for about 6.5 miles on a 55 F blue sky day in late November. I carried and drank two liters of water.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sand Canyon Pueblo Neighbors

At the north trail head of the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyon of the Ancients in southwest Colorado, to the west side, there is the short interpretive trail to the mostly unexcavated and large Sand Canyon Pueblo. With about 420 rooms, 100 kivas and 14 towers it is larger than the spectacular Cliff Palace at nearby Mesa Verde.

There is also an unpublicized site on the east side of the canyon rim near the trail head that spills over the rim into some of the alcoves just below the rim. This site is only 100 yards or so off the trail but is not visible from the trail. It is fairly easy to hike over and view this site. These sites at the Sand Canyon trail head rest on the Dakota Sandstone layer.

The structures on the rim mostly appear as rubble piles, similar to the Sand Canyon Pueblo. Below the rim, there are some alcove wall sections that are similar to the alcove sites at the lower end of Sand Canyon. I haven’t spotted any alcove structures below the rim at the main Sand Canyon Pueblo from the main interpretive trail.

The below the rim area can be reached from the main trail by descending about 10 feet, then turning off the trail and working your way east. There may be a few rock cairns to guide the way. The rubble pile ruins start to appear before reaching the alcove. Looking inside, there are some roof beams still in place. Just to the east of the alcove, there is a notch that allows passage to or from the rim.

The rim structures don’t seem to be as overgrown as the Sand Canyon Pueblo sites, fewer trees coming up through them. This is a smaller site and there is a definite gap between the east site and the main site. I noticed a small hiker’s collection of pot shards on display. There aren’t any interpretive signs at the east site and there isn’t a trail to follow, but the distance is short.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Cahone Trail to Cross Canyon

The Cahone Trail is an officially unnamed access route into the often difficult to access Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado.

The trail head is 4 miles west from Highway 491, along County Road R from the small town of Cahone, Colorado. This canyon area is part of the Cahone Canyon Wilderness Study Area.

Road R reaches a dead end at a brown easy to open gate. An old two track road leads northwest, easily down into a side canyon of the upper end of Cross Canyon. It is about 1.5 miles of hiking to the main Cross Canyon. The junction of the side canyon with Cross Canyon is a broad flat area of sagebrush fields with several other side canyons meeting at the same point. The old road continues to the north.

Three deeply cut washes join at this point with a small flow of water at the bottom. I chose to hike south and followed cow trails down into and across the wash over to the west side. About 0.3 miles south there is a short side canyon on the west that seemed to offer the cliffs and large boulder foundations often associated with Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites.
I scanned the cliff areas with binoculars and didn’t see anything but decided to climb up anyway. I made my way up the side canyon below the rim and passed many locations that looked like good building sites but didn’t find anything except good views to the south.

At the upper end of the side canyon I descended down the rocky wash and returned to the bottom. Scanning again with binoculars I saw a wall section under a rocky overhang nearly all the way to the rim. So I had to climb up a second time.

The wall fragment is hidden by trees and boulders and is visible only from the right angle, but the rock overhand covering the site is clear from many angles. I could only see an entrance into this protected site from the left side. There is a small fragment to the left of the remaining wall, suggesting that the whole open front was once walled in.

I slithered along the front of the site avoiding the steep drop off to look at the right side. On the right side there is a dry wall perimeter structure that is standing up well. I saw a corn cob along the way.

Further to the right there are two smaller wall fragments in small alcoves. I didn’t see a way to exit from the right side and had to return the way I came back to the left side of the site. This was the only site I saw in this area, but they are often hidden and easy to miss. At the canyon bottom near the side canyon junction there is a rubble pile that may be a site but it wasn’t very definite.

I spent about 3:30 hours hiking and climbing to find this site though the distance was only about 2 miles. The return hike took 1:15 hours for a total hike of 4:45 hours for about 4 miles. It was a 65 F degree mid October day and I carried 3 liters of water. There are many more locations to explore in this area, both up and down Cross Canyon.

I thought it odd at the time, but there are initials “JW” inscribed on the back wall of this site. This is a remote, hard to find site so why would there be graffiti here? After viewing a similar “JW” on the right end the well known Spruce Tree House ruin at Mesa Verde, it occurred to me that JW could be John Wetherill, one of the famous Wetherills that were instrumental in the development of Mesa Verde and other Four Corners ruins sites as places of major interest.

So John Wetherill may have visited this otherwise obscure site and left an historic inscription. Besides exploring the Cahone Trail, John Wetherill established trading posts in southeast Utah and led expeditions into the backcountry near Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge National Monument. I didn’t see a year carved here but one could guess around 1890.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mouth of Sand Canyon Trail

The Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, in southwest Colorado, runs 6.5 miles north and south on the west side of Sand Canyon and passes many small Ancestral Pueblo Ruins sites.

About 3.3 miles up the trail there is a side trail to the east side of Sand Canyon that leads to several more sites. One of these sites is in a side canyon that is back toward the south end of Sand Canyon near the canyon mouth. (In 2011, this area off the Sand Canyon Trail might be considered closed.)

On this hike I was looking for a route across Sand Canyon that was closer to the south trail head. The south trail head is 12 miles west of Cortez along County Road G. From the south trail head I hiked about 0.5 miles to the end of the first spur trail on the west side. There is a distinctive rock formation at this point.

From there I hiked east for another 0.5 miles through the Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest to the edge of Sand Canyon. From the canyon rim the ruins site I was heading for is visible in the side canyon on the east side. At the view point the canyon is very steep and deep.
Back to the south a short distance there is a side canyon on the west side that offers a possible route into the main canyon. This side canyon has its own side canyon on the north and I was able to find a way there down to the bottom. Near the bottom I spotted a rebar stake that looks like something the archaeologists install to mark a site. There was a south facing alcove in the vicinity but I didn’t see any obvious ruins.

Once reaching the side canyon bottom the walking is fairly easy toward the main canyon. In the main Sand Canyon there is a vague horse trail leading up the canyon. At first, from above and below it is hard to see how anyone entered this site. It is a total hike of about 1.5 miles to get to the point below the ruins site.

After viewing the site from below, I looked to see if the East Sand Canyon area could be reached by climbing out of this side canyon. It is possible to climb to the east canyon rim area going up the east side canyon. The route requires a little scrambling but is not too bad. I climbed up the south side of the canyon before reaching the canyon head. From above, I could see the ledge that offers a route toward the alcove. It looks like there is a section just before the alcove that might be treacherous.

It also looks like there is a ramp leading to the rim from the ledge. On a later hike, I walked up the ledge and was able to enter the ruin. There is a notch that allows climbing into the site. I looked at the ramp and it looked too risky for one person to try alone. Perhaps two persons together could help each other up.

Looking back at the alcove from up the canyon I had noticed a wall fragment above it and to the left. I don’t think this wall section is visible from the west side angle. It looks like a castle rock type of site is above.

On the later hike I climbed out of the canyon on the north side near the canyon head and was able to get closer to this site. The wall section appears to be part of an isolated lookout tower. I didn’t see any other structures up on top. It is possible to climb in or out of the east side canyon on either the north or south sides, but there isn’t a marked route.

From this area it is about 0.25 miles east to the drill hole service road and the vicinity of the sites near and east of the Mad Dog Tower site. I returned to the main trail head using the 1.5 mile drill road route, but this road passes through a short section of private property.

My total first hike was about 3 miles and took 3:00 hours on a 70 F degree early October day. The revisit hike was on a 50 F degree day in late November and I spent some time getting closer to these two sites.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mad Dog Tower Trail

The Mad Dog Tower is in the Sand Canyon area of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. It is vaguely visible east of the Saddle Horn Ruin along the 6.5 mile Sand Canyon Trail about 1 mile north from the South Trail Head.

I started my hike at the South Trail Head and walked about 3.3 miles north past the last of the 10 or so small ruins sites in the lower part of the canyon. As the trail passes a small sign that says “Sand Canyon”, an unmarked side trail that I call the East Sand Canyon Trail turns back south on the east side of the canyon. The East Sand Canyon Trail passes by three side canyons that have at least seven more small ruins sites. (In 2011, this side trail off the Sand Canyon Trail is considered closed.)

The East Sand Canyon Trail exits at the head of the third side canyon and connects to the drill hole service road. The Mad Dog Tower is very close to the east side of the road. I walked right past it when I hiked in this area before, but it can be seen from the road. Excavation work on this site found a room block, an earth walled kiva with a tunnel and a trash pile midden, but these features aren’t visible on the surface.

I saw a story that the students working on the site were chased by dogs as they traveled to the site every day and named the site Mad Dog in honor of these dogs. It took me 1:30 hours to cover the 3.3 miles to the beginning of the East Sand Canyon Trail and another 1:00 hour to arrive at the Mad Dog site. I didn’t stop to view any of the other sites along the way on this hike.

While in this area I explored the alcove areas to the east of Mad Dog. The first area to the east had a small alcove to the left, a larger one in the middle and another large on the right. I could see a small wall section in the smallest of the three possible locations.

There is a hikeable route along the left near the sandstone wall. The interior of the small opening appeared to be covered with soot. The other two alcoves in this area appeared to be empty.

Further east there are some odd pipes approaching from the south that shoot right up to the top of the mesa. These are probably associated with the gas plant that is east of the trail head area. It looks like horse riders use the pipeline route as a trail. There are one or two small sites in the area to the right of the pipelines.

A rough trail leads from the pipes across this rubble strewn area toward the small wall section on the left side of the formation. There is another small wall fragment directly across on the right. This site is about 0.5 miles east of the Mad Dog Tower. I turned around here and followed a two track road that connects back to the drill hole service road at a point a few hundred yards south of the Mad Dog Tower. There are more alcoves and possible ruins sites to the east of where I stopped.

I followed the drill hole road back to the connection with County Road G that is 0.5 miles east of the trail head parking, slipping through a section of private property. There is a locked gate along the drill hole road that prevents motorized access to this area of Canyons of the Ancients. After the 2:30 hours to arrive at Mad Dog I spent 1:00 hour exploring to the east and the return hike took 1:00 hour. My total hike was 4:30 hours on a 70 F degree day in late September. I carried two liters of water.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saddle Horn Ruin Neighbors

Saddle Horn Ruin is one of the small Ancestral Pueblo Ruins sites on the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. There are at least two off the trail ruins sites that can be viewed from a distance in the vicinity of Saddle Horn. (In 2011 the off trail areas are considered to be closed.)

The south trail head for the 6.5 mile Sand Canyon Trail is 12 miles west of Cortez, CO on County Road G. The Saddle Horn Ruin is about 1 mile north along the well marked trail. Turning off the trail and going east and slightly north for a about a quarter of a mile to the rim of Sand Canyon. I scanned with binoculars across to the other side looking for a tower site known as Mad Dog Tower.

I didn’t see anything from the rim but moving back to a higher spot and repeating my scan several times I finally spotted the elusive tower. It is visible in line with the right side of the large rocky outcrop that is in the middle of this view. It appears to be only about a half mile away but Sand Canyon is very deep and steep and in the way. (I think the Mad Dog Tower can be sighted from the Saddle Horn ruins without leaving the Sand Canyon Trail.)

There is an unmarked East Sand Canyon Trail that accesses the area of Mad Dog Tower. Follow the Sand Canyon Trail north for about 3.3 miles to the point where there is a small sign that says “Sand Canyon.” The main trail continues north, but there is also a trail that crosses and turns south toward the side canyons on the east side.

On this hike I tried walking south along the west rim of Sand Canyon to see if there was a shorter route over to the east side. There is a service road for drill holes on the east side but it passes through private property.

I walked to a point that is about 0.7 miles east of the Castle Rock Pueblo and overlooking the beginning of the drill hole service road.  Looking back north up the canyon I spotted an alcove ruins site that looks like it is in a very inaccessible position. This site is in a short eastern side canyon near the junction of Sand Canyon with McElmo Canyon. There are cliffs both above and below the site and there isn’t any apparent entry point.

I thought this would be a rarely viewed site but I caught a glimpse of it as I drove past the canyon mouth on County Road G. From the view point it was about 0.5 miles across country back to the Sand Canyon main trail and then 0.5 miles back to the trail head. My hike was about 3:00 hours for 3 miles, with much of the time spent scanning for these elusive sites.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Woods Canyon Pueblo Trail

The south leg of the Woods Canyon Trail leads to the large Woods Canyon Pueblo in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado.

 The trail head is on County Road U west of County Road 15 across the road from one of the Carbon Dioxide gas plants. This area is near the town of Yellow Jacket, CO and west of Highway 491.

The trail follows an old road down into a side canyon and then into the main Woods Canyon to a junction that allows travel north and south. For this hike I turned south toward and then under the major power lines that cross the canyon a short distance to the south. From the trail junction there is also a large Ancestral Pueblo ruins site about 1 mile to the north.

A few hundred yards past the power lines some cliffs become visible on the west side. With binoculars, some wall sections of a ruins site are visible just below the canyon rim. There is a creek with flowing water between the trail and the ruins site. Parts of the creek bottom are very thick with vegetation.

I continued on the trail a little south of the ruins site until I found an area where the vegetation thinned out and the creek could be easily crossed. I didn’t see a trail going up to the ruins site. A short distance up the canyon side, rubble pile ruins structures start to appear and there are many of them.

The climb up to the standing wall sections is steep and a little treacherous. From below, some wall sections on the canyon rim are visible but I couldn’t see them from the ledge just below the rim. I didn’t see any easy way to get onto the rim from the ledge. (On a later hike I found a route that connects to the trail along the ledge under the rim.)

Besides the most obvious below the rim wall sections, there are others visible along the rim to the south and maybe some storage sites to the north.
From the elevated position there are views up and down Woods Canyon. Several of the large boulders to the south show rubble remains on top and there are many rubble mounds down the canyon side hidden by the Pinon Pine and Juniper forest.

The Woods Canyon Creek appears to have year round water and some of the pools support cattails and bulrush. I saw at least one large cottonwood tree in the canyon bottom. There are also fields of sagebrush visible, indicating good soils for farming. Woods Canyon appears to be a relatively lush location that could have supported large villages.

I returned after visiting this site, but the trail appears to continue further south. My return hike to the trail head from the ruins just below the rim took about 1:00 hour for a distance of about 2 miles.

I spent 4:00 hours total on this hike but much of it was spent exploring the side canyon west of the trail junction. That side canyon looked promising but I didn’t find anything but good views. I carried 2 liters of water on a 70 degree F partly cloudy day in late August.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

East Sand Canyon Trail

The Sand Canyon Trail is a 6.5 mile north and south route in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. It runs along the west side of Sand Canyon passing at least 14 Ancestral Pueblo Ruins sites. There is an unpublicized trail on the east side of Sand Canyon that allows access to several more sites. However, in 2011 I think this side trail is considered closed.

I started my hike at the South Trail Head, located about 12 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G. I walked about 3.3 miles north, skipping past the Castle Rock Pueblo and the 10 ruins sites that are easy to visit along the short spur trails. At the point where the trail actually dips into the canyon bottom, there is a small sign that says “Sand Canyon.” The East Sand Canyon Trail takes off to the east in the vicinity of the small sign, but there is no marker. It looks like this is a horse trail.

On a previous hike that I called “Sand Canyon East Rim Exploring” I had started at the North Trail Head and climbed out of the canyon bottom a few hundred yards north of this point onto the shoulder where there is a drill hole service road. The East Sand Canyon Trail allows a close up view of the sites that I had previously viewed from a canyon rim above.

The East Sand Canyon Trail turns back south and passes by three side canyons that hold small ruins sites. The trail is on the shoulder above the canyon bottom, just as the main Sand Canyon Trail is. The first side canyon is the one that I had viewed from above previously and has five sites, all in south facing alcoves. The trail doesn’t go directly past these sites and there isn’t a spur trail that I could find. The first site is one that I called the 5th site when I viewed them from the upper end of the side canyon.

The fifth site has the most material still standing, and there are some circular wall sections in the area in front of the alcove. The nearby 4th site has two short sections of wall remaining. The 3rd site is mostly just the alcove with some rubble piles.

The 2nd site is the second best of this group, with an intact small structure to the left and some wall fragments on the right. There is some rubble in the middle in the middle of the alcove.

The main East Sand Canyon trail continues to the south to the second of three side canyons. The second side canyon had one site. This one is the most visible when scanning with binoculars from the main Sand Canyon Trail.

It sits up high with steep slopes in front. I looked around for an easy way up but didn’t see one so I just viewed from below. All of the vegetation made it hard to get a good angle for a close up picture. From below, it looks like this site is the best preserved of any of the small sites in the Sand Canyon area.

The third side canyon also has one alcove site. From the distance, it looks like there is only a small wall section standing on the left. This site is easy to enter and is more interesting from the inside.

There are several low walls on the inside and the cool shady inside of the alcove was pleasant to sit in as the summer afternoon heat built up. As I was sitting there resting I noticed a petroglyph on the left side wall outside the alcove.

The petroglyph was only two spirals and some sharpening notches, but there aren’t many petroglyphs in the Canyons of the Ancients area. The Holly Group in the Hovenweep area has a solstice panel and there is a large panel near Ismay, but those are the only other two that I know of.

It took me 3:30 hours to get to the third side canyon petroglyph site. From here a hiker can either retrace back to the trail head or continue south on the drill hole road that runs along the east side of this side canyon.

I took the drill hole road, but it eventually leaves the Canyons of the Ancients territory and passes through private property. It reaches County Road G about 0.5 miles east of the Sand Canyon Trail Head. My total hike for about 8 miles and 6 ruins sites took 5:15 hours. It was 70 F degrees at 8:30 AM in mid July and mostly cloudy with some breeze but cleared off and was about 90 F at 1:45 PM when I finished. I carried 3 liters of water and drank it all.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lowry Ruins South to Cow Canyon

Lowry Ruins is a large Ancestral Pueblo ruins site and a main attraction in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. It sits on an elevated site between the two forks of the head of Cow Canyon.

Near the parking area there is a dirt road leading south that offers a route for exploring Cow Canyon. Canyons of the Ancients has many small ruins sites but it is a find it on your own park.

The dirt road runs for about 1 mile with Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest on the east and a grassy sagebrush field to the west. About 0.7 miles along the way there are at least two small rubble pile ruins sites in the grassy area. They can be clearly spotted from the road.

Both the sites I saw had survey pins with site number tags attached. These two sites are small and it’s hard to see anything, but it’s good to find these early in a hike that doesn’t have a definite destination. Continuing on the dirt road until it reaches the forest edge. I made my way to a rocky point that overlooks the east fork of the head of the canyon.

I scanned the canyon rims and the bottom area and noticed that there are a few cottonwoods growing along the creek bottom and an area of sagebrush on the canyon floor as it swings to the west. I couldn’t see any Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites from the view point. There is a short side canyon on the west side of the point that is easy to get around and continue along the west rim of the Cow Canyon east fork.

There aren’t any trails to follow here. I walked through the mostly open forest looking for points along the rim that offered good views. About 0.5 miles further on I saw a rubble pile near the canyon bottom, close to the middle of the large sagebrush field that was visible from the lookout point.

The top of the canyon is mostly steep cliffs but there are many notches and gaps to get through the cliffs onto the gentler slope of the canyon side. This site used some large boulders as a foundation and seemed to be reasonably large, extending down the hill for a ways.

There weren’t any wall sections holding together here except for a short section that used large stones. This site is on a shelf that is well below the rim but above the canyon floor, and well above the creek. This site was visible from the rim right above it, but would be hard to spot from any other angle as the trees hide it.

Hikers approaching along the canyon floor would have to be looking into the forest area carefully. It is in the portion of the east fork that runs east and west for a short distance.

Since I was already down in the canyon I decided to return along the bottom rather than retrace my steps. This was a good idea but I made a navigation error and climbed out on the east side rather that the west side, fooled by a small side canyon to the east.

When I reached the top, I could see the protective structure of Lowry Ruins and headed north for it, but was surprised when I reached the east fork canyon again. The bright side of this mistake was that I came across the remains of an old log cabin down below and was able to see the east fork of Cow Canyon from another angle.

I found a cow path that led back down and then up and crossed again. It took me about 2:00 hours to find the Cow Canyon east fork site and 2:00 hours to return for a 4:00 total hike for about 3.5 miles. It was an 84 F early July day with a good breeze blowing and I carried 2 liters of water.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Elusive McLean Basin Towers

McLean Basin is a wide canyon area on the southwest Colorado and Utah border in Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. This is a find it on your own National Monument with very few official trails.

The McLean Basin area has some relatively well known and elusive Ancestral Pueblo towers that I’ve been searching for.

I started this hike 0.5 miles down road 4720 at a pull over point where the road veers close to the basin rim and there is a primitive camp site. I’ve called this road the McLean Basin South Rim Overlook Trail and it leads to the large Pedro Point Ruins site at about the 3 mile point. This west leading road is about 1 mile south of the turnoff for the Painted Hand Trail in the vicinity of the outlying Hovenweep National Monument sites.

Hiking to the edge of the basin rim at this point at scanning with binoculars I spotted two towers across the basin on the north side below and to the left end of some large sandstone cliffs. It is about a 2 mile rim to rim hike to get over to the elusive towers. The cliffs are a good navigation aid as it is not a straight shot across the basin. I took a good look over my shoulder at the route down so I would recognize the way back.

There is a layer of cliffs near the rim to get past while descending into the basin. In the area where I started there are two drainages that offer routes down. I looked at both and chose the eastern most drainage. On the return hike I noticed a hikers trail about half way between the two drainages, but it is not marked and only starts at the edge of the cliffs, so it may be hard to find. Below the cliffs the slope is easier.

In the eastern part of McLean Basin there are inner canyons that aren’t visible from the rim. There are cow paths and some road segments that can be helpful but you still have to pick your route. The cliffs above the towers go out of sight at the bottom of the basin. The cliffs to stear by are in the middle of this view.

There are two tall towers inside a protective chain link fence. The fence has a gate that is secured but not locked and there is a sign that gives a little interpretive information. As I got closer to the site I found a rough 4WD road that leads to the site and continues past.

The southwest tower appears to be more complete than the northeast tower and has a band of darker rock part of the way up. The Jesse Fewkes report on this site from long ago describes a rectangular overall site with these towers at two of the corners. The walls that he mentions aren’t very visible now.

The northeast tower appears to have a larger diameter but there is more of it missing. It is built on a boulder and sticks up higher. It is also constructed using some of the dark surfaced stones but they are more randomly placed.

In the southeast corner of the site there is a circular dry wall structure. From this angle there is a good view of the cliffs behind the towers that I used to navigate to the site. Outside the fence there are some other ruins remnants, but nothing like the two towers. I kept an eye out for other sites along the way, walking over many high points and scanning around but didn’t see anything else.

The 4WD road continues to the top of the cliffs and beyond, allowing a higher view of the area. From above there is a good view of the arrangement of the site and the surrounding area. I didn’t see any sites up on top or see any more sites nearby.

 It took me 1:15 hours to hike to the elusive towers site and my total hike was about 3:50 hours for about 4 miles. It was a relatively cool mid June day of about 70 F with thin clouds and some breeze that kept the heat down and the biting gnats at bay. I carried 2 liters of water and drank most of it.