Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mockingbird Mesa East-Sandstone Canyon West Rim

Sandstone Canyon is one of the Canyons of the Ancients, located to the east of Mockingbird Mesa and west of Pleasant View in southwest Colorado.

The hiking starting point is the normally closed gate next to the Carbon Dioxide processing plant 8.5 miles south along County Road 12 from County Road CC. Instead of hiking along the gravel road I stayed close to the canyon rim.

For first time hikers in the Mockingbird Mesa area, there is an Ancestral Pueblo ruins site directly behind the gas plant close to the Sandstone Canyon rim. There is another large rubble pile site about 0.5 miles south on the west side of the gravel road at the point where the road is very close to the canyon rim.

There are also at least two boulder based sites visible down in the canyon in the first 0.5 miles. I skipped past all of these, looking for more sites further south.

After 1:30 hours and about 2.2 miles I came across a small mesa top rubble pile site that was about 100 feet from the canyon rim. I noticed several pottery shards that had washed down that led me to the site. The hiking along the rim was level and easy with a vague deer trail to follow.

The views are good along the rim and I stopped frequently at good overlook points to scan the canyon bottom with binoculars. There are some possible ruins sites down in the canyon but I couldn’t tell for sure.

In another 0:30 minutes I arrived at a south facing point overlooking the area where water from Sandstone Canyon drains down toward Yellow Jacket Canyon. Below the south facing point there are two boulder based ruins sites very close to each other.

The eastern most site has a wall section holding together under the shelter of the boulder. There is a small amount of rubble on the top of the boulder. There are other large boulders nearby that could have been chosen as building sites, but weren’t and I didn’t see any structures on the canyon rim.

Hiking west back toward the rim, I came across another boulder based site only about 100 yards to the west. I was surprised that these two were so close together. The further west of the two sites is also mostly rubble with small wall sections still intact and seemed a little larger than the eastern site. There was rubble remains on two boulders at the west site. One of the two large boulders is very close to the rim but not attached to it.

These two boulder sites have a spectacular view south toward the Yellow Jacket Canyon area. There may be a large pictograph panel near this canyon junction. Getting down to the drainage below looks feasible but the cliffs look steep, so it’s not clear if this is a good route for finding the panel.
I started back along the east side of the long sagebrush field that is in the middle of Mockingbird Mesa. The gravel road is across on the west side of the sagebrush and the large power lines are visible. A rock outcrop on the east side of the sagebrush had a small but mysterious circle of stones.

My return hike took 1:30 hours and I finished the last 1.5 miles on the gravel road. My total hike took 4:30 hours for about 6 miles. The starting temperature in late July at 9:00 AM was about 70 F and it was about 88 F at 1:30 PM. I carried and drank 3 liters of water. The biting gnats that are a nuisance in these canyons in June are out of season by late July.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Burro Canyon Northeast

Burro Canyon is tributary to Yellow Jacket Canyon from the east and is more or less in the center of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The access is the west extension of County Road N, west of the north trail head for the popular Sand Canyon Trail. 

A short distance past the Canyons of the Ancients sign is the north and west leading Burro Point road, which I've called the Burro Canyon North Rim Trail.

I started at the junction where the Burro Point road starts and hiked north for a few minutes, then turned west off the road under the major power lines and hiked northwest, no trails here, looking along the drainages at the head of Burro Canyon. 

Along the northern most canyon fork there was a section of cliffs with some rubble down the slope that looked like it could be an Ancestral Pueblo ruins site. I was approaching from the south rim and had a good view across. The descent from the south side and climb up were easy.

I didn’t see any wall sections until I was all the way into the alcoves, but there are several well preserved structures hidden under the protective rock cover. The small storage room looks nearly perfect and the door for it may be lying to the right side.

There is a series of small rooms still partially holding together. From where I started it is about 1.5 miles to this site and it took me 1:20 hours to find it. The cliffs behind the site are steep, but I found a place maybe 30 yards back to the east to climb to the rim. I was ready to return to my starting point but wanted to scan up and down the canyon from the elevated position.

Hidden in the thick Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest slightly to the west is a very large tower structure. Towers are mysterious. Some appear to be clearly positioned at view points but this one can hardly be seen until you are right next to it. I didn’t see it from the south rim or from the ruins site. 

It is lucky that I chose to climb to the north canyon rim or I would have missed it. I climbed back down to the canyon floor for a closer look.

This is a very large diameter and tall tower. There is some rubble near the tower but the shape of these lower rooms isn’t very clear. About 1 mile down the canyon from this tower there are some rim structures that might have a line of site to here. I saw these on the Burro Canyon south rim hike.

The cliff ruins site has a distinctive rock formation that overlooks the tower. I started my return back the way I came, up the south side canyon slope and walked east along the rim. Even knowing where the tower is located I could barely see it through the forest. About 100 yards east, up canyon, it looked like there was a collapsed large circular structure near the canyon floor, but I only viewed it from the rim.

There is a vague cow trail along the north side rim that leads east back toward the Burro Point road. This vague trail makes a junction with one of the side roads off the Burro Point road, but the junction is practically invisible. This side road is not far past the power lines.

My total hike was 3:30 hours for about 3 miles. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on an early July day. The temperature was about 68 F degrees at 9:00 AM and about 80 F at 12:30 when I finished. I didn’t have any trouble with the biting gnats that are a nuisance mostly in June.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Woods Canyon Pueblo on the Rim

The south segment of the Woods Canyon Trail arrives at the base of large Ancestral Pueblo ruins site in Woods Canyon in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. This trail starts west of the town of Yellow Jacket on County Road U west of County Road 14 in front of a small industrial facility.

There are many rubble pile ruins on the canyon slope and some intact wall sections in the sheltered area just below the canyon rim. On this hike I was trying to find a route to the rim, above the sheltered area.

From below, there are some structures visible above the rim, but steep cliffs prevent easy access to the mesa top area. I looked to the left or west side of the large site for a route up to the rim. It took me 0:45 minutes to arrive at the base of the site from the trailhead and another 0:30 minutes to find a way to the mesa top ruins area.

There are several large rubble pile structures up above and they are all very close to the rim, with broad views over Woods Canyon and Sleeping Ute Mountain visible in the distance.

There is one good section of wall still standing. This looks like the back wall of a square structure and this is the one that can be spotted easily from below. The old road that acts as the Woods Canyon Trail leading to the site is clearly visible down below.
On the return hike I stayed closer to the edge of the rim and found a shorter route down, than the way I came up, that connects to a trail that visits the several small sites that are just below the rim. From below the rim, this trail winds left around a cliff corner and there are some rocks arranged that have been secured with a T post to aid in the climb up or down. This vague trail leads past the small room block that is on the left or west side of the overall site.

There are a couple of more small structures along the under the rim trail and eventually the trail leads to the larger wall sections that catch most of the attention. From this side of the site, there are some cow trails to look for that make the descent a little easier than from below the larger wall sections.

The approach from the left side also allows a close view the three large boulder based structures that are near the bottom of the canyon slope. My total hike took 4:00 hours for about 5 miles on an early July morning. The temperature at 9:00 AM was about 65 F degrees and it was about 85 F degrees at 1:00 PM when I finished. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

On this hike I knew where the site was when I started and didn’t spend any time searching, as is often the case. There is a lot to see at this large site.