Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mockingbird Mesa below the East Rim

The access to Mockingbird Mesa is the well maintained road that is the extension of County Road 12, south from the junction with County Road BB west of Pleasant View, Colorado. It is 5.8 miles south to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument sign. It is 8.5 miles total to the normally closed gate and there is a left turn at a BLM sign describing the Mockingbird Mesa area as closed to vehicles but open to foot traffic and horses.

On a previous hike along the Mockingbird Mesa east rim, I noticed a boulder based Ancestral Pueblo ruins site below the rim, less than 0.5 miles south of the closed gate.

I started at the closed gate and hiked east to the rim, past the large rubble pile ruins site that is behind the carbon dioxide plant. I found one of the many notches in the sandstone rim that allows a descent onto a wide ledge area and hiked south toward the ruins site. This canyon appears to be a side canyon of Sandstone Canyon.

From the rim, all you can see is the rubble on the top of two boulders. This site is about halfway to the canyon bottom. On the rim side of the site there are the remains of some wall sections visible, along with a lot of rubble that appears to have fallen from the boulder top. It took me 0:40 minutes to reach this site, with slow hiking.
A closer look shows the extent of the rubble. There might be a grinding stone visible at the site. Most of the pottery shards I saw were corrugated.
Around the south side there are some small alcoves with some minor wall work still in place. Using large boulders as the foundation of a building site seems to be common around the edges of the Mockingbird Mesa area.

From this site I continued down canyon and down slope southeast for another 0.5 miles, and 0:30 minutes and stumbled across another site. This site is obscured by the thick Pinon Pine and Juniper forest and I don’t think it is visible from the canyon rim.

From the west side view, it seems to be horseshoe shaped or an incomplete circle. It sits on a flat area to the west of the canyon bottom and is hard to spot until you are very close to it. I was 1:40 hours into my hike when I arrived at this site.

The east side of this site has a thick wall section still holding together. I didn’t see any other walls or structures close by this circular site. It seems to stand alone. There were some painted design pottery shards visible here.

From this second site I crossed the canyon bottom and continued a little further southeast but then turned back north, scanning the cliffs visible to the east and north, but without seeing any other ruins sites. My return hike stayed more on the east side of the canyon bottom than my descent. My total hike took 3:30 hours for about 3 miles on a 62 F late October day. I carried 3 liters of water and drank 2 of them.

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