Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cannonball Cliffs to Yellow Jacket Creek

The north cliffs of Cannonball Mesa overlook the lower section of Yellowjacket Canyon in the southwest part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The west end of Cannonball Mesa is 26 miles west of Cortez, CO on County Road G to the rough Yellowjacket Canyon Road at Ismay Trading Post.

The unmarked cow trail that provides an easy route to the top of Cannonball is 1.4 miles north along the rough road. At the top I turned left or north, and continued along the rim, past a narrow northwest point to an overlook of a boulder based Ancestral Pueblo ruins site. Slightly to the east, there is a notch in the cliffs that allows a descent down the slope.

I had spotted this site on a previous hike along the Cannonball Mesa Cliffs. The notch has several easy to view petroglyphs near the rim. It took me 0:45 minutes to arrive at the notch.

The hike down the slope is somewhat slippery but feasible. The best routes are often easier to see looking up the slope rather than down. At the ruins site, there are some minor wall sections still in place around the edges on top and much rubble has tumbled down on the south side.

 I didn’t see any other structures around the boulder. From this site it is an easy walk down toward the canyon bottom and the flowing creek and there are many other large boulders in the vicinity.

One of the large boulders about 100 yards to the west has a clearly visible horse image sitting above a faint but larger horse. This panel faces the canyon bottom area.

At the canyon bottom there is a continuation of the Yellowjacket Canyon road, but direct access is blocked by private property. This section of the canyon bottom is part of the Canyons of the Ancients for about 1 mile. Many other segments of Yellowjacket Canyon bottom are private property.

I followed the old road, walking slowly and scanning the opposite side with binoculars. In about 20 minutes of direct walking, the road leads to the creek and dead ends. I didn’t spot any ruins sites in the creek area, but they are often hard to see from a distance. During my hike, there was an old backhoe parked at the end of the road.

I was 3:10 hours into my hike when I arrived back at the ruins site on my return hike. I saw a few alcoves high to the west and wanted to see if there was another route to this area. When I climbed to a ridge below the alcoves I had a major surprise. (Go to the next post for the surprise.) Otherwise, my total hike took 4:10 hours on a 60 F degree partly cloudy and windy mid March day. I carried and drank 2 liters of water for about 5 miles of hiking.

1 comment:

  1. Have I told you lately how much I LOVE your posts? :-) I've been following your blog for quite some time, but I love it when your adventures precede mine...I'm heading down to Canyon of the Ancients next month for the first time, these posts are awesome for some tips on where to visit, thank you!