Sunday, April 17, 2011

Woods Canyon Mesa Top

The Mesa Top area between the Canyons of the Ancients Woods Canyon on the east and Sandstone Canyon on the west can be accessed along County Road W west of the Community of Yellow Jacket in southwest Colorado.

The turn off is west on County Road Y from Highway 491, then south on Road 16 to Road W. At the end of Road W near a gas facility, BLM Road 4529 provides as easy trail. I followed the BLM road as it twisted south and east for about 1.5 miles until it ends with a turnaround circle.

On this hike I wanted to see where this road goes and didn’t detour off even though most of the Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites and the good views are usually found near the canyon rims. At the road end, hiking can continue for another 1.5 miles or so out toward an overlook of the junction of Woods Canyon and Sandstone Canyon.

The mesa top area has some narrow sections where there are views both east and west. The west view is one of the best available views of the middle part of Sandstone Canyon. It looks like there is a trail leading toward the canyon bottom below the view point, but I didn’t see where this trail might connect to the mesa top. I scanned the area below with binoculars and didn’t spot any ruins sites, but they are often obscured by the forest.

Further out toward the junction overlook on the Woods Canyon side, I spotted a small rubble pile ruins site just below the rim. It was easy to find a way down for a closer look, but this appeared to be a small site without any walls still intact.

On a previous hike south of the Woods Canyon Pueblo site, I sighted a square tower in the cliffs below the neck area of this mesa top. It is in an alcove in the darker rock layer that is near the canyon bottom. I looked all along the rim above this structure but couldn’t see the tower from above. I did see a couple of rock cairns in the vicinity, but these didn’t help me find a view point.
The cliffs are very steep here. I looked around for more than an hour but the only view of the tower I could find was to descend all the way to the canyon bottom and slightly up the other side. I came across a trail at the bottom of the canyon, probably a cow trail.
Besides the cliffs above the tower, there are also cliffs below and the side approaches seemed steep, so I didn’t get a better view than the one from across the canyon. From below, it looks like there should be a route to view the site closer, but the straight up approach is steep. My approach was toward the south side where it was less steep but the structure goes out of site as you climb.

My total hike took 4:30 hours for about 6 miles on a 56 F degree windy mid April day. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

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