Thursday, May 26, 2011

Northeast Hovenweep Canyon

The west rim of Hovenweep Canyon is frequently visited as the site of the Painted Hand Pueblo Trail, one of the few publicized trails in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The trailhead is about 1 mile along an east turn off of County Road 10 about 10 miles north of the Visitor Center for Hovenweep National Monument.

 About 0.5 miles south of Painted Hand is the upper trailhead for the Cutthroat Castle Trail, one of the outlying Hovenweep sites. A short distance south of the trailhead there is an old road that leads down into Hovenweep Canyon and heads north.

After about 1.5 miles, at the point where the old road crosses the dry wash, a good Ancestral Pueblo ruins site can be found with some exploring to the east, on the first level of the mesa top area overlooking the drainage. I visited this site before on the hike I called Painted Hand Neighbors. On this hike I continued north along the mesa top area. It has taken me about 1:00 hour to arrive at the Painted Hand Neighbor.
I climbed two more levels of mesa top and walked along the east canyon rim overlooking the northern part of Hovenweep Canyon. The canyon floor has a level sagebrush field and it looks like a forest fire has burned some of the canyon floor trees. There is a side canyon to Hovenweep Canyon coming in from the east.
Viewing the east side canyon from above, there is a gap in the mesa top area between Hovenweep Canyon and Negro Canyon to the east. The old road that is visible below is the extension of the trail that I started my hike on. That road appears to connect to the well maintained gravel road that enters the north end of Negro Canyon and is used by the gas and oil well activity.

I think that gravel road has a normally closed gate like the Mockingbird Mesa area. Hikers can enter but vehicles are blocked. From above, I spotted a ruins site near one of the cottonwood trees that is visible on the floor of the side canyon. I didn’t notice any ruins sites where I walked on the mesa top.
Walking along the mesa top far enough, there is another old road that climbs up the mesa top area between Hovenweep and Negro Canyons. This road provides a relatively easy descent to the canyon floor and then leads very close to the ruins site. The ruins site isn’t visible from the trail, so keep an eye out for the light green cottonwood tree.

The rubble piles are very high at this site, perhaps these were multi story structures. The site doesn’t appear to be based on any large boulders and has small drainages passing between the structures. The cottonwood trees indicate that there is water here, but I didn’t see any flowing water.

There are two large circular structures on the south side where there are some wall sections still intact. It took me 2:15 hours to arrive at this site, counting my visit to the Painted Hand Neighbor and slow walking and scanning on the mesa top. I spent about 0:45 minutes visiting this large village site.

I followed the trail for my return hike; it leads all the way back to the Cutthroat Castle trail head. On the return I sighted a small storage granary ruin high on the west side of the trail. In the same area, on the east side there is a small alcove with a wall across the front. My return hike from the northeast canyon floor village took 1:40 hours. My total hike took 4:40 hours for about 7 miles on 66 F degree late May day. I carried and drank 3 liters of water. I was prepared with repellant for biting gnats but wasn’t bothered by them.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Woods Canyon East Rim Road-South

A hiking access for Woods Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients is located in front of a carbon dioxide gas plant at the corner of County Road U and County Road 14. This area is west of the community of Yellow Jacket in southwest Colorado. From Highway 491, turn west on Road Y and south on Road 15.

About 0.2 miles south of Roads U and 14, a well maintained gravel road turns west and leads south for 6 miles along the east rim of Woods Canyon, eventually reaching an overlook point of the junction of Sandstone Canyon and Yellowjacket Canyon.

About 1.1 miles along this road, there is a vague side road near one of the gas wells that leads to a view point of the large Woods Canyon Pueblo Ruins site. I noticed a cow trail leading down into the canyon at this view point, which might provide an easy hiking route to the canyon bottom.

I continued driving for a total of 2.5 miles to another drill site that was on the edge of a hill top just before the road started a downhill segment, and began hiking south along the mesa top through the Pinon and Juniper forest.  The canyon rim area was easy to walk along and there were frequent view points across Woods Canyon.
The mesa top area is narrow and there were also good view points to the east across a side canyon of Yellowjacket Canyon. I did a lot of scanning with binoculars, but only sighted the Woods Canyon Pueblo and the square tower ruin site that I have seen before. My 3 mile round trip hike took 2:20 hours and I returned to my starting point.

Near where I parked, there is a dirt side road, and I hiked over to see if there was a rim view point near this road. I was surprised to come across a large mesa top ruins site only a few minutes down this trail.

This site is overgrown with sagebrush and trees, but seems to be relatively large. Many of the collapsed structures appeared to be circular, some large and some small. 

In a couple of places, some wall sections are still intact. There were several bare earth places where pottery shards were visible.
The location of these sites is usually interesting. Residents here could probably see the Woods Canyon Pueblo site and visit there easily.
This large village site is close to steep cliffs that can be viewed by driving a short distance down the road to another side road. These cliffs overlook the side canyon that connects to Yellowjacket Canyon. After hiking, I drove the rest of the gravel road and stopped at several view points. There are good views of Yellowjacket Canyon and lower Sandstone Canyon. (On a later hike I found an alcove ruins site about 1 mile north of the mesa top site.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Northwest Woods Canyon Village

The north mesa top area west of Woods Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients can be visited by traveling west on County Road Y from Highway 491 at Yellow Jacket, Colorado, then south on Road 16 to Road W. At the west end of Road W near a gas facility there is the marked BLM Road 4529.

About 0.7 miles along Road 4529, there is a junction with a closed old road that turns north. On my previous visit to this area I skipped passed this junction and continued on the main trail. This mesa top area is between Woods Canyon on the east and Sandstone Canyon on the west.

After about 10 minutes of hiking along the closed road, there is a small rubble pile ruins site very close to the trail.
This site and area has a good view across a sage brush field toward the Blue Mountains that are near Monticello, Utah.
About 5 minutes of walking further north, there is a very large village ruins site. It is heavily overgrown with sagebrush and trees, but the rubble piles are extensive.

I didn’t see any intact walls here. Looking back, I wondered why there is a gap between the large site and the smaller one.
Mixed in among the rubble piles are many bare earth spots with scattered pottery shards. I noticed that even the road leading to the site had many small shards along the way.
 This large village is about 50 yards west of the canyon rim overlooking the upper part of the side canyon that is parallel and west of the main Woods Canyon. In the distance, the gas plant that is at the Woods Canyon  Trailhead area is visible. Also, the gas plant that is on the mesa top just west of the somewhat well known Woods Canyon Pueblo is visible.

The old road continues a little further north and ends at an agricultural field. I continued a short distance east on a cow trail to the head of the side canyon and turned around without seeing any other ruins sites. I spent about 1:30 hours on this hike on a chilly and windy late April day.

On the return drive along the north side of Road W, I saw a small herd of Bison. I had passed by here a couple of times before without noticing them.