Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sand Canyon North Overlooks

About 1.2 miles west of the north Sand Canyon Trail Head, County Road N re-enters the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. At the entrance sign a gravel side road leads south toward the north rim area of Sand Canyon and neighboring Rock Creek Canyon. This area is northwest of Cortez, CO and west of Highway 491.

The trail leads uphill for about 1 mile passing through a forest area that has been burned, arriving at an overlook of the Sand Canyon and Rock Creek area. The trail splits at the canyon rim. I walked east first overlooking the point area between Sand Canyon and Rock Creek Canyon. I scanned with binoculars for Ancestral Pueblo Ruins sites but didn’t spot anything.
Along the west rim of Sand Canyon there is a large tilted boulder that had some rubble on top but I couldn’t tell if it was a ruins site. There were notches in the rock cliffs that would have allowed a descent down lower but I didn’t try to get closer. From this view point the three east Sand Canyon side canyons and the drill hole service roads are visible.

 Hiking back to the west along the trail and the rim the East Rock Creek area shows up well. The mesa top area to the west of East Rock Creek is called Big Point on the maps. Scanning from here I didn’t see any ruins sites below or out on the point.

Hiking back north, there is what looks like a collapsed tower overlooking a sage brush field from a low cliff not far from the rim area. I have visited this site before on the hike I called Upper Rock Creek Loop. That hike is on the western part of the same gravel road that passes close to the rim. This tower is very close to the gravel road but not visible from it. It is in the forested area south of the burned area.

Continuing north back along the gravel road through the burned area, I spotted a hilltop rubble pile that I hadn’t noticed before. There is a vague side trail leading toward it.

The rubble pile probably wouldn’t have been easily visible before this area was burned. The pile is cone shaped and looks like a collapsed tower. It is close enough to the other tower to have been easily visible if trees didn’t block the view.
 Next to the conical rubble pile is a depression with stone work that makes this look like a tower and kiva combination. These two looked like the only structures here, no other rubble piles close by. There were a few gray or white pottery shards in the vicinity. Looking northwest, this hilltop site might have a sight line to the sites that in the northeast part of nearby Burro Canyon.

My total hike to the Sand Canyon north rim area took 3:00 hours for about 3 miles on an 87 F degree mid July day. This was one of the summer days when afternoon thunder storms are typical. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

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