Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cross Canyon Trail-Lower

The lower Cross Canyon access road is a west turn 5.9 miles south of the turnoff to the Painted Hand Pueblo site along paved County Road 10, along the Utah and southwest Colorado border. The access road is marked as San Juan County 2031 and descends somewhat steeply for 2.3 miles down into Cross Canyon.

At the bottom there is a creek crossing. Just west past the creek there is a right turn that enters Cross Canyon and heads toward McLean Basin and the Cross Canyon Wilderness Study Area.

After 3.2 miles there is another crossing of the same creek. I started hiking at the crossing but the road is drivable for another mile to a sign marking the San Juan Resource Area where there is room for parking. Past the sign, the road becomes rougher.

After 0:15 minutes of hiking past the sign, the road veers away from the flowing creek while a trail that is marked as closed to vehicles continues north following the creek up Cross Canyon. Except for the no vehicles sign, the trail isn’t marked. This trail seems to weave back and forth across the Utah and Colorado border for a while before settling into the Canyons of the Ancients Monument area in Colorado.

There is a creek crossing at the trail starting point and many more crossings as the stream meanders across the canyon bottom area. The crossings during mid October were 6 to 10 inches deep and usually only 6 to 8 feet across. In some cases there are some rock stepping stones, but my feet got wet with every crossing.

The canyon bottom area has a lot of sagebrush, greasewood, and three wing saltbush with cottonwoods and tamarisks close to the creek. Sometimes the trail pushed through dense patches tamarisk. The canyon sides were steep with Pinon Pine and Juniper in the segment I walked. I scanned the canyon rims with binoculars frequently but didn’t notice any ruins sites up above.

About 1:00 hour of hiking past the San Juan Resources sign, there is a large boulder based Ancestral Pueblo ruins site that sits in the middle of the canyon. Rubble from the site flows down the steep slopes below the rocky outcrop.

Some of the wall sections have held together on top. There are good views up and down the canyon from the boulder tops. To the east, it looks like there might be an old trail that starts to descend part of the way down from the canyon rim.

Most of the pottery shards I saw were on top. Mostly I saw plain white pieces with a few corrugated and a few painted designs.

On the south side below the top, there is a rock overhang with walls still intact. This large castle rock type site was the only one I noticed in the first 1:20 hours of hiking.

About 0.3 miles north of the castle rock ruins I thought I had found a tower, but it appears to be a historic ranching type ruins. There is a piece of metal bed hanging on the wall and other ranching artifacts lying among the rubble. There is some cement plaster helping to hold the walls together.

About 0:30 minutes of hiking further, as the creek makes a turn to the east, there is a petroglyph panel in an alcove a short climb above the trail. The horse images must mean that at least some of this is the work of the Utes.

Below the petroglyphs there are two rock walls forming a set of level terraces. These level spots have a good view of the creek below and look like a good place to relax. I turned around here about 3:00 hours into my hike. My return hike without any stops took 2:00 hours. My total hike was 5:00 hours for about 9 miles. I hiked on a 65 F sunny mid October day and carried 3 liters of water.

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