Friday, March 30, 2012

Woods Canyon North

An access to the north end of Woods Canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients can be found at the junction of County Roads U and 14, west of the community of Yellow Jacket in southwest Colorado. Turn west off of Highway 491 onto County Road Y at Yellow Jacket. Continue west for a few miles to County Road 15 and turn south.

Across the road from the Carbon Dioxide gas plant there is room to pull off the gravel road and park by the Canyons of the Ancients sign. There is an old road starting here that leads down for a relatively easy descent into this canyon. There is a gate in the fence back to the east if you can’t climb over the fence.

The road leads to the bottom of a canyon that appears to be a short side canyon of Woods Canyon. The trail continues north and west down the side canyon to the main canyon where there is a junction with trail segments going northeast and southwest. I continued northeast, up the main canyon. To the south there are some major power lines crossing high above the canyon. The somewhat well known Woods Canyon Pueblo is to the south of this trail junction.

The road north seems to fizzle out after about 0.5 miles from the junction. There are two main branches of the head of Woods Canyon. Scanning ahead with binoculars, I could see some large boulders with  rubble on the top about 0.5 miles ahead on the west side of the eastern branch.

There are cow trails that continue along the creek bottom to the area below these large boulders. The ruins site is hard to see from the trail so you have use the background cliffs as a guide.

There is quite a bit of flowing water in the creek bottom, with even bulrush growing here in the summer. Besides the Pinon Pines and Utah Juniper there were large patches of Gambel Oak in this canyon. This seemed like a promising habitat, relatively lush with vegetation.

This south facing site seemed to be a large one, spread out around several very large boulders and against the canyon rim cliffs, making use of some modest alcoves. I didn't see an easy trail up toward the canyon rim but most hikers should be able to make it up. The rubble piles around the site were pretty extensive and there were several circular depressions with extensive rubble that the amateur would guess were kivas.

The builders made use of the gaps between the boulders as well as the alcoves against the cliffs. I didn’t see any easy way to get all the way to the top of the canyon rim from the ruins site. Some of the sites in the area have structures on the rim and more that spill down the canyon side. Here, I couldn't see anything on the rim.

Except for the rubble on top of one of the large boulders, this site would be hard to spot from the distance. The remains are mostly rubble piles and are hidden by the thick forest. It wasn't possible to step back and get a good overall view. To visit the site I had to wind around all the tall boulders and trees, without seeing what was ahead.

On this hike I also looked around the western arm of the canyon head and a little on the mesa top area between the two arms of the canyon head, but without noticing any other ruins sites. A hike to just this ruins site would take about 3:00 hours for about 4 miles With my exploring and scanning and visiting the site my total hike took about 5:30 hours. I carried 2 liters of water on an 65 F degree mid March day.

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