Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mockingbird Mesa NE to Sandstone Canyon

The canyons along the east rim of Mockingbird Mesa are part of the Sandstone Canyon system. From the usual starting area at the normally closed gate near the carbon dioxide facility it is a short walk to the east rim. Looking northeast from the rim, there is a wide and deep side canyon between the rim and a prominent rocky point.

Although it isn't clear from the distance, I had reason to believe that there is an Ancestral Pueblo ruins site on the rocky point. The Mockingbird Mesa area in the Canyons of the Ancients is 8.5 miles south on County  Road 12 from the junction with County Road BB, west of Pleasant View in southwest Colorado.

The route zig zags and the road numbers change before arriving at the normally closed gate. As the raven flies, the distance from the Mockingbird Mesa rim to the rocky point is close to 1 mile, but it looks like a difficult crossing and climb.

I started my hike 1.8 miles back north along the main road at a point where there is an old corral on the west side. My thought was that I could hike around the heads of the side canyons, or they would be easier to cross. From where I started it is about 3.5 miles to the rocky point, a longer hike but easier walking.

I found that it was possible to get around and across the side canyons from the corral starting point. I used a compass and started east, then southeast. There isn’t much visibility when hiking in the Pinon and Juniper forest without a trail, so a compass is valuable to maintain the direction. The carbon dioxide facilities are usually visible from along the canyon rims when the views open up.

The north facing boulder is the first sign that the rocky point is actually a ruins site. The remaining rubble and small fragment of a wall section are visible from a distance.

There is a large rock below the elevated boulder. I thought there was a semicircular level plaza in front of this rock outlined with some large stones.

The site on the rocky top is larger than it first appears. The rubble piles extend over most of the length of the level rocky surface. This site has one of the more dramatic locations with commanding views all around the area. Except for the north facing plaza, I didn't see any structures below the cliffs of the rocky top.

I always think it is interesting that these sites can see each other. From this high obvious view point, the ruins site that is near the carbon dioxide plant is in range as are the several sites that are below the east rim. There is also a boulder site 1.5 miles north of the carbon dioxide plant that can see this point. There might be a mesa top site in a cleared area to the north of this canyon site.

It took me 3:30 hours to arrive here, but I was walking slowly and scanning around a lot with binoculars. I visited the site for about 0:30 minutes. I had also walked out onto the point that is just to the west of this point. I spent about 1:00 hour looking around but didn't notice any ruins sites there.

The return hike also included a lot of scanning and slow walking and took 2:50 hours making this a long hike of 6:45 hours for about 8 miles. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on a mild 65 F degree mid April day.

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