Saturday, September 29, 2012

Negro Canyon South of Painted Hand Pueblo

The Upper Trailhead for the Hovenweep Cutthroat Castle Trail can be used as a starting point for a hike to the west rim of Negro Canyon. This area is about 10 miles north of the Hovenweep Visitor Center along County Road 10 near the southwest Colorado and Utah border.

An old road that is labeled on the Canyons of the Ancients map as 4531f descends into Hovenweep Canyon and heads north.

As the road passes below the Painted Hand Pueblo ruins site, there is a side trail that climbs to the mesa top area between Hovenweep and Negro Canyons. It took me about 1:00 hour to arrive at the mesa top.

Along the canyon floor of the west side of Negro Canyon, there are at least three rubble pile ruins sites and there is also part of a circular tower on a ledge of the cliffs. (Use the Negro Canyon labels for views of these sites.)  On this hike I turned south and walked along the west rim of Negro Canyon. From this area, some of the power lines and gas plants on Mockingbird Mesa to the east can be sighted.

About 1 mile to the south there is a dog leg knife edge area leading to a sky island formation. These rocky points with good views are sometimes likely locations for ruins sites.

At the elbow of the dogleg, it looked like there was a boulder based ruins site in the area below the rim. I didn't notice any ruins sites in this area up to this point. I didn't walk out to the tip of the sky island. To get to the boulder below I had to backtrack to a low point along the knife edge to avoid the steep cliffs.

It took me about 0:30 minutes to arrive at the boulder from the rocky point above. There was a small amount of rubble visible on two levels of this pair of boulders. I was 2:50 hours into my hike when I arrived at this site.

On the east side, there was a short low wall of large boulders that form a small plaza. The creek bottom of Negro Canyon near this site has several Cottonwood trees growing, suggesting that there is some local water in this otherwise dry area.

It appeared that much of the rubble has fallen on the north side between the two boulders. These building stones appear to be more thin and flat than most of the ruins sites in the Canyons of the Ancients.

From this ruins site is a 5 minute walk east to the road that appears on the Canyons of the Ancients map as 4532. This road connects to the bicycle loop that passes by the Hackberry and Holly sites, so it is possible to bike to this site but not drive. It is difficult to pick this site out from the road. I followed road 4532 back north and then turned west and climbed back to the Negro Canyon mesa top and then returned the way I came on Road 4531f.

My return hike took 2:50 hours for a total hike of 6:00 hours for about 9 miles. I hiked on a 76 F degree late September day and carried 3 liters of water.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Negro Canyon near NW Mockingbird Mesa

Mockingbird Mesa is located 7.2 miles south along County Road 12 from the junction with Road BB to a left turn. Continuing past this turn for 0.9 miles and turning left it is 1.3 more miles to a locked gate and the west side of the upper part of Negro Canyon.

This is the south end of the road labeled 4531a on the Canyons of the Ancients park map. This area is west of Pleasant View in southwest Colorado.

The only direction to hike at this point is to the west. There is a cleared swath of Pinon Pine and Juniper forest along a carbon dioxide pipeline. There is also an east and west fence close to the pipeline route. I followed the pipeline route west, crossing several minor drainages that appear to be side canyons of Negro Canyon.

After about 1.2 miles and 1:00 hour of slow walking I arrived at the minor dirt road that leads to the private Hovenweep Ranch. I had wandered off the pipeline route to look at the heads of the minor drainages in this area but didn't notice anything interesting.

The east and west fence along the north side of the Hovenweep Ranch is the same fence that is visible near my starting point and I decided to follow it back. There is a vague cow trail most of the way along the fence.

A short distance back east along the fence, there is a semi-circular rubble pile visible. This site is somewhat vague as a structure but there are many pottery shards visible scattered near the rubble.

One of the pottery shards was rectangular shaped and had a hole drilled into it. The area museums have displays of shards similar to this and they identify these as pendants. This is the first shard like this that I have noticed in the field. ( It is still there).

Continuing along the fence and crossing the low point of this drainage, then climbing up the east slope, there is another small ruins site with a small rubble pile and some large stones piled on a boulder.

This same site also had a large semi-circular structure that had higher walls and a deeper depression in front of it than the previous site . This structure might be a full circle, but the south side wasn’t as obvious as the north side.

This site also had many pottery shards. From this site it was about 0:30 minutes to return to the starting point. My total hike took 2:20 hours for about 2.5 miles. I hiked on a 66 F degree late September day.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hovenweep Canyon near Mockingbird Mesa 2

The Mockingbird Mesa area in the Canyons of the Ancients is south on County Road 12 from the junction with County Road BB for 7.2 miles and make a left turn at a BLM road junction. This area is west of Pleasant View, in southwest Colorado.

Staying to the right at the Mockingbird junction and right at the next junction for 1.5 miles arrives at a carbon dioxide plant near the east rim of the upper part of Hovenweep Canyon. There is a south leading dirt road trail before the gas plant that also leads into this area. On the Canyons of the Ancients map this road segment is 4531d, but I didn’t notice if it was marked in the field.

Walking west from the gas plant out to a point overlooking Hovenweep Canyon, there is a sagebrush canyon floor with a road that leads to a drill site. My hiking goal was to walk along the canyon rim and arrive at the canyon floor near the drill site, then look around the canyon floor area.

There are two large and interesting ruins sites in the side canyon area to the east of the rim where I was walking. (Use the label “Hovenweep Canyon near Mockingbird” for more views.) On this hike I was trying look further down the canyon beyond these sites.

Below the large ruins site and close to the rim, there is a large circular site. This looks like a large kiva but it the only structure in the immediate area, not part of a village as far as I could see. The large site is nearby, but higher along the slope.

I arrived at the canyon bottom in a narrow area with some large boulders on the west side. There was a cow trail to follow as I turned back toward the north. It took me 2:15 hours to arrive here after mostly slow walking with a lot of scanning with binoculars. This is about 2 miles south of where I started. There is a cleared area pipeline route that crosses Hovenweep Canyon in this vicinity.

Passing by drill site, there is an operating pump at the well and a rubble pile ruins site is visible on the cliff above. I didn’t try to climb up but it looks like a small lookout point site.

To the west of the drill site, across the sagebrush canyon floor, I could see two side by side boulders with some rubble on top. There is a deep eroded wash to cross and I had to look around for several minutes to find a reasonable place to cross. The sagebrush here is also very tall, thick and difficult to walk through.

There is a lot of rubble between the two boulders, both on the front side and behind. This appears to be a small site also, and it has a line of sight with the site across the canyon floor near the well site. This location is at a junction with a side canyon to the west of the main Hovenweep Canyon.

Continuing north along the west canyon floor, I noticed that there were many scattered pottery shards both in the Pinon Pine and Juniper forest and in the sagebrush field areas close to the canyon wall. I noticed one piece of red pottery. The area museums say that red ware was a product of Utah and Arizona and any found near the Mesa Verde area would have been traded in.

On the east side of the canyon floor there is another pair of boulders with rubble on top and scattered at the base. This site is about halfway from the starting point to the end of the road and is visible from the rim area.

From this site it looked relatively easy to climb back to the mesa top. This point is slightly south of the large ruins site that overlooks the side canyon to the east. From here it took me 1:00 hour to return to my starting point. My total hike took 5:00 hours for about 5 miles. It was a 68 F degree mid September day and I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

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