Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sand Canyon Pueblo - Canyon of the Ancients.

Until recently, the only way we knew of going to Sand Canyon Pueblo was doing the 6.5 mile hike (one way) from the entrance off Road G.  That is until we found the shortcut (look at my map on the Painted Hand Pueblo post) using Road P, a quick turn onto Road 18, and then onto Road N to the entrance (a total of 9 miles from Route 491).  Where is Road P in the first place? About halfway between Route 184 which leads to the Anasazi Heritage Center, and the junction of Routes 491 and 160 in Cortez, CO.  By the way, there is a picnic table at the trailhead, so take advantage of this opportunity to sit under the trees and listen to the quiet.

This trail has two parts also, since the area the pueblo stood on was massive - 420 rooms, 100 kivas and 14 towers; making this community larger than the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde.  There are informational signs all along the trail, so you'll get a good understanding of what you are looking at, even though it might just be a pile of rubble.  Before you begin hiking, one informational board will encourage you to say something to the spirits of the area; a prayer, kind words, whatever moves you.  That whisper you just heard in the slight breeze that just went by; they're giving you a blessing also.

Pay Respects to the Spirits.

The entire hike will be about 3 miles roundtrip; we went left (East) first towards the towers; take time to see the canyon views these people long pass saw everyday of their lives.

That short hike to and from the towers was only about a half mile roundtrip; the majority of the ruins will be to the right (West); don't forget to admire those canyon views.

Pit Cover with Logs

Central Plaza

Looking across the canyon at the towers.

Algae on the stones creates its own artwork.
Its very quiet in this area, so when birds begin singing, it's pure music.

Next post will be about the trailhead from Road G, so stay tuned.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Painted Hand Pueblo - Canyon of the Ancients.

We had finished our shopping in Cortez (Walmart and City Market) and took Route 145 to the turn off to McPhee Reservoir; it takes about the same time in travel back to Monticello, but it's more scenic and relaxing this way. We were just about to pass by the Anasazi Heritage Center when I suggested we stop in to check out the brochures. Good thing we did! They had available a detailed map of Canyon of the Ancients, and pamphlets on Painted Hand Pueblo and Sand Canyon Pueblo; all for free!

To better understand the pueblo sites you can drive, and do short hikes, to, I'm going to post two maps; the standard Canyon of the Ancients map, and a map I created using Utah's Canyonlands See & Do Map (available at the Monticello Welcome Center in Monticello, UT).

When traveling east on Route 491 from Monticello, UT to Cortez, CO; MC RD BB is about a mile east of the small town of Pleasant View (this is also the road to Hovenweep National Monument), go six miles and make the left onto Road 10.  For those who need to know, these roads are either a non-maintained paved road, graded (pounded down and leveled) dirt road, or a combination of both.  It shouldn't matter how many miles is which type; you should only care about really going to see this awesome site, as well as the others.  Anyway, stay on Road 10 to Painted Hand Pueblo (BLM RD 4531) for 11.4 miles (total is 17.4 miles from Route 491), then a mile to the parking area and start of the trailhead.

Scenery Along Road 10
Parking Area and Trailhead

The trail for Painted Hand is all natural; sand, dirt, slickrock and rocks; you will have to climb down over, and eventually back up, boulders.  As soon as you begin walking from the parking area, you'll begin seeing the beautiful landscape of the canyon.  Then comes the first sighting of Painted Hand Pueblo's Tower ruin; by the way, the entire trail is about a half mile roundtrip.

Landscape around the ruins.
Trail to the Tower

After you take the trail to the Tower, don't be so quick to get back to the parking area, and I'll show you why after these photos of the Tower.

Ruins below the Tower.
So, why shouldn't you now climb over those boulders and get back to your vehicle?  There is a path leading to the left, through the trees, that opens up to another ruin site, that's why!

Ruins down below.
Don't be surprised to find you're being watched by the local wildlife; and take time to admire the flowers growing up from the desert floor.
Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail Lizard

Eastern Fence Lizard

Painted Milkvetch

The Hopi that had built this pueblo and lived in this canyon area moved on to new places and have since passed; their descendants live on.  Come to this area to enjoy the history, the landscape and the serenity.   Unless something more pressing comes to mind, I will be writing about Sand Canyon Pueblo next.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Following the Pioneer Trail.

We had not planned on following the pioneer trail; oh, I should explain which pioneers I'm referring to. The "Hole in the Rock" pioneers, who finally made it to Bluff and established the first Mormon settlement in San Juan County, Bluff Fort. Anyway, Roy and I were actually attempting to make it to River House Ruins; without a boat to go along the San Juan River, overland was our only option.  Depending on which brochure you might pick up, this trek can be described as moderately easy to extremely difficult.  The "River House Ruin" brochure, put out by the BLM, only gives directions via boat and the San Juan River.  The "Around Bluff" brochure, put out by the town of Bluff, only says, "You can climb the hill, but be careful.  You can drive past the Rincone  Trading Post to the ruins"...they do not warn you about the section of road you need to climb that is basically carved out of sheer rock and extremely uneven (hence the independent suspension being needed).

Once you find the trailhead (CR 2351), it will be an eight mile hike one way (round trip 16 miles).  For driving, you must have 4 wheel drive, high clearance, skid plate and independent suspension.  We only had the first three for our vehicle, so were able to drive the first four miles, and hiking was required for the next four.  Remember, I'm giving you our first hand experience with this, so take it or leave it.

Using Bluff Fort as the starting point, travel down Route 191 towards Monument Valley (SW); at the junction of Routes 191/163, continue straight (SW) on Route 163.  Once through the Comb Ridge pass, make the first left (about 1/4 mile from the pass); there will be a sign telling the story of the pioneers...this is CR 2351. All in all, it's about a 7 mile trip from Bluff Fort.

CR 2351 follows the pioneer trail as they had attempted to find a way over the Comb Ridge.  The entire trail is mostly sand, crossing into and out of several dry washes, and many a steep hill for almost four miles.  There are green wooden posts here and there to mark the trail, a covered wagon painted on to help notify travelers they're on the correct route.

Oh, did you remember to set your odometer to zero once you turned off of Route 163 onto CR 2351?  The first informational board is a short history of the pioneer trail in this area; the second will tell you which way to go when you encounter the first fork in the road.  Hint, go left and follow the curve around the bushes.  4/10ths of a mile down is Navajo Spring; the pioneers sent out scouts to see if this was a viable way up and over Comb Ridge.  As you can see from the photo, it's a long climb upwards; seeing it up close and personal will give you a much better view of the pioneers' "Oh Hell No!" moment.  Remember, they weren't looking at Route 163 and an opening in Comb Ridge; they were looking up, up, up to the top of Comb Ridge.

Lets take a look at the terrain you'll be traveling over and some scenic sites..

At 1.8, a trail to the right will take you to an abandoned ranch; no idea who had lived there, nor when.  Many items on the property indicate it was occupied during the latter part of the 20th century.

Now here comes the not so fun part; after about 4 miles we came to another divide in the trail; the one to the right leads down to the San Juan River and ends.  The trail to the left, well, it's not as simple as "it can be climbed, but be careful".  The sandy trail now turns into pure stone; a series of uneven "steps" going upward that could cause an unequipped vehicle to have only two wheels on the ground at some points...there is a potential for tipping over.  We parked off to the side, and began our hike upwards.

Landscape once the hill is crested.
Walking down the path, we came to one of the pioneer posts; this one was at the trailhead that led to San Juan Hill.  Remember when the pioneers decided Navajo Spring was not an option for going over Comb Ridge?  Well San Juan Hill is where it finally happened; you can hike to it and see the trail the pioneers actually traveled.  We, however, decided to take the path that led right and down to the San Juan River.

Down by the river are the remains of the Rincon (e) Trading Post; depending on which publication or website you look through, sometimes it has the "e", sometimes not.  Established in 1880 by William Hyde, he later on partnered up with the Bartons.  If you want to read the interesting history pertaining to the Rincon, I highly recommend the book, "Comb Ridge and its People" by Robert S. McPherson.

Following the trail along the river, we came upon a cottonwood log and rock cribbing which served as an anchor for a water wheel, and ferry.  In the distance we spied the River House Ruins; just then we came upon a pair of hikers who were camping at the ruins, and told us that we had another two miles to go.

By this time, we'd already walked two miles and found ourselves unprepared for another two miles...four miles one way, eight miles round trip.  So much for following the information we had from the BLM and Bluff brochures; disappointed, yes; determined to come back and try again...definitely!!!  Back to the vehicle we hiked, just enjoying the soft breeze and the scenery around us.  As a farewell, a lone raven flew along the sandstone walls.

There is a point of interest that you will see, in the distance, as you make your way to this area...Mule Ear.  The Navajo have a legend concerning this pointed outcropping of Comb Ridge, and it is referred to as "Designs on the Rock", "Decorated Rock" or the lesser known, "Decorative Metal Arrowhead".  First Boy, one of the "Twelve Holy Beings" used an arrowhead to tear this piece of rock (Mule Ear) from the earth.

...and that concludes this adventure along part of the pioneer trail.  We had a great time, (yep, we remembered to bring a picnic), saw some incredible sites, and have a plan to come back again.  If a group of folks can do this trail with simple covered wagons and horses, then why can't we?

Mary Cokenour