Colorado Ancestral Pueblo Meanderings

For my first jaunt post-New Years, I had planned to backpack through an obscure canyon in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.   The canyon is reported to have  Pueblo dwellings, petroglyphs, and memorable scenery.

However, Ma Nature decided to dump a bunch of weather in the Four Corners region.  Ever since my time in the Great Basin a couple of years back, I’ve learned to respect on a gut level what happens when a 4WD vehicle meets a rutted, wet, and slick road.  In other words, going into an obscure (and unpaved) part of BLM land did not seem wise!

A change of plans would be made. I’d scale back my planned hike of the Sand Canyon Pueblo and also see a nearby detached unit of Hovenweep National Monument. And I’d save the canyon I had planned to backpack for another time.

The overall complex makes it larger than nearby Mesa Verde.  And also takes a bit of an appreciation for objects left in situ versus preserved.

Potsherds were here and there. And I knew most of the “goodies” were further back up the trail complex.  Looking down the canyon, I continued to think about the trip I wanted to do initially.

Still, I did stumble upon what I think is one of the roads the brochure mentioned. A broad, rocky area that was along an Eastern axis. Seemed possible in any case.

In the distance, the clouds were building up.

A little disappointed that my original plan was no longer a possibility, I thought about what to do next.

The weather forecast showed better conditions coming up. And points south. Perhaps it was time to do Canyon de Chelly? And then go on a different backpacking trip I’ve always wanted to do?  The answer was, of course, yes.

But what to do?   Luckily I have a great piece of gear that lends itself to flexible plans, Mesa Verde National Park was nearby, and I had time to let the bad weather day past.

The following morning I went to Mesa Verde National Park.  I had not been there since 2012 and a new visitor center had been constructed since that time.  Another visit was in order.

As I climbed up the winding road with its icy conditions and shrouded in fog, I began to question if I made a good choice.

Luckily the mesa top was above the fog. If the conditions were a bit blustery.

Though a good portion of the park was closed, I did have it to myself. What a change from when I was there last.

Cliff Palace from where the tours start.

The short trails were devoid of people. And only a handful of people were even at the central parking area.

The rangers and staff had a relaxed air about them. Almost as if they were on holiday.

As I was wrapping up my visit, it started sleeting. And the fog rolled in as well. But I had time to take one last stroll and snap some more photos.

I slowly made my way down the road that was snowier and foggier than before. It was sleeting hard in Cortez. I made my way to Arizona where the sleet turned to rain.  And I’ll be ready to see a place new to me.

It was not the trip I had planned. But it all worked out. And perhaps even for the better.

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