In the canyons of the ancients

On Thursday evening Joan and I loaded up the truck, drove out to points south, and made our way toward the San Juan mountains of nearby Colorado.

As we looked up, we noticed the ominous clouds of dark black hanging over our intended destination for the weekend. The NOAA point forecast indicated a continuing trend.

We pulled over, looked at some maps, and Joan came up with a Plan B-  we’d camp and hike at a mesa in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument that we’d drive past anyway.

A vast and spread-out area, this monument contains many nooks and crannies that reward those seeking something lesser known.

We started our jaunt by going to Goodman Point, a detached unit of Hovenweep National Monument whose protection dates back to the 1880s! Unusually long time in this area.

PCO Joan.

The site is more about what’s the unseen as it is largely unexcavated. But if you can read the terrain, you’ll see the pueblos, the kivas, and outlines of buildings that the interpretive signs point out.

We then drove out to a dirt road on a mesa top. A bit rough but not overly challenging. And we had it to ourselves. The mesa top did not even have a name on the maps.

But it did have ample evidence of people who lived in the area previously.

As with Goodman Point, the sites seemed largely unexcavated but hinted at the potentially hundreds of people who lived here previously. Mounds, walls, and sherds are present on our mesa top stroll. Unlike Goodman Point, no signs or any indication of what existed up here in the past. We later found scant info online, too.

Joan’s eyes also spotted the remains of a tower at the mesa’s edge.

PCO Joan

And some red sherds, not from this area, indicate potential trade with northern Arizona in the past.

PCO Joan

Our home for three days gave us an impressive view scape that took in much of the four corners world. We could see the La Sals, the Abajos, Navajo Mountain, the San Juans, Bears Ears, Monument Valley and Sleeping Ute. All crucial landmarks throughout the history of this area.

Lithics on a peninsula that jutted out from mesa showed others also enjoyed the view.

But the highlight, in many ways, meant taking in the sunset from the mesa ridge. Simply looking at the rays of the setting sun as it bathes the landscape in red light.

The stillness, quietness, and no other campers made the area special.

Sometimes just watching the day turn into an evening is exciting enough.

PCO Joan

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Ellie Thomas
29 days ago

Beautiful – a special place.

Kathy Zavela
Kathy Zavela
28 days ago

Thanks for sharing, Paul. It’s almost like you took all of us viewers on your trip.

Kat TJ
Kat TJ
27 days ago

An astonishing place with a tragic history, per Craig Childs’s House Made of Rain.

Tom Clark
Tom Clark
23 days ago

As always, your post got me onto Google Maps to virtually explore that area and become a little more educated. Thanks for sharing!