November Light

Of all the months on the Colorado Plateau, Joan and I enjoy November more than any other. The light of early winter seems to reflect so well on the canyon walls and seems less harsh than in earlier months. Fewer people mean we often have the canyons to ourselves. And the early nights lend themselves more to “seeing what we see” within a smaller area.

We savor this time of the year and try to get out as much as possible.

After making a quick truck camp on Friday, we drove to the trailhead, hoisted our packs, and started our descent into the canyon bottom.

We poked along and spotted a panel tucked behind the brush. The antler design and pecking style made it seems perhaps Ute in origin.

Above we saw Ancestral Pueblo images that seemed familiar in this area.

Further along, we hiked in the canyon. As always, the sun in the alcoves made the day more pleasant and warm than in the washes.

And, no doubt, the south-facing structures got built there for a reason.

We continued along the canyon bottom with the remnants of golden cottonwood leaves. Though still splashed with late fall color dotted the canyon, winter is on its way.

The canyon continued to reveal the past lives of people here previously.

The morning swiftly turned into an afternoon, with the day closing.

However, a high-up structure Joan spotted seemed too unique to pass up. I scrambled up to a prominent boulder above the canyon floor. What I reached seemed untouched for years.

The lack of footprints and the healthy expanse of living soil crust all indicated no visitation in quite some time. The circular arrangement and roof seemed almost kiva-like, while the door indicated something different.

Whatever purpose the structure served, the location and obscurity helped preserve it.

We pushed on, mindful of the dwindling daylight.

We banked on the recent rains, snow, and potholes providing water in this canyon. With about fifteen minutes of daylight left, we found some decent water and an exquisite campsite around the corner, with even better water nearby.

Joan, in particular, seemed relieved at this option, the muddier water we found earlier.

In our cozy, pinyon-sheltered camp, we had our first below-freezing night backpacking for the season. But our cold weather gear, and a little rum and cider, made for a comfortable night’s rest.

Yes. that’s a new headlamp I’m trying out.

The following morning we left most of our gear behind and pushed further into the canyon as a day hike.

Gathering water in the morning near our camp. PCO Joan.

We went on a side canyon and almost immediately saw an impressive cliff-side structure.

The sheer amount of pottery sherds indicated that this side canyon did not see as much traffic as the main canyon.

The red and black pottery style came from further south.

And, of course, we saw more images.

And other signs of earlier inhabitants.

We turned around, grabbed our gear, and returned to the canyon exit. But saw things we did not see the first time.

Including an image high on a ledge. We hope to examine one up close on a future trip, not via a zoom lens.

We reached the canyon rim and took a last look at where we had spent an early winter’s night. And talked of other trips we want to go on here in the coming weeks.

No matter how many times we poke around these canyons, we always seem to see more sights new to us. All in canyons that always seem that much more stunning with each trip we take into them.


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Ellie Thomas
1 year ago

Great trip report, as usual. I’m always interested in hiking in different sections of the country. I just hiked the Superior Trail in MN and loved it! I also really enjoyed the AZT and enjoy high desert hiking. Are there any long trails or “corridors” in your part of the country that are “off the beaten path” or lesser hiked? Thank you!

Ellie Thomas
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Mags