Savoring an old favorite

Four years ago I went to Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients.

Easily one the favorite areas walked, explored, camped, and just plain enjoyed.

I’ve wanted to go back for a while now. And being less than an hour’s drive away, it was time to return.

I would camp in Hovenweep itself for a few nights, then move on to dispersed camping nearby.

The entire trip was never more than a thirty-mile radius from where I camped.

The spot was savored and thoroughly explored. And I still have not seen it all!

I did the customary stroll of ruin canyon. A perk of being in the campground!  The old buildings were as impressive as I remembered.

And I could not help but take a sunset stroll later.

The following day I walked from my camp and went to and from the outlying Pueblos of Hovenweep. A 12-mile hike to see some more of these monuments to people who came before us.

I used Hovenweep as my base camp for a few days. Enjoying the nearby attractions, limiting my driving, and walking among the many things to see and do both in the Hovenweep National Monument and the nearby Canyons of the Ancients.

I’d often park and hike the rough jeep roads. The walking was pleasant with good views. And not much longer than negotiating up through roads that become rougher the deeper they went into the BLM land.

I enjoyed my last evening at Hovenweep. The same site as I had back in 2014. And the same enticing view into the canyon and towards Sleeping Ute.

I took one last stroll into Ruin Canyon.  What’s Hovenweep without one or two raven photos?

And, of course, the iconic photo that everyone seems to take when at Hovenweep and enjoy the evening light.

And my campsite again lived up the memories formed here four years ago.

The following day I found a place to leave the Scamp with commanding views into the basin below. I could see both the Abajo Mountains and Bears Ears in the distance.  And the canyons I’ve wanted to explore for a while now, too.

All the canyons came together in the basin. The canyon I wanted to explore went from just next to the basin below to south of Mesa Verde.  The canyon has a stream, and I would soon find out, good sized Pueblos about a day’s walk apart for people with trade goods.

In short, I was looking at the Pueblo trade and travel network below me.

I drove down the reasonably well-maintained jeep track and went to the trailhead in the Canyons of The Ancients.

Within a few minutes of hiking, I could easily see why this and nearby canyons have some of the most significant concentration of Pueblo artifacts on the Colorado Plateau: The location of course. And water.

And for that reason, is why my backpacking trip turned into a day hike!  A lot, and I mean, A LOT of cows and calves. When I had a superb dispersed site above, no reason to camp among FRESH cow patties and the bellowing. I suspect in the Fall when the cottonwoods are blazing yellow, and the cows are no longer out to pasture, this canyon would be more pleasant.

No matter. I still loved exploring this lightly documented canyon.

I found a Pueblo perched on a commanding site and the confluence of two canyons.  Perhaps the equivalent of a town at a road junction in our world?

The top of the Pueblo had a fantastic amount of potsherds.

And I found old artifacts, but of more recent vintage.

And, of course, more signs of the ancient people.

There were cobwebs on the doors. It has been a long time since any person has been here.

I later spied a petroglyph panel that looked to be a mix of Ute and Pueblo vintage.

I ended my hike soon after and made my way back to the mesa. Through a series of coincidences, I was able to connect with a person I’ve corresponded with but never met.  Joan is a mutual friend of ours, and it was a pleasure to share a campsite with Jan for the evening.  She is vagabonding as well. And is heading to points East.  Good timing of our crossing paths!

We enjoyed our dinners out of the wind.

The wind settled down long enough for us to enjoy the evening light on the cliffs and the canyon exit below.

The following day, we parted, and I went into another canyon that have some Pueblo towers.

The towers are buried on old pages on the BLM and NPS websites only found by Googling; there are no direct links. And just two personal websites I’ve seen mention these places.

There is no access to this canyon, and the towers within, other than walking. Starting from the  Hovenweep side, some moderate scrambling and easy route finding get you to the towers.  On the other side of the canyon and basin, there is a 4WD road, but the road is closed to the general public per the BLM map.

I was excited over seeing a place a bit off the beaten path.

The first step is locating the overgrown jeep road shown on a map but is barely still on the ground.

The potsherds found on the ground indicated I was not the first person to come this way!

I reached the cliffs that would give access to the basin below.   I could see the 4WD road indicated on my map. The scrambling is easy enough. And the route finding would prove to be easy with such an obvious backstop and knowing the towers are below the cliffs across the way.

I reached the basin bottom and again saw more evidence of past ranching.

After some pleasant hiking, I reached the towers!

The towers are noted for the glazes still found on the masonry almost 800 years later.

The BLM is still obviously maintaining the site.  Much to my surprise, the gate to the towers was open. Perhaps with foot only travel, except for government officials, and the obscurity of this place, vandalism is not as much a concern versus when the road was open to the public?

I spied few footprints.  And only a sign from 1965 was present to give even a cursory explanation of the towers. Far different from the sites seen just a few days ago.  A look at a larger scale map later that evening seemed to confirm these towers would have been known places on traveling and trading paths.

I made my way back to my campsite and took a photo of a  21st-century pictograph. Complete with a midden pile of Bud Lights, empty bottles of cheap hard liquor, and cigarette butts. 😀

The last sunset display from my camp did not disappoint.

Bears Ears stood out quite well in the setting sun.

I enjoyed my time in the Hovenweep and the Canyons the Ancients area. Places too vast, and holding so much to see, explore, and savor. Not a place I want to rush through.

I’ll be meeting up with a friend for a backpacking trip soon. I’ll again be going to another place I explored.  But I’ll see a different aspect of it. And, as I discovered, some areas just need to be seen again.


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6 years ago

Great post and so fun to finally meet you and share some time. Love the tower you discovered as well as the more remote finds.

6 years ago

I visited that area in the late 1980’s while working in four corners area. Ute mountain was my horizon everyday. Great part of the country. I hope you were able to find sixteen room house in Bluff Utah. Cool cliff dwellings