Staying in Cortez puts us close to 3 National Monuments on our list for the Southwest. Hovenweep, Canyon of the Ancients, and Natural Bridges. And instead of waiting to see if our project gets funded through Kickstarter, we’re just starting into the work now. Actually, we’ve been at it all week.
A few days ago we took a day trip over to Natural Bridges. Now when I say that it’s “close” to Cortez, I mean relatively speaking. 2 hours and 15 minutes from where we’re camped today. Not bad. But still, it was only a day trip to get a feel for the area. In the near future we’ll move the Airstream over to Blanding, or to a remote boondocking spot we found, stay there for a few days, and really dig into the Natural Bridges National Monument. I can already tell you, there’s a lot to see and do there.
Yesterday we wandered back out into Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. Our shortest trip into the area yet. This time around we went to visit Sand Canyon. It’s one of the many sites that I have not visited on previous trips here. And I’m glad I finally got to go in and see it for myself.
Of all of the ruins in Canyon of the Ancients, Sand Canyon Pueblo has to be one of the most subtle locations. There aren’t huge cliff dwellings set into walls. There are many ruins that are just mounds of bricks today. Some are barely noticeable and you need to read signs along the trail to know where you’re standing. But at one time the Pueblo in Sand Canyon hosted more people then the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. The location is huge, the trails around it aren’t too strenuous, and you can really spend some time seeing and imagining what once was.
As usual, Jodi identified so many pottery shards it isn’t funny. Don’t worry, none were removed from the locations. But it’s pretty amazing, as we’re walking along Jodi finds pottery piece after pottery piece, while I walk by thinking they’re just rocks in the pathway. One piece she spotted had intricate paint work on it, and was so clearly part of something in days gone by.
For the hard core disinterested tourist, I think the Sand Canyon Pueblo won’t be your cup of tea. If you’re looking for dramatic vistas, mega towers, intact kivas, this isn’t it. But Canyon of the Ancients has many other locations. Lowry Pueblo has a massive old structure, and an incredible Kiva. Painted Hand’s tower is something to be seen, and is an easy and short walk. Sand Canyon, there’s a good bit of walking and it misses the drama of the other two. Oh, and beyond what’s printed on maps, there are hundreds of ruins throughout Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. And it’s up to you to explore on your own.
The photographic opportunities this week have been amazing (on those days when I wasn’t stuck getting the Titan repaired). Hyper blue skies, puffy clouds, perfect temperatures. Yeah, a southwestern photographer’s dream. There are those photographers who dream of shooting with super models. In my case, I have a different type of super model that I like to shoot with! Nature! And there’s plenty here worth shooting.
Hovenweep National Monument has offered up so many incredible ruins. You’ve got to go off an explore on your own a bit, but the payoff (Holly Group for instance) is well worth the extra travel from the main ranger station. And the Square Tower group offers so many intact ruins! In order to really get into each of the locations I think you need 2 or 3 days of exploration. Additionally, you’ve got to wait for the light, so scouting out locations and figuring out the best time of day for lighting requires a little time too. And you never know what else you’ll see. Over the past week I have seen more collared lizards here then I have in my time living in Prescott.
Canyon of the Ancients is no theme park. There are several well known ruins, but there are many sites that aren’t marked on a map. And you can wander the canyons in search of cliff dwellings. You can also go to Dolores and the Anasazi Heritage Center and learn about the other locations. Photographers who are willing to explore might come away with something nobody has seen before!
Finally, Natural Bridges? A monument I’d never seen before until this week. We’re going to need 4 or 5 days to cover the area properly. Hiking into the canyon to stand under the bridges, doing the loop trail through the park, and exploring all the ruins sites outside of the monument. The drive in had so many signs to this location and that location. It’s going to take time to be sure. And I’d really like to get below the bridges to figure out lighting and time of day for the best shots.
So, we’re finding plenty to do while we see if our project will launch. If we don’t raise the funds we’ll continue working on it when we can, but it won’t get done in a short amount of time.