Thursday, February 1, 2018

New Years 2018 Boondocking with the Ancients...again

I'm sorry, to be back at it again so soon. This trip report is a monster and you too will be an Anasazi by the time you read it all, if indeed you do. Two things, I really wanted to go back and find a way to climb down to the ruins Lynn and I found on our #38 Thanksgiving trip, and I have a new camera. So the day after Christmas I was off on a solo trip driving back to SE Utah from Meridian Idaho.

Driving long distance is not one of my favorite things to do, especially having to drive through Salt Lake City to get to favorite areas of the Southwest. I decided to overnight in the northern part of the San Rafael Swell, having never been there, and break the long drive in half. And now I have another area to explore!

Having a new camera is like having a new rifle and buck fever, I shot everything in sight. Sadly, atmospherics weren't great plus I'll have to focus on getting used to the new camera.

The Wedge Overlook had a wedgie of haze but I wanted to shoot something so badly it clouded my judgement. I'll be back though, many times I hope.

I made the same drive as a month before, going through Moab and Blanding before turning west on Hwy 95, my favorite stretch of pavement in the US. Then north again into the Bears Ears proper to boondock and hike. The Manti-La Sals were my distant view.

As on our last trip I found myself looking across canyon at those intriguing old homes. I couldn't be dwelling on them though, I had to get on over there.

The new camera came with a kit lens and a longer reach, 250mm. I had a new Tamron 18-400 ordered but didn't get it in time for this trip. I shutter to think what that means, more trips for pictures.

Last month Lynn and I ate lunch looking over at them not realizing the route was almost right under us. You can see the Moki steps in the rock, made so long ago by those canyon dwellers we call the Anasazi. My wife says I've gotten clumsy in my old age. I hoped to prove her wrong as my body's tectonic plates crunched and creaked on my way down, trying to shift into positions not seen since the last ice age. No sneezing allowed without a parachute.

Finally I was on the same level as the ruins...

and able to see the water source that sustained them. Not to mention maybe a little swim hole now and then.

There I was, my main goal and reason for coming back. Hopefully my pictures would be decent.

A look back showed me the incredible "ramp" down to this level.

One thing I can tell is that new camera pictures have much more incredible detail on my computer before uploading to this website. Something must get lost in the translation.

Originally this kiva was enclosed, now open to me for pictures.

Small pecked footsteps in the rock for a little extra traction when bringing in the groceries. It's a terrible picture not really showing the drop off below. 

Yes Mom, I had to walk along that steep cliff. I did fall and am writing this trip report from the bottom of the canyon. Love, Dave  

Moki Steps bottom left

A window in time, it looks like part of a remodel. Also, look closer at the wall to see the ends of the round timbers that held the second floor. Here, let me help...

Sight holes in the guard wall on the right. I can see someone wanting to enter, being told Ni, to bring them a shrubbery. (Monty Python, anyone?)

My visit with the Old Ones was over, time for a climb. Whoa, was it that steep coming down?

Before my long walk back to the truck I had a beautiful vision, letting me know I would have light to walk by if needed.

That night I spent at the top of the mountain with views only seen by a drone or bird.

Another set of dwellings was in the area and I had the time, this time.

Smooth spots in the sandstone, where they ground their corn into, into, well grits.

It was unfortunate to be there at the wrong time of day for pictures.

A little rock art happened, along with terrible pictures. I'm still a work in progress I gress.

A positive does not rule out a negative, as proof below. That person was just two handy weren't they?

More Moki steps across the rock. I found that you had to start with the correct foot from either direction or you'd get crossed up. Maybe the game Twister was started by the Anasazi on the side of a cliff. The first one to fall was the, well, loser.

With no way to get to the upper level I had to wonder, how did they get pizza delivery?

It must have been Digiorno, pizza oven right there in the middle. 900 year old question answered.

That night I slept on the rocks...

Navajo Mountain was my far away landmark.

Little textured dots on a rock, wow Dave. They were actually very cool, different in that they rise a bit from the rock and look to be evenly spaced out. Spaced out, one of my favorite sayings...from long ago. I don't know how long ok, just long.

Morning came around, funny how that worked out for me.

Driving down the mountain I crossed a small stream, frozen stream. Not the first time in life I've had to break the ice.

Ah but it was cool looking down that frozen creek and of course I had to get out

Look into my ice, you're feeling sleepy. Actually in full size this picture makes me dizzy in a 3D kind of way.

The ice had broken up when I drove through it making for neat crystals...

Can you tell my ice were crossed? Now that was major cool. When I left it seemed I was losing my ice site.

Walking back to the truck I came across turkey tracks. I've seen them before in this area, they can look a six foot tall guy in the eye over the bushes. I wonder if they have a Thanksgiving where they eat people?

We're driving we're driving, to my next locale.

I'd spotted some dwellings years ago in that area and never put the effort into climbing to them. I hoped this time would be different as I started my hike on an animal trail through the cryptobiotic soil, crypto. 

It is actually living soil formed by bacteria that predates the dinosaurs, and Wayne Newton.
When hiking and there is no trail I take pains to walk on rock, weeds or small gullies where it doesn't grow. They say it takes a long time to recover when walked on, you'll have to ask a crypto biologist for sure.

I've also noticed and mentioned before how pinyon pines and juniper trees more often than not grow next to each other.

Right then I was only trying to spot them again from the canyon rim, it made for a great walk. A testament to the cold temps shows frozen areas where small seeps or springs exist.

I did finally spot them again with binoculars and took a picture with 250mm lens.

Walking back to the truck I could see that I too had a frozen waterfall to check out the next day.

Walking up to the waterfall next morning I asked myself if this would be a cold spring, even though it was still December.

(I bet you missed that one)


Wow, last waterfall picture. I love ice in nature, and snow. To think I spent twenty plus years living and working outside in Phoenix.

Having spent a bit of time at the waterfall I started off to find a way to ruins in that other canyon. It felt like looking for the golden egg at Easter.

I spent some time on the smooth cap rock looking for a way down, even though I was looking up.

Back to looking down I could finally see some stacked rocks. I actually had to hold my camera out over the cliff to take this picture.

After a couple of hours trying, I couldn't get off that particular ledge and so backtracked a bit to another rockfall in a different canyon. Rockfalls are typically the best bet for a way up or down the many ledges. I've also used trees, dead or alive, as a route and a few times even people. Did you know that there's good traction to be had from a persons back and head? Hey, you wanna go hiking with me next week?

A minor arch, huge to a red ant. Without my hat how would you know?!

This is as close as I got that day. It was close to 3pm and would take some time to figure out a way up to them. I still had to hike back around to that other canyon and find my way up the canyon wall I had come down earlier to get back to camp. Huh?? Anyway, just because you come down one way doesn't mean you'll go back the same way, it's a bloody puzzle of rocks, ridges and canyons. There is no trail of any kind and finding a cairn is sketchy. Oh but what fun.

In the canyon bottom I noticed a cat print, right where I had recently walked. I stopped making my injured rabbit noises as I walked, and the hare on my head stood straight up..

Back up that wall somehow, I was wishing I had my GPS with breadcrumbs. And without my compass I was about to have an azimuth attack. Well not really, not unless it was closer to dark. It's quite fun to figure it all out as the Anasazi had to do.

Life always amazes me. Even though it didn't make it to maturity, this little stick of life gave it a good  try in a hostile environment.

Picking up a piece of layered sandstone I had to wonder, how many years worth of layers was I holding in just a few of inches of rock, this having been at the bottom of a sea somewhere in history.

On my way up I did not go the same way I had gone down, which gave me a chance to see this frozen slide.

Moon happened, it was super. It was New Years Eve in the canyons and mesas.

The next morning was a repeat but earlier, I had to figure it all out...again. And get to the dwellings in time for pictures.

Another minor arch, no hat this time.

Downclimbing, yet pausing for pics.

I'm 63 now, and wonder how many years I have left of doing this. I do know my limits though, even if I don't pay attention them. And that's what's it's all about right? Not paying attention to your limits.

More ice, did I say I love ice? In the form of blown glass...

Juniper bark is amazing stuff. Incredibly hard to pull apart it's many strands funnel what little water falls in this desert right down to the base and roots. This was an old tree.

Finally in the right canyon bottom I could look up towards the dwellings.

I'll make it up there, by crackee.

I was getting close and could see the stacked rocks I'd spied the day before from above.

Here a large slab of sandstone has fallen on "the guard house" and is lying horizontal across it's walls. Up above were some pictographs made when the slab was standing straight up.

Their pigments used almost a thousand years ago have withstood the test of time. And I wonder about the ink from my inkjet printer.

The guard house walls are beneath  and to the side of the sandstone slab, pictographs above.

This was awesome, who knew if anyone had seen these before? I won't fool myself by thinking I was the only one yet I've never seen a picture of them or any indication of knowledge by others. At the same time I do realize that people have been looking for ruins and their treasures for many many years, if I could spot them then surely others have too. I was with the Golden Easter Egg, fandamntastic!

The two story structure was open to the outside, having lost it's integrity years ago. A piece of very old corn was visible on the shelf.

The ceiling still incredibly perfect with it's peeled logs and cross members.

I call it Dave's Getaway

There was an intact and undisturbed kiva on the other side of the two story. It has an oval structure built into the outside bottom with an opening into the kiva itself. I tend to think it was to hand food and water to those inside during a religious ritual. That's my story and I'm...willing to change it if proven otherwise.

As I offered to share my lunch with their ghosts I had to wonder what they would think about fish in a  packet. It might have gone well with pinyon nuts, corn and wire lettuce. Anasazi salad. You'll have to google wire lettuce, I've never heard of it.

The proverbial window in time, that is the canyon wall behind the window. Petroglyphs are on the canyon wall above, where the second story used to be.

The intact kiva had a ladder into the interior but the rungs and lashes where long gone.

I wouldn't take the chance on going in and disturbing anything so stuck my camera in and hoped for the best shots I could get.

Fabulous construction for the materials they had, smooth mud walls and shelves over rock.

I had to scootch along a bit to get over to what was a granary. Oh for a parachute, you know, in case.

Supposedly they grew their corn on the mesa tops, but I don't know if there's a kernel of truth to that.
All I know is that if you needed a midnight snack it was to hold a piece of corn in one hand and your life in another. Let's hear it for led night lights.

These were the stacked rocks I could barely see from the ledge above, now below. Were they there to stop intruders?

In leaving I looked back for a few more pics.

I said so long to Dave's Getaway. I don't know if I'll be back but I've reduced you to 0's and 1's on my memory card and will enjoy you again and again from my computer, and wonder how I was so lucky to have been there.

It was getting late again, I'd spent too much time with the Old Ones and needed to move on. Instead of finding my way back I decided to go on up the canyon I was in and hope for a way through the cap rock.

It took a good couple of hours to finally get to the only choke point of the canyon where a huge dry fall would have stopped me...if it weren't for one fallen rock. It was my lifeline out or I'd have had to turn around and try to get out by dark, or by moon. Behind that rock and the overhang is the large alcove made by the waterfall, there was no other way out. Thank you rock, for being there.

Climbing to the top, it was New Years Day, one of the best I've ever had. Thank you God.

Walking across the mesa top through an area of sandstone potholes I was thinking about life in general, nature specifically, and how some of these potholes have eggs of fairy shrimp. Left from when this area was covered by the sea, these little dudes with a very short lifespan come to fruition when it rains, swimming in their own ocean of life, to repeat the process over and over again for eternity. I've seen them and very small worm-like creatures and taken care not to suck them up when pumping rainwater into my Nalgene bottle. There is a complete science designated to studying the life found in these holes, and it boggles the mind.

What do I know except that I can spot a pinyon nut when it's right in front of my face.

Those little nuts feed a lot of creatures but mostly the pine jay. Did I say my name was jay? As I picked up a baggie full to take home.

The next morning I drove away, looking over the tops of the junipers and musing over the fact that here there be canyons, unseen.

The San Rafael Desert was gorgeous under a bit of snow as I drove to my last stop for the trip.

Pulling up to my next camp spot I knew it would be a great place to spend a couple of nights. Once again there was no one there but me to have those views to myself. Is that selfish? This picture reminds me of a Bev Doolittle painting.

There are two rivers between me and the far mountains. One of them is green and starts in Wyoming, the other is brown and starts in Colorado. That be the Green River and the Colorado River. I've been to the beginning and end of the Green and darn near the same for the Colorado, just a little short of the end.

More Bev Doolittle. I should hide a photoshop picture in it.

I swear, I get the best skies over my Outfitter camper. Honestly it's true. I had hoped for some great afterglow but the clouds moved away before it could happen. I was still ok with it, enjoying what I had.

The next morning a great hike happened. I've been wanting to hike this canyon to see the different panels of pictographs but no dogs are allowed. I'm usually with Lynn and the dogs so we've always passed, but not this time.

Starting off on an old cow trail, the BLM is up to it's usual tricks, trying to control where we walk.

The ranchers in the west get creative with how they get water and it usually involves a lot of hard work. Evidenced by the water tank and pipes leading off into the canyon bottom.

A later in the day picture of those pipes dropping into the canyon where a gas powered pump would send the water up to the tank at top.

Close to the canyon bottom I heard a really weird sound echoing off to my left, kind of a sci-fi-fi sound actually that I've never heard. When I spotted them I couldn't believe they had made the noise.  Actually I didn't spot them at all, nature did that. (What?) Yes, the spotted ones were donkeys too.

The sand was frozen, oh yeah, making for very                       
easy walking.   Cats, long gone.                                                                                          

Up on the canyon wall, petroglyphs. Did they have a ladder or stand on shoulders. I'd say that was about five or six 'sazis high off the ground.

More pictos of the Anasazi kind. It seems I was bout to be deturd from taking these pictures. Someone needs to clean up after their wild asses, that's all I'm saying.

And the Whazoo kind. Yes, I'm that old.

I'll have my tree shadows on ice please.

Have I ever mentioned that I love ice? Long as I'm not swimming in it.

On down that Horseshoe Canyon I went...

Frozen mud, my favorite kind.

I've read that some dinosaur bacteria still lives in the dirt of this canyon bottom and it's easy to spot. Was this it I wondered as I touched the weird looking stuff, and felt a Jurassic tingle going up my arm.

Then the great Gallery...

And the Holy Ghost. Holy Geez.

Orange you gonna ask me why I hold out food to all things Anasazi? I call it a sacrifice. Imagine if they had ever tasted an orange, Mandarin or otherwise.

It's all a matter of perspective yes?

This pictograph reminded me of an ad for Anasazi Mummy bags circa 1017AD using wild turkey feathers instead of goose down.

I had wanted to hike all the way through the canyon but was a bit tired from the excitement of a ten day trip so I started walking back. Knowing that with a new camera it wouldn't be a fast walk.

Hard to see in this picture there's an opening there for the canyon to follow, and me.

Up, up and away...

There's a neat truck and camper up there with luxuries the Anasazi could not have dreamed of, but I do, dream of it.

It was a great time to finish the trip. Costco Margaritas were about gone, my legs too. I'd had all that I could take in on this trip...

and still left you with plenty...

including a beautiful evening at the first of a new year. 

It is finally over, thanks for reading...

Dave Rogers

PS. My new Canon 80D camera is outstanding and my f-stop just keeps going, instead of f-stopping. I don't know why I put a copyright on them, it just seemed the right thing to do. As for the dino bacteria it seems it was just a story because I feel fine with no real problems other than feeling really really old, millions of years old.

Lastly but definitely not leastly, twin Granddaughters are my newest fans, aren't they cute?


  1. thank you for that, I've travelled from my home.

  2. Dave, as always a great and enjoyable report!
    Please Please Please, if you have the patients, could I follow you on your next trip?!
    I have my own truck, camper and camera...Plzz?!
    Wanderer, Thom and CJ

  3. One of your best reports ever -- well done, and thanks for posting this!!

  4. Dave, another great trip report. I know it takes a lot of your time to put these together but the selfish side of me says don't stop.


  5. Dave, I always enjoy your TCTRs and look forward to the tale of next adventure!