The desert southwest. One of my favorite places on earth, and right out my backdoor. I find myself drawn to this place. Almost like a magnet is drawn to a metallic surface. During the spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler I find myself in the desert all too often. It is my happy place. I’m so fortunate to live with all this awesomeness in my back yard!
After leaving Rico Hot Springs early Saturday morning I made the hour and a half drive here in Annie, my Tiger Adventure Vehicle. It is pretty cool that I can go from high alpine to sagebrush and red rock canyons this quickly where I live. From low 40’s to low 70’s temperatures in a 1.5 hour drive! I guess that’s why I live here. That and my two crumbsuckers that I so desperately want to be a GREAT father too, but their mother doesn’t see it like I do and I long for the time when they can accompany me, IF their mother EVER let’s that happen……..
I left the hot springs in Rico on Saturday morning after a delightful night of soaking under a full moon. I had absolutely no idea where I was headed. I just knew I needed to get to the desert for my personal sanity……Bluff? Monument Valley? Canyonlands? Then it popped in my head that I had seen an awesome camp spot years earlier when I had visited Hovenweep National Monument. It was close to several off the beaten path ruins on BLM land and close to the monument, but down a rutted high clearance only 2 track that most gaper tourists would never know existed without a little research or local knowledge. I thought “why not give it a try? It’s close to home.” I would hate to get caught on this road after a rain or snow storm but today was gorgeous so I didn’t mind in the least bit grinding and bouncing over rock shelves and boulders in Annie. Plus, that’s EXACTLY what she was built for, so I could get just a little bit further out than most people with all the comforts of home!
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument encompasses about 175,000 acres near the Four Corners in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The monument contains the highest known density of Ancient Pueblo archeological sites in the United States, with well preserved evidence of the ancient native cultures. It is a little known National Monument with no where near the craziness of Mesa Verde National Park. Just my speed!
Off County Road 10 and about a mile down a bumpy unmaintained dirt road sits Painted Hand ruin, which gets it’s name from faint painted outlines of three white hands that sit beneath a rock ledge near the remnants of an enchanting tower that once stood there.
It was an easy 1/4 mile hike in along the edge of the cliffs from my boondock spot that was not far from the parking area. I could actually see the ruin from my camp site and found myself wondering who the artist was who had painted these handprints a thousand or so years ago in this peaceful valley. I had the place all to myself and didn’t see one other human being the 18 or so hours I spent there. It was just myself and red tailed hawks.
Later that day I unloaded my dirt bike from the back of Annie and rode it another 3 or so miles down the nasty two track to another ruin, Cuthroat Castle. A dirt bike navigates the roads SO MUCH BETTER AND FASTER than Annie does. I can go 30 MPH instead of 3 MPH! From the Upper parking area it is about a 2 mile out and back hike. I followed the trail in a narrow wash down to a cliff band and then hugged the slick rock ledge to the ruins. It consisted of about 5 or 6 towers and multi storied buildings. The stone work was impressive! How the hell did these people survive in this harsh desert landscape? I have no f***in’ clue!
When I got back from the hike it was starting to get late in the afternoon. I made a simple dinner, started a nice campfire and watched an awesome full moon rise over the La Plata Mountains in the distance. I needed solitude and I got it…….. Finally, a good choice for a man who was made a lot of bad ones in his life!