This past weekend a friend and I left Friday afternoon and drove about three hours to Cedar Mesa, Utah. The drive there was breathtaking passing by amazing red rock formations, through open land reaching out into infinity and driving in the shadows of tall towering buttes. We found a place to call home for the night only after exploring several dirt roads that seemed to lead on to nowhere while others just abruptly stopped. Once parked, we slept in the back of a truck under a bright starry sky.
In the morning we very slowly emerged from our bag and quilt and were greeted by frozen water bottles. Mine having not solidified until I attempted to move it aside and then instantly froze before my eyes. We eventually made our way to Bullet Canyon to try our hand at hiking into, thru, and out the other side of the canyon, making a full loop back to the truck. Let me go ahead and just say, I didn’t make the whole loop. Hiking in a dry water bed is not the easiest thing to do. I had to stop several times to dump sand out of my socks and trail runners (I forgot my dirt girls), and part of our day consisted of bushwhacking through tall weeds and brush. But for all this hard work I saw what many may only in pictures.
The goal of our day was to see several different Anasazi ruins and pictographs within the canyon; of this we were successful. Two of the biggest locations we saw are fondly named Perfect Kiva Ruins and Jailhouse. The Perfect Kiva site required some slight rock scaling but was incredible to behold. We were even able to enter the kiva becoming completely immersed in a world that seems so distant from our current one. We felt the grooves left in the rock made by tool sharpening and gazed upon petrified corncobs and bits of pottery lying scattered around the structures. We pondered at the pictographs left from these ancient people and discussed our disdain for the current people who left behind their own markings.
From there we hiked a short amount further to the Jailhouse Ruin, having received its name from the ancient limbs still supporting vents and windows in structures built-in and along the canyon wall. Feeling too tired to continue fast enough to beat nightfall, we made our way back the way we came finding yet another ruin we had overlooked on the way in; it had been so perfectly built, it was completely hidden when coming from another direction. We both felt small as we immerged from such a large canyon and humbled by the life of the Anasazis.
The next day having parked in a different spot, we awoke to watch the sunrise above a place called Valley of the Gods. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times the Anasazis had done the same. Driving the rest of the way through the valley, the landscape was almost too much to take in. The gold and red rich hues of the buttes and land surrounding us was overwhelming. I will never be able to put into words what the valley made me feel.
On the way back on Sunday we visited the Wupatki National Monument. A protected area outside of Flagstaff, where we were able to visit the Wupatki Pueblo and many other smaller ruins. It was again amazing to me that people were capable of living and surviving in such a harsh environment. We discussed and compared the differences the environment made on how these ancient people lived compared to the Anasazi.
Reflecting on my weekend, I did do some hiking but I also learned a few basic survival skills if you will, from my friend. I learned more about ancient people who lived with much less than myself but in a way with much more too. I slept in the light of a full moon and awoke to the warm rays of the sun which I haven’t done in a while. I explored a canyon on a trail that tended to disappear; one not maintained by volunteers depending on my friend to guide the way via map and compass. Overall, this past weekend was full of new experiences and lessons starting a foundation of skills I hope to expand upon.
(Left to Right: Perfect Kiva, Pottery, Corncob, and Tools ((these were left out on a rock when we arrived)) Jailhouse from a distance ((notice the face towards the top?))
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