Category Archives: Indian Ruins

Buckskin Gulch via Wire Pass – UT (5.19.17)

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Wire Pass trialhead!

A saxophone blasted “Careless Whisper” by George Michael at 4:00 am AZ time . . . I’m up, I’m up!  My buddy Andrew silenced the saxophone on his phone just before my watch blasted off the wake up alarm. Man, looks like it’s time to move! That night the temp had dropped into the 30s and the other fellas in the tent (Andrew, Larry, and Eric) weren’t exactly ready that kind of chill. As we packed up the camp they complained about getting only four or so hours of sleep. I was alright, but didn’t want to just come out and say I slept like an angel! Soon after packing up camp, an older fella in his 60s pulled up to the Whitehouse Trailhead ready to pick us up for the shuttle to Wirepass trailhead down House Rock Road in southern Utah.

Up the sandy wash we go!

Out target for the day was Buckskin Gulch.  We aimed to complete the 21 mile trek from Wirepass back to Whitehouse trailhead via a 13.7 mile trek down a portion of the longest slot canyon in the world (Buckskin Gulch), finishing with a 7.1 mile trek along the Paria River to our base camp. We were dropped at the trailhead and hit the bathroom for one last stop before the long push.

The four of us trekked down the open sandy wash that lead to Wirepass, chatting about future trekking goals and fretting on the onset of the cold water and deep mud that was undoubtedly ahead.  Before we knew it the wash narrowed, squeezing into the first section of the close-walled canyon.  We shimmied our way down into the gap, surrounded by incredibly tall and beautiful sandstone walls shaped by water over thousands of years.  Soon we came to our first obstacle, a nice little 7-foot down climb.  I dropped down first and gave the other guys a hand one by one until we were all safely on the ground.

First little obstacle

We pressed on until finally opening up into a large confluence between Wirepass and the Buckskin Gulch…it was game time! On the right wall a collection of glyphs were etched into the rock, still bright, standing the test of time.  Knowing we didn’t have all day to hang around we pressed on down the gulch.

  • Bighorn Sheep Petroglyph
Looking upstream of buckskin
Downstream of Buckskin, further into the belly of the beast!

The huge walls rose higher and higher around us. The light touched the tops of the canyon, but only in certain places and at just the right time did it reach the canyon floor. We made our way through the muddy canyon floor, moving quick on anything dry and watching our steps on all the boulders so as not to twist an ankle. Before long we were to the cesspool, a one mile section of deep dark pools that hardly ever see light.  I watched Larry, who was leading, as he pushed in the nearest pool and the water went higher and higher around his legs. Whew man it looked cold! Soon after Larry, I plunged in as well.  Luckily my neoprene socks aided in warding off the chill of the 40 degree water temps.

  • Here comes the mud!

We exited the cesspool and found ourselves at the middle trail, signified by 2 bighorn sheep on the north wall at the base of the escape route. It was steep and sandy, not the kind of place you wanted slip on! I backed away to look high above for a hidden petroglyph panel that was supposed to be 100 ft off the deck. I climbed some cool moki steps on the south side of the gulch and finally found them. How cool! I still have no idea how they got that high to etch the symbols.

Two bighorn sheep petroglyphs at Middle Trail
Moki steps opposing middle trail
  • Looking up on the North face hidden above a ledge is a killer petroglyph panel

After checking out the area it was time to press on. From there the trail was relatively dry, no more pool wading and the mud was at a minimum. We couldn’t have prayed for better conditions!  The gulch opened wider in sections, and cottonwoods grew out at the edges on sand bars. After a large opening in the gulch it would constrict back down, twisting and turning the further we trekked.  Soon we reached the “Rockfall” which required decent by using a good fixed rope. One at a time we slid down and were soon safely on the bottom. I looked to the right and re-climbed some moki steps, just for fun!

  • Moki steps!
Larry gracefully down climbing the rockfall w a handline
Dont mind the Logs

From there we knew we weren’t far from the designated camping area at Wolf’s Knoll near the confluence.  Sure enough the canyon soon opened wide to two large vegetated dirt mounds on both sides which served as the campsites, high up and safe from flash floods. We took in the beautiful sights of the walls stretching up all around us and kept on pressing until finally finding the confluence of the Buckskin Gulch and Paria River. What a beautiful sight! The Paria was flowing gently, brown yet beautiful, through the gulch.

  • Eric pushes further on
Andrew trekking up the Paria

We turned upstream and finished pushing the 7.1 miles up towards the Whitehouse Rock trailhead. For the first few miles we were still constricted in a gulch, but then finally the walls opened up to wide views of the sandstone hills of the Utah upper desert. I searched for more petroglyphs along the way as we made our way back and forth across the river. Finally our trek ended where it started, everyone in pretty good spirits and ready for dinner. Another incredible day spent outside!

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Enter the Gulch! (Wire Pass)
  • Rockface @ confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch

HIKE INFO:

Wire Pass through Buckskin Gulch to Paria River Confluence: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=16112

Paria River Confluence to White House Campground: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=391 (obviously we won’t be doing the whole Paria, just the section from the confluence of buckskin north to White House (right at UT/AZ boarder))

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: 2 Protien Bars, 2 granola bars, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 bag of jerky, bag of salt and vinegar chips, PB&J (thanks for the bite Andrew), gummy worms
  • Time: 10 hours
  • Distance: 21 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: 500 feet

GEAR:

  • The Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker
  • Neoprene Sox
  • Black Diamond trekking poles

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Icebreaker wool shirt
  • Patagonia pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Arcteryx Atom hoody
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Royal “Pain In The” Arch (Day 1) – Grand Canyon – AZ (4.21.17-4.23.17)

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Eyes cracked open. It was cold, chilly. In a sleeping bag with a broken zipper. Alarm blasting from my phone, feeling tired after just 4.5 hrs of sleep, staring at the ceiling of a tent. Rubbing my eyes half exhausted half excited about the day to come . . . Looks like we are all set up for another sufferfest at the Grandest of Canyons! This trek brought Sam, Mark, and myself to the doorstep of the old Ranger Station above the drop-in to Royal Arch Creek via Point Huitzil. We planned to drop in, canyoneer all the way to the Colorado River at Elves Chasm, camp, traverse the Tonto trail to Bass Beach, camp, and finally hike out via Bass trail; finishing the trip off with a side trek to Mount Huethawali before closing out the loop with a nice road walk on the rim.

Old Ranger Station

I shivered in the morning, throwing all my gear in the pack, making sure all the food, water and rappelling equipment was accounted for before strapping up and standing, ready to roll. I knew that once we got moving I would warm, so I stubbornly refused to put a jacket on. We let out from the old ranger station headed on an old 4×4 “road” (more like a foot trail) in the northwest direction. After the “road” ended we found an old telegraph line which would lead us to the start of the wash that would eventually dump us into the canyon (according to research). We trekked on through a juniper speckled field which made it seem like we weren’t even hiking to the canyon. Finally the route dumped us into a wash and slowly we made our way to the edge of the rim and were blasted with a gorgeous grand view of the canyon.

Old 4×4 “road” walk
Hello there old friend! Dump into the canyon, just South of Huitzil Point

We started our way down the loose steep route, descending ledge after ledge looking for cairns as we went. The sandstone made our shoes stick like spiderman to the slanted ledges of the route. We found our first obstacle and quickly down climbed. I was fully extended in a hang when the tops of my toes landed on the stepping stone below. Whew! One down, only a ton to go! Sam and Mark quickly down climbed and we were off again. The route finding was tedious, we were skirting ledges with a beefy penalty for error. We walked toward a cairn that looked like it would lead us right off the end of a ledge. We looked right and tucked away was the crescent moon shaped rock that hid away the famous ladder climb. It was really cool, an old dead tree with branches cut for feet and handholds. I dropped down first, no issues, Sam and Mark soon followed. Just around the corner from the ladder, skirting north, we were treated with a huge panel of petroglyphs! How cool it was to be there and see something that had been there for hundreds of years!

  • Cairn leading right off the edge?

We kept trekking, descending ledges, and finally found the Moki steps on a sandstone slab. The natives cut small ledges into the sandstone making some nice steps for your feet to climb up and down the slope. A little butt skirting and de-packing got us down swiftly.  We continued to pick our way down the ledges and skirt across a number of exposed, but not too difficult obstacles, until finally exiting the face via an arm that dumped us into the top of the wash to Royal Arch Creek.

Moki steps (click to enlarge)
Downclimbing the Moki Steps (click to enlarge)

Let the boulder hopping begin! For the next few miles the sun went to work on us as we hopped, jumped, and scurried our way down the creek bed. Finally we came to a large pour-off (dry waterfall) which had 2 options, left to the “ledge of death”, right to the “rabbit hole” . . . “rabbit hole” just sounded too cutesy! We headed left all too curious about what this infamous obstacle had to offer. After a few minutes of skirting the side trail we finally came to the ledge. It had a nice 20 foot exposed traverse with some teared drops below that. What fun! I was first up and found that the grippy rock had some great holds and the feet weren’t that bad either! Keeping the packs on, we all traversed the obstacle with no issue! Just after the ledge, there were a few other small exposed traverses where we had to circumvent large boulders trying to push us into the canyon below. It wasn’t horrible, but deff warranted concentration with a 40lb pack on your back!

Enter the wash!
Left to “Ledge of Death” – Right to “Rabbit Hole” (click to enlarge)
  • Ahead is the "Ledge of Death"!

We continued downstream, boulder hopping once again until finally the dry creek bed was wet with a beautiful spring and a small ledgy down climb. The water looked so tasty and our parched mouths were ready for a break. As we pushed further, we turned a corner, and there, standing high above our heads was the Royal Arch. What a beautiful sight, it was enormous and demanded respect! We had a nice break in the shade under the arch, next to the creek running just below the massive rock. Just taking in the sights and replenishing our grumbling stomachs.

Beautiful cool spring pool
  • Time lapse - Ledge downclimb past the spring

Fed and ready for more, we walked downstream from the arch and peered over the huge cliff into the canyon below. What a drop! We were standing 170 feet above a tiered drop-off and the bed of a nice waterfall that trickled down just next to where we planned to rappel from. We found some good webbing and a quicklink that looked solid. I put up the biner block rappel setup using Sam’s 60 meter 9.8 mil rope to a carabiner with a constrictor knot. I backed it up with a figure 8 and tied on the 200 ft 6mm pulldown cord to the biner block. We were all set to go so I threw both ropes off the cliff and they fell to the second ledge. Time to go to work! I rapped first taking on the task of rope management as the small pulldown cord got quite tangled. I threw it from the first ledge down, then the next. To my relief the main rope reached the ground, and soon after, so did I! Whew, made it!

I stopped half way down the first rap to take a pic =)

Mark and Sam soon followed and we were all safely on the ground when I went to pull the pull cord I had set up. *Yank* nothing . . . *Yank* nothing . . . I started to get serious when I realized the rope could be stuck which would require me to either re-ascend the rope or we would be stuck in the canyon between two 100+ foot rappels. I reached high, grabbed a bite on the 6mm rope, tied an overhand knot,  and clipped it into my harness. I sat my full weight on the rope and once I did it finally budged. I quickly walked back away from the cliff pulling the rope as I did to make sure it didn’t get hung again. LUCKY!!!!! I was so relieved!

Timelapse of Mark rappelling down the 170 ft waterfall

Once we retrieved both ropes and recollected our wits we headed downstream to find the second of the big rappels, a 135 foot cliff. This time our anchor was a nice tree with 3 sets of webbing wrapped around it. Another nice anchor that we could use! This rap went much smoother and was almost completely free hanging. We each made our way down the rope and into the next section of the beautiful canyon. Waterfalls and lush green plants were abound. Frogs darted this way and that in the pools as we trekked through, it was truly a hidden paradise!

The 2nd rappel – 135 foot

Soon after the second rappel we found a nice 8-10 foot downclimb. We pulled our packs off and hurdled the obstacle before strapping up once again and letting out further down the canyon. We dodged boulders, down climbed ledges picked our way slowly down. I popped my head over a huge boulder, the only down climb led to water . . . “that can’t be right”, I thought. I poked left, poked right and finally found a small tree on canyon right with a small 20ft rap. In hindsight, we found that we were on the wrong side of the canyon and should have belly crawled a ledge on the the west side of the canyon . . . Oh well! After placing some new webbing and breaking our rope and harnesses out once again, we made the last rap of the day.

  • Donw the canyon we go!
Elves Chasm!! Jumped into the cool pools here, how refreshing and cold as hell!

We enjoyed the rest of the canyon as we trekked on. Down climbing, shimmying over boulders and down ledges, using cairns to guide our way, until we finally reached Elves Chasm. It was a tiered waterfall with a deep crystal clear pool at the bottom. We decided to strip down and jump in; after the long exhausting day we had, it seemed like the right thing to do! After jumping from the waterfall and pulling ourselves from the cold water we trekked the rest of the way to a permissible beach where we set up camp, grubbed down, and finally, under the star lite sky, crashed out in our flyless tents. What an epic day, man I love the Grand Canyon!

ADDITIONAL PICTURES:

  • Enter the petroglyph panel!
  • telegraph line insulator

HIKE INFO:

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi in mid 90s, Low in upper 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 5 Liters (including dinner)
  • Food: 1 Power Bar, 1 Kroger Protien bars, 1 Cliff Protien Bars, 1 granola bar, 1/2 bag of gummyworms, Apple, 1 Mountain House: Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, 1/2 bag of Salt and Veinagr Chips, 1/2 bag of Pizza Pringles, 1/2 bag of trailmix, 1/2 bag Boston baked beans, 1 PB&J sandwich, 1/2 bag of Quinoa.
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: ~ Drop 4000 feet

GEAR:

  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 60 meter 9.8mm Mammut rope
  • Webbing, personal anchor
  • 200 ft 6mm pull cord
  • 4 rap rings

CLOTHING:

  • Wool T shirt – IceBreaker
  • Cotton hankerchief
  • Pearl Azumi arm coolers
  • Arc’teryx hoody
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough wool medium weight socks
  • Threadless hoody
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Rogers Canyon – Superstition Mountains – AZ (12.23.16)

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Rogers Canyon, from the cave that was home to the Salado Indians 600 years ago

The Superstitions is such a special place. It is so rugged, raw, and the depths of which are hardly explored! My buddy Jason and I decided to do a nice day hike and hopefully see some Indian ruins in the process. The road to Rodgers Trough trailhead is an adventure all in its own. We headed out the night before in hopes to reach the trailhead, but we were thwarted by the Queen Creek running pretty deep from all the recent rain we had been getting.

The foggy drive in

We decided to camp for the night and wake in the morning in hopes that the creek would have gone down a bit, and the dirt road (which was undoubtedly a sloppy soup) could dry out a bit. We woke early, fired up the van, and headed back to the crossing. It was much better at this point and the rest of the drive to the trailhead went smoothly (although the road is anything but).

Wilderness baby! Just like home, time to get moving!

The sky threatened rain, and the clouds looked unwelcoming as we drove further into the heart of the Superstitions. After an hour or more we finally arrived at the trailhead. W grabbed our packs and rain gear and set out on the trail. Although it was sprinkling slightly it was a pretty nice day to hike. It didn’t take long before the dew covered trail side plants soaked our legs and pants. We trekked on further into the canyon until being dumped in the bottom where a small creek was running. We followed the trail, hopping back and forth until the canyon headed up and over the next hill. We made the junction for Rodger Canyon and we paused to admire the sign before headed west away from the AZT.

Look at those fresh signs, Rogers Canyon and Reavis Ranch trail 109 junction
Where are we going again?!

The trail was in pretty good condition despite the rain. We trekked on startling up a few deer and birds as we hiked. What a nice day, the overcast and cool temps were welcome as we pushed further. Finally after about 5 miles we reached our destination, the Salado Indian Ruins. I had been to this site before, but it was a bit of a surprise for Jason. We checked out the structures that stood for 600 years in total awe. We imagined what it was like to live in that time, what it took to survive there, how many people were in that small cliff dwelling, and of course, what actually happened to them.

Jason making the scramble to the first glimpse of the large ruin up top
Ruin from the back of the cave
picture stitching wasn’t perfect, but hey here is 1 more view

We hung out in the dwellings for some time, had a snack, enjoyed the views, and finally the fog and the gloomy clouds began to give way to bluebird skies. The structures themselves were increduble. How the indians lugged that much rock, logs, and dirt up into the high cave was beyond me. I wondered how long it took them to complete just 1 room of the structure. How much food they would have had to gather just to feed the workers that labored on for days on end, perhaps months, to complete it. Thier fingerprints were frozen in time with the mud caked walls of the ruin. We could have stayed in the canyon forever, but we decided to get moving, back the way we came, towards the trailhead.

Finger prints frozen in time
Still holding strong 600 years later!

Back to creek hopping we went following the twisting trail back and forth heading out of the canyon. We turned a corner and 30 feet from us stood a huge 8 point buck. As soon as he saw us come into view, he and the doe with him turned and like lighting bolted up the canyon walls. It is always awesome to have that chance with nature encounters in the wild.

Once the fog and rain cleared it made way for a beautiful drive out
Who wants to go splashing?!

We pushed back to the trailhead, loaded back up in the van and drove back up the muddy dirt road towards phoenix. The sunset and the views on the way back were so incredible; pictures can hardly do it justice. Sometimes its hard to imagine a life without the amenities of the modern world: cars, smartphones, grocery stores. Its nice to come to places like this and be reminded to stay humble and grateful for what you have. Another awesome trek in the beautiful Superstitions was safely complete.

Sky of fire!
  • ruin roof assembly, Large beams, small support, hay covering, mud and rock on top
  • AZT baby!

HIKE INFO:

Rodgers Canyon, Superstition Moutnains

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Cloudy, Rainy
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builders Bar, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 apple, 1 powerbar, bag of Mediterranean vegitable chips
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Distance: 10 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,100 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
  • Smart Wool beanie
  • Nike Running Shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Patagonia rain jacket
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (3of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.28.16)

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Looking back down the canyon from the first waterfall

We save the best for last, don’t we? Our last day in the Sierra Ancha area I woke in my tent to the hue of the rising sun fighting back the darkness of night. It was time to get up, no alarm this time, just the peepers opened and the morning ritual began. With a chill and a hoody on I brewed coffee and threw the rest of the kindling and wood from the night before on the still warm buried coals of the fire. With a little coaxing, the fire lit again jumping onto the twigs and limbs heating us during breakfast. This morning Stevo, Annalise, and myself had our sights in Devils Chasm ruins. Soon after breakfast we snuffed the fire and threw our packs on heading up the canyon for our last trek of the weekend.

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The lower section of the trail, nice and padded

As always I was excited to get my feet on the trail. In the beginning the trail twisted back and forth on padded dirt paralleling the creek feeding the canyon. It has a pretty good climb to it and after a one good hardy pushes, we were all peeling off layers. The trail lush and green at the sides was totally different than the hikes the day before. Devils Chasm is a sheltered oasis in the high desert, lush green grass, thriving vegetation, and a cool running creek transports you miles away from any desert. We kept climbing until the trail dumped us down into the creek and the canyon walls began to close in. Let the boulder hopping begin!

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Lets start boulder hopping!

It wasn’t long before we came to the first of two climbs/scrambles. On the right side of the canyon a rope dangles below a chalkstone to the right of a small waterfall. The climb is easily accomplished with the aid of the rope (rope was newly replaced). Once atop the climb we turned the corner to a much larger waterfall/slick rock area. What a view! The golden sun bared down on the red rock face while the cool canyon stayed shaded and blue. The second waterfall is easily climbable to the left with aid of a rope (this rope was not as good as the first and honestly should be replaced).

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2nd waterfall
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Stevo and Annalise ascending the 2nd waterfall

After taking in the views and a few pictures we hiked on and up the canyon knowing there was a good push to get to the ruins. Boulder hopping and canyon skirting continued for a half mile or so before finally a padded steep dirt trail appeared to the right, it really took off! Talk about steep; once again we were grabbing at lodged rocks, strong branches, and roots to ascend the incredibly steep trail. We were careful to not kick dirt and rocks down on one another.

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Entrance from the canyon, first room

Finally we popped out from the brush letting way to high canyon walls and an enormous (and almost camouflaged) ruin on the rock face in front of us. From the face it looked as the highest wall was 30 feet tall and the entire building spanned 60 feet. Excited we pushed forward on the winding trail to the ruin. The climb is exhausting but the sight of the ruin made every step worth it! The ruin was five rooms wide, four of which still had fully standing walls, and one had a partially intact roof. The last room let out to a high exposed ledge like a side porch. Inside the rooms we found some small pottery shards and two grinding stones.

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Looking inside the 4rd room to the east, such a cool sight to see
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Looking back to the ruin from the exposed ledge

Like tourists we snapped pictures up, down, left, right, checking out every crevice of the ruin. How impressive that almost 650 years later this mud and rock structure still stood the test of time. The Salado Indians built a fortress standing against erosion, storms, and of course the most destructive force: the occasional visit from man. Places like this are to be respected and preserved, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit them. Respect it, leave no trace, and it will be here down the road for others to enjoy too.

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Top view of all 5 rooms and the canyon
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Peering down into the 2nd room along the ledge behind the ruin

Having our fill from the journey and needing to head back to Phoenix, we turned back down the steep trail and made our way back. We didn’t see one other soul on the trail, what a nice way to spend a Sunday. On a great trail, in an incredible place, with good friends.

  • Looking back down the canyon (see Stevo?)
  • Looking down the hallway

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Devils Chasm Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, mixed 1 bag of chips (Salt and Vinegar, corn chips, and pretzles), Cliff Builders bar, 1 trail-mix bag, Sun-dried Cranberries
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 4 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,100 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Arm coolers
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (2of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.27.16)

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20160227_141350
Tonto National Forest sign, faded form the sun

After doing some extra credit exploring up Cold Springs Canyon I returned to basecamp at the mouth of Devils Chasm. Admittedly I was ready for food and a sit down. I kicked my shoes off, grabbed some grub and cracked a brew for kicks. The campsite is shaded with these trees sipping on the canyons creek shading us from the sun. The temps were perfect and everyone was in good spirits! Annalise opted to stay at camp so Stevo and myself set our sights for the next ruin of the day: Cooper Forks Canyon Ruins. Not knowing it, Annalise did well in choosing just to hang out, because the next trek was nothing she signed up for!

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Its bushwacking time! Down the tributary canyon (can you see Stevo?)

We headed out from camp back up the road in the warmest part of the day. We skirted on in and out of the canyon until we finally came across an old sign from Tonto National Forest. It stated that there were Indian Cliff Dwellings nearby, lucky it didn’t give away their location! Be soon bumped off the ridge into a canyon housing a tributary creek to Cherry Creek. Let the bushwack begin! We headed doen the canon, boulder hopping, crossing logs, and avoiding getting wet in the creek. We hopped, jumped, and down climbed until finally we hit Cherry Creek. We soon found a way to cross the creek and headed upstream boulder hopping once again following a few sparce cairns. Before we know it we found a rockface jetting into the water imeding our further progression. We decided to take it up and over, the climb was on!

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What an awesome place!

Once we topped out the rock we weaved in and out bushes and trees, in and out finding no real trail, only sparse areas of low vegetation. We continued pushing forward and were faced with a dropoff into another tributary canyon to Cherry Creek. This bushwack was tuning out to be a little less straightforward than we planned. We bombed down steeply into the canyon and up the other side knowing this was the only way to begin the climb to the ruins.

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Ridge to the ruins

Once we reached the top of the base of the ridge that would lead us to the ruin, we stopped under a shaded tree and decided to grub. Stevo was starving and it was time to feast! We garbled down snacks and sandwiches, undoubtedly looking like two cavemen in the woods. Soon replenished for the hike ahead we set our sights forward up the right. Soon we found a well cairned trail that wasted no time climbing up and onward! We pushed up and on for a good ways. Just as the clear trail appeared before us, it vanished. I pulled out my GPS and found the right direction and kept pushing on. Soon the trail turned from boulder hopping to straight shale. It reminded me of being in the Sierras above treeline, only the rock here was red. Maybe that’s why they called it the Sierra Ancha (its actually Spanish meaning ‘broad range’, but what the heck I can dream).

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Shale city!

We pushed on and up in the beating sun, before finally skirting a large rockface to find the ruins, tucked away. This set was pretty big, I counted 3 main strictures, and 8 rooms, 4 of which were left intact. The rooms furthest west were almost completely lost with only fragments of the walls that stood. The middle set had another caved in area where the second floor finally fell against the test of time. The connecting room was fully intact and even had a grinding stone in the floor.

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Finally made it! Initial view of the ruins from the trail (middle right, lower left)
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Pano if the furthest west rooms or whats left of the rather

The last room furthest east was the most impressive of this ruin. The approach to the room had a nice exposed 10-15 foot climb with some pretty serious penalty for failure as the drop kept going eventually dropping into the canyon below. We both successfully made the careful climb and were soon in the main room taking in the incredibly impressive architecture of the Salado. It seemed as though there were main rooms for sleeping and a smaller build room towards the back where fires were burned, for food and heat we speculated.

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Middle ruins, still intact!
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View from inside, see the grinding stone?

The Indians were truly gifted, not only in their climbing skills but their resourcefulness to gather and survive such a hostile area. These special places should be shared, but above all respected. Soon after taking in the views and a few pictures we headed back for camp. What another well spent day outdoors!

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Nice sketchball climb to the last furthest room
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From the inside of the furthest east room, awesome views!
  • Looking back to the est side of Cherry Creek
  • Look a Stevo!

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Cooper Forks Canyon Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature valley sweet and salty bar, 1 bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, 1 orange, Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bag
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 5 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,800 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Arm coolers
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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Salado Indian Ruin Hunt (1of3) Sierra Ancha – AZ (2.27.16)

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Sierra Ancha Wilderness boundary

Cold Springs Canyon Ruins (1of3). I woke before the sun came up. The usual scenario, alarm blasting at the walls of my tent letting me know it’s time to go to work! Stevo, Annalise, and myself drove up the long road to the Sierra Anchas the night before finally arriving to surprisingly an empty campground. The camping here can be pretty sparce as there are not many flat spots just below Devils Chasm. Luckily we grabbed the primo one at the top, set up camp, ramped up a fire and crashed. Not another soul out there!

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Looking back from the road up Devils Chasm Canyon

Back to getting moving; I stretched my legs like a lazy cat, threw on my hiking clothes, and got breakfast brewing. Stevo and Annelise soon appeared from his trucktop tent and we got the morning underway. Once breakfast was through it was time to put feet to trail and walk the road north to the trailhead. The morning light was awesome, peering through the leaves kissing the rocks around us. Just before hitting the first turn in the road we turned and peered up Devils Chasm, what an incredible sight. It would have to wait until tomorrow, as our sights for the day were set on Cold Springs Canyon Indian Ruins.

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Cairn at the top of the 4 wheeler road before the wilderness boundary

We climbed on, trekking up the road until the small 4wheeler road jetted off west, turning up we trekked up the good grade to nice hidden luscious green paradise atop a saddle. If we couldn’t find the spot we did, we would most certainly camp here. Views from this saddle were incredible, looking out over the Anchas just made me think about how people could survive here hundreds of years ago. The Salado Indians got it right, what a beautiful place!

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Looking across the Sierra Anchas from the trail to Cold Springs Canyon

We trekked on, pausing at the Sierra Ancha Wilderness sign for a quick picture. The open pastures soon turned into a twisting and winding trail through manzanita. Signs of the cattle ranched in the area were all across the trail; footprints, cow patties, broken branches, but luckily no cattle. We trekked up and on until we got to the plitoff for cold canyon. We pushed around the ridge into the next canyon, looking up into the rocks its wasn’t clear where the ruins were at first. As we got closer we could see a crack in the rocks to the west on the north side of the canyon that could hold something promising. Hoping around manzanita, century plants, and agave that riddles the trail. Finally we were close enough to see a doorway, almost perfectly square. I pointed it out with a giddy smile. This is where the trail really started to get fun!

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First good view of the entrance of the Ruins from the trail

The trail jetted up right, up the side of the canyon gaining a quick 400 feet in less than 0.2 miles. I grabbed at branches, roots, wedged in trailside rocks, anything that was stable enough to hold my weight to pull up on. The trail was a slippery mess, loose rock, dirt was the bed for the ascent. Soon after some good sweat and grunting, we all topped out at the base of the ruins where we could clearly see the entrance. Approaching the ruins requires some climbing skills, but what waiting inside was truly incredible.

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Entrance, some light climbing required

The ruin was a triple decker. The lowest level could have been storage while the mid level and upper levels were most likely sleeping quarters. Traversing the upper level held a secret back room the a balcony facing Cold Springs Canyon, it was a special find and sights from the balcony were gorgeous. The entire ruin was built on the mouth of a large cave. The second level went back and opened up into a smaller cave like room. Fallen rocks and stalactites were on the floor, I peered my head into the thin cracks that had any chance of leading anywhere. Both of them went about 15 feet, then knife edged into a dead end.  Satisfied we had exhausted exploring the extents of the ruin we headed back for the downclimb out of the exit.

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Once inside, looking out from the mid level, incredible views!

What an awesome day! Stevo and Annalise headed back to camp as I did a little more exploration up Cold Springs Canyon. The walk back was nice, temps were perfect, sky was clear and blue. I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a Saturday! Soon after my solo exploration journey a few miles up the canyon I found my way back to camp for lunch and a quick rest before the next trek out into the Sierra Anchas in search for more Salado Indian Ruins!

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Secret balcony at the back of the upper level
  • Road walk from camp

HIKE INFO:

Sierra Anchas – Cold Springs Canyon Ruins

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 1.0 liters
  • Food: 1 bag of Salt and Venigar chips, 1 apple, Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bar
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance: approx 6 miles Round Trip from camp
  • Accumulated Gain: 1,500 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • Cotton T-Shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
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JF Trail to Rodgers Canyon – Superstition Mountains AZ (1.16.16)

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View from the top of the hill just up from the trailhead (click to enlarge)

My breath spewed from my mouth like smoke in the cool crisp morning air. Before sunup I woke in my tent to my alarm signaling the start of the day. My morning ritual began; throwing on hiking cloths, making breakfast, and boiling water for coffee. This morning there was an additional excitement in my step due to not only putting my feet on new dirt, but also the expectation to find Salado Indian ruins on the rout I selected for the day.

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JF / Woodbury Juntion

The Superstition Mountains are a rough rugged area unforgiving to its visitors, much like the drive I made to the trailhead the night before. From the trailhead, chilled in the morning air, I turned up the first hill to get moving. Rising up to the hilltop I could see across the vast Supes, the sun was just peaking over the hills and the trail was still frosted over in areas. I pushed on arriving at a standing windmill which I could only imagine was still working, however you could never tell by the absence of cattle, or farmhands.

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Windmill of an old ranch

From here the cactus lined trail narrowed and dove down to the creek coming up the other side gaining elevation towards the far off saddle. In the sunlight it was warm enough not to shiver, but in the cool of the shade where frost clung to the plants and any standing water was a frozen slate of ice. Buckhorn cholla grew here like someone was regularly watering it with fertilizer! I trekked on heading up and up, until finally I found the first sign of life I saw on the trail. A fella covered from head to toe in camo just getting ready outside his trailside tent for what I could only imagine to be a hunt was putting camo face paint. I wasn’t sure what he was hunting, but like me was too busy to chat and I headed about my way.

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I trekked up and out finally re20160116_095222aching the saddle before diving down into the shaded canyon to the north. Here manzanita reigns supreme, it is everywhere. As I trekked down towards the creek the rocks started jetting up and trees shaded the frost covered trail. Heading down I found an old rusted horseshoe at trailside. It was a cool find, I left it for the next hiker to stumble across.

Soon I found my way among the rocks to a wooden sign that stated the Salado people inhabited the area nearly 600 years ago. In the rocks above I found their dwellings. This find made the trip well worth the trek. The first visible dwelling is a rock wall covering a natural short cave where signs of fire on the cave roof can be seen. A much larger cave has a less impressive rock wall, but well visible black marks on all the walls and roof where massive fires were undoubtedly built. After snapping a few pictures and taking in the sights form what the Indians would see I decided to turn and leave. As I walked down I glanced back up to the rockface housing the dwellings to see a larger cave up above the two I just explored.

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View from inside the room without a roof
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Stitched together picture of inside the partially roofed room. Notice the marked walls and wood? This is a No No. Leave no trace

Curiosity of course got the better of me. I approached the face of a seemly climbable rock and went to work. Before I know it (without having any idea of how to get down) I found myself standing in the third cave. The dwelling here was by far the most impressive of all three. Fully intact walls and most of a roof of the enclosed in the largest room. In the mud used to cake the walls, fingerprints of the Indians could be seen, it was incredibly impressive.

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Entrance to the roofed room in the back, notice the craftsmanship!
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You can see the finger impressions from the Salado, incredibly preserved

Happy with my find I decided to trek on back to the trailhead. I climbed down from the rocks and started boulder hopping along the creek bed under the shade of the trees back up the canyon in an easterly direction closing out the loop I started.

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Back out into the beautifully lit canyon
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Water in the Supes, always a welcome sight!

I trekked on enjoying the light passed through the trees, crossing the creek, trekking the sparse trail, really enjoying being there, imagining what it was like when those Indians inhabited the canyon. How long were they there? Was the climate the same? How hard was it to find/gather food in this remote area? What adaptive skills did they use to survive while being impacted by the seasons? What an incredibly special place; to be shared, but most of all respected, leave no trace.

  • Frost on the ground
  • Ice in the puddles

MORE PICTURES:

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HIKE INFO:

Superstition Mountains – JF Trail to Rodgers Canyon Loop

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 65s, Low 28s, Sunny
  • Water: 2.0 liters
  • Food: 1 Clif Builders bar, 1 trailmix bar, almonds, Apple,
  • Time: 7 hours
  • Distance: approx 14 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,900 feet

GEAR:

  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)

CLOTHING:

  • 195 Smart wool long sleeve shirt
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike running shorts
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Arkteryx Hoody
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox

 

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