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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sierra Anchas – Devils Chasm Ruins
- 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
- Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
- Cotton T-Shirt
- Arc’teryx Hoody
- Arm coolers
- Cotton Handkerchief
- Nike running shorts
- Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
- Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox