Finding Hovenweep

Waking, I knew today was going to be a much better day! My day started by taking Geb out for a walk. I hadn’t gotten to take him for a walk the evening before because it was totally dark by the time we finally made it to the RV Park. He reminded me right away that I had promised him the night before that I’d take him in the morning. It was such a nice relaxing way to start the day. There was a sagebrush & juniper field just beyond the RV Park that we walked through. I just love watching him explore. Then, when I got cold I told him it was time to go home & he just turned around & took us back to Sofia. Wow! He had done that a couple days earlier when we walked at Nizhoni campground & then this morning too. Really, at the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady… I believe he really does understand what I say!

After our walk I used lots of soap & hot water & cleaned up all the olive oil & soy sauce mess from the day before. You know, I don’t really like staying in RV Parks – I’d much rather stay in the middle of nowhere by myself – but I have come to realize while owning Sofia that RV Parks really do have a place. They’re super convenient. They have water, power, sewer, showers (Sofia only has an 8 gallon hot water heater), laundry facilities, and often even propane. Sometimes its nice to quit “roughing” it & use the amenities. Its certainly easier to clean up a mess having unlimited water rather than worrying about running out.

Work went well that morning; I got quite a bit done which always feels great. I was to check-out of the RV Park by noon, so my plan was to take my “lunch break” exploring Edge of the Cedars State Park & work the rest of the afternoon in their parking lot.

Edge of the Cedars is actually a really cool little museum. It has some Azasazi ruins outside, built from AD 825 – 1125. You can climb down a ladder & go into the kiva (ceremonial space). I found it interesting that they chose to build on this small hill. It was a great view with the mountains in the background & the valley down below. Pretty much the same view I had the previous day as I was working.

Ruins at Edge of the Cedars State Park

Ruins at Edge of the Cedars State Park

But the really fascinating thing there to me was their museum. They have the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan pottery on display in the Four Corners area, as well as all kinds of artifacts – aprons from yucca fiber, turkey feather blankets (who knew they made turkey feather blankets!), sandals, arrowheads, digging sticks, etc. Such old cool stuff! And, they had all these informational signs about all the different ruins in the area and the stories of those who had discovered them.

It was fascinating… especially for someone who has ALWAYS dreamed of finding just ONE arrowhead (I never have been that lucky!). I can only imagine stumbling upon an entire ruin that no one has previously ever cataloged. I was blow away with really how many sites there were – all over the area! I guess I just had never thought about it before, but really there were ancients all over this area; not just at a well-known place like Mesa Verde. Perhaps that’s showing my ignorance, but I was happy to learn an overview of so many local sites. While I was there, I saw an informational board on Hovenweep. I was instantly drawn to it & knew that was the next place I was going.

I finished up work & conference calls that afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get on the road & drive toward Hovenweep! Even just the name seemed magical to me in a tragic sort of way…

Even though I had seen a brief informational sign about Hovenweep, I didn’t really know what to expect. Again, arriving late in the day, there were only 2 cars in the parking lot other than Sofia & the visitor’s center was closed. I found a trail that pointed toward ruins & walked out. I arrived at a smallish (comparatively) canyon cut in the middle of the Cajon Mesa & saw not only one tower, but a lot of them! Oh, how fascinating!

There are towers on top of huge boulders, on the sides of cliffs, under overhanging rocks, & at the canyon bottom all made out of stone. There were little windows & doors even! Its difficult to get multiple ruins in one picture as they’re spaced out all along the canyon.

Some of the towers at Hovenweep

Some of the towers at Hovenweep

They’ve determined that the village was constructed during the thirteenth century. Towers here are D-shaped, round, square, rectangular or the shape of the boulder top upon which they were constructed.

Tower on top of a boulder, Hovenweep National Monument

Tower on top of a boulder, Hovenweep National Monument

Researchers have even discovered that the windows & door locations in the Hovenweep Castle create a solar calendar indicating the dates of summer & winter solstices and the spring & fall equinox sunset. Amazing.

Hovenweep Castle

Hovenweep Castle

Hovenweep is a Paiute and Ute word that means deserted valley. This place was given that name by a pioneer photographer, William H. Jackson in 1874. In 1923 it was established as a National Monument. It is what archeologists consider to be the finest examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry found anywhere. It was once a vibrant community of hundreds.

I could just feel the presence of the ancient people here. It felt like a reverent place to me. I wandered all around, all alone in this amazing place. Such history!! I sat on a rock ledge at the top of the canyon. I can only imagine what it would have been like 1,000 years ago. There were people living there who were probably not that much different that we are today. People, who laughed & smiled. Who had hardships & difficulties. Who loved & lived. Of course, their hardships were different than ours today, but the fundamentals I’m sure are similar.

As I sat looking down at the relics of this ancient community, there were two ravens circling above back & forth, up and down, the canyon. I bet they too could tell this is a special place…

The canyon is “Y” shaped. The tops of the canyons just abruptly start; cliff-faces down to the canyon below. Not terribly high, but strangely abrupt. I bet it would be amazing during a rain storm or flash flood to see the water from the mesa cascading down the cliff to the canyon below.

There is a spring at the top of the left canyon. There are trees growing up gracefully. I realized that those trees obviously weren’t there 1,000 years ago, but I bet other trees were. How lovely it would have been to relax in the hot summer day down in the shade of those trees. There were not any buildings at the top of the right canyon. I wonder if that was where they used to go for special outdoor ceremonies. At least that’s what I imagined. My mind just wandered, making up little stories of those who used to live here… It was a lovely way to spend the evening as I watched the sun begin to set.


Not my Day

Waking up Monday morning, I tried getting a good internet connection so I could work to no avail. My phone said I had 3G & 3 bars, but it wasn’t happy at Nizhoni campground. So I drove back down the long gravel road toward Blanching. There was a wide pull-out spot maybe 4 miles or so outside of town. It was up on the mesa with a view of the Abajo Mountains on one side & the entire valley below stretching all the way beyond Monument valley to the south. It really was a spectacular location to work for the day.

Beautiful work view - Abajo Mountains

Beautiful work view – Abajo Mountains

However, it was just one of those days… I suppose everyone has them once in a while. Where your mind obsesses over something & won’t let it go. I all of a sudden was preoccupied with a conversation I’d had days prior. Goodness. Insecurities will do a number on you if you let them that’s for sure. Anyway, I told myself I was getting myself out of my funk & going to see the sites. I was down here on this trip & I wasn’t going to let myself get in the way of enjoying it!

So I headed away from my beautiful little roadside spot after I got my work done that day. But, it just was NOT my day! The very first major corner I came to coming back into town, I heard a crash behind me in the kitchen. Damn… I had forgotten to put my kitchen box in the sink where it typically rides as I drive. I keep things like olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, spices, teas & coffee in this box and had mistakenly left it on the counter. Well, now, it had crashed all over the floor! Olive oil, soy sauce & wine everywhere! What a mess…

I pulled off the road & did a quick clean-up job, but realized I better stay in a RV park that night so I could actually do a good job cleaning, using lots of water, to clean up all the olive oil.

But, I wasn’t going to let that mess stop me either! A girl on a mission, I was headed to Natural Bridges National Monument. One of the nice things about working all day & taking in the sites in the evening is that you’re not competing with the crowds at all. Maybe there just aren’t any crowds this time of year, but regardless… its kind of cool to be in a National Monument pretty much all by yourself. I probably only saw about 8 other people the entire time I was there.

The only person I talked to was a guy from Germany. I saw a road bike loaded with gear in the parking lot & saw a guy on the trail who looked like he belonged to the bike at the first bridge. I ran into him again at the third bridge. This time we stopped & chatted as we recognized each other. He’s road biking all over the west with hopes to make it to Alaska! My gosh… way too extreme for me! I think I got a kick out of his adventure stories & he got a kick out of me working in Sofia & traveling with my cats.

There are three huge bridges that make up the Natural Bridges area and some cave dwelling ruins as well. It has a circle drive you go on to view the three bridges, but its not a well-developed park. Each bridge has a short trail you can hike on to get a better view of it or you can hike all the way down. As it was evening & my foot was still hurting from the little crash with Zeta, I didn’t want to hike all the way down, but I did hike out to the viewpoint on each trail.

The trail to the viewpoint for the first bridge, as mentioned, wasn’t too developed. I actually kind of like it that way!



The first is the Sipapu Bridge; its 220’ to the underside of the arch & 268’ wide.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

The second is Kachina Bridge; its 210’ to the underside of the arch and 204’ wide.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge

The third is Owachomo Bridge; 106’ to the underside of the arch and 180’ wide.

Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

I couldn’t get a good picture with my iPhone, but the Horsecollar cliff-dwelling ruins were there in the canyon as well, dated from between AD 1050 – 1300. That was a cool surprise to see!

After seeing the sites at Natural Bridges, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could make it out to the top of Moki Dugway to the Muley Point Overlook to see the sunset over Valley of the Gods. The road to the top turned off of the road I was driving on back to Blanching. Might as well try I figured.

It was a race against time again, much like last summer when I was racing to get from Cannon Beach to Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain for sunset. This time, rather than down the winding Highway 101 of the Oregon coast, I was barreling along the top of Cedar Mesa, out Highway 261. As I drove, I considered the word, barreling. It’s a pretty accurate description of how it feels driving Sofia across those back rural highways. In my mini I always feel like I’m zooming or zipping along. In Sofia, its barreling, gliding (albeit not gracefully) over all the bumps, around the corners, rattling & clanging down the road. I guess if I didn’t have disco ball chains hanging inside Sofia as well as random pieces of metal art that say things like “Dream” & “Be Yourself! Everyone else is taken” it wouldn’t rattle & clang so much. LOL!

Finally I made it to the top of Moki Dugway. I was planning to park Sofia there & take Zeta out to the overlook. But, as it would be, it just wasn’t my day… still! The sun had just set as I was racing along. The valley below was all in shadows. Wasn’t meant to be. Next trip, I’ll make it to the overlook in time to watch the sunset!

As mentioned before, I don’t really like driving in the dark to begin with… once the sun set, my goodness did it get dark quick! I was still 65 miles or so from Blanching. Onward! I at least knew which RV Park I was headed to that night. Once I arrive, I found a spot (the office was obviously closed) & parked. I was glad that I had made it out to see the sites, even with the difficulties of the day. Some days are just like that I suppose.

That evening, I talked to a friend about the conversation that had been preoccupying my mind all day & realized just how ridiculous I was being. My goodness… thankfully, there are people in our lives that can help us see things about ourselves; room for growth. It’s a learning process I think & certainly hope I’m learning these lessons so I don’t have to repeat them.

After a day like that, I was happy to crawl in bed & call it a night!