Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Another stop on our “southwest tour” (before Renee and I start hiking the PCT), Canyons of the Ancients National Monument outside of Cortez, Colorado….

While Renee and I were on taking our snow course, my parents stayed in a cabin at Kelly Place Bed and Breakfast, adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado.  After our course, we joined them there for another two nights and got to hike from there into the Monument. 
Sleeping in my hammock at the B&B (have I mentioned I love my hammock!), but I didn't pass up the delicious breakfast.
Dad hiked by himself to see the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings while we were gone, and had gotten really turned around.  He spend a couple hours trying to find his way back, and had a wild look in his eye as he told the story- saying that wandering around on top of the ridge alone and feeling the thrill of being lost was the most fun he'd had for a long time.  (I sure know where I get it from!)

We decided to try to retrace his route and see if we could find the trail he was attempting to follow.  Renee and I equipped ourselves with compasses, written instructions provided by Kelly Place, and I downloaded the relevant maps using Gaia GPS on my iphone. 
Dad climbing up the loose rocks.
Right from the property, Dad, Renee and I followed a faint trail up a canyon for about a mile.  Crossing over a barbed wire fence, we entered the National Monument.  Dad's footprints from the previous day were apparent, and he showed us where he'd gone.  After a few false starts and repeatedly checking maps and compass, eventually we found the White Rim Trail.  The whole area was as beautiful as Dad had described!  There were hardly any signs of other hikers- this part of the park is fairly inaccessible. 
The White Rim Trail is named after this rock formation.
Dad looking thrilled.
 We hiked east for a few miles on the White Rim Trail (which was marked with carins) to see a series of four incredible ruins.
Looking but not touching.
Pottery shards.
Even more ruins.
After the hike, we walked around the other archeological sites on the Kelly Place property, climbed down into the restored kiva, found mountain lion tracks down a wash, and finished the day with cookies and hot chocolate in the common room.   Ahhh what a life!

I'm not even going to pretend this is preparing me for the PCT- the miles were short and we had to stop all the time to take photos and say 'WOW.'  But it was really sweet to learn so much about the Ancestral Puebloans and see these remote cliff dwellings, and especially to get to hike with my dad.

More information:
Here is a map of the trail and ruins from the Kelly Place website.


  1. It sounds like perfect PCT preparation stopping all the time to take photos and say 'WOW'! :-)

    1. Yes, of course that's right! Got in much practice on this whole southwest trip saying "wow" and "AMAZING" and "This is INCREDIBLE" and "OMG does the trail really go up THERE!?!?" Certainly the muscles in my face got an excellent workout with all the smiling.