Montezuma Canyon Revisited

Modern day cliff dwelling: Montezuma Creek Rd.

Modern day cliff dwelling: Montezuma Creek Rd.

The day after having been forced to retreat from our Montezuma Canyon exploration due to a nasty-looking storm front, we returned under clear sky conditions – this time entering the drainage from the north end, near Monticello.

Our plan this morning involved reconnoitering a particular mesa-top locality that had been shared with us by Blanding hotelier Craig Simpson, at the same time he was plotting our route to the notable petroglyph sites in the canyon. He had mentioned this compact triangular promontory as the site of numerous ancient puebloan ruins, and even printed out a Google Earth image for us to reference. Mileages were included, so we really had no problem navigating directly to the area; a “no-brainer,” if you will.

Confusing and tamarisk-clogged terrain

Confusing and tamarisk-clogged terrain

Regardless, once we’d found the correct pull-out from the graded dirt road and donned our packs, the surrounding terrain confused me enough that I (who pride myself on my ability to find my way in the wild) led us off in entirely the wrong direction. That is to say, we proceeded in generally the right direction (I wasn’t quite that confused) but I steered us toward the incorrect mesa – one that was far higher and more difficult of access than the targeted prominence.

Which mesa was it again?

Which mesa was it again?

In my defense, the big problem involved the lack of visibility from our departure point. We’d descended from the elevated road bed into the floodplain of a muddy-bottomed wash clogged with tamarisk. I led us out toward the only mesa I could actually see from the bottoms, which turned out to be the wrong one. Our exploration around the base of this “incorrect” mesa did, however, yield views of a seemingly pristine cliff ruin (inaccessible above a steep rock face) and led us to a rubble pile containing some potsherds that convinced us we weren’t far off the mark.

Ruin beyond reach

Ruin beyond reach

Difficult of access

Difficult of access

Potsherds: wrong location

Potsherds: wrong location

Inhospitable

Inhospitable

Not quite sure how we’d gotten the directions wrong, we retreated down the steep bank of the wash and decided to take a short side-trip up the side of a much smaller mesa on the way back to the jeep. We soon began finding more sherds around this hill, and not long thereafter came to realize it was the one we’d targeted to begin with. Following the instructions as to where the cliffs could be breached, sure enough we discovered a manageable route to the top. Eureka!

Montezuma Creek Rd. (from the correct mesa)

Montezuma Creek Rd. (from the correct mesa)

The potsherd count went way up here atop the mesa (unnamed, as far as I can discover); previous visitors had picked up and examined some of the broken pottery pieces and, in deference to good stewardship protocols (not to mention federal law), placed them back on the ground where they found them, only changing their position to lay out some of the more curious wares on flat rocks so other adventurers could enjoy their splendor. We, of course, proceeded in the same fashion.

Depository

Depository

Relics of the past

Relics of the past

I’d read about places where such relics of the ancient past were so numerous that the very act of walking became a caution, but never thought I’d be fortunate enough to find myself in such. Yet here we were, looking down on Montezuma Creek from the very elevation that once served as home to a community of pre-Columbian Native Americans. How wild, and how wonderful that such places still remain untrammeled by the masses and unfenced by federal authorities.

Pit house ruins

Pit house ruins

Yay Utah! Yay BLM

Lichen on sandstone

Lichen on sandstone

And thanks again, Craig!

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