Ancient Castles and Sleeping Utes!

Dear Maia and Isaac,

It is time to talk about my last camping trip of the season.  My heart gets sad in the winter when the map shrinks – so the last trip is always one that I am ambivalent about.  That means it is both good and bad.  (We left 9/20 – today is 10/15 so the post is backdated.)

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Leaving Montrose with my pups!

The mid-September trip is also when I celebrate the day I graduated with my doctorate. The year that I graduated, I took a week-long road trip through Utah to celebrate (2016).  The first place we stopped that year was Hovenweep – which is on the Colorado/Utah border near the Four-Corners.  So, now every year, I try to take a little time off to camp at Hovenweep.

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Fall in the San Juan Mountains

So, the pups and I left on a Thursday.  The colors were starting to show in the mountains on the way – it takes about 3 and a half hours because the last 40 miles is a narrow, rural road that isn’t paved all the way.  We didn’t get there until nearly dinner time, so we didn’t do much the first day.  We could see a mountain called Sleeping Ute from our campsite.  It you look at this mountain, can you see the sleeping Ute Indian?

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Sunset over Sleeping Ute Mountain

OK, so Friday came and I was determined not to stay in the tent the whole time because of my healing.  Still, I was not 100% better so I had to push myself.  We started easy on the path that goes around the canyon rim past the ruins.  These are Ancient Pueblo (Anasazi) ruins just like Mesa Verde – except instead of being in cliffs they are castles.

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Boulder House at Hovenweep

The ruins here were built between 1200 and 1300.  That is 8-9 centuries ago – can you imagine building something with Legos that lasted that long?  The people who lived here were farmers – and the Ancient Pueblo Indians from throughout the Four-Corners area had communication systems to talk to each other – even hundreds of miles away.  By the end of the 13th century, there was a bad drought (probably a lot like this year) and the resources were depleted.

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Hovenweep Castle

The castles may have been build as observatories to communicate the sky changes to other Ancient Pueblo villages — who knows?  We do know the Ancient Pueblo Indians built their structures in line with sun and moon cycles.  I visited one ruin up in the mountains of Colorado that is the highest elevation of Ancient Pueblo ruins.  They think this was where they sent signals about the changing seasons from.

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Twin Towers at Hovenweep

Anyway, as the drought lingered, the resources got scarce and there are signs of warfare toward the end of their civilization’s presence in the Four-Corners.  There was also a comet, a volcano (visible from the night skies), and other signs from the sky that they may have seen as a sign that they should leave.  They moved south in Arizona and New Mexico to escape the drought.

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Sunset at Hovenweep

The pups and I hiked until it got hot and Maizzy started giving out.  It is a cool hike past all the buildings I am posting.  We went back that evening when it cooled off and hiked a little further.  I just love those castles!

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The Hikers Three – Sazi, Kachina, and Maizzy

Saturday came and I was (again) determined to hike.  I was kind of worried about getting sun where I had surgery – so the day before I bought a huge man’s baseball cap from the Ranger store and wore it so low that one guy asked me if my dogs were seeing eye dogs!  I put on tons of sunscreen and followed the Ranger’s directions to ruins I had not seen yet.

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The sign telling us to follow the road to Horseshoe/Hackberry Ruins

It was a longish hike because we had to park a mile from the trailhead due to road conditions (recommended 4-wheel drive).  Once we found the trail, it wasn’t too long before we came to the first castle – This is when I got a text from you, Maia, thanking me for your birthday present.  That made the hike even better!

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Horseshoe Ruin at Hovenweep

The ruins were very awesome but we didn’t hike to the last two because Maizzy gave out and needed to be carried back to the car.  Oh, boy, I was feeling a little stressed about the heat and my healing – so I strung Maizzy through the water bottle carrier that hangs around my neck. We looked hilarious but my arm got less tired.  Kachina and Sazi were getting hot, too – but we got back to the car sooner than I thought we would.

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Kachina watching over Maizzy

I was going to do a second hike that evening, but my face got very flushed and I decided I should rest – so back to reading a book.  But, that can be an adventure, too.  I hope someday you read this and can feel the adventures, too.  Because you are always in my heart!

Love, Grandma Hartt

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