Backpacking Fish and Owl Canyons

Our first true backpacking trip on this long journey was at Fish and Owl Canyons in Cedar Mesa. We chose this because (1) new to us and (2) it is known to have spectacular scenic beauty, if not accessible ruins.

This hike is not for the beginner backpacker. Dropping into Fish Canyon included a 20 ft drop with few steps (shown above) where we lowered our packs separately.

The descent was on the north wall of the canyon and was steep and still icy.

The water was flowing strongly in the canyon, making it easy for us to resupply and treat or boil water as needed.

Speaking of boiling, we’ve taken to having hot ramen noodles for lunch, especially on chilly days.

We crossed the creeks countless times and dealt with rain, snow, and tiny hail on both days.

Sadly I forgot to take a photo of our tent setup but you can see our cozy site above.

Day two took us down to the intersection with Owl Canyon where we dropped packs to go explorin’ for ruins.

We had no ruins marked on our map but we are getting better at searching for and locating ruins even if we can’t reach them all.

We struck gold on the south side of the combined canyons about a mile down from the intersection.

We are calling this ruin Coat Peg Ruin, for obvious reasons if you check out the photo above. It may not be the Coat Peg Ruin, but it is ours.

We hiked out Owl Canyon to our car on day two. We could have stayed an extra night but decided to grind out the rest of the day. Owl has spectacular waterfalls throughout, including some dramatic pour-offs.

All in all a great hike and a great conclusion to our Cedar Mesa adventure. We’ll be back.

Moon House Ruins

One of our few fixed, pre-planned trips on this month long adventure was a visit to Moon House. This ruin is notable enough to require permitting to limit the number of visitors. Each photo I show will gradually zoom out. Above you can see Julie at the entrance to one of the individual chambers.

Here you can see me along the row of inner rooms. This is by far the largest, mostly intact structure we’ve seen in Cedar Mesa.

Above is Julie near the door that takes you into the inner hallway shown in the first two photos. This was the jaw dropping moment for both of us: going through this door only to find multiple chambers inside. And a bat!

The structure above was a least 100 hundred yards away from the main ruin, around the corner on the same ledge. Julie is pointing to the detail work on the lintel above the door. Tiny white tones arranged to make a dotted line above the door.

This is the view from across the canyon of the main ruin. The doorway to the back chamber is almost in the middle of the photo.

Slickhorn Canyon Ruins

Our next day of day hiking in the Cedar Mesa we planned a “quick” trip into Slickhorn Canyon to see one of the “perfect kivas”, then move onto Moon House Ruin, for which we had acquired a permit to see many months ago. We should know by now there are no quick trips into these canyons.

The entry was easy as you come down a wash which gradually turns into a canyon, but about 1.5 miles in you climb high up the north (more like northwest) facing wall to climb over a steep pour over. So you end up climbing back to the top, only to then descend to the bottom and climb up the other side to get to the ruin. Well worth it. You can see above a replica ladder that is used to climb into the kiva. We’ve seen the original at the Edge of the Cedars museum.

We were co-mingled with a high school group from California as we left the canyon, so a bit crowded and at times slow.

The Day the Dinosaurs Died

Douglas Preston:

“Any Cretaceous mammal burrow is incredibly rare,” he said. “But this one is impossible—it’s dug right through the KT boundary.” Perhaps, he said, the mammal survived the impact and the flood, burrowed into the mud to escape the freezing darkness, then died. “It may have been born in the Cretaceous and died in the Paleocene,” he said. “And to think—sixty-­six million years later, a stinky monkey is digging it up, trying to figure out what happened.” He added, “If it’s a new species, I’ll name it after you.”

Crazy fun read about what might be the most important paleontology find of our generation.

Fallen Roof Ruin in Road Canyon

After exploring the Citadel ruin at the top of Road Canyon, we ventured down into the canyon then up the south face to visit Fallen Roof ruin. The name should be obvious from the photo above: the recess cave roof is collapsing, not the dwelling itself. Not an archaeologist but it is apparent that the roof was falling while still occupied.

The pictographs above are good evidence for why you should linger and observe while visiting these ruins. Neither of us noticed them until we were about to leave.

What inspired these images? Is it mere graffiti or was it done as a reward? Capture of family history?