Moving to Canyon of The Ancients National Monument

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Only an hour drive from Mesa Verde National Park, I had a little maintenance to do. Someone described the inside of a travel trailer as being a small hurricane. Things get shaken loose. The latch had come loose on the door of the half-closet over my bed. I carry a dowel that I cut to length, then tap it to place with a small hammer, adding some super glue. Then I replaced the screws and made a mental note to leave it closed for 12 hours.

Since we were going into the boondocks with no services, we did several loads of laundry. In Cortez, I washed the trailer while Martha went next door to the grocery store. Once finished, I drove over to the grocery store where we unloaded groceries and filled the cooler with ice and drinks.

Bradfield Campground is on the Dolores River outside Dolores, Colorado. I was a bit nervous as we drove down the mountain on a gravel road. There is a recreation area on the river next to the campground. All campsites are first come-first serve, so I wasn’t sure we would get a spot. After driving around two loops, each with vacant spots, we settled on a site with a good shade tree. As soon as we set up, two boys on ATV’s rode up and down the gravel road, throwing up dust and making a lot of noise. I stood watching, wondering what to do. Finally I walked over to the pay station and filled out my information and site number, filled in my Senior Park Pass, and paid $12 for three nights! three men, three boys and one girl each reeved up their ATV’s with excitement in their eyes. One of the men gave the girl a verbal whipping since she let her machine cut off. He was looking for a jumper cable. I offered mine, but they had one. “Don’t worry sir. We are all going for a ride over the mountain, and will leave you in peace.” We both grinned, and I waved happily as they rode off. It’s hard to get mad when you look at the excitement on those kids faces.

We drove back to the Visitor’s Center to see what Canyon of the Ancients was all about. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday. It is a beautiful building with native flowers planted and labeled all around. Martha found a booth next to a path leading up the hill. A very nice volunteer was there to give information about the national monument.

“Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (‘the Monument’) encompasses 174,000 acres of federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Monument is located in the Four Corners region of southwestern Colorado, about 50 miles west of Durango, 10 miles west of Cortez, and 12 miles west of Mesa Verde National Park. The Monument was designated on June 9, 2000 by Presidential Proclamation to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale.

The Monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of Native American cultures. The archeological record etched into this landscape is much more than isolated islands of architecture. This cultural landscape contains more than 8,300 recorded sites which reflect physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs and sweat lodges. Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile. The number of sites is estimated to be up to 30,000.

This landscape has been used or inhabited by humans, including Ancestral Puebloan cultures, for at least 10,000 years, and continues to be a landscape used by humans today. Contemporary uses of the Monument include recreation, hunting, livestock grazing, and energy development.” From:

We drove back to the campground with brochures and a reasonable idea of how to approach it. Things had settled down in the campground, and on a Sunday evening, everyone but one camper had left. Then the next thoughts came into my mind – OK, here we are out in the middle of nowhere. Were we safe here? I scavenged the other campsites, picking up firewood and kindling. I built a fire, but didn’t light it. For one thing it was hot, and the other was it was very dry. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for starting another big fire in the west. Once the sun went down, it cooled off nicely.

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